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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's inauguration - and what was that about science and non-believers?

So far, I've only heard a radio extract of Barack Obama's inauguration speech - though a fairly long one played on the ABC. He really is an awesome orator, isn't he, but what's with the cheesy music in the background?

Never mind, the substance is what counts, and much of it was inspiring. I liked the contemptuous references to putting away childish things - quoting scripture back at the outgoing Bush administration - and to following false prophecies promises ("prophecies" would have been better).

So far, I have a good feeling about this new president. Despite all his stupid decisions, Bush was obviously not an idiot (yes, I'm serious: it's all too tempting to characterise these people simply as idiots), and he had a certain rustic charm before things got tough and he had to make some decisions. But then we were treated to the horrible spectacle of eight years of America acting like a bull in a China shop. Worse, this was actually popular with the US public for a long time, before it finally sunk through to Joe Sixpack and his dawg that their country had lost its way in a complex and fragile world.

Well, the new president just shines with intelligence, doesn't he? It's hard to imagine him ever making a totally crazy political choice like the decision to invade Iraq. Not to mention the decision to let things go to hell in Afghanistan, where the original war may or may not have been justified, but at least had something to be said in its favour ... if only there'd been follow-through to build Afghanistan as a successful democratic nation and not let the goddamn Taliban back into the frame.

Well, a blundering regime has gone. Blundering, and sometimes evil - anyone want to recall its resort to terrifying, excruciating, and mind-destroying forms of torture to try to extract information from opponents? Here's to the new regime, and may it meet its daunting challenges. Here's to the impressive Mr Obama and his feisty secretary of state, Hillary Clinton - whatever anyone has against her, she's another very smart person, and it doesn't hurt that she's as tough as they come. Good luck to them in grappling with the problems of America and the world. They'll surely need it, but I can't imagine a team more likely to face up to the task and leave the world better than they found it, when they hand over the reins of power in four, or let's hope eight, years time. If I were a praying man, my prayers would go with them, but they can have my hopes, and a certain confidence that they're at least the right people for the world's biggest and hardest jobs.

Speaking of which, I really could have done without the continual invocations of God at the inauguration ... but I guesss that's how they do things over there on the other side of the pond. It's not going to change in my lifetime, even if Aubrey de Grey helps me extend it a little, so I reckon I just have to grin and bear it.

I'm told - and I now see references here and there on the internet - that Obama said something positive about science and something conciliatory or inclusive about non-believers. That, I think, is about the best that we can hope for from an incoming US president.

If anyone can point me in a direction where I can see more precisely what he did say on those topics, I'll be very grateful.


Blake Stacey said...

The transcript is available in several places, including here.

Russell Blackford said...

Thanks, Blake ... it's always nice to know I can be lazy and not have to track things down myself.

Blake Stacey said...

What else is the Internet for? (-:

Russell Blackford said...

This was pretty good:

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

Roko said...

"... it finally sunk through to Joe Sixpack and his dawg that their country had lost its way in a complex and fragile world"

- fantastic ;-0