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Raffique Shah


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Obama, McCain avoid America's core problems

By Raffique Shah
September 07, 2008

The world is virtually under siege with problems, caused in the main by man's misuse and abuse of Earth's resources. Three hurricanes in the Caribbean at one time; flooding in parts India, the worst in 60 years; drought in Africa and Australia, the worst in living memory; and, of course, the two polar ice-caps melting faster than the proverbial sno-cone-in-the-sun. Global bee population is declining to frightening levels, raising questions about plant pollination, hence declining food supplies. Marine life, much of which, besides its ecological importance, serves as food for man, is disappearing in huge swathes of the oceans.

Really, how much more of this slide into the unknown must we see before we come to terms with the reality that until man reins in his greed, his consumption-mania, we are doomed to extinction? Or that this generation (and a few before ours) is leaving a wasteland for future generations? If those among us who have the power to generate change that might just stall, even reverse, the descent into Hell, fail to act decisively, we shall be held responsible for the destruction of a civilisation that took millions of years to mould.

The doom-and-gloom scenario I paint comes not from some nightmare I experienced over the past week. And no, unlike some of the more "blessed" among us, I was not taken to some mountain-top by a superior being and shown what lies ahead for mankind. I simply monitored very closely the conventions of the two main parties in America as that country prepares to elect a new president.

I yearned to hear something different, to listen to any one of the leaders tell their people: hey, we are the locusts of this world, we have greedily consumed more than our fair share of its resources.

Let us now commit ourselves to living within our means, to being decent human beings who will save not just America, but the world. The excessive consumption we have engaged in for far too long must stop here and now if our children are to see a better world.

It never came-not from Barack Obama's glitzy convention that looked like a Hollywood production, not from John McCain's geriatric-in-mind crowd. Oh, there were some fine speeches. Obama is clearly a gifted orator, and among all contenders for the presidency, he seems best suited for the White House. I say this not because he is Black. Having listened attentively to McCain whose POW-in-Vietnam story evokes emotions like few other human experiences, he was hollow. Maybe I should say frightening: under McCain, we can expect more senseless wars in a vain attempt by an old soldier to restore America's global supremacy in a world.

But times have changed, and so has the global balance of power, both from an economic standpoint and militarily. America may yet bomb Iran, subvert Venezuela, and working with apartheid-Israel, reduce the Middle-East to a sea of sand. But it will not dare meddle with China, which flexed its multi-faceted muscles at the recent Olympic Games. Nor will it exchange more than harsh words with a new Russia-on-the-rebound. Instead of putting McCain into the White House, Americans might as well change their constitution and leave the bungling George Bush intact.

What I expected the presidential hopefuls to tell Americans is the truth. America cannot continue to consume 20 million barrels of oil a day, 45 per cent of that being gasoline. Americans cannot continue to eat themselves to death, even as 25 per cent of the world's population suffers from malnutrition. Close to 100 million Americans (of 300 million) are classified as being obese. Obesity leads to an enormous health problems that the country cannot afford to deal with. Personal debt among Americans stands at over US$3 trillion while public (government) debt is around US$10 trillion. Were it not for the current world economic order that sees most countries holding their reserves, amounting to tens-of-trillion-of-dollars, in US Treasury bonds, the country would already have gone belly-up.

So stupid me, I thought Obama would read the Riot Act to his supporters, to all Americans. To be fair to him, he did not promise them milk and honey. He did address the need for hard work, for a return to the ethic, to values that made America what it was. McCain called on them to "fight, fight, fight!" Fight for what? Did anyone hear the candidates call on people to save, not spend money they do not have? Or tell them to settle for two cars per household instead of four?

Worse came when Obama and McCain spoke of freeing America from dependence on foreign oil. McCain said, with no compunction, that the country could no longer depend on "people who hate us" for oil! "Drill! Drill! Drill now!" he screamed, referring to resuming drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. They both spoke of "clean coal", of more nuclear power plants, and made passing reference to renewable energy.

In other words, the good times will roll along-just elect me! Why did they sound no different to our "promising" politicians here?