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The Age of Obama

- A series of stories on a complex, new, and swiftly moving global paradigm, that spells a major shift of economic power away from the North Atlantic to the Asian Pacific
Dickson Igwe. Photo: Provided
By Dickson Igwe

Time Magazine named US President Barack Obama 2012 person of the year. This wasn’t surprising to this Observer of life in all its various forms. The epochal Presidency, add a second term, of the First African American President is truly a signature event of world history. Historians will one day see the Obama Presidency as the beginning of a new age in world history.

In announcing the choice in December 2012, Times Managing Editor, Richard Stengel, put it this way: "we are in the midst of historic cultural and demographic changes, and Obama is both the symbol and in some ways the architect of this new America.’’ Stengel’s statement was limited. It was also partially wrong.

The Editor would have done much better stating that these historical cultural and demographic changes go far beyond the shores of the mighty USA.  And Obama is just a symbol of this new era of history: he is effect, certainly not cause. Barack Obama is a product of history: more than a maker of history. The US President is inheritor of forces released decades back.

In any event, the start of the Obama Presidency in January 2009 was symbolic of an ongoing shift in geopolitical power from the North American Atlantic towards Asia and the Pacific. Interestingly, Obama was born on the Pacific Island of Hawaii.

There will be winners and losers in this bold new world of the Pacific as economic center of gravity. One of the losers will be Europe.

Europe’s economic foundations were laid in the colonial era when cheap raw materials were freely available to her factories. In any event, European global hegemony was coming to an end at the turn of the 20th century, with the rise of the United States. For decades after 1900 however, the colonies in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere were a boon to Europe’s power credentials. However, with the end of colonial rule came a decline of European power. This was most clearly manifested during the crisis in the Suez in 1956 when US diktat clearly showed who was boss globally. 

Post the Second World War, and the destruction of Europe’s infrastructure, the onset of socialism created a culture of welfare and big government that remains till this day. This is one reason why Europe is finding it hard to compete with the new businesses in Asia and elsewhere. The booming economies of the Asian Pacific have been built on cheap labor, the transfer of manufacturing and technology from the West, and a much more aggressive albeit state supported capitalism. Asian economies of hard working frugal savers got very wealthy off exports to a Western World with an orientation towards consumption, and easy credit. 

Albeit, the USA is set to benefit from this new shift of economic power to the Pacific. Why? Well, the country is a natural bridge between West and East. It remains the most powerful military on earth, US businesses are on the cutting edge of global commerce, the country possesses a logistical capability second to none, and the US has always possessed a much more robust and dynamic capitalist culture, than does Europe.

Now, this change in culture and demography from a dominant Anglo Saxon model to a synthesis of various cultural and social economic types: European, African, Spanish, and Chinese, interestingly, began with the Civil Rights Movement and Civil Rights Act of the 1960s, and the slayings of John F Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. Political and social freedom for blacks was a pointer to a future when all the worlds various peoples would achieve  some degree of equality with the dominant Protestant Caucasian. Today this is an epiphany termed: ‘’ the rise of the rest.’’

However, the 1970s and 80s remained a period when blacks, although gaining a type of political parity in the USA, were still subjugated to the myriad humiliations of racism, social deprivation, and economic oppression.

The march for freedom by blacks in the USA appeared to go in sync with post World War 2 nationalism. The late 1940s and early 50s saw the beginning of a multi polar world, albeit the countries of the planet were divided into camps after 1945: the US camp and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations, and the so called Non Aligned Movement. 

The following series of narratives are the story of a dramatically changing global economic and power mural. It begins in the United States. The series sees the US as the progenitor of the new world of rising global powers based on its own capitalist model.

The USA is the one nation that has brought about this paradigm shift in geopolitical power, that has seen science and technology, with the help of international free trade, establish a global middle class in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. A development beginning with that much used term called globalization in the early 1990s. Globalism has lifted a billion or more people out of poverty. This series of stories begins in the Lone Star State of TEXAS.   

To be continued

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