If they’re Q what does that make you, Friedman?

October 11, 2007

I was looking over Tuesday’s blog post, and I was thinking, why do I blog on Tuesdays? I’m alway cranky on Tuesdays–just look at the archives to find out. By Wednesday, I am generally much more cheerful and optimistic about all of the uncertainties in my life, choosing to see them as unexplored potentials rather than just plain indecision. So that was what I was going to write about today, how I think I have a new mood disorder called “Tuesday” so I’m not going to blog on Tuesdays anymore.

Then I read Thomas Friedman’s Op-Ed Today.

I knew I wouldn’t like it. How did I know? Well, first thing, the title has “generation” in it. As LCB and I have spent many a gmail-chat hour lamenting, whenever baby boomers use the word “generation,” nothing good can come of it. Then I open the page, and it’s worse than that, as it usually: he’s using the word “generation” to talk about people younger than himself. (A little younger than me, too, but being born in 1981 I’m never really sure where I fit in. I guess I’m millenial, kind of, but the oldest of the group.) He’s talking about those college kids, who he (in his baby-boomer wisdom) names Generation Q for “quiet.”

The gist? The kids are all right, they just aren’t angry enough, politically active enough, or brave enough. Of course not! How could Facebook and blogs and text messages compare to sit-in’s, marches, and letter writing? Rather than entertaining, even for a moment, that there are powerful new forms of communication that we have yet to see the full results of (is Friedman even on Facebook? does he know how fast you can find out about a cause, donate to a cause, or organize a meeting of the Campus Democrats using it?), he simply bulldozes straight into how apathetic we all are and how really, if we wanted to change anything, we should do it his way.

Obviously, we agree on one thing: there’s plenty to change. He does refer to himself as the “Greediest Generation,” and he does talk about how many burdens we will have to shoulder that they didn’t simply because… of them. He shares an anecdote about his daughter asking him why the polar ice caps melting so much this year wasn’t a bigger story, and uses that to suggest that no one of college age should ask presidential candidates about anything other than climate change. (I guess he conveniently kind of sees himself out of the picture in time to be able to not care. Plus, at least these kids are in college, presumably pretty busy learning how to get a job when they graduate. Friedman has a job, and a loud job, so if thinks this is a big issue then why doesn’t he use a bit more of his big podium and shout for himself? Why is it our responsibility, when we are already strapped paying off student debt at a level that his generation never had to deal with and medical expenses not covered by the healthcare we don’t or even do have?) Anyway, that’s when he pulls out the Q word and says, kids, you need to get louder and “upload” some old-fashioned activism. There’s a lot to be said for that and all respect is due to the man he gives as an example, James Meredith, the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss. Where you lose me, and anger me, is when you get to the part that goes like this: “That is what real activism looks like. There is no substitute.” Says you. And it’s not helping.

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3 Responses to “If they’re Q what does that make you, Friedman?”

  1. stephen roxborough Says:

    i think he’s talking about courage in numbers. i know there are people standing up everyday with plenty of courage, but not in the numbers we used to see in the 60s and 70s. it’s hard to take a video clip of millions of people blogging or facebooking (is that a word?). anyway, check out clips of the burmese marching against injustice. this is courage. they want their country back. peacefully. i’m not saying friedman is right, i’m saying i too have noticed, publically, the kids are very very quiet. more rage against the system please. if it’s not your responsibility, it sure is hell your problem. or will be. face it now, ignore it, or face it later. i vote for now.

  2. SJ Says:

    Hey, thanks for reading and commenting.

    Yes, the pictures of the Burmese monks were truly, truly inspiring. We got to see them largely b/c of blogs.

    Strength in numbers is is probably what there’s no substitution for, but how we use those numbers is what’s open to change. Hundreds of thousands of people in the US and millionsof people abroad marched to try and stop the Iraq war from starting, and it didn’t do any of us a lick of good. There are still marches going on, and they garner little attention and generally even less change. An exception might be the thousands (I heard estimates around 10k, but who knows) of people, many if not most students, who showed up at Jena on a few days notice to try and make a stand about something small and specific they could change. That was largely organized via social software networking.

    We all need to make more noise, including the people who already have grandstands and public attention to make it from.

    But mostly, thanks for reading 🙂

  3. stephen roxborough Says:

    the next question that comes to mind is “why isn’t there strength in numbers anymore?” even voting in america is under question. is this the beginning of the end of american democracy? have the people been cut out of the process or are the people cutting themselves out? are students even taught how to advocate effectively? is journalism dead? do corporations rule? is haliburton the new general motors? how come there were over 100 billionaires made in china last year? are cell phones and wireless gadgets giving us cancer? is global warming a threat or simply a boon to canadian tourism? is speed good for active children? why don’t we leave the middle east alone? why did america (who believes in separation of church and state) support a zionist state? where are all the terrorists we’re supposed to be so afraid of? what kind of car would jesus drive? where did the middle class go? who died and made dick cheney boss? what is going on? sometimes it’s overwhelming. maybe that’s the real issue. where does one begin?


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