What is real?

/ 24 March 2008

So here’s a new song/video that’s circulating on the Net these days. The first time I watched it I laughed out loud, thinking that it was a pretty funny parody of the song/videos I have loved so much (Yes We Can and Si Se Puede).

But regardless of whether it's a parody or not, it's clearly struck a chord for some people (and I say that in part by how many times I've seen it referenced "with a straight face" or how many times it's been sent on to me by friends). On the other hand, here's a song/video about McCain that I've ONLY seen referenced as a parody. But that might be because I mostly "hang out" in the progressive corner of the blogosphere, where any attempt to argue that McCain is owed respect is pretty much trivialized.

Still, my larger point: how do you determine what is parody, and what is not? And quite apart from the legal definition (which matters in copyright battles, I suppose, if in no other place), who gets to determine what is parody, what is "real", and what is not? I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the lines that might divide Obama supporters from others, is precisely our ability to BELIEVE in the hope that he keeps talking about. But that hope is rooted in our own experience, even if in only nascent ways. In my own, I think it's rooted both in Christian narratives of hope, as well as in Web 2.0 experiences of collaboration and participation.

But for people who have neither of those experiences, I suspect that hope might seem like a parody of reality -- or at the very least, the kind of massive manipulation that media propaganda can produce. So what is real? And how would you argue for it? What does it look like? How do you know it when you see it? Would you stake your life on it?