The Spirit Of The Times

The other day I have decided to pick up exercising. This impulse was prompted by a photo of Barack Obama on CNN.com, walking out of a Chicago gym, looking as cool as ever. I mean, if the president-elect of the US finds time to go to the gym, so should I.

My instant reaction to Obama’s photo can’t be unique. Over the past months the man has emerged as not just a political leader, but as a hero of the neo-American – or even neo-modern — myth.  His face has become archetypal, his story and his everyday demeanor – the stuff of legends. We see his images in every corner within the reach of YouTube , and they have the unstoppable impact of the young, message-infused Agitprop art of the early 20th century.

As someone who has never voted in her life – and whose community organizing experience is limited to being voted out of some sort of Komsomol committee at the age of 16 on the grounds of being politically dyslexic – I am puzzled by the essence of this new archetype. Aren’t modern heroes supposed to be loners? When was the last time we saw Steve McQueen or Harrison Ford lead the masses? They are usually running for their life as armies of fear and mediocrity try to catch up with them and subvert their personal quests.
Didn’t Winston Churchill once say “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”?

In the days following the election, I wondered whether I am the only one to feel a slight pang of fear for someone I like this much being propelled to the top of a democratic pyramid, which in all the myths we know so far has a tendency to destroy brilliance more often than support it. Why fear for someone elected by a landslide? Well, to quote Churchill again:  “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

It appears that the average voter did the right thing this time because he could no longer ignore the economy spinning out of control, like a car on an icy road.
But is the same voter  now expecting the economy to pick up, without giving up some of the bad habits that brought the crisis on?

As  the world saluted the dawn of a new order in Washington, my partner and I went out to celebrate at a posh restaurant by the lake.  Every five minutes of so our meal was interrupted by a high-frequency beeping, that would cut like a knife through the smooth buzz of the polished dining room. When the beeping started for the umpteenth time, the maître d’ rushed over, eager to dispel our suspicion that the kitchen was making a liberal use of a microwave.

“ It’s the credit card machine,” he whispered to us, with a sad smile. ” Makes this sound every time a card is rejected. The banks are just toppling down like…  ” “Can’t you turn it off? “ we asked .“No, “ he replied with a sigh, “ there isn’t even a  button for that. It was not supposed to go off that often…. maybe once a month.”  Then off he went to another table as the machine went off again, beep, beep, beep.

And so we proceeded with our chic meal, surrounded by richly clad men and women, all of them glancing at each other furtively, wondering who might be the next victim of the beeping monster. Things certainly are getting strange when one can hear  the economy collapse.

The next day, as I watched the jubilant news coverage,  I wondered about the society that bravely keeps going to Michelin-starred joints even as its  cards are cut off by the banks. Perhaps a society this lost is ready to give birth to new myths?


Ses brillantes études l'ont amenée à Harvard et au MIT. Depuis, elle s'intéresse à l'évolution de la télévision. Elle vient de lancer une chaîne musicale sur IPTV.

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