[OPE] William Kristol on Marx versus Obama

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Mon Apr 14 2008 - 17:31:07 EDT

The Washington Neocon William Kristol, scraping around for some dirt, tries out a bit of disingenious red-baiting in the New York Times (to its credit usually on the side of free speech):

"But it's one thing for a German thinker to assert that "religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature." It's another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we "cling to ... religion" out of economic frustration." http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/14/opinion/14kristol.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin@4
On this issue I think I would rather side with Barack Obama. It is one thing to "worship an awesome God" as the highest expression of a healthy celebration of life, lived to the full, cherishing all its blessings. It is another kind of spirituality altogether, if life is so horrible and oppressive that the only thing you still have, is a faith in God to get you through the day. 

And I think that this is what Mr Obama really meant: if you have sufficient health and wealth, it's easy to celebrate life in terms of the greatness of God's creation, but if that doesn't apply, then indeed religion can be "the sigh of the oppressed creature", offering solace in adversity when financial problems cannot be solved. 

That is just to say that what motivates particular spiritual beliefs may differ a great deal depending on one's circumstances of life. Rather than being a "Marxist devil in disguise", Mr Obama is just being objective, distinguishing between different kinds of motivations people can have, depending on the conditions they face. 

All this is lost on William Kristol, who after all is only trying to find something to smear Mr Obama with. But Mr Obama remains by far the superior candidate anyway, simply because he is the only one who can claim to be a "man of the people", and is far more successful in battling an ocean of negativity and discontent about political life. It is not easy to be an American politician these days, even if you are a plutocrat.

As for Marx, what would he say? Among other things, I think he would say that American pragmatism is an approach which makes everything flexible and relativistic, and can find its absolutes or fixed principles ultimately only in religion. Needless to say, such a philosophy of life fits perfectly with the ever-changing requirements of capitalist trade and accumulation, in which what matters most of all it not what is really true, but what sells. The winner, defined in terms of successful sales, has the truth on his side, in American culture.

A truly pragmatic president would never have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan (it did not even make much commercial sense) - it took a strongly religious president, surrounded by a coterie of religious fanatics, to do it. The outfall is totally poisonous, since it stirs up religious hatred and intolerance around the globe, distracting attention from murderous economic problems the world faces. My hunch is that Mr Obama has a very good chance of becoming president, not necessarily because he has a "better way" righ now, but even just because of his honest insistence that there's "got to be a better way". If there isn't, all there is left is the "the sigh of the oppressed creature".


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