We live in an age of Millennial aspirations. Everywhere you look you can see signs of widely disparate groups of people who believe they are living in an age where established norms will be destroyed by this or that newly arisen force. This can take the usual religious overtone, as witnessed by the Left Behind devotees, but we are increasingly seeing non-religious forms of Millennialism play out even in the main stream press. In my local paper today I was treated to a dead serious take by the AP on survivalists up in the mountains:
On the PeakOil.com Web site, where upward of 800 people gathered on recent evenings, believers engage in a debate about what kind of world awaits. Some members argue there will be no financial crash, but a slow slide into harder times. Some believe the federal government will respond to the loss of energy security with a clampdown on personal freedoms. Others simply don't trust that the government can maintain basic services in the face of an energy crisis.
The powers that be, they've determined, will be largely powerless to stop what is to come. Determined to guard themselves from potentially harsh times ahead, Lynn-Marie and her husband have already planted an orchard of about 40 trees and built a greenhouse on their 7 1/2 acres. They have built their own irrigation system. They've begun to raise chickens and pigs, and they've learned to slaughter them.
The couple have gotten rid of their TV and instead have been reading dusty old books published in their grandparents' era, books that explain the simpler lifestyle they are trying to revive. Lynn-Marie has been teaching herself how to make soap. Her husband, concerned about one day being unable to get medications, has been training to become an herbalist.
By 2012, they expect to power their property with solar panels, and produce their own meat, milk and vegetables. When things start to fall apart, they expect their children and grandchildren will come back home and help them work the land. She envisions a day when the family may have to decide whether to turn needy people away from their door. "People will be unprepared," she said. "And we can imagine marauding hordes."
So can Peter Laskowski. Living in a woodsy area outside of Montpelier, Vt., the 57-year-old retiree has become the local constable and a deputy sheriff for his county, as well as an emergency medical technician. "I decided there was nothing like getting the training myself to deal with insurrections, if that's a possibility," said the former executive recruiter.
While you are contemplating who would win the iron cage death-match between "marauding hordes" and "executive recruiters," notice how this type of thing has come a long way from the "raving loon" territory it would have been consigned to just a few years ago. As a society we seem to be more willing to entertain such Millennial fantasies, whether it be the belief in "peak oil" or in some "anthropogenic global warming tipping point," that will in effect destroy the Western world as we know it.
Now, part of this might be baby boomer nostalgia for the days when the nuclear holocaust was always due "any day now, so you'd better learn to Duck & Cover," and while it is certainly a horrible prospect it did assign a level of importance to the generation(s) destined to live through it. Sure, they actually lived lives of suburban contentment, but Jimmy's dad down the street was building a bomb shelter in the basement which was something the boring schmucks growing up in the 1910's or 1920's never got to witness. So, the baby boomers considered themselves to be the first (and only) generation living in a state of near perpetual existential angst. As such they created a mythology of their own "specialness" that seems destined to govern the broadcasting decisions of PBS for decades to come.
So, it shouldn't come as a great surprise that such folk view damn near everything that effects them as being "unprecedented" in some important way. For that reason, history has no lessons to teach them. "Those are the old rules!" they protest, "Everything is different now." And how exactly do they know that? Well, it seems to be taken as axiomatic. It also seems to be a belief the boomers have successfully transfered to the present college age generation who seem similarly convinced of their own "specialness." Take the efforts of E. J. Dionne:
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. predicted in his commencement address to Wake Forest University's 2008 graduating class that they are part of a group that will become the next "greatest generation." Dionne's comments garnered an enthusiastic response from the crowd of about 15,000 people
They were willing to applaud praise of themselves for their soon to be revealed greatness? How noble and selfless of them! Dionne is at least up front about his Millennialism, and he enlists that great prophet, uh.I mean president, FDR for support:
Dionne explained that he drew the title of his address, "The Reform Generation and History's Mysterious Cycle," from a speech Franklin D. Roosevelt gave at the 1936 Democratic National Convention, at which Roosevelt said "There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny."
"I believe those words apply more truly to your generation than to any other since FDR addressed them to what came to be known as the greatest generation," Dionne said.
Yes, the generation that was forced to live through the horrors of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl is the perfect analogy for this generation which was forced to live through the horrors of Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears.
One is left with the impression that much of the baby boomer "specialness" is little more than a defensive reflex to hearing their parents drone on about how rough they had it during the depression or WWII. The historical truth is moments like the Great Depression or World War II are unique in their import and their impact. Not every generation is going to see the like. (I wonder if the generation that came immediately after the 30 Years War in Europe reacted the same way.)
So you are left with a group of people whose very self worth is bound up with an overwhelming need for a heroic quality. Thus, their wants and desires are not just the expression of their ego, it is the spirit of the age! And, it isn't just any chronological age. It marks, so the good little Hegelians tell us, the beginning of a new epoch in humanity, for good or ill. Its a psychology tailor made for Millennial thought.
Such thinking dominates not only in the desire for catastrophism of various kinds, but also in more mundane political considerations. Historian Sean Wilentz picks up a good deal of this in the current beliefs infusing Obama supporters:
With her overwhelming victory in Kentucky on May 20, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has completed her sweep of the crucial primary states adjoining the Ohio River - and the fight for the Democratic nomination has entered its final phases. Having picked up a net gain of nearly 140,000 votes between Kentucky and Oregon, Clinton is now well poised to win the Puerto Rico primary on June 1 - and clinch a majority in this year's popular vote, even if the disputed returns from Michigan are discounted. Under those pressures, the Barack Obama campaign and its sympathizers have begun to articulate much more clearly what they mean by their vague slogan of "change" - nothing less than usurping the historic Democratic Party, dating back to the age of Andrew Jackson, by rejecting its historic electoral core: white workers and rural dwellers in the Middle Atlantic and border states.
Without a majority of those voters, the Democrats have, since the party's inception in the 1820s, been incapable of winning the presidency. The Obama advocates declare, though, that we have entered an entirely new political era. It is not only possible but also desirable, they say, for Democrats to win by turning away from those whom "progressive" pundits and bloggers disdain variously as "Nascar man," "uneducated," "low information" whites, "rubes, fools, and hate-mongers" who live in the nation's "shitholes."
It is this fervent belief that the rules of the political game will change for them merely because of the force of their generational personality that is driving the Obama moment. It is essentially the same idea that enabled the boomers to walk blindly into the Democratic electoral disasters of 1968 and 1972. It is also the same force which precludes Obama supporters from learning from that history in the first place. Wilentz sums it up nicely:
In every presidential election they have won, the Democrats have solidified their historic link to white workers, not dismissed them. Obama and the champions of a new party coalition appear to think that everything has suddenly changed, simply because of the force of their own desires. In any event, Obama had shown no ability thus far to attract the one constituency that has always spelled the difference between victory and defeat for the Democratic Party. The party must now decide whether to go along with Obama and renounce its own heritage - and tempt the political fates.
The fact is Millennialism is about embracing opposites. Just like their Chistian analogues, they not only accept a positive view of their destiny (the "Reformist Future" as "Second Coming"), but they also embrace a negative one akin to Armageddon. For many of these zealots, they would rather walk with righteous fervor into an electoral buzz-saw than bow to the practical necessities of political reality. Ordinary people would take such repudiation as a signal that their beliefs were misplaced, but we are not dealing with ordinary people. They will tell you so themselves.
Obama fills a need for religion
By Kathleen Parker
Much has been made of the religious tenor of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Reports of women weeping and swooning - even of an audience applauding when The One cleared his proboscis (blew his nose for you mortals) - have become frequent events in the heavenly realm of Obi-Wan Obama. His rhetoric, meanwhile, drips with hints of resurrection, redemption and second comings. "We are the ones we've been waiting for," he said on Super Tuesday night. And his people were glad.
Actually, they were hysterical, the word that best describes what surrounds this young savior, and that may be more apt than we imagine. The word is derived from the Greek hystera, or womb. The ancient Greeks considered hysteria a psychoneurosis peculiar to women caused by disturbances of the uterus. Well, you don't see any men fainting in Obi's presence.
Barack Obama has many appealing qualities, not least his own reluctance to be swaddled in purple. Nothing quite says "I'm only human" like whipping out a hankie and blowing one's nose in front of 17,000 admirers. The audience's applause was reportedly awkward, as if the crowd was both approving of anything their savior did, but a little disappointed at this rather ungodly behavior.
So what is the source of this infatuation with Obama? How to explain the hysteria? The religious fervor? The devotion? The weeping and fainting and utter euphoria surrounding a candidate who had the audacity to run for leader of the free world on a platform of mere hope?
If anthropologists made predictions the way meteorologists do, they might have anticipated Obama's astronomical rise to supernova status in 2008 of the Common Era. Consider the cultural coordinates, and Obama's intersection with history becomes almost inevitable.
To play weatherman for a moment, he is a perfect storm of the culture of narcissism, the cult of celebrity, and a secular society in which fathers (both the holy and the secular) have been increasingly marginalized from the lives of a generation of young Americans. All of these trends have been gaining momentum the past few decades. Social critic Christopher Lasch named the culture of narcissism a generation ago and cited addiction to celebrity as one of the disease's symptoms - all tied to the decline of the family. That culture has merely become more exaggerated as spiritual alienation and fatherlessness have collided with technology (YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) that enables the self-absorption of the narcissistic personality.
Grown-ups with decades under their double chins may have a variety of reasons for supporting Obama, but the youth who pack convention halls and stadiums as if for a rock concert constitute a tipping point of another order. One of Obama's TV ads, set to rock 'n' roll, has a Woodstock feel to it. Text alternating with crowd scenes reads: "We Can Change The World" and "We Can Save The Planet." Those are some kind of campaign promises. The kind no mortal could possibly keep, but never mind. Obi-Wan Obama is about hope - and hope, he'll tell you, knows no limits.
It is thus no surprise that the young are enamored of Obama. He's a rock star. A telegenic, ultra-bright redeemer fluent in the planetary language of a cosmic generation. The force is with him.
But underpinning that popularity is something that transcends mere policy or politics. It is hunger, and that hunger is clearly spiritual. Human beings seem to have a yearning for the transcendent - hence thousands of years of religion - but we have lately shied away from traditional approaches and old gods. Thus, in post-Judeo-Christian America, the sports club is the new church. Global warming is the new religion. Vegetarianism is the new sacrament. Hooking up, the new prayer. Talk therapy, the new witnessing. Tattooing and piercing, the new sacred symbols and rituals. And apparently, Barack Obama is the new messiah.
Here's how a 20-year-old woman in Seattle described that Obama feeling, "When he was talking about hope, it actually almost made me cry. Like it really made sense, like, for the first, like, whoa . . ." This New Age glossolalia may be more sonorous than the guttural emanations from the revival tent, but the emotion is the same. It's all religion by any other name. Whatever the Church of Obama promises, we should not mistake this movement for a renaissance of reason. It is more like, well, like whoa.
Obama's DOCUMENTED LIES: 50 and still growing
Post below recycled from Atlas. See the original for links
50 Obama claimed he had never prayed in a Mosque; his campaign had to retract that statement
49 Obama dishonestly used third party comments in his ads to pump up his healthcare plan
48 Claims he never discussed politics with Pastor; rebutted by photo of Obama with team of lobbyists led by Wright
47 Obama, an expert at parsing words, claimed he wasn't familiar with the word "Clintonian"; then changed his story
46 Despite reeking of cigarettes, Obama denied smoking to ABC; now admits smoking on MSNBC
45 Obama said he'd meet unconditionally with Leader of Iran: now claims he "didn't have Ahmadinejad in mind"
44 Obama claims he is using public financing to avoid special interests: WSJ nails his switcheroo
43 Obama's rhetoric claims more young black men in jail than college: BoJ Stats disprove
42 Claims he never said he was a proponent of single-payer universal healthcare; Video proves he did
41 Obama claims remarks to industrialists were greeted with silence, shows he can deliver tough message: video of ovation
40 Obamas claim you dont rip opponents & leave on roadside:he did to Alice Palmer
39 Obama denies saying Indiana could be tie-breaker: he did
38 Obama omits that Pastor Wright led divestiture campaign from Israel
37 Obama claims Church not controversial; he lied since 86
36 Lied about intention of taking US out of NAFTA
35 Obamas claim poverty growing up: both distort reality
34 Obama denies meeting Saddam's Auchi; sworn Fed. witness places Obama at undisclosed party for Auchi at Rezkos
33 Obama lies about not attacking Clinton over her Bosnia lies
32 Obama claims he passed ethics reform; ABC News shows he lied
31 Obama says he's consistently opposed NAFTA; in October 2007 he supported expansion to Peru
30 Obama claims he's above dirty political tricks; Clinton proves he lies
29 Obama claims his "bitter" remarks were mangled; then repeats attacks on guns religion and angry people
28 Obama stated he'd stopped wearing flag pin on chest; now denies saying it, but video proves he is lying
27 Obama says he did no favors for Rezko;untrue; he lobbied for him
26 Changes story repeatedly re Rezko's help in buying mansion
25 Obama claims he never supported a ban on handguns; he has twice
24 Obama claims stays at UCC as Pastor acknowledged comments were inappropriate; Wright never made this statement
23 Campaign is beholden to "only the people" as unlike McCain/Clinton he does not take lobbyist /PAC money; LIES!
22 Claims campaign never called Canada to say Obama not truthful re wanting leave NAFTA; smoking gun memo proves lied
21 Mrs Obama admits she's never been proud of America; Video disproves Sen. Obama's later claim she was misquoted
20 Claimed would not run for President
19 Claims famous in Il. for not letting lobbyists even buy him lunch; took from teachers, trial lawyers, hospital admins
18 Claims his parents met at Selma civil rights march; Washington Post noted it occurred 4 yrs after Obama's birth
17 BO claims courageously opposed war in 2002 during US Senate campaign; He did not announce his senate bid until 2003
16 Claims he passes tough Nuclear Law; NYT uncovers he took Nuclear Industry pay-off and watered down the bill
15 Claimed he didn't know Rezko was corrupt when did a real estate deal with him; Chicago papers prove he lied
14 Claims does not accept money from Big Oil: Real Clear Politics proves he lied
13 Denies using his Hopefund PAC to influence endorsers; but the Washington Post reviewed the record and disagreed
12 Claims his State Chair is not a drug company lobbyist; Time magazine cries Bullshit
11 Lies about how much he received in campaign funds from Rezko; forced to significantly increase the amount twice
10 Claims he did not fill out the 1996 candidate questionaire; Politico proves he lied
9 Took credit for achievement of others in Chicago; resume puffing exposed by LA Times
8 Claims he kept no State Senate records; now he changes his story
7 Denies doubling wife's salary was due to becoming US Senator; omits within months he earmarked $1 million for hospital
6 Denied meeting Saddam bagman Auchi; now admits he was at his dinner but does not remember talking to him
5 Denies using his church for politics: IRS disagree
4 Claims he was unaware of Pastor Wrights 911 comments: NYT proves he lied
3 Claims his father was a goat-herd; actually he was a man of privilige
2 Claims not an active muslim as child; Indonesian paper proves he lied
1 Claims father linked to Kennedys; Washington Post proves he lied
Obama misrepresented tie with Palestinian activist?
Claims only 'conversations,' but association includes fundraisers, testimonials
Did Sen. Barack Obama misrepresent his relationship with a pro-Palestinian activist and harsh critic of Israel who has been described as a friend of the senator? During a campaign stop yesterday at a Boca Raton, Fla., synagogue, Obama was asked about his association with Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, who has made repeated statements supportive of Palestinian terrorism.
Obama replied: "You mentioned Rashid Khalidi, who's a professor at Columbia. I do know him, because I taught at the University of Chicago. And he is Palestinian. And I do know him, and I have had conversations. He is not one of my advisers; he's not one of my foreign policy people. His kids went to the Lab school where my kids go as well. He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel's policy."
Continued Obama: "To pluck out one person who I know and who I've had a conversation with who has very different views than 900 of my friends and then to suggest that somehow that shows that maybe I'm not sufficiently pro-Israel, I think, is a very problematic stand to take," he said. "So we gotta be careful about guilt by association."
But Obama's relationship with Khalidi goes beyond conversation. Khalidi's ties to Obama were first exposed by WND in February in a widely cited article. According to a professor at the University of Chicago who said he has known Obama for 12 years, the Democratic presidential hopeful befriended Khalidi when the two worked together at the university. The professor spoke on condition of anonymity. Khalidi lectured at the University of Chicago until 2003 while Obama taught law there from 1993 until his election to the Senate in 2004.
Sources at the university told WND that Khalidi and Obama lived in nearby faculty residential zones and that the two families dined together a number of times. The sources said the Obamas even babysat the Khalidi children.
Khalidi in 2000 held what was described as a successful fundraiser for Obama's failed bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, a fact not denied by Khalidi, who spoke to WND in February. As WND reported, an anti-Israel Arab group run by Khalidi's wife, Mona, received crucial funding from a Chicago nonprofit, the Woods Fund, for which Obama served as a board member. In 2001, the Woods Fund, which describes itself as a group helping the disadvantaged, provided a $40,000 grant to Khalidi's Arab American Action Network, or AAAN. The fund provided a second grant to the AAAN for $35,000 in 2002.
Speakers at AAAN dinners and events routinely have taken an anti-Israel line. The group co-sponsored a Palestinian art exhibit, titled, "The Subject of Palestine," that featured works related to what some Palestinians call the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" of Israel's founding in 1948. When Khalidi departed the University of Chicago in 2003, Obama delivered an in-person testimonial at a farewell ceremony reminiscing about conversations over meals prepared by Mona Khalidi.
According to a Los Angeles Times account, Obama said his talks with the Khalidis served as "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation - a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world." Khalidi's farewell dinner was replete with anti-Israel speakers.
David Axelrod, Lobbyist
Obama's been hitting McCain over and over about his ties to lobbyists, so obviously we're all shocked to learn that Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, has some seedy lobbying of his own to account for:
When Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison wanted state lawmakers to back a hefty rate hike two years ago, it took a creative lobbying approach, concocting a new outfit that seemed devoted to the public interest: Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity, or CORE. CORE ran TV ads warning of a "California-style energy crisis" if the rate increase wasn't approved-but without disclosing the commercials were funded by Commonwealth Edison. The ad campaign provoked a brief uproar when its ties to the utility, which is owned by Exelon Corp., became known. "It's corporate money trying to hoodwink the public," the state's Democratic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said. What got scant notice then-but may soon get more scrutiny-is that CORE was the brainchild of ASK Public Strategies, a consulting firm whose senior partner is David Axelrod, now chief strategist for Barack Obama.
Trying to "hoodwink the public" on behalf of an energy company? It gets better:
ASK last year proposed a similar "political campaign style approach" to help Illinois hospitals block a state proposal that would have forced them to provide more medical care to the indigent. One part of its plan: create a "grassroots" group of medical experts "capable of contacting policymakers to advocate for our position," according to a copy of the proposal.
Creating front groups to "advocate" (another word for lobbying, I think) against providing health care to the poor, nothing unseemly about that. Axelrod's defense: "I'm not going to public officials with bundles of money on behalf of a corporate client." Yes, it's a whole new kind of politics.
THE OTHER OBAMA IS FAIR GAME, TOO
By Jeff Jacoby
On the website of the Tennessee Republican Party is a short video in which residents of Nashville talk about the pride they feel for their country. One man, for example, mentions his esteem for the First and Second Amendments. A Vanderbilt graduate student says he was proud when Ronald Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall -- "and I was prouder when it came down." A young professional woman extols the "academic and job opportunities that women have in this country." A police officer named Juan says he is proud of having immigrated to the United States, learned English, and become a citizen of this "land of opportunity and the best country in the world."
The video has a point to make, and it does so by alternating these upbeat comments with clips of Michelle Obama telling two different audiences in February: "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country." In an understated press release announcing the video, the state GOP welcomed Mrs. Obama to Nashville and remarked: "The Tennessee Republican Party has always been proud of America."
One would have to have skin of microscopic thinness to take offense at so gentle and indirect a critique. No surprise, then, that Barack Obama took offense, reacting as if his bride had been slimed by slurs akin to those that enraged Andrew Jackson when *he* ran for president. (During the campaign of 1828, supporters of John Quincy Adams maligned Jackson's mother as a "common prostitute" and mocked his adored wife, Rachel, as a "convicted adulteress" and a "strumpet.") In an interview on ABC, Obama growled that Republicans "should lay off my wife," and described the inoffensive Tennessee video as "detestable," "low class," and reflecting "a lack of decency." If Republicans "think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign," he added ominously, "they should be careful."
Ooh, very fierce. But unless Obama is prepared to emulate Jackson -- Old Hickory defended his wife's honor by fighting duels, in one of which he killed a man -- he stands no chance of putting his wife's remarks off-limits to criticism. As long as he keeps sending her around the country to campaign on his behalf, everything she says is -- and should be -- fair game. And unfortunately for Obama and his allegedly sunny politics of hope, what Mrs. Obama seems to say with grim regularity is that America is a scary, bleak, and hopeless place. Here she is, for instance, in Wisconsin:
"Life for regular folks has gotten worse over the course of my lifetime, through Republican and Democratic administrations. It hasn't gotten much better."
And in South Carolina:
America is "just downright mean" and "guided by fear . . . We have become a nation of struggling folks who are barely making it every day."
And in North Carolina:
"Folks are struggling like never before . . . When you're that busy struggling all the time, which most people that you know and I know are, you don't have time to get to know your neighbor . . . In fact, you feel very alone in your struggle, because you feel that somehow it must be your fault that you're struggling so hard . . . People are afraid, because when your world's not right, no matter how hard you work, then you become afraid of everyone and everything, because you don't know whose fault it is, why you can't get a handle on life, why you can't secure a better future for your kids . . . Fear is the worst enemy. It . . . creates this veil of impossibility, and it is hanging over all of our heads."
There is also her creepily authoritarian vision of life under an Obama administration. From a speech in California:
"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone . . . Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual -- uninvolved, uninformed."
Michelle Obama is undeniably smart, driven, outspoken, and charismatic. She is also relentlessly negative about life in these United States. True, she is not the one running for president. But she is Barack Obama's closest confidante and adviser; if he is elected, her influence will be considerable. That is why her words matter. And why, whether her husband likes it or not, Michelle Obama is a legitimate issue in this campaign.
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