The Promise of Change

Posted in Politics at 6:28 pm by Haider

Whenever I see the word “change” being used in a political campaign, I remember an incident my brother-in-law told me about:

He was once in a social gathering (i.e. a deewaniya) here in Kuwait, when a man running in a local election came in and was encouraging the attendees to vote for him. My brother-in-law recognized the man, and so he asked him: “In your campaign slogan, you say that you are working for change. What do you mean by that?”

The man replied: “Change is what people want.”

In other words, “change” is a buzz-word people want to hear, and this man doesn’t even know what it means, but used it anyway to win votes!

The odd thing is, even those who are mesmerized by the word “change” don’t know what it means! All they can associate with the word is relief from their existing problems.

However, change isn’t necessarily a good thing. It all depends on the direction this “change” will take us in.

I think, by now, you know why I’m making this point: many of Barack Obama’s supporters were mesmerized by his slogan: “Change We Can Believe In” (and other slogan variations, which were centered on the “change” theme) without really knowing what he means by this word, or what sort of policies he advocates.

Words such as: change, hope and justice are totally meaningless in political discourse because they could mean anything. The speaker means one thing (if he knows what it means in the first place, unlike our local politician I mentioned earlier) and the listeners understand it the way they want, and assume that this is what the speaker meant.

I don’t deny that Obama will bring about change, but I’m not too sure his supporters will be happy with the change he brings.


  1. manal said,

    November 8, 2008 at 3:13 am

    السلام عليكم سيد

    مقال جميل


    صدقت عندما قلت السياسة لا تؤمن بالكلماتالتي ستخدمها اصحابها
    لان السبيل والملاذ الوحيد منها هي الوصول

    لا استطيع ان اجمع الكل
    ولكن الاغلب

    هذا واقع مرير
    ولكن التغيير في الحكومة الامريكية
    لن يشمل اكثر من انه سيكون باراك اوباما حد الرؤساء الامريكيين من السود

    وستظل في التاريخ كالمسمار للسياسيين لحصد اصواتهم

    لكل قاعدة شواذ وربما الرئيس الامريكي الجديد يكون غير

    دمت بخير

  2. A Fils for Your Thoughts » Defining the Meaningless said,

    November 9, 2008 at 8:57 am

    […] my last post, I gave an example of the use of meaningless words in political discourse. But this post is slightly more controversial. It touches on issues that many find too sensitive to […]

  3. Haider said,

    November 9, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Manal, thank you for your feedback.

    Obama’s victory in the presidential elections will no doubt change the United State’s political landscape. On its own, it offers two benefits:

    1- Greater participation of the African-American community in US politics

    2- Changing the negative stereotypes about African-Americans

    However, these aren’t sufficient reasons to vote for a presidential candidate. It’s like voting for Hillary because she’s a woman, while overlooking her views on the economy, foreign affairs, etc.

    Obama could turn out to be a great president (which I highly doubt, given his socialist leanings), but when it comes to voting, we should know what we’re voting for, not what we’re hoping to vote for.

  4. ralf wilmes said,

    November 16, 2008 at 2:58 am

    I got sick with all the speak about obama being the first black president. Who cares?
    I took it for granted that there was no difference between black, and white and yellow.

    All this emphasis shows I was wrong. It’s not for granted.

    Sad. People still do not think. Change has come. If you ask WHAT change, people blank out.

    I tell you what’s the change: more regulation and more government spending.

  5. Haider said,

    November 17, 2008 at 7:27 am

    The thing about racism is that it shouldn’t exist.

    But because it does, any incident where race is overlooked is taken as a stance against racism. Discrimination against African-Americans is present in the United States, and we can’t ignore this fact when it comes to assessing whether Obama’s victory is a big deal or not.

    But since many African-Americans voted for him because of his race, they didn’t overlook the factor of race. They just used it in the opposite direction.

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