Right now it seems as if the leadership of the entire planet is coming up for election. At least that’s the impression I get from the news: there are changes of leadership everywhere, or at least in those places where the population is allowed to have a say in such matters. But when I look at the results, I can’t help thinking that the people coming into power are completely incapable of meeting the challenges of our times.
Consider, for instance, France where a diminutive and obnoxious opportunist named Nicolas Sarkozy recently lost the presidential election to a mid-level civil servant type called Francois Hollande. Now I’m sure the French had their reasons for getting rid of Sarkozy, I never liked him much myself, but when I look at his replacement I can’t say I feel very excited.
First, he only won the Socialist nomination because Dominique Strauss-Kahn (the randy IMF head honcho who originally planned to run against Sarkozy) spent far too much time drinking champagne and having sex with naked ladies. Indeed, DSK spent so much time with naked ladies that he forgot to ask which ones were prostitutes and which ones were members of French high society who just happened to be undressed. That caused a terrible mess.
Now I don’t know about Francois Hollande’s interactions with naked ladies but I do know that he got into power by promising lots of free stuff in the middle of an economic crisis, and also by pledging to tax the rich at 75%, thereby guaranteeing that they will take all of their money out of the country, making it much harder for him to provide all that free stuff.
Meanwhile in Greece, a lefty fantasist angling for the prime minister’s office declared that he would cancel the severe budget cutting measures agreed upon by the previous administration in order to secure the foreign money the country needs to survive. Presumably he thinks foreigners should supply the Greeks with free cash out of gratitude for their contributions to civilization 2,400 or so years ago. Meanwhile the Golden Dawn, a group of English occultists founded in the late 19th century won 20 seats in parliament.
Oh wait, I’m getting mixed up. The Greek Golden Dawn is a bunch of far right types who are extremely agitated about illegal immigrants, not a bunch of symbolist poets and opium smoking aesthetes.
Over in the States election campaigning is entering a new phase. In the blue corner we have a president, Barack Obama, who has been a major disappointment to almost everybody except (possibly) his dog, Bo. And in the red corner we have a strange animatronic figure named Mitt Romney, who appears to have escaped Disneyworld after somehow attaining a modicum of sentience.
Since Obama cannot run on the economy (which is still a mess), or health care reform (which almost everybody hates), he’s been reduced to fist pumping the air at his own awesomeness while bragging about how he TOTALLY OWNED Osama bin Laden. And when he’s not doing that he dispatches lackeys to provoke select minority groups into two-minute hate fests against the animatronic robot and his party.
The initial two minutes’ hate actually lasted around two weeks, and centered around bloated radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans alleged “war on women.” It then took a brief detour into animal lover territory, when it was revealed that the animatronic figure had once strapped a dog to a car roof. But that two minutes of hate was canceled when it was revealed that Obama once ate a dog. There was also a flirtation with inspiring a two-minute hate against Mormons for their past endorsement of polygamy (the animatronic figure is a Mormon, by the way) until it was pointed out that Obama’s father was a bigamist and his grandfather had at least four wives. The upshot is: this election will be about almost everything except what it should be about, and that is going to be extremely tiring.
Thus in a world rocked by change and uncertainty and run by pygmies, where can a man look for stability? Well, this week I watched Vladimir Putin’s inauguration on TV, in a hall filled with so much gold it made me dizzy just looking at it. Putin has now been the leader of Russia, de facto or otherwise, for one-third of my life span. And while he was manifestly a much better president than his immediate predecessor, I don’t think it’s good for one man to have that much power for so long.
Consider the case of Moscow ex-Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who started his career as an effective and popular city manager and ended it very rich, but in total disgrace. Putin will never become a pygmy, but does he have it in him to ignore the bootlickers and flatterers and keep adapting to the demands of an unstable world beset with economic and political strife?
We will see.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
What does the world look like to a man stranded deep in the heart of Texas? Each week, Austin- based author Daniel Kalder writes about America, Russia and beyond from his position as an outsider inside the woefully - and willfully - misunderstood state he calls “the third cultural and economic center of the USA.”
Daniel Kalder is a Scotsman who lived in Russia for a decade before moving to Texas in 2006. He is the author of two books, Lost Cosmonaut (2006) and Strange Telescopes (2008), and writes for numerous publications including The Guardian, The Observer, The Times of London and The Spectator.