A black president for a small white nation II
Why Estonia and Obama need each other. Published Postimees 14 December 2012
Four years ago I outraged the nation when I suggested in my first Postimees article what Michelle Obama the president's wife might be thinking if Estonia got into trouble.
“Ah yes Estonia that small-minded little white nation....to hell with them.”
That article was about a fair dialogue between Estonia and black people.
I am not going to talk about that here, suffice to say progress has been made, and I have to admit after four years I believe far from being hostile, Obama will look kindly upon Estonia precisely because of his African heritage, here is why.
We have seen Obama appearing to conspire with Russia's leadership at a nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea, March 2012.
“It’s important for him to give me space,” he said in a ´hot mike´ moment with outgoing President Medvedev. The him in question being Putin.
The foreign policy experts were worried here.
The leadership of America's traditional allies are worried, they don't trust Obama.
The Israeli's feel he is siding with the Palestinians, the British feel he doesn't like us. He needs us but he doesn't like us. That is what he means when he said the relationship between Britain and America is an “essential relationship” rather than a “special relationship.”
To understand how Obama thinks one should read what has written about himself. I have some insight on this because of my background, I believe what works against Britain and Israel, works for Estonia.
The theory doing the rounds in conservative circles is what is “wrong” with Obama is not that he is a socialist but that he is an “anti-colonialist,” what ever that means.
“Anti-colonialism” is a rather misleading mash-up of two different concepts, anti-imperialism and post-colonialism.
Both terms can be applied to Obama.
Anti-imperialism just means being against imperialism. You can be right-wing anti-imperialist. The libertarian right in America is anti-imperialist.
Post-colonialism is a left-wing academic theory. Post-colonialism is a theory that posits that the West, led by America, defines the rest of the world in a way that is unfair and inaccurate. This definition has been used as a justification for imperial adventurism most recently in Iraq.
The stepfather of post-colonialism is the late Palestine scholar Edward Said who in his book “Orientalism” argued the Orient doesn't really exist. The concept was invented by 19th and 20th Century Western writers, not as a conspiracy, but as part of an intellectual Foucaultian discourse, which divides the world into them and us.
Obama was at Colombia the same time as Edward Said. It is not clear if he ever took a course with him they certainly knew each other. It is not difficult to find pictures of them having dinner together.
Moreover Maria Mälksoo, professor at Tartu University has written that the Orientalism has been going on here. In other words Eastern Europe does not exist, even the Baltics does not exist, these definitions were created by Western writers and don't reflect what the region actually is.
Dinesh D'souza, conservative author and film-maker, who made the film “2016 Obama's America” explains what all this means.
“If you want to know why there is anti-Americanism round the world, it is anti-colonialism,” he said. On American television.
“He(Obama) subscribes to an ideology that sees America as the rogue nation in the world. The whole ship of the world has gone one side up and has gone one side up because one civilisation the West, America conquered the rest of the world and stole its stuff.”
According to D'Souza, Obama wants to make America weaker and poorer to address this injustice.
“The world is divided into the oppressors and the oppressed. You have to put a leash on the rouge element that is America.”
Put simply from D'Souza point of view, Obama won't defend Estonia because to so would be an imperial act.
D'Souza cites as evidence for his theory what Obama writes in his book “Dreams from my father”.
In this book, Obama writes that he couldn't have his father so he took his dream.
Obama's father fought against the British Empire. In the 50s America replaced Britain as the main imperial power. Therefore Obama wants America curtailed.
D'Souza film was a huge success, but his ideas have been rubbished by the American media. I think he is on to something.
Obama's father was a British citizen from Kenya, Obama spend much of his youth in Asia, his background is similar to mine and for that matter D'Souza's. And yes, we were all are raised with the same narrative, which includes post-colonialism and anti-imperialism, even if we didn't call it that.
This is where I have an insight. The teenage Obama of “Dreams from my father” reminds my of my nephew.
Like Obama my nephew is growing up with only one parent, like him he is very bright, opinionated, interested both in politics and culture. He defines himself by African-American pop culture despite or maybe because of the fact that he is mixed race. He also continually spouts anti-imperialist, post-colonial, anti-American rhetoric. My nephew has reminded me that post-colonialism is part of the DNA of discourse of all children of the Empire.
D'Souza may be right in his assessment, but he is wrong in conclusions.
In the last four years Obama has gotten to know a little about Estonia. He knows Prime Minister and the President. I can't see why Obama should be different to any other foreigner, the more he learns about Estonia the more he is going like it.
Intelligent people like Estonia because of the warm welcome from the people, the positively vibe and dynamism, the nature and architectural heritage. Obama has his own reasons; post-colonial reasons.
Estonia is post-colonial, it has never been an aggressor nation. Estonia has always been a victim of aggressor nations.
If we assume D'Souza is right, countries like Britain, France and Israel are always going to be bad and essential, countries like Estonia are always going to be good and non-essential.
But Obama's task is to stand up for the non-essential, or the “subalterns” to use the jargon of academia.
A comment from a student of my stuck me. “20 years ago it was illegal to be Estonian,” a young person told me.
If Obama ever heard something like that I have doubt whose side he would be on.
Obama vision is for America to be the champion of the oppressed and given the right information Obama can understand that this narrative can play out for small white nations as well.
Obama acceptance speech was very hopeful for Estonia He gave a strong indication that he will stand up to Putin, if he tries any funny stuff.
He began by saying: “Tonight more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting this union moves forward.”
In other words, America was once a colony itself, and it should stand up for other former colonies.
He continued: “A nation that is defended by the strongest military on Earth.”
In other words, he is not planning to significantly reduce America's military commitments any time soon.
You may say that I am reading more into the speech than was there, but I don't think so.
As a former speech myself writer, I know that these speeches are worked on months, in advance and carefully worded. The American president was talking to his “people” both in America and abroad and after fours years in office I believe Obama understands that “his people” may include a small white nation.