Friedman is the guy who helped promote the George W. Bush invasion of Iraq, only to have second thoughts sometime later. Perhaps because I hold a grudge for his profoundly irresponsible cheerleading in that case, I almost always find him to be a truly irritating presence in our national dialogue on important topics. He does weigh in on important topics, though. I will grant him that.
The "good news," according to Friedman, is that since "we're all to blame," we are also "the solution - if we're serious."
Here are my points of agreement and disagreement with Friedman:
- We are not all to blame for the disaster in the Gulf. Whatever may be our collective responsibility for a civilization built on the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, blame for this specific blowout goes to the corporate malefactors who, knowingly, chose profit over safety. Blame might also be attributed to the corporate-influenced legislators who set up a system that allows the oil companies to favor profits over safety, and the corporate-influenced governmental regulators who didn't even use the powers they actually have to demand a different priority.
- There really isn't going to be a "solution" for the damage caused by the Gulf blowout. Whatever may be possible by being "serious," going forward, the damages to the Gulf are irreparable, within the lifetime of any person now living. Friedman claims in his column that "we managed to survive Sept. 11 without letting it destroy our open society or rule of law. We managed to survive the Wall Street crash without letting it destroy our economy. Hopefully, we will survive the BP oil spill without it destroying our coastal ecosystems." Bullshit! To use a technical term.
- This wasn't (and isn't) an "oil spill."
- Furthermore, the above quote, in my opinion, represents a reprehensible and pretentious cheerleading for a "Morning in America" version of the political realities we currently confront. Our "open society" and the "rule of law" have been massively injured by our response to the September 11th bombings. The egregious financial manipulations by the princes of Wall Street that led to the most recent crash have profoundly damaged our economy, and our grandchildren are going to be paying the bill long after we are all dead. In terms of the coastal ecosystems in and around the Gulf, it bears repeating that they will not recover during our lifetimes.
- Friedman apparently thinks that if human actions don't "destroy" something, everything is going to be alright. Not so, I think.
- In terms of "agreement" with Friedman, I agree that we should all get "serious" - about cutting off our dependence on the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels. The stark fact of global warming indicates that our civilizations are at risk if we don't get "serious" and get serious fast.
- Finally, I actually buy in to the "collective responsibility" idea. I think we are, collectively, the creators of the world we inhabit. But if we truly can accept that idea, we will demand changes of ourselves that are revolutionary in their impact, and that will transform our lives much more radically than the solutions that Friedman advances. Giving up your SUV just isn't going to cut it!