Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Change, and rhetorical pyramids

And so its done. President Obama has been sworn in, and Bush and Cheney consigned to the dustbin of history. And so a village in Texas gets its idiot back. Couldn't they have reclaimed him sooner?

As for the speech, I'm struck by the sheer weirdness of American political rhetoric. It reads like something from the nineteenth century or Battlestar Galactica - all Bible quotes and historic mission and shaping our destiny and tested by god. It's difficult to imagine any New Zealand politician saying anything like this with a straight face - or a New Zealand audience not simply gawping at its purple pomposity. But then, we see our country as a place we live in, not some great historical project. We know our unimportance, so we are not obsessed with its "greatness" and whether it will wax or wane. And whether it "continues" or not we see as a decision for outside forces, or (on a sufficiently long time scale) geology - not the politician d'jour.

Basically, we don't care about leaving a mark on history. New Zealanders aren't the sort of people to build pyramids (though we have built a henge). Americans are. And that's what their political rhetoric is best seen as: rhetorical pyramids. Don't they understand we have Google now?