Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oddly Enough

So, an odd discovery on this trip, on the complete other side of the planet - Obama talk.  Many people that I talk to here want to first and foremost talk to me about the recent election, Obama, and what it means to them personally - not just to the world and their nation, which also comes up invariably, but to them personally.

Whether you believe the Obama win was good or not, the effect and perception of this election is dramatic and undeniable for sure.  But, in ways I didn't predict.  No one here talks about his economic policies, taxes, platform stands on issues, etc.  The effect on them doesn't appear to be even remotely based on those things.  Read on..

So, themes that have evolved repeatedly here:

- I have been told explictly by disparate people that the election proved to them that real change can actually occur, the United States has proved it.  The view that the USA is and always will be ran by white men with the same ideas and therefore leading the world has been shattered.  They have told me that it shows them that things can actually change, coming from a world view that nothing ever changes or gets better for them.  These are usually carpet or pashmina salesmen but they want to talk about this first and foremost.  It's hard to describe the look in these men's eyes when they say it - it's very very personal to them and it gives them hope of change.

- (this is a shocker that I didn't have perspective on) I have been told explictly the same number of times that the election results shows that *real* democracy really exists in the United States and therefore can really exist elsewhere.  Apparently, there is quite a bit of skepticism about the "democracy" that we talk about, as all they see is the same people or type of people elected over and over again. (perception is reality to the world)  This election shocked them and they say something like "It has been proven to us that there is real democracy in the USA and we should hope to have that some day so that the people can change something if they want to by voting."  One guy told me that "Now that the USA has proven they have real democracy and the people can change things, now we and the rest of the world have to prove we can do the same, it's no longer an option to be skeptical of this notion."  I had no idea democracy itself was questioned regarding the perception of the USA.

- Everyone that speaks about this topic and is passionate about it also follows up with something like "But, the expectations are really high about what Obama might be able to accomplish, it will be very very hard, hopefully he'll be able to meet some of those expectations and affect change."  They all seem to set more realistic expectations and don't seem absolutely dreamy-eyed, keeping a finger in reality and some skepticism of course.

- Everyone that speaks about this topic also mentions something along the lines about how important this is for the whole world, that the world had a very big stake in the election too, that this was a win for the other countries not just the USA.  They see it as a means for inspiring change in their worlds, where change doesn't come easily.  And, that the world economy follows the United States economy, hoping for improvement there.

Anyway, wanted to post about this.  Like I said, regardless of how you feel about Obama yourself, the very apparent effect of this election on the masses of people around the world (and India specifically, because that's where the hell I am) is a bit dramatic.  And, that it appears to be a very personal thing to many of these people - showing that democracy actually exists and can happen.  And in a world where we would like to see more democracy of some sort, this is an important notion...

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