“For the last 20 years, America’s superpower status in every realm has been largely unchallenged—something that’s never happened before in history, at least since the Roman Empire dominated the known world 2,000 years ago. During this Pax Americana, the global economy has accelerated dramatically. And that expansion is the driver behind the third great power shift of the modern age—the rise of the rest.” – Fareed Zakaria, “The Post-American World”
When Fareed Zakaria spoke of the Rise of the Rest, he meant the economic booms of India, China and Brazil, BIC countries that once included Russia before the great bear of the North got all Putinitive on South Ossetia. The American age of Pericles has come to an end, Zakaria argues, and a firm layer of rust has tarnished our shining city on a hill.
Nothing exemplifies the transition of America from life of the party to peripheral wall flower trying to get a dance with the beautiful mixed girl than 2 recent improbable rises to the top that are possible, ironically, only in America. First, the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Second, Slumdog Millionaire, a film about Indian orphans beating the odds, has opened in wide release in the United States and ranked 8th on last week’s box office list.
Obama and Slumdog have more than just their stories of underdog triumph in common. Their fans, their supporters, their Facebook friends endorse their objects of devotion with a shared blind fealty. Jokes at the expense of uninformed Obama supporters travelled the cable spectrum from The Daily Show to Fox News. Ask an Obama supporter for a specific reason why they voted for the President-Elect and most responses were vaguer than an AP English final essay.
Likewise for Slumdog Millionaire. Express a less than favorable review of the film and die-hard fans will dismiss you, as liberals often do to those with ideas, as a “hater” or “contrary.” Ask them, however, for specific reasons why they enjoyed the film and as with Obama supporters you will most likely hear one of two things: 1) Um, because…2) something they are regurgitating from an article in either the New Yorker, New York Times, Slate or whatever website provides the hot opinions du jour.
Perhaps movies like Slumdog Millionaire and Presidential contenders such as Barack Obama are no better or no worse than the films and white men that have come before them. Perhaps they are average, and perhaps even below-average, products perfectly shaped by the current trends of a Post-American world where the Other has suddenly become the Object of affection.
If Barack Obama were white, would street-art mavens stencil his silhouette against brick walls in iconography reminiscent of Che, King and Malcolm? If Slumdog Millionaire took place in Serbia would anyone be heralding it as the future of cinema? Critics would still most likely rave, but what about the bloggers and annoying chicks who talk hard about fixed gears in coffee shops downtown? Do you all really have opinions or are you mouthpieces for the pop culture vultures who fabricate trends and wrap them in zeitgeisty words like zeitgeist?
Barack Obama and Slumdog Millionaire are the small steps for man toward a broader future for mankind. Black is back; brown is down, and muslim’s be runnin’ this shit. The writing’s on the wall for 20th Century America. Fareed Zakaria probably spray painted the words next to a stenciled image of Obama in red and blue. As we transition into a future of wholly different values and expectations, I wonder if we’re embracing products of the time or if our interests are nothing more than runs and overs in a geopolitical test match.
Yeah, I’m talking cricket. America’s done so you better get familiar with the pasttimes of the rest of the world. Or just wait until it’s of the moment and buzzed about on blogs.