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Thomas Friedman, author of, “globalization; the super story,” erroneously implies in his essay, that with the current “integration” and “globalization” (which are terms used to classify a “new industrial revolution” driven by powerful new information and communication technologies), of today’s economy, individuals have obtained more power and influence than ever before in history. Specifically, the rise of such technologies as the Internet and email, have empowered individuals to a new level of influence by giving them the tools necessary for global broadcast. Friedman uses Jody Williams, a Nobel prize winner, as an example of this new phenomena when she used E-mail to organize five continents into signing a treaty. This idea of “super empowered individuals” falls short when actually applied to “real life” circumstances, as Barbara Ehrenriech, author of, “Nickel and Dimed,” experienced when she went undercover as a minimum wage worker for an entire year. Her first hand experience, clearly shown throughout the novel, demonstrates that for many individuals, access to the Internet, and to the “world network” is hardly a reality; and thus so is power.
In, “Globalization; the super story,” Friedman makes the point that, “the world has become an increasingly interwoven place, and today whether you are a company or a country, your threats and opportunities increasingly derive from who you are connected to(Friedman 471).” In this statement, Friedman makes the supposition that with today’s globalization, people have access to such connections, which is clearly an overstatement. In, “Nickel and Dimed,” the people working as maids are, for the most part, living off of welfare and getting paid $6.65 per hour to clean the homes of people who most likely make six figures. According to Friedman, these maids would have a connection to the hierarchy of economic power, simply by knowing the owners of the homes or hotels, yet in reality this brings them no closer to power than anyone else. In fact, the maids were rarely ever in the same house more than once, which, “is a service to its customers: there are so sticky and possibly guilt ridden relationships involved, because the customers communicate almost entirely with the office manager(Ehrenreich 475) .”
Friedman also makes the mistake of implying that everyone, through globalization, has the means by which to access the world network. For example, one of Ehrenriech’s co-workers actually owned her own home, “but she slept on the living room sofa, while her four grown children and three grandchildren fill up the bedrooms( Ehrenreich 478).” How then, would someone scrapping by like this maid, have any power or access to globalized connections? For people working minimum wage, there is no access to the Internet directly, and so Friedman’s statement that, “everyone in the world is directly or indirectly affected by the new system (integration),” is simply false. The minimum wage laborer feels no more globalized and empowered as they ever were, and the only globalization they are inevitably introduced to is the sting of being outsourced because their companies go international and hire people over seas for a fraction of the price. This would be a more realistic view of economic globalization for the American individual; that as the companies and , “super markets,” expand, the need for American workers declines. More and more American companies will hire outside the U.S. for cheaper labor. In the United States and in the 10 or so most wealthy countries of the world, globalization is certainly a positive buzz word for corporate elites and their political allies,but for migrants, people of color, and people who fall below the poverty line it is a source of worry about inclusion, jobs, and deeper marginalization (Clack 1).
Friedman also makes the point that globalization frees people from the tyranny of geographical boundaries. The internet and the world wide network allow companies and individuals to spread news, wire money, and communicate among other things all in a matter of seconds. His theory is presumptuous once again in the thought that most people have the access to this “world wide network.” in “Nickel and Dimed” Ehrenreich experienced a world where the priorities centered around food and shelter. Sure, the maids could have saved up enough money to buy a computer and Ethernet cable, if they felt like not eating or feeding their children for the next year. The matter of priority in lower class America does not center around comfort.
Friedman’s optimistic view of globalization is idealistic at best. In actual practice, his theories fall short, and one wouldn’t need to look farther than the day laborers waiting on the corner of any street to see this. Ehrenriech spent a year working minimum wage to see if she could survive and she found ultimately that besides the grueling work and unreasonable hours, she had only time leftover to eat cheap food and sleep if that. There was no Internet, no global connections to the world network, no “super empowered” enlightenments obtained.