For western economies the real godsend is the crisis affecting Beijing. The closing down a few weeks ago of the Smart Union Group, one of the largest toy manufacturers in the East, was the signal, almost like the fall of Lehman Brothers had been for the American financial system. Economic data recently published confirms the crisis. Industrial production, in what is now “the world’s factory”, is slowing down and is now lower than at any point in the past seven years. The Beijing government is taking remedial action with an impressive 586 billion dollar plan for state expenditure. It is precisely this maxi-stimulus for internal demand that provides a great opportunity for western economies. American and European companies will be able to participate in these mega state contracts.
Dialogue of Cultures
The biography of the new President-elect is a melting pot in many ways: religion (Islam and Protestantism), ethnicity (black and white) and geography (Africa and America). Herein lies Obama’s success: moving beyond multiculturalism. The issue of background is drastically put into perspective in an open society like America, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, but where you’re going. Identity is released from the defensive question: Who are we? The new question is more constructive: What can we do together? And setting the agenda will be the future rather than the past, a shared interest rather than living in fear of each other.
There are high hopes that President Obama will restore faith in the American dream. In China, that dream was crushed by tanks in Tiananmen Square nearly two decades ago. Can Obama bring it back? Most of my students – who can be highly politicized on other occasions – seem surprisingly indifferent. One key factor is that relations between China and the US have been good since the terrorist attacks of September 11th. What Obama said about China policy during his campaign – more protectionism, attacks on the Chinese government for “manipulating” its currency – could make things worse for China. But if he pulls off a miracle…
Following Pope Benedict XVI’s famous speech in Regensburg, the crisis in relations between Christians and Muslims has over time become an opportunity for starting a Christian-Islamic forum, in which the well-known intellectual Tariq Ramadan is also taking part. As is now clear, and as proven by two recent books (one a thesis by Nina zu Furstenberg and Islam and Freedom by Ramadan), this former “friend of the terrorists” is in fact a Muslim reformist of ‘liberal’ extraction, if the word is not excessive, since he has made a decisive choice, that of contextualising the words of the Scriptures and not stopping at the literal meaning but rather searching for the profounder one.
According to the exit polls 77% of Jews in America voted for Obama, hence 3% more than those who voted for the 2004 Democrat candidate, John Kerry. This instantly demolishes Republican propaganda concerning the Democrat candidate’s presumed anti-Israeli positions. The first post-electoral act by the President Elect has contributed to reassure those who have Israel’s destiny at heart. Although part of Israeli public opinion is not totally convinced, in theory the Obama presidency’s equidistance offers greater guarantees of peace to both parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The media in Cairo enthusiastically welcomed the event too, emphasising its historical importance. At times they also exploited the democratic element as a litmus test for the shortcomings of the local political system. “The first black President in the White House and the fifth American president since Mubarak came to power” denounced the independent daily newspaper Dustour. Equally, there are those who do not hide their doubts, and at times their scepticism. “Will Obama be with us or against us?” wrote the periodical Rose El Youssef, expressing a shared fear.
“India’s record of human rights is poor. The only mitigating circumstance is that political democracy provides checks and balances on human rights abuses through a free media, civil liberty organisations, an active judiciary, and the right to file public interest litigation on behalf of others”. Neera Chandhoke, Professor of Political Science, University of Delhi and Director of the Developing Countries Research Centre, University of Delhi, explains to Resetdoc the current conditions of Indian democracy and on the subject of religion she says: “The meaning that secularism acquired in the Indian context added one more dimension to the generic concept of secularism: not only the recognition of faith but the equal treatment of all faiths”.
“I once asked the Mahatma what surprised him the most. ‘How hard of heart people in authority are,’ he answered. This is even truer nowadays. It is obvious that Gandhi’s moral legacy has vanished. What is the system of values in a State that launches a moon mission but says it has no funds for building schools?” Mohan Guruswami, founder and chairman of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi, spoke to Resetdoc about what has happened to the Mahatma’s legacy, and dejectedly said that “Every day the newspapers report violent events linked to the caste system, religion or racism. The Mahatma is now only an icon, a legend exploited for political purposes.”
The complexity of the Turkish context sometimes remains partly invisible to the observers’ perspective, especially if they are looking to find some ‘otherness,’ and if out of sheer good will they portray this ‘otherness’ that they encounter as something necessarily and unquestionably benign. That is partly what happens to European and American liberals when they analyze a predominantly Muslim country such as Turkey. In order to oppose the essentialistic and hostile attitudes towards Muslims within their communities, they attempt to emphasize the positive qualities of Muslims or Muslim way of life, while sometimes neglecting to apply the normative and critical standards that they would apply in their own countries to the issues that they encounter in their own political contexts.
The economy, Iraq and choosing Sarah Palin as his Vice-President. This is why, according to John Judis, Republican candidate John McCain will lose the presidential race to Barack Obama: “For people like me who admired McCain - the senior editor of The New Republic said to Resetdoc - he has been a tremendous disappointment.” What about the Democrat candidate? Obama’s campaign has been impressive and the risk is that, with so many expectations, he may end up disappointing people. But Judis is hopeful, Barack has all it takes to also deal with the economic crisis. “We are going to need a lot of spending, we need big deficit instead of surpluses. Next one is going to be like a Roosevelt 1930s Democratic congress, it’s going to be to the left of him, so I would expect that the Congress would push him.”
“Making religion an instrument for social justice” is, according to Roger Friedland, who studies the relationship between religious phenomena and the public arena, the profound meaning of Obama’s relationship with faith. “On the one hand, the tradition that Bush follows, that has dominated the discourse of evangelical and fundamentalist communities” says the Professor from Santa Barbara University, “is that sin is located in the individual soul” (most consonant with a celebration of the market with its ethic of individual effort). Obama follows the traditions of the ‘social Gospel’, This is why he believes that the main sources of sin lies within society, in the way it robs individuals of dignity, of the possibility of making righteous choices.”An interview by Elisabetta Ambrosi.
In the United States a party may very well come to power that has the ideological inclination to carry out and solidify a paradigm change abandoning the Washington consensus, and in the direction of regulated capitalist economies. Moreover, this party, for a change, is led by a remarkable person, who has in domestic and economic policy at least a capable team around him. Thus what we are witnessing is not only a dramatic crisis, but also its potential longer-term solution. Obama has distinguished himself as a tranquil force in the crisis, and that is not a bad thing under the circumstances. But the election is not over. The factor of race, obliquely if inconsistently revived by McCain’s camp may still reappear in some unexpected form.