Obama’s temperament and Roedjak

Steve Lewis writes, Obama’s “Homeostasis”: It must be the Roedjak! — a deep and wonderful detour from the usual punditry about a candidate’s temperament, informed by Steve’s years working in Indonesia, as well as his exposure to many countries and cultures unfamiliar to most Americans. I hope Steve doesn’t mind my lifting most of his post to repeat here. Dig:

So far, Obama’s seeming detachment has been exploited by his opponents as proof that “we don’t know who he his” or as a sign of his supposed smugness and intellectual superiority.  And, for, quite a number of Democrats Obama’s politeness and fixed smile are an unsettling suggestion of a lack of the politically requisite instinct to go for the jugular.  I would suggest something quite different and far more positive … namely, that Obama knows how to eat Roedjak.

Roedjak is an Indonesian fruit salad, slices of not yet fully ripened tropical fruits served with a sauce of sweet thick soy ketjap, tamarind paste, crushed chili papers, and a dash of dried dessicated shrimp.  Roedjak’s harmonic fusion of superficially contradictory tastes is more than culinary.  Roedjak restores equilibrium even while exciting the senses.  Preparing and eating Roedjak is a tonic during moments of personal emotional turmoil; domestic disagreements and work conflicts are calmed by sharing Roedjak when tensions to escalate. On the symbolic level, Roedjak embodies all that is positive of the values and social mores of southeast Asia.

Political commentators — other than those Republican cranks who have accused Obama of having attended fundementalist Muslim Koranic schools — have overlooked the “Indonesian” facet of the Democratic presidential candidate, his formative years on the island of Java, and his being a member of a family with Indonesian connections as well as Kansan and Kenyan ones.

In Java, outward emotional evenness and display of respect are inherent to the workings of families and of villages.  Frontal confrontations are avoided and adversaries are given room to retreat.  Such stances are central to the the stylized conventions of Java’s traditional complexly hierarchical society and to the realities of domestic, social, and political life on an overpopulated agrarian island and in crowded mega-cities such as Jakarta.

On the surface, Java is devoutly Muslim but Javanese Islam rests on older strata of Hindu and Buddhist culture.  The characters of the Buddha and of the heroes of the Bhagavad Gita still resonate as strongly as those of the Prophet Mohammed and Ali.  In Java, one learns that displays of restraint are incumbent on leaders and are signs of strength in people at all levels of society.

And so, for the sake of the US and the world, I’d rather see the American presidency in the hands of a Roedjak eater than a heart-beat away from the rule of an eater of mooseburgers.  Join me for a mango, anyone?

I dunno if Roedjak explains Obama, but I do like getting an interesting new angle on an exceptional man.

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6 comments

  1. Christine’s avatar

    So far, Obama’s seeming detachment has been exploited by his opponents as proof that “we don’t know who he his” or as a sign of his supposed smugness and intellectual superiority. And, for, quite a number of Democrats Obama’s politeness and fixed smile are an unsettling suggestion of a lack of the politically requisite instinct to go for the jugular.

  2. Mike Warot’s avatar

    I’m from Indiana, which apparently is a swing state this time around. Most of my friends and family are going to vote for Obama… the rest are convinced that they are all crooks, and neither deserves a vote.

    Those friends are the ones I worry about the most… because I think they represent most of the country. They are willing to go along with a sellout to his own party, who picked a clueless hockey mom in desperation (or perhaps as life insurance?) as the next President of the United States.

    We need to get past the idea that anyone can just jump in and be President because they are just like us, and thus would (theoretically) represent us. Most of us aren’t good enough to be President… because we’re not …. Presidential.

    I remember a time not to long ago when Competence was considered to be a crucial component of running for office. The Bush years seem to have lowered our expectations to the point that anyone who can read a teleprompter and look good doing it can get elected.

    We need adults in charge, not someone who is bitter and might not survive 4 years. And especially not someone whose main accomplishments seem to be putting huge parking lots into a formerly picturesque town and turning it into the “armpit of Alaska”.

  3. solltex’s avatar

    we don’t know who he his

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Why do you say that, solltex? The guy’s life has been an open book, and includes two books that he has written himself, mostly about himself. For what it’s worth, I know people who know him, and have good things to say about him.

  5. Philip Sheldrake’s avatar

    Retweet from a couple of days ago: “Just realised I don’t know any Brit who’s stated they want McCain to win, yet as many are right as left.”

    Obama is the only way for the US to start reclaiming its position in the world after eight simply monumentally appalling years. Most every European recognises that. Let’s hope all Americans, with and without passports, realise this too.

  6. Khürt Louis Francis Elliot Williams’s avatar

    For me Obama represents change. For some people change is scary. Some would rather go for the bad thing they are familiar with than take a chance on the unknown. Risk aversion. Everyone wants a guarantee.

    Life is risk. The only guarantee is death ( sooner or later ).

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