Monday, March 10, 2008

Roger Cohen's adventures in sub-Friedmanian ideology

Routine exercises in the deconstruction of New York Times op-ed page ideology should be mandatory for school children. To wit: "Tribalism Here, and There," by Roger Cohen. In good Friedmanian fashion, Cohen, surveying the destruction of the Kenyan political and social scene, gives us a brief, dichotomized summation of the state of the world today:

But we’re beyond tribalism, right?

Wrong. The main forces in the world today are the modernizing, barrier-breaking sweep of globalization and the tribal reaction to it, which lies in the assertion of religious, national, linguistic, racial or ethnic identity against the unifying technological tide.

Connection and fragmentation vie. The Internet opens worlds and minds, but also offers opinions to reinforce every prejudice. You’re never alone out there; some idiot will always back you. The online world doesn’t dissolve tribes. It gives them global reach.

Jihadism, with its mirage of a restored infidel-free Caliphate, is perhaps the most violent tribal reaction to modernity. But fundamentalism is no Islamic preserve; it has its Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other expressions.

It always eases my mind when opposition to globalization is equated with terrorism; I'm reassured in my thinking that "there is no alternative." Now let's hear about the "tribes" within our own midst:

America’s peaceful tribes are also out in force. As Obama and Hillary Clinton engage in the long war for the Democratic nomination, we have the black vote, and the Latino vote, and the women-over-50 vote, and the Volvo-driving liberal-intellectual vote, and the white blue-collar vote, and the urban vote, and the rural vote, and the under-30s vote — sub-groups with shared social, cultural, linguistic or other traits and interests.
Oh, sure, they're "peaceful" tribes, but tribes none the less. If only they could be bridged in a great ecumenical movement towards neoliberalism! Those blacks, Latinos, women, latte-liberals, white blue-collars, urbans, rurals, and youths must somehow be made to see the light of those who know best, those not contained within these broad strokes of parochialism -- and who might that be, if not older, white, male, globalization-fetishist jetsetters like Cohen? (And don't forget Thomas Friedman, the pater familias of this band of merry wankers.) But who will lead them? Quis custodiet ipses custodes?

It's Obama. Obama will lead us, hand in hand, in a grand march towards "an interconnected world beyond race and tribe," towards globalization (no matter how red in tooth and claw). Obama will be our benign managerial expert, ready and willing to oversee the gradual, harmonious integration of world capitalism. Only don't call it capitalism! That suggests "winners" and "losers," and Cohen has already explained to us the inevitability of the great horizon of "barrier-breaking modernity," against which can be marshaled only the hopeless dregs of old world tribalist naysayers, irrationalists, terrorists, and Luddites. Capitalism has no past; it has no history of accumulation or colonialism (Kenyan history begins after 1963); it plays no culpable role in the formation of reactions against it. It can only be future, the bright, glorious future of the "unifying technological tide."

After all, Kofi Annan told him so.


Blogger Josh said...

(I'm voting for Obama, but) No matter what happens with Obama over the next year, or next 4+ years, he can only disappoint.

The American people have the disease of investing too heavily in presidential candidates, thinking that a(n) ____ presidency will essentially fix their ____ problem.

Obama, although I like the guy, has brought about the worst case of this disease that I can remember. People regard him as some messianic figure who cannot misstep, so he can only disappoint.

11:23 AM  

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