Ines Zöttl - Carousel of the hopeful



    [Het Parool, The Netherlands]



Financial Times Deutschland, Germany

Obama a Victim to Merciless Fate of Most 'Hope Carriers'


"Obama is through - completely finished. The unmitigated joy with which millions of people embraced the first Black president of the United States is gone. … hope is the first thing that dies. He who doesn't deliver immediately is out - excuses don't count."


By Ines Zöttl


Translated By Carol Goetzky


September 24, 2010


Germany - Financial Times Deutschland - Original Article (German)

"A star burns out, and the world keeps on turning; nothing in life stays as it is. The march of time will dry your tears, too, even if you'll never quite forget." (Bergfeuer, A Star Burns Out)


Obama is through - completely finished. The unmitigated joy with which millions of people embraced the first Black president of the United States is gone. Shortly before the impending elections on his second anniversary in office, not even half of Americans think he's doing a good job. The Arab world has turned away disappointed. Europeans are still standing - but the Obama sticker on the bathroom mirror is peeling and the little flag from election night has long been disposed of. The “world president” has lost his magic. 




Of course, the change has a lot to do with Obama's policies, which in many respects have failed. But it also has something to do with us, voters and citizens. A star has faded because we've turned on the lights. The Financial Times Deutschland archive returns 1,093 results for the phrase “hope carrier.” According to the archival software, that's too many to display, so only the first 100 are shown. Among those is included the cancer drug Erbitux as well as the sequel to The Lord of the Rings. But above all, the results include many politicians who carried our hopes and for shorter or longer periods, sparkled on the political firmament: Tony Blair shone brightly and tenaciously before irrevocably vanishing. For a few weeks, barely detectible in the sky was Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.


Experts can't agree on whether or not the appearance of Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen was an optical illusion. The archive spits out names that have long been digested: Matthias Platzeck (Kurt Beck: “We don't need a Messiah, we have Matthias”). There are those that were pioneers and are recognized only with binoculars: Lawmaker Friedrich Merz is one of those. And there are those who became hope carriers, because no one else was around at the time: [SPD Chairman] Kurt Beck; [Bavarian President Horst Seehofer; [Education Minister] Annette Schavan.   


An ideal hope carrier, however, is different: Like [Defense Minister] Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg [photo, right]. Most of all, they are attractive. Genes help but are not decisive. It is his seemingly effortless elegance that sets Guttenberg apart, “from other Bundestag members who look as if they slept in their suits,” as the magazine Cicero explained it. One just loves to show someone like this off to the audience. 


Also vital is the supposed distance from politics of the hope carrier and an elegant aura of independence. The less he seems involved with the actual business that makes him such a hope, the better: He should be the man who came from nowhere - and can be newly discovered. The fact that Guttenberg has sat in the Bundestag since 2002 is no contradiction to this. No one really noticed he was there. 


On top of that, if he's a straight talker that says little, his ascent is almost guaranteed. Because for us voters, it isn't about he details. We're all searching for him: the politician we can trust. He who penetrates what is too complex for us and makes the right call. Or he who chooses the right people for the job. Or come to think of it, we're not searching for all that. It's entirely sufficient if he makes the world better. Somehow.


Fan research offers findings that can be applied to politics. Fans are convinced that their star won't disappoint them. They tend to see the stage image of their star as authentic. He's often regarded as a friend even though he's a stranger. However, there are also studies claiming that people who are at peace with themselves don't need idols, and that fans are usually particularly anxious, suffer from depression more often, and are less well-adjusted socially. So roughly, they mirror the mood of us voters. 




Because in fact, we're not disillusioned with politics, we're scared. If "we're" vanquished, will there soon be a Muezzin call from every minaret? Will capitalism perish (bad) - or not (even worse)? Or specifically: shouldn't Obama's $800 billion stimulus package have been much larger to stem the crisis (as Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman says), or for once and for all, is someone engaged in running the country into the ground (as Republicans say)? 


Someone who doesn't get depressed about such questions must be a Schalke fan (A German soccer team with a record of failure). And that's why we need a hope carrier.   





[Le Temps, Switzerland]


Or, better put, many of them. Because hope is the first thing that dies. He who doesn't deliver immediately is out - excuses don't count. The fact that the powerful president of the United States can do little without a Senate majority is his problem. After all, as a rule, we have lots of checks and balances so the beacon of hope isn't the only one that has to shoulder responsibility.


A politician today is “put through the wringer more than was the case 20 years ago,” said Ole von Beust as he retired from politics. One escapes this only by dying in time (Kennedy), having the good fortune of a missed opportunity (Joachim Gauck), or by never having given anyone cause for hope (Merkel). 


It seems a paradox. The next generation in politics (interchangeable with the economy, culture or the arts) is dramatically missing talent - but never hope carriers. 


What are you doing, Faust! Faust! - With force

He seizes her, the form dims in its course.

He turns the key against the youth, and then,

Touches him! - Ah! - Gone, in a moment! Gone!


(An explosion. Faust falls to the ground. The spirits vanish in mist.)


(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: The tragedy, part two)


*Ines Zöttl leads the team of international politics at FTD.



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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US September 27, 10:40pm]




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