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Break-out sessions

By Joseph Randolph
web posted April 19, 2010

The President is on his method again.  Some time ago, during the Fiscal Responsibility Summit, President Obama cajoled those present into group formation for "break-out sessions."  The homework assignment of a sort was to return to the President some time later to report on any progress. 

This past week the President employed this method on a larger stage—the stage of world leaders, and nuclear weaponry was the topic—and break-out sessions were employed, again.  The numbing reaction I had to this procedure was not to judge it as showy window dressing.  Rather it seemed undertaken in all sincerity by a President whose message is perhaps revealed in his method. 

Our President represents the most powerful nation in the world—a fact, however, that he seems uncomfortable with, as slipped in the conclusion of this Summit when he said that "whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower."  The reason the President is uncomfortable is that he wants the lions to lie down with the lambs and to accomplish that the lions must be defanged and made into lambs.  The President, however, could not coax the growling and growing animals of Korea or Iran to his Summit.  Instead, he had break-out sessions which may have ignored even talking about these hostile nations for the sake of preserving the peace at the Summit.    

The president seems to believe that to show the world that we have no aggressive tendencies toward any nation of the world—no matter how many belligerents line up against us—we must reduce significantly our weaponry.  Given enough legislation and international agreement to that effect, our cultural genes will imprint the message on humanity, and war will become a thing of the past.  We will resolve our conflicts in such an age with reason, not weapons.  At least the reasonable nations will, but in the meantime, and to help the growth of belligerents toward reasonableness, as well as to improve upon our own ability to negotiate with belligerents, we must be creative.  The day will come, however, when we will finally realize to our utter dismay, that they only had their weapons in position because they saw ours.  We have thus led with bad example before now; in the future we shall lead with good example.  Once our present "enemies" see we intend no harm toward them, they will no longer desire to harm us.  All the nations of the world will have become friendly, and the lifeless and defunct word "enemy" will drop from common vocabulary.   

The President imagines the world like a postmodernist schoolmarm.  As teacher—no, as facilitator—he lays out a format whereby any and all can contribute to hashing out ideas, and then he builds consensus around the presumed best ideas.  This suggests in part that the President himself has few realistic ideas of his own—not because he lacks intelligence or anything like that—but rather that he is a man who lives in the intellectual ambience of an ideology where good dialogue is presumed sufficient to diffuse difficult dangers, and where reality is "socially constructed" as many of his world are prone to urge. 

In other words, we have made a bad world; it is time to remake it a good world—and all in an afternoon and all at a table.  Gordon Wood the American historian in his book The Purpose of the Past perceptively writes that "Too often postmodernists think that by demonstrating the cultural construction of reality, they have made it easier for men and women to change that reality at will.  If culture and society are made by us, they can be remade to suit our present needs, or so it seems.  But anyone with a historical sense knows differently, knows that things are more complicated than that." 

The President has virtually no historical sense and therefore little sense of how to lead.  He seems to think that by bringing creativity into the front room in something of an impromptu type format—with good feelings and good lighting and enlightened participants—he can flesh out the best ideas on how to run or ruin a country.  The way to rule a country and a world is to invite this kind of uplifting discussion, rather informally, and then formulate the conclusions into remaking the nation and the world.  Afterward one begins the work of implementation of these freshly incarnated musings of the members of the break-out ssessions.

The belligerents look on and laugh.  They understand something about themselves that the President of the United States does not.  Meanwhile, the President is having trouble understanding his own nation.  No break-out session can fix that, because a real look at the real world and our nation would be a necessary first step.  The President, however, in facilitating the break-out sessions, shows little initiative to do either. ESR

Joseph Randolph is an academic and writer living in Wisconsin.  His 2010 book Debilitating Democracy: Power From The People, is available from Wasteland Press and Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble.  His email address is jqrandolph@hotmail.com.

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