Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Western

Climbing up to 34 000 feet over the Rockies, I am already missing California. It has been one densely packed week with the annual convention of the Western Political Science Association, breathtaking coastal drives along Hwy 1 and a campus tour to Stanford University (unfortunately, despite their earlier promises, I am still in limbo with regard to the Wallenberg post doc scholarship).

This year, the “Western” as it is colloquially known, offered a number of interesting panels on everything from eco-anarchism to the Obama presidency. My own panel, on the “communities of the future” succeeded in putting the spotlight precisely on the differences between my work and more mainstream accounts of environmental politics, sparking a lively discussion on the prospects of global sustainability.

Talking about which, the Star Trek nerd in me was particularly happy to take a walk along the south tip of Sausalito (the fictional location of “Starfleet academy”) and also, in the same vein, experience the sublime silence of the redwoods in Muir Woods where, in May 1945, the UN charter signatories-to-be gathered to honour the memory of FDR.

In these times of tea party activists and voters with attention spans more like 12 year olds with ADHD, our idealism is again put to test. It may seem utterly unlikely that we will ever grow up to decide our own history and, with it, our planetary future. It may seem as if the current constellation of chauvinistic nationalists, technophobic primitivists and overly pragmatic politicians will each in their own way continue to erode our cosmopolitan dreams. Yet, we shall not forget how much darker the horizon seemed only five years ago. With this in mind I hope I am forgiven for once again quoting this remarkable passage from Obama’s inaugural address of last January:

”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 some day pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself.”

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