Some Thoughts on The World is Flat

The World is FlatI have been reading Thomas L. Friedman’s The World is Flat as part of an online PLU course.  Really the course just gave me a good excuse for reading a book I had been wanting to read for some time.

I am still finishing the second chapter about various flatteners that have brought us to the point where we find ourselves today, and I could not help but be struck by his comments regarding blogs.  Is it just me, or does he seems somewhat more concerned about the negative aspects of blogs and blogging in comparison with the other flatteners he discusses?  He says at one point, “A blog is your own personal virtual soapbox, where you can get up every morning, and, in the form of a column or a newsletter or just a screed, tell the world what you think about any subject, upload the content to your own Web site, and then wait for the world to come check it out” (117).  Perhaps the word “screed” just jumps out at me, but I see this comment as somewhat negative.  Yes, some bloggers write screeds, but I don’t read many blogs like that.  He praises the bloggers who were able to expose “Rathergate,” but in the next breath he adds that “no one is in charge, standards of practice vary wildly, and some of it is downright irresponsible” (117).  I know that what he says at true, but part of me wonders if he isn’t worried because bloggers are, as Charles Johnson quoted on the same page describes them, “an army of citizen journalists.”  It just makes me wonder if Friedman feels threatened by bloggers.

I have to say I have found the book engaging and intriguing, and frankly, I have learned a great deal from the book.  I know one thing — it is critical that educators help students prepare for entering this new flat world, and I don’t think all of our schools are doing enough.

Another curiosity I have about this book — when I posted on my reading blog that I was reading this book, a reader who had never commented on my blog before left a comment suggesting I read alternative theories by two other authors, criticized the length of Friedman’s book, and then left.  A quick Google search unearthed four pages of extremely similar comments.  She has not, at least not in the comments I have read, really explained her passion for convincing others not to read this book, or at least not to take it as the last word, but she clearly has some kind of agenda.  It would not surprise me to see her comment here, as I think she monitors Technorati or Google for blogs discussing this book, and it is my hope that rather than leave her standard comment, she will be willing to engage in a discussion of her particular concerns about this book.

At any rate, as I progress through the book, I do intend to post my thoughts about it here.

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3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on The World is Flat

  1. Hi! I see that I have not explained clearly, my concerns about Friedman's book. I dont really have so much time to write in detail, and so thought that pointing people to read a counter perspective to Friedman helps us get a compelte and whole picture of globalization. But obviously it needs more explanation on my part, so here it is: I rememebr seeing an interview of Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist, who also worked in the World bank previously, who commented about how globalization has left the average Indian out of the "progress", "development" loop, and said that only 25 % on the Indian population has been able to benefit from globalization and the rest of the disenfranchised, poor, poverty ridden, rural masses have been left behind, and in far worse condition than befere too. Only because, the globalization we see today is the face of the Corporate globalization, as they are the ones driving it, and they are the ones to reap all the benefits, and the governments typically pander to the interests of corporates, whether be it in US or India or else where. And it is the duty of economists to point out such things, just like Stiglitz has done. But we dont find a mention of Joseph Stiglitz in Freidman's book! Nor do we hear the voices of the masses, it is the voice of the corporates, and the rich, and the small percent of middle class in India who have done very well, that we hear. And Nilekani of Infosys said that now we have a "level playing field" which is a far cry from saying "the world is flat," right? I have friends in India, who tell me the plight of the farmers there – driven to suicides – due to coporate farming, hihgly unsustainble and capital intensive ofcourse. Also, of those farmers who, unable to eke out a living on such high cost inputs and lack of employment in milions of villages across india, migrating to the cities and becoming labourers in construction business. I'm sure the situation in any other third world country is the same. I dont know if you read reports of sweat shops in China, where peole work in utterly apalling conditions – long, very long hours, poor payments, lack of sufficient physical space, so they are all crammed into it, and sleeping in the same place even…I mean you get the picture, right? I dont think situation in Africa and Latin America (two continets whihc dont find a mention in Tom Friedman's book!) is any different either. So, how are we to know the stories of all those people? Because ultimatelty it is the corporate houses which are ruling this globalization process. Friedman is right in saying that the middle calss in US is suffering becaue of the outsourcing of jobs, but it is also equally true that not all of China and India are benefiting from those outsourced jobs. Infact I saw a program of Friedman's on TV (just happened to chance on it, so could watch only half of it) where he records his visit to India and some of the activists there telling him that only 3 million people in India have benefited from globlaization – 3 million out of 1 Billion – it works out to 0.3%! Imagine 0.3 % population benefiting out of a process which has been so hyped about by Friedman!And that too in a country which he holds as an example as one of the successes of globalization. Let us not be mislead by him and take the glittering cities of India, and the information technology professionals it is churning out, same as China, at face value. For every one such successful person there are millions left behind. And ofcourse he takes us thro' the utter poverty of slums there too, in his TV program. But this voice of the disenfranchized and those left behind in the so-called development is not heard in the book. So, when we read about something so critical an economic issue as globalization, it makes more sense to read what the economists have to say about it. I did not recommend Joseph Stiglitz's book "Globalization and its discontents", because I did not read it, but I'm sure it would be the best book on the subject, coming from a Nobel Prize winning Economist, not from a New York Times columnist! And there are many suchgood ones. There would be lots of good things arising out of globalziation if only we did not leave out 3/4 th of the population out of the development fold. And that is why I recommended the two books I know of and read too. It is very important to read a counterperspective to gain a true understanding of the concept of globalization, esp so when the governments and academicians and general public all hang on to Friedman's word as the last on globalziation. It is not, and we need to read other books to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of globalization, which according to the authors, Aronica and Ramdoo, of the small book I menioned, "is the greatest reorganization of the world, since industrial revolution". Ecological unsustainability, depleted resources, due to corporatization of all fields and the profit of corporations being the sole motive, have made globalization as controversial as it is now. I hope I made myself clear. Thanks for listening, and Good Bye.

  2. Hmmm…. Dana, I'm just picking up The World is Flat this month; I was on chapter 2 when you made this post; I'm still on chapter 2… ;-)

    I'm not sure that Friedman's tome is about globalization, per se, but rather about the power of the Internet and technology.

    Ms. Ashcroft has some valid concerns, for sure. Certainly, the standard of living in India isn't where it is in developing countries, and for those who don't apply themselves or bright enough to get into Indian universities/institutes more selective than Harvard and MIT, things might be fairly bleak.

    Close to home, I see the Internet changing organizations and educational institutions. For instance, one of my blogs, AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG at http://www.cgblog.org, has caused some anxiety in the organization… which is exactly what Friedman talks about in his bit in chapter 2 about blogs and blogging. If you check out a recent post about "joining the club" you'll see what I'm talking about. It's a culture clash… and that is what I'm seeing in Friedman's flat world.

  3. Okay, I might have been off-base… or too focused… I'll now admit, the tome is about globalization, and the Internet and technology are the subset…

    Helps to read more of the book…

    ;-)

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