Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Revolution was Televised (Yes We Can!)

Obama's Inauguration (described by, I think, the BBC as something approaching a coronation) had over two million people attending, right?

I'm trying to imagine what The Moment would have looked like if everyone had preferred to watch from the comfort of their homes, all toasty and with a mug of coffee in their hands. Empty streets, big screens, a collection of pols on the stage, all the pomp without the circumstance, a speech made to the cold air.

It couldn't have been the weather that brought them out. It's unlikely that they were paid in alcohol, clothes, or herded in vans and open trucks like cattle. Far as I could make out, there weren't even enough loos and some of them were there for a full eight hours.

And yet they were all there. That's what was awe-inspiring.


Banno said...

It definitely was.

Anonymous said...

awe-inspiring stuff-
1)the shock-and-awe bombing of afghans,baghdadis
2)the systematic installation of anti-people governments in quite a few south american countries
3)napalming of vietnam
4)isreali attack on gaza(with american support)
5)nuking hiroshima/nagasaki
6)murder of indigenous american population by the raiding white mobs
yeah,obama's speech was awe-inspiring(so were Hitler's)
wasn't it Norman Mailer who said it was equally sick to love a black guy because he was black as much as hating him because of it?

Space Bar said...

fph: wait. you mean you watched gaza being bombed, and qana and kabul and baghdad and what you felt was awe?!

who's spirit are you channeling? leni riefensthal?

Space Bar said...

Also, I didn't say - if that's what you're implying - that Obama's speech was awe-inspiring. I said the fact that millions turned up to be there was.

Anonymous said...

yes, i felt awe(don't confuse it with reverence,it is fear; i live in the same world as fascist dictators like Obama who might want to do one of the few things i outlined in my comments to my country if we don't agree about something) the same awe i felt when i saw Obama walk in - leader of the free world, my foot(why did he keep quiet all this while innocent children were being killed in Gaza?)why should we treat him differently because he is black? he is the leader of the same nation that has caused havoc in south east asia,the attacks on bomabay stem directly from America's policy towards Afghanistan,Pakistan,Russia and China.
how exactly am i channeling the riefenstahl spirit,btw?
(ok,to be slightly 'fair', the americans make good clothes that i like but i also like Pakistani trucks with their surreal hoods. that doesn't mean i support whatever they do)

Anonymous said...

what is the big deal about millions turning up? they would come for a bon jovi concert,too,no?
there is something in the fact it was televised at such a scale.
the US president is a pop icon, like Mickey Mouse, i would say(with powers of the Lion King.)

Anonymous said...

would you like to speak about Ms. Alexander's poem? I am planning a piece for my paper(that you don't like much,i know!)

dipali said...

Oh yes!Definitely.

Falstaff said...

I'm not sure it was all that awe-inspiring. I for one would have been a lot more impressed if all those people had shown up to protest against something (remember the Million Man March?) rather than to celebrate what was already a done deal. What difference would it have made if all those people had stayed at home? This wasn't a Revolution, just a very big block party.

Tabula Rasa said...

agree with falsie. gail collins has an excellent op-ed along similar lines.

Space Bar said...

What difference would it have made if all those people had stayed at home?

Barring on the question of 'difference', that was exactly what I was asking: what would have happened if people had stayed home?

How unexciting TV would be without the crowds. You'd think the point of televising something like this is to make it convenient for people to not attend. And yet they do. And without them, the spectacle is not a spectacle, the circus not a success.

I'm sorry my post didn't quite convey the irony with which I called this a revolution. All televised revolutions must end up being what Falsie calls block parties of one kind or the other.

But I'm still not convinced that people came because it was just another Rock Concert/ball game/party. I think they came because they imagined they were participating in history. And whether that is delusional or not on the part of every person in the crowd, I think it should tell us something important.

(I'm still trying to figure out what that is, though).

fph: I don't know much about Alexander's poetry. What could I possibly contribute? You should go see Saraswathy Kavula's film this evening at Prasad's Preview Theatre instead.

Falstaff said...

It really comes down to what we mean by participating in History, doesn't it? People came so they could be present when History happened. That's not what I call participation. As I keep telling students of mine who think they're entitled to an A on CP just because they show up for class - to 'participate' you have to actually contribute.

Oh, and I totally agree that two million people showing up (though I'm curious how they arrived at that number - who counted?) is very exciting. I just don't think it's awe-inspiring.

Anonymous said...

yeah,and the film is in telugu...

??! said...

there weren't even enough loos and some of them were there for a full eight hours.
It's like Woodstock all over again.

Now, if only they had invented personal holograms. Then we could sit at home and watch it on TV, and also mark our presence at such occasions by placing our holograms there. Win-win.

??! said...

Demmit! I just read that linked article, and realised my Woodstock idea was already thought of. Blesht and bugre!

Space Bar said...

falsie: i read something somewhere about how they calculated it but i've lost it now...something about how many people normally fit into a square metre and blah blah blah. i can't believe people are expending energy on this kind of stuff.

fph: so how was it? i missed it.

??!: you're back! and posting for real! insteady of angsty stuff!

km said...

On the other hand, were the Inaugural to be held in July, 2 million people crammed into the Mall would have made the event awe-perspiring.

Falstaff said...

km: Groan! And here I was resisting the temptation to talk about how Obama is the new Caesar and the whole ceremony was ave-inspiring.

[word-verification: wingsful]

Anonymous said...

@space bar
i didn't go in the first place since it was in Telugu...
you are going for Rajit K's play tonight?

Anonymous said...

would you consider it once more if you would like to speak about Ms. Alexander's poem? it is not her entire oeuvre we have to speak about,though i understand one can always get a better idea of a poet's work if she is familiar with her earlier work.still,i don't suppose Ms. Alexander was equally famous before she read her poem at the inauguration; what we will be talking would be more about the suitability of her poem to the occasion. please do let me know if you wish to speak. thanks.

Space Bar said...

fph: mail me. the mail's on the profile page.

Anonymous said...

cool,will do asap,thanks.

Anonymous said...

just sent you a mail about the inauguration poem. sorry for delay...

Ms Baroque said...

Sorry to come in late - just a few ideas for fiercepothead to think about, to keep the arguments on track.

First of all, people don't love Obama because he's black. They are excited, and thrilled, and overcome with happiness, because America has made a real gesture to overcoming its very real history of racial violence. This is a recent history, which I myself can remember from when I was growing up - it caused pain in my childhood and I am overjoyed to see some healing. The symbolic value of a black man in the White House is huge: the house was partly built by black slaves, after all.

Secondly, they are so desperate for change, for a responsible leadership, that his colour makes very little difference to this aspect of it. They'd have loved him anyway, because he is intelligent, and conscientious, a good politician, and actually lives in the real world, unlike the previous.

You can't say he's like Hitler just because he's the new President! From what I can make out, this seems to be the basis of your little argument. By Thurs 22nd when you wrote this comment, the guy had already used his first day in power to:
close Guantanamo Bay,
stop the sham military trials there,
speak to the leaders on both sides in the Middle East,
announce that he will negotiate with Hamas,
announce that he will meet with Afghanistan without preconditions,
meet with his military leaders,
announce a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq,
introduce new ethics codes for White House staff,
announce compulsory ethics training for White House staff,
and cap White House salaries.

So what did you do on the 21st?

By the way, the list of atrocities you are so keen to associate Obama with: guess what, they weren't committed by Obama. So they have nothing to do with the current discussion.

What you're doing is simply rehearsing hate and anti-Americanism, and frankly it's a little bit last week.

Or do you really think the world would be a better place if everyone just sat around being really cynical? It's very clever, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

@Ms Baroque
My 'little' argument seems to have really offended you to write a 'big' response which is actually great since i was also thinking about the things you said;they are extremely valid counter-arguments.
But let us get a bit of perspective,even if through my 'coloured' glasses( i don't have any others)
What Obama has done and every single thing you mention can not do away the wrongs committed by America and Israel(we will,ofcourse, come back to it)
1) Closing of Guantanamo - so? after all these years, after torturing innocnet civilians for attacking soldiers, all the unspeakable atrocities,perverse and otherwise,on the prisoners held without any legal basis,openly flouting the Geneva conventions and Obama has gone and closed them and it melts your heart? Don't forget that torture,like all perverse sexually gratifying power-heady feeling comes expensive and the american economy has actually collapsed;recession is too mild a term for it. He has done no-one a favour.(to be contd.)

Anonymous said...

ditto for military trials.
now,about the middle east -
Obama is claiming a lot of points for having called Mahmoud Abbas. well, Mahmoud Abbas is not his man. He should be talking to Hamas. In any case,if the US was serious about Mr. Abbas, it should have participated in the summit meeting with Europe;that would have given the meeting more meaning as well.
i would call any president with as much power as Obama, who presides over a proper genocide like the one by Israel recently in Gaza, a fascist dictator because that is what it is. and don't even tell me it was because he was only president-elect then.(to be contd>)

Anonymous said...

ok,i had typed the third and final comment but it is deleted somehow. anyway,i said what i had to say.
ps: what i was doing on 21st? why should i tell,man...and if you mean in terms of importance, compared to obama's actions,surely you are familiar with Kafka's diary entry - "Germany attacked poland. Swimming in the afternoon..."

Anonymous said...

a few more observations:
1) Your argument says that Obama's skin has sybomlic value then you say it doesn't matter.
2)Anti Americanism is not a proper term for me. I criticize so i am Anti?
3)what is about being 'a bit last week'? opinions are fashionable for you?
4)being cynical is not being clever,per se. its just that ' we won't get fooled again'.
5)there are many things i like about America, the Beat writers and the Grateful dead and Johnny Depp and Scorcese...But it is the Evil Empire.