“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” - Plato
The day started out this morning with a walk along the Yarra River, quite early before I got to work. It had just rained and the atmosphere was clear with the air crisp and cool. As the sun was coming up through the clouds it illuminated the city high-rise buildings and made their glass and steel façades glitter. Their reflections in the quiet waters of the river were distorted by its gentle flow and the gulls flew about calling to each other with their cacophonous squawks. An occasional team of rowers flitted by quickly as their collected efforts made their boat glide through the water with ease.
I felt exhilarated and extremely lucky to be able to take this leisurely stroll along the river bank. A wonderful city, a comfortable existence, a peaceful place to live in. I had a job to go to, family to wait for me when I got home later tonight. It made me feel so thankful for my secure and enjoyable lifestyle, all of those things that we often take for granted if we live in such a place. How many people around the world can enjoy half, a quarter, a tenth a hundredth of these simple pleasures?
As the world situation becomes ever more volatile, as the financial crisis claims more and more victims, as the developing countries face enormous problems, as world populations move around the globe to find a better life for themselves, how easy it is to ignore it all and stay cossetted in our own cosy situation, oblivious to all else around us…
The haves can choose to pay no heed to the have-nots, at their peril. The rich can disregard the poor for a time. The secure can close their eyes to the insecurity of the dispossessed and the deprived. The comfortable may shut their ears to the cries of help of the uncomfortable. However, as the inequities grow greater, as the disparity between the wealthy and the indigent deepens, as the rift between the haves and the have-nots becomes wider, there is the risk of a reaction.
Crisis will often prompt people to desperate acts. Revolution as a means of righting social wrongs has in the past been a major force in upsetting the status quo. Comfortable existences cannot be maintained forever by simply ignoring the plight of the have-nots. Can constructive social changes prevent the violent resolution of inequity? Can socially-informed policies of governments around the world act in a way that the rights of all people are defended? Cannot the rich share part of their wealth so that the bulk of it is not wrested from them forcefully?
The re-election of President Barack Obama in the USA will usher in a presidency that will be surely more challenging in its second term than it was in its first. The people of the world, not only of the USA, have raised their expectations and the multitude of problems Obama’s country faces not only internally, but also in its external involvements will make for a time is wrought with tough decisions, difficult tasks, confronting policies and controversial actions.
Obama has to perform exceptionally well in order to make even some of his pre-election promises good. It will be a massive task and he will need a supportive and united team in order to make the impossible possible. He has had a reputation for being a little bit of a lone wolf. Will he in this new term of office be able to become more of a team player? Jilted Republicans will ensure that his office is not a pleasant one and his every decision will be challenged. I hope that things go well. I hope that the USA recovers and that by regaining a position of strength it can influence the rest of the world into a better shape than it is currently…