While I agree with Peter Suderman that the whole "me and my cool friends are doing our best to change the world, but it's so hard" meme (propagated here, commented on here and here and here) is deeply irrititating, it's not nearly so annoying as the Thomas Friedman column that kicked off the discussion, which I only just now got around to reading. After complaining that today's younger generation are "too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country's own good," Friedman writes:
Generation Q would be doing itself a favor, and America a favor, if it demanded from every candidate who comes on campus answers to three questions: What is your plan for mitigating climate change? What is your plan for reforming Social Security? What is your plan for dealing with the deficit -- so we all won't be working for China in 20 years?
I'm sorry, but this is just ... just ... asinine. The notion that today's college kids are going to forge a mass movement capable, in Friedman's words, of "speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall" to protest the growth of the federal deficit - which is likely to start rising again soon, but currently is only 1.2 percent of GDP - and the absence of Social Security reform (an issue that only Republicans want to talk about at present, and one where the time horizon for action is still measured in decades) suggests a truly awesome detachment from the realities of American politics, American life, and human nature. But then again, this passage appears in a piece in which Friedman, without a trace of irony or self-awareness (but to the sound of Matt's jaw hitting the floor), dubs my peers ''the Quiet Americans, in the best sense of that term, quietly pursuing their idealism, at home and abroad," so "awesome detachment" might be too kind a phrase for what's going on here ...
Incidentally, if you're a NYRB subscriber, or have three bucks to burn, I highly recommend John Gray's savaging of The World is Flat from a couple years back. And if not, there's always Matt Taibbi's classic review, which (as always with Taibbi) isn't half as funny as it thinks it, but remains pretty damn funny for all that.
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