Monday, February 16, 2009

Today's Tom Sawyer: Obama the archetype for his generation

Today's Tom Sawyer knows changes aren't permanent,  but Change is.


 Lost and vulnerable in his youth,  Barack Obama has gone on to attain the most influential and powerful position within the global community.  Generational power was at work.   His is indeed a Generation Jones/X victory story.  "He may not always come when you want him,  but he's right on time"  runs an old spiritual gospel hymn;  he has come at the historical moment in which he was sorely needed. 

 These pictures taken in his youth are at once vulnerable,  wisftul,  and full of child-like arrogance.  It is the image of the waif,  who is waiting for the winds to blow his way.  A modern Tom Sawyer.  

 I think Barack taps into these warring elements within the psyche of this generation,  and lets its members know that  he is the elder brother,  appearing on the scene to help.  This is part of why pragmatically,  he has beaten the empirical odds.  Ego and archetype are entwined in him,  and the image he projects is in tune with the needs of the times.  America more than any other nation ought to know the importance of media image,  of psychological needs which fluctuate with generational shifts,  and of the vast importance of the type of the hero. 

  Back in the campaign trail days of the primaries,  Bennet Kelley wrote a piece which appeared in the Huffington Post,  entitled,  "Obama and Generation Jones:  It is Our Time to Lead".  He spoke correctly,  and it was already clear to many of us then that Hillary and McCain were running against history and time,  and generational shift.  The natural chronology of the historical saeculum is as reliable as the seasons themselves.  Summer gives way to autumn,  and it is useless to deny that cooler winds are blowing.  ( Another  very good piece on generational struggle and its expression via the ascension of Barack Obama,  from the campaign trail days,  is at http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/stumper/archive/2008/04/08/the-real-obama-clinton-generation-gap.aspx   )   This generational apex and reversal was in the air at the Democratic National Convention:  It was palpable.  Howe and Strauss had prophesied that a generational constellation would be aligned in 2005 that would be a powder keg,  awaiting the lit match of the catalyst.  Those at the helm would be pragmatists,  doers,  changers and shapeshifters.  The Nike slogan of the '90s,  just do it ,  would be their watchword.  The very air,  the historians said,  would feel "stale,  used up;  primed for something new".  This is when the Hegelian world historical moment,  the kairos,  the ancient Greek word for the moment when all turns around in the eleventh hour,  reaches its apex and begins the reversal,  if only the hero rushes in where angels fear to tread. . .


 I leave with these lyrics from the Rush song,  Today's Tom Sawyer,  which came out about the time that Barack was free wheeling into his 20s.    They speak of him and his -  our  -  generation  uncannily:

                    Today's Tom Sawyer he gets high on you/and the space he invades he gets by on you/  . . . tho his mind is not for rent,  don't put him down as arrogant/his reserve a quiet defense/riding out the days events/. . . what you say about his company is what you say about society/. .. the world is, the world is,  love and life are deep(maybe as his skies are wide?)/No, his mind is not for rent to any god or government/always hopeful yet discontent/he knows changes aren't permanent,  but Change is. . .

2 comments:

politico08 said...

Nicely-written piece. The only part I disagree with is the implication that Obama is partly GenX. Obama is quintissential GenJones, born right in the middle of its birth years, and possessing the classic Jones generational personality traits. No prominent voices have said Obama is a GenXer, while a long list of such influentials have declared him a GenJoneser.

Great and fitting reference to "Today's Tom Sawyer".

I like your Newsweek article, but I found this column in Newsweek by Jonathan Alter even more on the mark about Boomers vs. Jonesers: http://www.newsweek.com/id/107583

Bennet Kelley's HuffPo column about GenJones was very well-written; I felt like Nancy Snow's recent piece in HuffPo about GenJones was very strong also: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nancy-snow/generation-jones-our-time_b_162644.html

And Jonathan Pontell's recent op-ed about Obama as the first GenJones President in USA TODAY nails it: http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20090127/column27_st.art.htm

SM Kovalinsky said...

Ah, Politico; you are back! Thank you for your remarks, and I really appreciated your informing me about Gen. J last time. Actually did up a whole piece about it. I think the only reason I keep sneaking X in there, is that I cannot get out of my mind how Howe and Strauss described the Xers against the Boomers, and I keep relating to that. You are so right, though; thanks and I am glad you liked the piece. Stay well, and best regards.

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