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Obama's defence of democracy

Obamas defence of democracy

It is hardly surprising that former US President Barack Obama would mount a passionate defence of democracy and warn against the rise of "strongman politics", as he did in a speech in South Africa not long after his successor, Donald Trump, was heavily criticised for a humiliating news conference with Vladimir Putin. In an address in honour of the late Nelson Mandela during his 100th birth anniversary, Obama criticised populist movements toward authoritarianism around the world and ridiculed the "utter loss of shame among political leaders" who lie. Obama has made an art of criticising the current President's values without explicitly naming Trump, peppering his speech with warnings against some of Trump's key policies, including protectionism, Climate Change denial and closed borders. He was not being alarmist but simply stating the facts. Strongman politics were on the ascendant, suddenly. Obama mocked the way politicians lie and reminded all of the importance of facts. Without facts there's no basis for cooperation, he said. Very deftly, he added that politics today often rejects the concept of objective truth. "People just make stuff up. We see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment. We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they're caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more," he said. Obama had opened his speech reflecting on the recent chaos in the world that gave him the opportunity to seek perspective. "With each day's news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines, it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective, so I hope you'll indulge me," he said. He warned that the press was under attack, that censorship and state control of the media was on the rise and that social media was being used to promote hate, propaganda and conspiracy theories. "So, on Madiba's 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads," he said, using a clan name of affection for Mandela. He said that there was a choice between two visions of humanity's future that the world must choose between. "How should we respond? Should we see that wave of hope that we felt with Madiba's release from prison? From the Berlin Wall coming down? Should we see that hope that we had as naïve and misguided?" he asked. "I believe in Nelson Mandela's vision, I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln, I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and a multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal and are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights." His lecture tracked the transformation of the world, particularly in terms of race relations and human rights, over the past 100 years.

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