Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It's Christmas Eve, But Thomas L. Friedman Is Not Having a Very Yabba-Dabbo-Doo Time.

"Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones."
--December 24, 2008

"A few weeks ago, my wife and I flew from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Singapore. In J.F.K.’s waiting lounge we could barely find a place to sit. Eighteen hours later, we landed at Singapore’s ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children’s play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons."
--May 4, 2008

"Look at our infrastructure. It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zurich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones."
--September 30, 2007

"With all due respect to the U.S. military, and the brave men and women who fought here, this contest was surely one of the most unequal wars in the history of warfare. In socioeconomic terms, we were at war with the Flintstones."
--May 21, 2003

"For all the talk about the vaunted Afghan fighters, this was a war between the Jetsons and the Flintstones -- and the Jetsons won and the Flintstones know it."
--January 6, 2002

What's the meaning of Thomas L. Friedman's obsession with America's modern stone age family? It appears that the Times columnist sees them as an ongoing, all-purpose metaphor for a decaying society.

In today's column, Friedman cites the dingy terminals, the lack of WiFi, the $3 cost of a luggage cart, the messy Amtrak platforms at Penn Station, all as reasons for his very foul pre-Christmas mood. These matters of considerable inconvenience and annoyance have led Friedman to conclude that our entire country needs a "reboot" to rid us of our current problems.

"My fellow Americans," Friedman writes, forgetting for a moment that he is not the President of the United States, "we can't continue in this mode of 'Dumb as we wanna be.'"

Friedman, made quite miserable by the fact that his cell phone service went out three times last week on the Acela train to Washington, goes on:

To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions.

For all these reasons, our present crisis is not just a financial meltdown crying out for a cash injection. We are in much deeper trouble. In fact, we as a country have become General Motors — as a result of our national drift. Look in the mirror: G.M. is us.

Maybe Friedman should consider switching his phone service before declaring the entire nation as equivalent to a failed auto company.

Of course, America isn't all bad, Friedman says. We don't censor our newspapers the way China does. "Censorship restricts your people's imaginations," he writes. "That's really, really dumb."

Yes it is. Really, really, really dumb.

"Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard," Friedman concludes. If Obama's paying attention, he knows what Friedman means. He wants the JFK international terminal cleaned up pronto Tonto, an immediate overhaul of Penn Station, and universal WiFi everywhere he travels. Everything else can wait.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fair enough to criticise Friedman's repetitive style.

But you're not answering him

Have you been to Singapore or Zurich to see how good their Airports and public transport are?

Please do that and then you might conceed Friedman has a point.