It’s unfortunate that President Obama is such a well spoken and clear-thinking African American…
Perry Gruber
73

I’ll admit, smart as I think I am, that such long and detailed documents on economic philosophy go right over my head. But another thing is, I do an enormous amount of online reading on all sorts of topics and I, like probably a great many others, have learned to scan for cues and clues before deciding whether to settle in and read word-for-word, or get on with my life.

And another admission: on this piece by the president, I chose the latter option. What I was scanning for, was anything to do with strengthening the integrity of local communities, families, volunteerism and civic virtues. It may have been in there, but amid dense clouds of Harvardian economic theory I never spotted an iota of recognition of how human life actually works. Which is, down on the ground. Neighborhood by neighborhood, household by household, town by town, and whether we wish to recognize what I consider the most over-arching human urge of all: tribe by tribe.

Because whether we think we can wish it away or not, we are a tribal organism at the very roots of our nature. The concepts of nations and parties and factions and vast global agendae are, I have always believed (and observed) things we pay courteous lip service to as part of some kind of interactive quest for common ground.

But meanwhile, the commonest of ground, is the ground we live on, among the people we share it with and do our business with. And, mind our own business among.

I couldn’t honestly tell you, what this “globalism” means. And as honestly I will tell you that my visceral reaction to this paper, is that no one really does. Such grandiose and visionary prose all too often serves to obscure that there really is no there, there. The experience of having read it, and the pretense of having a damn clue what any of it actually means, is an exercise in self-assurance that certainly all this academic boilerplate couched in political narrative and passed as economic theory, must mean something, and that someone “out there” must certainly be in charge of first decoding it, then actually translating it into meaningful policy.

It’s just that from this president, like most of them, taking at face value that endless rhetoricizing has any connection to how people live and grow and love and interact right here as opposed to “out there”, is just not a hobby I indulge in any longer. I’ve seen too many of these placeholders come and go, and heard too much bombast from all sides regarding what they have done for (or to) America. And through it all, life just keeps being, life. A thing presidents and policy wonks seem to have ungrasped willingly for their own personal ends, disguised as global ones.

For me all the man is, or the next one (or woman, which seems increasingly and regrettably - considering who and what that woman is - likely) is just another bureaucrat who has bought themselves an office. Whatever it is they do all day in that office, hardly even seems like reality to me. Less and less, as its powers increase to a near-absolute level.

Meanwhile, down on the ground, folks pull their pants on one leg at a time and get on with life, and will to the best of their ability and with a minimum of conflict with their neighbors, do so reasonably and fairly, unless and until someone with more power and bigger ideas gets in their way and makes that near-impossible, whereupon people have a way of turning into animals when their motives for behaving like human beings have been taken from them.

Government at a national and worse so, global level, has the most power to accomplish this, to trivialize and data-mine the ordinary human experience, to transform human life into political and economic theory, to disregard loss as acceptable and damage as collateral, in the grand march toward achieving poorly-defined and even more-poorly-executed vast solutions.

And, they always fail at it. Always. It is people, neighbors, the tribe (and all of us have them whether we want them or realize it or not), who come out when the smoke of government mass failure clears and start cleaning up the mess so they can get things back to normal.

I didn’t see any acknowledgement of the value, the power, the vast capacity, of ordinary people acting and thinking as neighbors rather than as game-pieces in some grand experiment, in the article.

Maybe it’s in there, but somehow I think everything else that was, was there to obscure the fact that ordinary life has nothing to do with these grand designs. In fact, it may be the most expendable resource involved with achieving them.

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