Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama and the new era of responsibility

The karma of the United States of America has given it at the same time an extraordinary crisis and an extraordinary new president to meet that crisis. Times of hardship have reached the land and it is time to face the truth and draw strength from that sincerity.
After President Obama’s address, I am sure no one can be in any doubt about the challenges now facing the nation. I was struck by his strong appeal to spiritual values, wherein lies the real treasure of the land:

They (previous generations) understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. They knew that our power grows from its prudent use, our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

The Clinton administration failed in that it allowed the bubble of the credit markets to develop, the Bush administration failed in not detecting the problem and fixing it in time. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, the general who does not see problems when they are far off, will soon find problems close by. General Obama now has to lead us through problems on every side. And I find it significant that the first spiritual lieutenant he names is none other than Honesty:

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends – honesty and hard-work, courage and fair-play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism – these things are old, these things are true… What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility.

What is demanded is a return to these truths… Compare this with this passage from the I Ching, 41st hexagram Decrease:

If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further undertakings.

Inner truths and inner strengths are now needed. Shortcuts and narrow-minded self interest – the mentality of the swamp plant – got us here. Far-sighted, enlightened leadership – the mentality of the tree on the mountain – must get us out. Fortunately, the I Ching leaves us with hope:

Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretence.

That would surely be the precursor to and the guiding principle of a new era of responsibility.
For an interesting parallel insight, head over to The Useless Tree and Obama’s Mencian Themes.

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond