Tue, 11 Nov 2008 Feature Article

The Future is Here

The Future is Here

The morning after can be very good, carrying a sense of exhilaration in the fresh early mist or tempered with nagging doubts about the night just travelled. This has been a good long morning after, so far. The future as we will continue to know it has arrived as expected without a hitch. It has arrived unexpectedly for many who never imagined it would occur in their lifetime. The moment was welcomed almost unanimously around the world with tears…of joy! As the American democratic process lumbered along, even those who believed, could not allow themselves the luxury of imagining what they have fantasized about since Paul Robeson's “Emperor Jones” in 1933 if not before. As a matter of fact, not since Septemius Serverus (AD 145 – 198) became the first African Emperor of Rome has such a momentous change of leadership of the most powerful nation in the world occurred. Unlike Severus's violent rise in Rome, Barack Obama was voted into power by the ordinary people of the American empire. He has been chosen to lead America and by default, the world as we know it.

Fifty –one years after Ghana lowered the Union Jack and 201 years after the official abolition of slavery, we woke up to brilliant sun on a cool day. The future had arrived. For many who were children at the height of Pan-Africanism in global politics and who could only remember what their elders told them about what it felt like to be at the Old Polo Grounds in Accra when the Flag of Ghana was raised against a descending Union Jack; now we understand why they had no words to accurately capture the emotions of the moment. It was a surreal and transformational experience. Ghana's declaration of independence in 1957 paved the way for the administrative liberation of Africa and culminated in the eventual end of Apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela. Now, a son of the soil born in Hawaii has been chosen to lead the free world, as it is called. It is certainly another first for the Global African Community to ponder and digest. What will it mean for Americans, Africa and the world?

Politicians have a habit of campaigning on what is good in their proposed policies for “our children and grandchildren.” Mr. Obama's election, effected by a coalition of the young of all races, Hispanics and Blacks along with a surprisingly large block of Caucasian Americans speaks to the reality that those who have the greatest stake in the future take responsibility for it in a mature democracy. The enthusiasm of the young and historically disenfranchised in America carried the bet on Mr. Obama to the wire. In the end, it wasn't even close but then again it was. They bet that Barack Obama would most likely lead a government with their best interests at heart. He was most likely to be committed to the future America envisioned by the progressive centre and the young voters of America. They have chosen him to chart the flight plan and pilot their plane into the future.

“Barack the Magnificent”, as the Calypsonian Mighty Sparrow calls him in his optimistic pre-election hit song, successfully persuaded the American electorate, with the rest of the world reduced to voteless spectators, that we must all be our proverbial brothers' keeper. On the basis of this fundamental and universal tenet of moral civilization, in a nation whose greatest pride was previously embedded in the separation of church and state, he implicitly promised the next generation a more secure and peaceful planet. This is a very tall order and can only be achieved with sustained goodwill from all corners of the world. The celebration has by no means been total. There are those who have to adjust to the new reality of an Obama presidency and the challenge it throws to their visceral notions of the true nature of humankind. There are dangers lurking in the shadows. Remember JFK, MLK and RFK. Inspiring a people always comes at a cost to those with vested interests. We have our own history of the NLM during our last period of greatest inspiration as a young nation.

The beauty of America's democracy has obscured its warts. For now it stands tall, shining on the hill and ushers in what has begun as a beautiful transition engendering warm feelings of pride in a democratic tradition built on sins including slavery. The Blues has grown and now, like an old wine Lady Liberty has matured and mellowed, ready to make the whole world drunk with tears of joy. We are poignantly reminded that regardless of one's racial, ethnic or religious persuasion, we all bleed red when we are cut and cry salty tears when we are very happy or deeply saddened.

What are the lessons in this for Ghana as we ready the nation for its next democratic encounter at the polls in barely a month? If another transition occurs between the old and the new, we must let decency and respect fill the nation with pride. In our part of the world, Ghana's resurgent democracy, rising out of the ashes of a descent into dictatorship and later military adventurism is what Africa looks up to. Our young democracy must succeed for the future of our children and grandchildren, unless the younger voters themselves sensing what is at stake seize the day for a party promising a generational shift in governance.

The beauty of the democratic process is that it allows the people to make a decision suited to their moment in history as long as they are ready for the change. The 4th Republic has had both major parties take turns in governing the country. Will it be the turn of the new 3rd party, the CPP or will the voters give the nod to the NDC or the incumbent NPP? For many of the electorate, corruption in our major institutions is the elephant in the room.

“You can't lead the people if you don't love the people and you can't save the people if you don't serve the people.” – Cornel West.

Prof. Thaddeus P. Manus Ulzen

[email protected]