Monday, January 19, 2009

On "Change"...

Heather Mallick is down with change... at least when it's other people changing

In an opinion article published on the CBC website, Heather Mallick is being herself again.

Not as outrageously as before. Her infamous "Sarah Palin has a secret penis/why Republican men need viagra" column should be fresh in the minds of many Canadians, as should the controversy surrounding it.

On Saturday, ahead of Barack Obama's inauguration, Mallick has taken an interesting attitude toward change.

Change? Who, me?

In the column, Mallick takes issue with Obama's official inauguration poster:
"Barack Obama is making me nervous. "Be the change," his official inauguration poster urges. Until recently I would have done anything the man suggested. But could he be more specific?

This presidential inauguration is a good time for my chronic paranoia to flower. (How did George W. Bush put it, "Fool me once, shame on-shame on you. Fool me-you can't get fooled again.")

What change? Does it make me uncool to wonder if I shouldn't make the change rather than be it?
Which really seems to imply a particular character issue of Mallick's when it pertains to change.

The slogan on the poster is a shortened version of "be the change you want to see". This adage basically suggests to people that if they want to change the world, they should first change themselves, making themselves reflective of that change. The strong Buddhist undertones of this maxim tend to be spiritually and intellectually soothing.

The message of the poster could be interpreted any number of ways.

A particularly compelling interpretation could harken back to Obama's own campaign slogan "yes we can". Heavily populist in nature, the slogan was refreshing because it symbolized faith not in Obama to change the United States, but in the ability of the citizens of the United States to change their country under Obama's leadership.

It was a drastic departure from the "yes he can" message that would normally typify American politics.

Now, on the eve of his inauguration, Obama is expanding the message. In order for the people of the United States to change their country, they must first change themselves, both individually and collectively. Once again, Obama seeks to empower the people rather than glorify himself.

Hopefully, he even believes it.

But for Mallick, change isn't something she wants to be -- it's something she wants to make.

Namely, she wants to make other people change:
"I don't want to be illusioned about Obama. I want to get it right, from the start, and not be let down.

Obama invited to his inauguration a man (Pastor Rick Warren) who has openly preached that gays are lesser beings, unfit to marry and raise children.

When I initially decided to overlook this politically pragmatic invite, I felt like a bully, which is the worst thing a person can be. It's easy for me to let Obama off the hook on Warren, but then I'm not gay.

That is why I don't like this skilled rendition of Obama gazing into a distance, which is clearly implied to be packed with future glory, and being told to Be the Change.

What change, I ask again? It sounds like the same old thing.
To a great many people (including this writer), the inclusion of Pastor Rick Warren at Obama's inauguration seems extremely unfortunate.

But then again, a great many people (sadly) hold beliefs such as this. To banish them from the public eye or from public functions doesn't do anyone much of a service. Instead, they'll merely foment their views in isolation and alienation.

There is, of course, the possibility that they may change their views. That would be welcome to a great many people (including this writer). But to demand they change their views lest they be unwelcome to come to the party is not what a monist like Obama would do. After all, monism is the belief that there are certain universal moral principles that everyone can agree upon provided that they can be convinced, and it's hard to convince someone who you won't let in the front door.

For Obama to achieve the kind of collaborative, inclusive change that we wants to implement, he needds to open a dialogue with a great many people that he and his supporters would otherwise disagree with.

But it seems that Mallick herself isn't feeling very collaborative or inclusive:
"We liberal-minded people, hundreds of millions of us, have triumphed. We were proved right about George W. Bush.

We said that he embraced stupidity; it is wonderful to see intellect valued again in public office.

We said he panicked after Sept 11, 2001, and gave terrorists the most valuable gift imaginable — America's self-inflicted blows to its own military and system of justice.

We said that private affluence couldn't be sustained when it accompanied public squalor and now the economic collapse is destroying both spheres. (Obama can't fix this but he'll have to try.)

We said the invasion of Iraq was not justified. (Obama will have to find a way out of the morass.)

We said torture was wrong and the rest of the world would come to hate America and its allies for it. (Now Obama's torture-deploring cabinet nominees will need to find a way to restore a great nation's good name.)

So I should be high on happiness right now, no? The second Gilded Age is dead. People are thinking hard about the health of the planet.

In my own little universe, I finally have the birch tree in my garden I've longed for since childhood. I have eyesight, a pile of new books to read and am hearing rumours about a new 9-inch computer screen for reading big fat newspapers on my lap. That screen might save the industry I work in.

I'm finally teaching the university class I want to teach to the students I want to teach it to. I can spend the year watching Malia and Sasha Obama and their rivers of laughter and curiosity as they explore the White House and the world it opens up.

Hark at me, trying to pump up enthusiasm in my own personal head. Yes, we were right. The thing is, though, I'd almost rather have been proved wrong.

I feel no triumph whatsoever and the triumphalism of the inauguration poster leaves me wary. It's redolent of wartime. I don't feel giddy. I just feel tired.
Mallick's message is very clear:

We (the left wing) won. Now all the stupid people (everyone else) can fuck off.

But if Mallick ever believed that such an exclusionary and parochial result was going to come out of Obama's election, then she wasn't paying attention. If she believed this, she hasn't paid attention to a single word spoken or written by Barack Obama.

Those familiar with Mallick have every reason to suspect she'll never change. That's why she'll never truly be part of the change that Barack Obama wants to implement.


  1. Ahhh, the arrogance of the left is thick enough to choke a mule! The cult of the Obamessia! What will become of the world now with such a complete unknown before us?! Liberal drivel makes me vomit.......

  2. What really amuses me about the entire affair is that Mallick is harping triumphal as if they beat George W Bush.

    They didn't beeat George W Bush. They demonized John McCain. And not even the real John McCain -- they beat a fictional John McCain.

    Heather Mallick has forfeit any shred of credibility she ever possessed. Which was thin to begin with.


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