Friday, April 29, 2005


Friedman's latest atrocity. It never fails to astound me how the New York Times editorial staff specializes in making bizarre, hateful, reactionary, and illogical points sound as if they should be taken as the epitome of common sense. This one's on the education crisis in our country, framed by Friedman, with the help of benevolent capitalist Bill Gates, as the losing of a competitive edge in the job market to China and India. While the basic idea that Americans need to be better educated, and better prepared for changing economic realities is a fine one, it is only a partial idea, and Friedman's piece contains two blindingly problematic moves. The first is directly related to the education issue; the second reveals what an incredible and general wackjob T-Fried is.

The first point I want to make relates to the key theme of the editorial, namely that America's high schools need to better prepare students for the high-tech world of tomorrow. While I am on the same page to the extent that American math and science skills are in an abysmal state in comparison to the rest of the developed world, that both Fried and Gates frame this issue as the "crisis" constitutes a heedless bourgeoisifying of the American educational problem and of our economic world view. While it is true that America needs to produce more of its own scientists and engineers the idea that the failure to do so is the key issue in assessing America's secondary school failure is absurd. First, neither Gates nor Friedman appear to have any idea how one would go about ensuring high schools better prepare kids to be such high-end workers (I am only making the obvious assumption that better math and science skills would be the way to do this). The more egregious gesture that is made by their rhetoric, however, is to pretend that in this high-tech, global, messianic flat world to come, your average high school student, whatever utilitarian improvements one makes, is going to end up in one of these relatively high-end, intellectual production jobs. The unspoken flip-side of this marvelous new flat-fucked era, the side that we are already witnessing in the real world (as opposed to the mythic land of capital-crazed corporate saints that flit in and out of Friedman's fairy head) is that most of the your lower-end jobs, and most of the employment, is going to be in our burgeoning service sector -- and not software-programming service sector, but Wal-Mart service sector. That means no unions, low benefits, little feeling of self-worth or self-value in the sphere of employment. Uber-tech globalization does not mean, as Friedman implies, that everyone is going to be leading marvelously elevated intellectually challenging lives. Rather, most high school students in the areas where there are always going to be relatively worse-off public schools will be looking forward to lives where they use their new-fangled cell-phones not to communicate with their fellow-traveller computer whizzes in Bangalore, but rather to call home from their 8-6 job at the mega-corner store to check up on their kids who are alone, because child care is too expensive, and unsubsidized by the government. I was always deeply critical of Bill Clinton's enchantment with the new world-techno-syndicalist order and his educational solution of putting a computer on every student's desk. That is what Bill Gates would like too. And Friedman. These peope are pyramidal capitalist, gadget obsessed, fascio-dorks. The kids don't need a computer on every desk, though that would be nice. What the kids need are literacy, civics, and a disciplined knowledge of algebra, and a country that does not value human bodies solely for the competitive capital they represent in a hyper-growth-worshiping economy. I fear that what the Gateses of the world are going to do if they get their way is reform public education by turning it into a factory system that churns out relatively elite technocrats, and a brainless population of server drones.

The second point is of another nature entirely. Friedman says at one point in the article:
On foreign policy, President Bush has offered a big idea: the expansion of freedom, particularly in the Arab-Muslim world, where its absence was one of the forces propelling 9/11. That is a big, bold and compelling idea - worthy of a presidency and America's long-term interests.

But on the home front, this team has no big idea - certainly none that relates to the biggest challenge and opportunity facing us today: the flattening of the global economic playing field. . .
Why don't you kill yourself, Tom Friedman. "Big idea"?!?!!? That's what we now value? It's as if Friedman said, "Bush had a great piece of obviously hollow, fascist, hegemonic and idealist rhetoric -- how wonderful!" I really wonder at what point people like Friedman decide to turn off their brains and make the ethical and epistemological decision to ignore the real situation on the ground, and the real results of our foreign policy. Not the projected results, hypothetically back-engineered by empirical illiterates like Donald Kagan and Victor Davis Hanson and Charles Krauthammer who employ analogical models of history based on constricted fact sets and supremacist ideology. Real reporters like Sy Hersh and Mark Danner have been publishing articles in the New York Review of Books and the New Yorker about the constant state of violence, misery, brutality, and image-control that constitutes America's footprint in our poorly chosen zones of action in the years since September 11. But they must be ideologues. They who go places and report on the actual conditions of the Iraqi election, how there were no terrorist attacks ("it went off without a hitch -- those brown-skinners really DO love democracy!) because American troops shut down the entire country for the day, preventing any movement whatsoever. That situation of shutdown, necessary for the aesthetic production of "real elections", is anathema to democracy and to a free society, which is why not even our Army and its leaders can do it all the time, which is why every day another 5 or 10 or 15 civilians are getting killed. But as long as Friedman closes his eyes and licks his cellphone and thinks to himself "expansion of freedom" the world is getting freer and safer and flatter. The evidence, which those of Friedman's ilk have embarked on an apparently coordinated project to destroy, is against his fantasies.


At 1:10 PM, Blogger Dan said...

Great post, Jeremy. Keep giving it to Friedman, and maybe the world will finally realize what a blowhard crypto-fascist idiot asshole he is.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger The ACTUAL God said...

so good


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