R.K.: You teach courses, I mentioned this in the beginning on race and twentieth century American political social thought and power culture and American cities. I'd like your ideas about race and the democratic party and Obama.
A.R.: Well, I mean that's complicated. Or it's complex in a way. I think I've alluded to one key a little while ago which is that Obama has offered... when I say that Obama offers us his personal narrative in the place where you would expect a political program to be, that's obviously a key element of that narrative is the sort of feel good story of racial overcoming. Right? The first black president.
And there's a sense in which a lot of good hearted people, maybe some not so good hearted, I don't know, but a lot of good hearted people really liked the idea of what it would say about America. Not just to ourselves, but to the rest of the world that we had elected a black person to be president of the United States.
And it went along with that, too, the concern a lot of people had that Bush was such an arrogant, brusque moron that he made America look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world and a lot of the rest of the world also felt the same way about Obama's election by the way. I mean-
A.R.: Well ,apparently so. Even in the Middle East, people were happy, I know all over Europe, Africa of course, to some extent I think a lot of Latin America too. And it's because of the... partly because of the kind of funny artifact of American cultural imperialism which is the export of the sort of feel good story about the history of the civil rights movement like in the US.
And then there were people who just assumed that because Obama was black and had presumably had whatever they imagined to be a definitive black experience that he would be more empathetic with people elsewhere, especially in the largely non-white areas of the world, I mean, it's true among politically sophisticated people like in the Middle East as well and I kept saying yeah, well, maybe, but that will probably change when the first drone strikes hit. So that was part of it. So that's one of the ways that race worked-
R.K.: Let me try to kind of re-state that for you. Last year I did an interview with Douglas Rushkoff. He wrote a book called, Present Shock, and in it he describes how the nature of narratives in stories has changed for most of human existence it's been linear.
There's a step one, step two, you have the protagonist, he encounters something, he responds to it, there's a character arc, things change, and then there's a result at the end. What Rushkoff says is that's changed and a lot of it in part because of video games which have a different way of doing things. In video games you interact with the world. And Rushkoff says it's the same kind of thing with our stories now and that movies are becoming more like that.
The Game of Thrones is a great example of that. What's the story arc there? It's really just about a lot of really interesting stuff happening in that period and it sounds like what you're saying is that Obama, rather than moving forward and doing anything in particular, he is who he is and it's because of who he is that he is approved of and embraced or accepted.
A.R.: I think that's very well put and the Rushkoff book which I don't know sounds quite interesting so I should check that out. It sounds intuitively right to me. Especially as somebody who teaches and talks to other people who teach. Yes. What's the book called again?
R.K.: Present Shock.
A.R.: Present Shock. I'll take a look at that. I think that's exactly the case with Obama.
R.K.: Do you think that characterizes our politics as well?