Archive for April, 2009

Socialist Shmocialist.

April 21, 2009

As an Australian, I’ve been following the recent political discourse in the US with the sort of detachment one might expect. I mean, just because US politics affects most of the rest of the world is no reason to get involved. Plus, we don’t like it when they get involved in our politics, so I feel it only fair that we should stay out of theirs.

Still, I find it hard to stay out when I see people referring to the US President as a socialist. I don’t want to get into the political reasoning behind such claims, but I feel it is more to do with who he is and what he represents rather than any actual political ideology he might hold.

Anyway, listening to such claims reminds me of rather unpleasant events in my childhood. As a child growing up in Queensland during the 70s with fair skin and red hair, I was often criticised for not fitting into the “Bronzed Aussie” stereotype. One of the most scathing criticisms levelled at me was that I was an “Albino”.

This accusation bothered me a great deal. It was meant as an insult, and it was effective. I hated being called an albino. Not so much from any feeling that albinos are inferior, but more simply because it just wasn’t true. Even as a young boy I knew that albinism meant a deficiency in pigmentation resulting in pale skin, white hair, and pink irises. I had red hair and hazel eyes (I still do for that matter) so I clearly wasn’t an albino. I didn’t like being called something I wasn’t.

Now I’ve matured somewhat, it occurs to me that even more terrifying than being called an albino when I wasn’t is the idea that being called an albino is an insult. I mean, albinos have enough problems with being prone to skin cancer, poor eyesight, and all the other complications that Michael Moorcock forgot to mention. Being reduced to a schoolyard insult is just rubbing it in.

Anyway, to wander back to my point, I feel much the same about the accusations of socialism levelled at Barack Obama. I’m not entirely sure which is worse, from my point of view. That he is being called a socialist when he very clearly is not, or the idea that being a socialist is a bad thing.

Socialism has gotten a lot of bad press over the years. I’m not going to say it’s a perfect system, but I do feel that the almost Pavlovian reaction the word generates in some circles is disturbing. I don’t really want to get into a detailed discussion of comparative economics, but I do wonder, for all the alleged failures of socialism, why we still cling to a capitalist system that seems designed to completely collapse once every twenty years or so.

Anyway, Obama is not a socialist. He might be a liberal, but of course that’s lost its sting since the left in the US embraced the term. Then again, with the economy the way it is, maybe a real socialist is just what the US needs. Shame you don’t seem to have one.

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