The blue pill or the red pill ? Watching Jonathan Haidt lecture on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives on TED reminded me of the Matrix movie with the option of choosing between truth and blissful ignorance. It also reminded me of why I had made the choice of joining then Senator Barack Obama’s website in his quest for the White House in February 2007.
It all started with the simple recognition that unilateralism had brought much misery to the World and hurt the image of America abroad, by exposing the ugliness of the neo-conservative vision, with its political and even religious arrogance, but also by reminding us of historical precedents when Washington had had no second thoughts about supporting despots and dictators and giving a bit of a boost to those eager to depose a democratically elected government.
I will not expand on Barack Obama’s charisma and intellect. These qualities have been well recognized, even by his ennemies. I would like instead to come back to the TED lecture I previously mentioned. Jonathan Haidt talks about a necessary equilibrium, a balance between liberal and conservative ideas making viable a society. For those of us who consider themselves conservatives or liberals, this is hard to swallow, as hard maybe as if we were forced to swallow the blue and red pills at once. This is however knowledge out of the box, the kind of truth the greatest leaders and peacemakers have been able to accept and translate into results. That most activists from the “winning” camp find difficult to accept what they construe as weakness is only natural. Great leaders are few and they may become impopular in their popularity for the simple reason they think differently from most.
In that sense, President Elect Barack Obama’s capacity to put aside his ego and welcome as he did in his national security team men and women who have criticised him in many ways in the past is a reflexion of his pragmatism and his great strength.
Moreover, throughout the campaign, I have been able to experience personally one positive fallout of Barack Obama’s capacity to listen. Having joined quite a few groups and list-servers, I received hundreds of mails a day from fellow supporters. There were reminders, when tempers flared, about the need to emulate Barack Obama, to listen to each others, to listen to our adversaries and to put aside gossip and instead base our arguments on truth. Those who did not have a voice for lack of education or other reasons were encouraged to blog, those who did have a grasp of certain subjects, foreign policies, science, environment or others, started discussion groups. In fact, all of us who joined this experience did learn more about good citizenry, about collaboration. I would not be wrong in saying a new generation of enlightened citizens, who will not let politicians (even President-Elect Barack Obama himself) go away with false promises, was born from this effort. We all felt empowered.
It has been a very satisfying experience for all those of us who have joined this effort. I was happy to see this same openness expressed by Barack Obama and his team with the opening of his transition website. His Agenda introduces clearly, at was the case in my.barackobama.com during the campaign, the various plans and programs of his administration. Good governance is needed more than ever and the Obama-Biden team is so far showing the way.
In the French magazine l’Express we could see recently an article headlined “The Obama enlightened hawks” In these days of disillusionment, the contrast the new administration will offer with the preceding one, the willingness of its leader to choose competence over partisanship, to engage in constructive dialog and assume the role of Commander in chief, listening to generals without letting them dictate his policies, should indeed help us recognize there is hope.