Lots of people, including me, are waiting for Barack Obama’s speech tonight.
Much has been made of the fact that this speech will be delivered on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington. The venue for Obama’s acceptance speech has been changed to accomodate all the people that want to watch him deliver it.
There is so much anticipation, I am reminded of how I felt around the time of the Live Earth concerts. The constant analysis (how will this affect the polls; will he deliver?; &tc) threatens the moment. How many people are watching for the sake of the speech and for the sake of the election, compared to those who are watching only to analyse, and to say that they had been there as history was made?
On the other hand, perhaps that is the entire point of going to such an event. Not to be persuaded, but to say that you were there, that you were part of the moment.
An unwelcome characteristic of this age is the scarcity of genuine communal moments. It is a feature, I think, of a culture that is recorded and analysed to death. Instead, nostalgia is commodified and sold to us at expensive music festivals, or third hand on wide-screen TV screens in pubs. Is this presidential campaign a genuine historical moment, or is it just being packaged as such?
Observers in Martin Luther King’s day would not have worried about this. They would not have bothered with the ‘meta’. They could allow themselves to be less cyncial, and genuinely sincere. Anyone who tries that these days is mocked. When Obama and his team attempt to create a genuine moment in history, they are accused of hubris, elitism, messiahnism.
But that is the quest. Our yearning. For sincerity. We think we see in Obama what we do not see elsewhere. Not in John McCain, who has become a cranky, walking contradiction. Not in Gordon Brown, who smiles with half his face. Not even in David Cameron, who, in coming the closest to being convincing, unfortunately slips down into the political equivalent of the Uncanny Valley.