You gotta love Tom Friedman. He lives in a world with the Arab Spring, Europe-wide anti-austerity anger that's led to riots and brought down one government after another, and, in this country, the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street -- and what does he conclude? He concludes that politicians these days are too responsive to the public:
...can there be such a thing as too much participation -- leaders listening to so many voices all the time and tracking the trends that they become prisoners of them?Oh, right -- the problem in, say, Greece and Wisconsin is that there aren't nearly enough politicians willing to tell people they just have to go eat stones. And the Syrian government and Egyptian military are mollycoddling their citizenry even more than American politicians are.
... I heard a new word in London last week: "Popularism." It's the uber-ideology of our day. Read the polls, track the blogs, tally the Twitter feeds and Facebook postings and go precisely where the people are, not where you think they need to go. If everyone is "following," who is leading?
... When you have technologies that promote quick short-term responses and judgments, and when you have a generation that has grown used to short-term gratification -- but you have problems whose solutions require long, hard journeys, like today’s global credit crisis or jobs shortage or the need to rebuild Arab countries from the ground up -- you have a real mismatch and leadership challenge. Virtually all leaders today have to ask their people to share burdens, not just benefits, and to both study harder and work smarter just to keep up. That requires extraordinary leadership that has to start with telling people the truth....
I understand that's it's easy to lose perspective when 98% of the people you've spoken to in the last twenty years are political and economic movers and shakers, rather than ordinary schmucks on the receiving end of whatever the powerful do. I understand that it's possible to get an idee fixe in your mind, in this case "everyone must suffer," and that once that happens it's impossible to see the world through any other lens. I understand that if you're getting up in years, maybe the Intertubes seem dangerous and scary (though Friedman is only six years older than I am). But how freaking blind do you have to be to think that the major problem in the global-depression world of 2012 is that leaders haven't kicked people in the teeth enough?