The American Dream, revisited

Tempo di elezioni e di elettori perplessi. Quello che riporto qui e' un estratto da un editoriale di Thomas L. Friedman apparso oggi sul New York Times, sotto il titolo "New Rules". Mi ha colpito per come in poche righe mi sembra colga bene l'esprit du temps, o perlomeno la realta' che osservo intorno a noi.
Obama should stop using the phrase - first minted by Bill Clinton in 1992 - that if you just "work hard and play by the rules " you should expect that the American system will deliver you a decent life and a chance for your children to have a better one. That mantra really resonates with me and, I am sure, with many voters. There is just one problem: it's out of date.
The thruth is, if you want a decent job that will lead to a decent life today you have to work harder, regularly reinvent yourself, obtain at least some form of postsecondary education, make sure that you are engaged in lifelong learning and play by the rules. That's not a bumper sticker, but we terribly mislead people saying otherwise.
Why? Because when Clinton first employed his phase in 1992, the Internet was just emerging, virtually no one had e-mail and the cold war was just ending. In other words, we were still living in a closed system, a world of walls which were just starting to come down. It was a world before Nafta and the full merger of globalisation and the information technology revolution, a world in which unions and blue-collar manufactoring were still relatively strong, and where America could still write a lot of the rules people played by.
That world is gone. It is now a more open system. Technology and globalisation are wiping out lower-skilled jobs faster, while steadely raising the level of skills required for new jobs. More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class. There is a quote attributed to the futurist Alvin Toffler that captures this new reality: in the future "illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn". Any form of standing still is deadly.

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