In which Tom Friedman talks to the public.
In George Packer’s New Yorker article about why the Democrats lost the white working class, globalist preachers like Thomas Friedman play a big role. Summing it up nicely, he said, “This election has told us that many Americans feel their way of life is disappearing. Perhaps their lament is futile—the world is inexorably becoming Thomas Friedman’s.” The thrust was that people like Friedman (and people like me) care more about “self-driving cars and heirloom tomatoes” than we do about the working poor, if the working poor are right. Even if that is incorrect, it feels correct.
But don’t worry- Friedman is here to fix it. Here’s here to show he isn’t above it all. In an article groaningly titled “Donald Trump Voters- Just Hear Me Out” like he’s the cool dad talking about reefers, Friedman connects.
This is my last column until after the election, so I’d like to address the people least likely to read it: Donald Trump voters. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and a few of them will buy fish wrapped in this column, and they’ll accidentally peruse it! Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Of course, because why would they read the newspaper? I know he’s try to be self-deprecating, but come on. It’s actually deeply condescending, and even if slightly true, emphasizes the point. “I talk entirely about how CEOs think we should flatten disruption. Why would these dummies read me?”
While I’ve opposed the Trump candidacy from the start, I’ve never disparaged Trump voters. Some are friends and neighbors; they’re all fellow Americans.
Friedman translator: I’ve been in a cab. Well, I mean, not since Uber disrupted everything, but I assume some old cab drivers are now voting for Trump.
To be fair, there’s actually nothing incorrect about much of what he says. It’s mostly a laundry list of denunciations on Trump, and the correct analysis that his “plans” (wall-building, tariffs) won’t help. But.
Indeed, our factories now produce twice what they didin 1984 — but with one-third fewer workers.
Trump can’t change that. Machines and software will keep devouring, and spawning, more work of all kinds. Did you hear that IBM’s cognitive computer, Watson, helped to create a pop song, “Not Easy,” with the Grammy-winning producer Alex da Kid? The song was released on Oct. 21, IBM noted, and within 48 hours it climbed to No. 4 on iTunes’s Hot Tracks.
Did you say Alex da Kid? You rock, dad!
No one knows for certain how we deal with this new race with and against machines, but I can assure you it’s not Trump’s way — build walls, restrict trade, give huge tax cuts to the rich. The best jobs in the future are going to be what I call “STEMpathy jobs — jobs that blend STEM skills (science, technology, engineering, math) with human empathy. We don’t know what many of them will look like yet.
That’s…that’s nothing. That’s not at all trying to change an inherently unjust system. It’s not addressing any of the real underlying problems. It’s just a clever name (“clever”, sorry) that papers over the true and lasting concerns of those wrecked by the economy.
The smartest thing we can do now is to keep our economy as open and flexible as possible — to get the change signals first and be able to quickly adapt; create the opportunity for every American to engage in lifelong learning, because whatever jobs emerge will require more knowledge; make sure that learning stresses as much of the humanities and human interactive skills as hard sciences; make sure we have an immigration policy that continues to attract the world’s most imaginative risk-takers; and strengthen our safety nets, because this era will leave more people behind.
I don’t even disagree with much of this. But it is maintaining, and even accelerating, the status quo, without giving any voice to any of the actual concerns. It is a priest telling a woman about the morality of her body. It’s a wild disconnect, a voice from on high, and exactly the problem that Trump somehow speaks to.
As usual, I think Friedman’s heart is in the right place. It’s his mouth that is full of nonsense.