Caught up in revolution

BOOK REVIEW: Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA

IT WAS an exhilarating time when Barack Obama became the first black man to take the reins of office as American president. His ascension to power was greeted with great excitement in Africa in particular.

After all, his father was a veritable black African (from Kenya).

This book, written by a top-notch intellectual and academic, outlines cherished principles like ubuntu and our shared humanity.

It harps on optimism and a glittering vision of a new world and ideals; breaking down unwholesome barriers of racism and militarism.

The author draws on his pedigree as an intellectual and activist to foment healing and peace.

The book goes out of its way to harness traditions of truth and social justice in order to inspire a generation who want to embark on a straightforward project of peace, life, health; and trying to save Planet Earth in the process.

Of course the author focuses essentially on the situation in the US, where even in such an exalted society there are undercurrents of disenchantment and dissatisfaction from certain disgruntled sections of the population.

This is a society that has had its own fair share of economic depression and distress; a situation apparently exploited and fanned by fringe right-wing forces in the US.

This book comprises nine chapters, which elaborate on the "convergence of forces to sharpen the revolutionary moment, and concentrate on the ideas and organisation forms that will distinguish this movement from previous movements".

The author submits that Obama is not a revolutionary, but is caught up in a revolutionary movement in world history.

The author zeroes in on revolutionary movement in US politics over the years, and traces how Obama, as a student of the black liberation school, tapped into the humanist philosophy of ubuntu and the optimism embedded in the message of hope.

Thereafter, Obama's upbringing against the backdrop of a simmering Hawaii is examined.

We learn how his mother, Ann Dun ham, imbued in the young Barack Obama a respect for diversity and the importance of hard work. The early training from his mother was buttressed by the example of his grandmother.

The book also looks at other phenomena, like the awesome upsurge of social networking (Indeed Obama has been called the first Internet president). He has also been called the first black president.

He has been called a healer for the 21st century.

For many from the grassroots, Obama has been hailed as the first community organiser who brought the skills of bottom-up political organising to the national stage in order to win power in the electoral politics.

He inspired a frenetic, bustling network of volunteers, donors, contributors, and other participants that ushered in a new mode of politics. All this, and more, is detailed in this intellectually intriguing work.

The author, Horace Campbell, is a professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University in New York.

Last week he was in South Africa, speaking at a Sowetan Breakfast Conversations workshop; a project aimed at promoting dialogue on various issues. This book was also launched at the occasion.