(Y!)United States?

Companies are like countries — neither has a guaranteed future.

A senior Yahoo! VP Brad Garlinghouse has sounded the alarm at his company. He recently wrote "The Peanut Butter Manifesto" "declaring the Internet company is spreading itself too thin and must define priorities and radically reorganize its management structure. Now the manifesto has attracted the attention of Yahoo's top brass as they scramble to boost revenue and protect the company's status as the most popular stopping point on the Web for U.S. users, amid heated competition from Google Inc. and others."

From Yahoo!'s "Peanut Butter Manifesto" (with commentary in parenthesis):

[We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone.] (This is one of the problems cited for Yahoo! -- also an exact problem of the United States. Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington discusses it in Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity. America's melting pot -- designed to melt all cultures into one -- has cracked and we now foster multiculturalism; therefore, we try to "be everything." And so we falter.)
[Focus the vision. We need to boldly and definitively declare what we are and what we are not.] (America once had a vision -- national goals like the space race. Now what do we rally around? Nothing. Energy self-sufficiency is a possibility.)

What we need is someone like Garlinghouse in the Congress who would publish something similar. Google and Microsoft are to Yahoo! what China and India are to the United States.

Some thoughts as we prepare to enter a new year.

Posted by Mike Tate at November 29, 2006 12:22 AM
Comment #196830

This seems like an attempt at putting a market veneer on your typical position. The difference here is that Yahoo! has to put forward enormous effort to diversify. America, on the other hand, would require much more effort to homogenize along the lines you’re proposing than it would take to leave it in its natural state.

There are folks who want to define who we are, but if you look at their arguments, its typically a definition of their own choosing. America has succeeded by making identity in this country a personal choice, and letting the natural pressures of living and getting along with one another do the assimilating, rather than trying to force it. Result? We have one of the most vibrant, tolerant cultures on the planet, and we’re far less vulnerable at this point than our European counterparts, who have chosen your path, and tried to force a national identity on a diverse and ever-changing population.

America’s advantage is that its not staking its hopes and dreams on one culture, such that the culture’s decline takes America with it. We may revere the Greatest Generation, but we should remember that generation didn’t settle for the world they started their greatness in. By the time they were done, the very face of America was changed. America is not so weak nor so dissipated that it requires the kind of refocusing you’re talking about.

What it needs is a break from years of conservative politicians telling us that our culture is in decline and every generation is worse than the last.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 29, 2006 8:48 AM
Comment #196840

In “The Clash of Civilizations,” Huntington talked at length about cleft countries, ie countries where 2 or more civilizations peoples lived together. His examples included Turkey, where Islamic and Western secular tendancies coexist, and the former Yugoslavia, where Orthodox, Western, and Islamic civilizations all border each other. He also hypothesized that America might become a cleft country as large parts of the southwest become more and more Hispanic.

When I was in grade school, I heard the melting pot theory. The idea is similar to making alloyed metal, two metals combine to form a stronger alloy. I’ve also heard the new theory is the salad bowl, different people are like different pieces of lettuce and tomato with “Americana” being the salad dressing. The problem with this whole theory is that salad dressing isn’t glue, it doesn’t bind things together.

When Huntington commented on the possiblility of America becoming a cleft country, he also stated that the two biggest obstacles to continued American unity were 1: The destruction of the American Creed and 2: the rise of group rights over individual rights. His argument makes a good deal of sense. To Huntington, the American Creed was similar to the melting pot theory, we all added our own individual strengths to America but subordinated group identitites to our overall identities as Americans. The rise of group rights further exacerbates and reinforces the destruction of the American Creed by seperating and catagorizing Americans, then assigning winners and losers, abuser and victim. What we are left with is seperations into different groups of -Americans each squabbling for a bigger piece of the pie at the expense of the rest.

Stephen Daugherty,

Good post, but a few issues. I don’t think you’re entirely right to say that Europe attempted to force national identity onto its immigrants. From what I’ve seen, they tried to pretend that they didn’t exist at all and shunted them away. Far from attempting to force a French or German identity, they made them permanent outsiders. Also, I don’t think many immigrants to Europe ever expressed an interest in becoming “European” something that America has a decided advantage about. For example, my parents’ nieghbors are Turkish immigrants. While they retain parts of their unique culture, they don’t try and consciously segregate themselves and absolutely hate any sort of Turkish or Muslim etc attachment to thier status as Americans.

Also, depending on how you measure it, our culture is in decline. Even as our standard of living gets higher, we see a decline in various markers of civil society, high levels of illegitimate births, higher rates of abortion, high divorce rates, a decline in participation in voluntary organizations etc. Not all is bad news, but many pine for simpler days when your neighbors were your friends, not just other people who live next door, where a real sense of community existed. Sorry to wax sentimental, just a thought though.

Posted by: 1LT B at November 29, 2006 10:10 AM
Comment #196863

1LT B-
I think Huntington’s theory is flawed because he doesn’t appreciate the good that comes from the draining of tensions. People can get things off their chest in this country without the kind of penalties other countries impose. That very notion that you can appeal to a broader audience than just your own diffuses much of the divisive force of politics, race, and other differences. Our palette contains more mixed tones of belief and opinion.

The way to deal with the potentially divisive assertion of identity is to simply let people get it out of their systems. Identity politics is only encouraged by efforts to crush it. It’s much harder to curse the man trying to keep you down when that claim is hollow to more moderate observers.

As for European muslim immigrants, you see news stories about the banning of religious symbols and ethnic clothing, you see the way these places try and enforce official limits on the language, the culture and whatnot; I think it pays to understand that much of the America’s freedoms and attitudes are a reaction to the European’s tendencies on language and culture, tendencies that some conservatives, ironically enough, would imitate.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 29, 2006 1:36 PM
Comment #196887

A few thoughts come to mind based on the article and some of the comments:

Some companies/corporations may be like some companies in some ways, but for the most part they are undemocratic. I used to work for an employee-owned company; it employed the same old top-down hierarchy as most companies. The value of an opinion had everything to do with the relative place one held in the hierarchy. In my experience, large companies in general do not encourage alternative viewpoints. The reason is not surprising — upset a superior and you could lose your job or get marginalized. I realize there may be some exceptional companies that are different.

The decline of society — every generation says that. Plato said that. It’s a transhistorical sentiment. It’s embedded in Christian mythology. One of the arcs in the Old Testament is the growing separation from God after the Fall. God virtually disappears as an active character through the course of the OT.

The hydrogen-based economy idealized in the energy link in the article — it sounds great. Hydrogen breaks down into water and oxygen, so its clean. The problem is, that takes energy. The writers posit using renewable and nuclear energy to generate pure hydrogen from hydrocarbons, which, of course, primarily come from, you guessed it, fossil fuels. If we solved all the problems attendent to getting enough hydrogen for a true hydrogen economy, we’ve already basically solved the energy problem without using hydrogen. Once again, there is no single big solution as the writers suggest — just a lot of little solutions. Wind, solar, thermal, biomass and biofuels, nuclear — those are what will do it, especially coupled with local production of energy. I think widespread use of electric cars, partially recharged using local (including residential) production of energy. Fuel cells (fueled by hydrogen, of course) do have a role in all this, of course, but I doubt they are the single big solution.

Posted by: Trent at November 29, 2006 3:22 PM
Comment #196903

Ye gods, replace the second “countries” in my second sentence with a “countries.”

Posted by: Trent at November 29, 2006 4:43 PM
Comment #196987

countries replaced with countries is still countries…..trent, get some sleep dude.:)

Posted by: gergle at November 30, 2006 12:55 AM
Comment #197001

yeah, i just gave up :(

Posted by: Trent at November 30, 2006 7:15 AM
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