Retirement, Writing , and the Flat World


Well, I’m in the last few days here in Bali before my final ten weeks in Sumbawa – as a teacher at least. It’s difficult to figure out just what I’m doing here; writing for sure, as I faithfully write at least 2,000 words a day and get to keep most of them,. But what else?

I definitely don’t want to go home to Sumbawa. I’m somewhere else now, and it certainly isn’t where I work, so that is going to be a push. I imagine that once I get back with my students it will be different, but for the first time in my life, I’m not looking forward to teaching. I’ll do it and do it as best I can, but something of the thrill is gone as BB King once said.

I’m ready to write, whether that means that I’ll make some money at it is a question that won’t be answered for a number of months, but it’s what I want to, what I’ve wanted to do for decades. There was always someone to feed or help or take care of and I couldn’t take the chance of not having the money available.

If you read the history of some of the greatest of our English language writers, they often spent years in poverty – some of them until they died. Ah, well art is great but I would rather deal with the people that I have responsibility for and then get on with what it is that I feel I have the need to do.

So the two weeks here are about up. I’m going to have to leave Mercedes to deal with things on her own for another ten weeks. But, all of this split family business ends in another ten weeks.

As I’ve written before, the situation that I find myself in is fairly common to Indonesians. Men and women both go overseas to look for work whether it is as a maid in Singapore, Malaysia or Saudi Arabia or as a driver in the same countries. It’s one of those unfortunate realities of developing countries – exporting their cheap labor to other countries. I’ve basically done it backwards – exporting a developed world worker to a developing country. The difference is that we command a large salary while our mirror world counterparts command something else.

This is one of the holes in Friedman’s Flat World. It’s flatter for the developed world than the developing world despite what he would like to claim. It’s easy to visit some high tech industries and find the workers that they are hiring (I’ve worked with them; they are the educated in a struggling economy), but visit the villages where people have no flat world skills and you get a Ridley Scott scenario for the future. These are the people who will be selling bakso and squid eyes in a damp strip mall under the glaze of neon lights.

I’ve been trying to get a take on Friedman’s book since I read it because as a tech person at an international school, I thought yes, maybe this will make my point with my boss and the board. But, there was something in that reptilian part of my brain that instinctively wanted to eat all of this new knowledge.

It’s easy to interview the winners; safer for sure (the losers can be somewhat cranky) and easier to fit into your point. I’m amazed at the number of educators that have bought into Friedman’s analysis of the world, but on second thought, not that amazed because we tend to teach the cream of the crop. The children of the people that run the world; the ones that will make the decisions on where the money goes, who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t, and what policies are going to be followed and what aren’t.

That’s the problem with the Flat World. It isn’t a flat world for the majority of the world’s population; for them the world is passing them by. They will continue in their usual way of making a dollar a day or less (for the less fortunate ones) and the armies of the future that Friedman champions will climb on their backs as the middle class has always done.




~ by drbrucepk on April 2, 2008.

7 Responses to “Retirement, Writing , and the Flat World”

  1. I never understood how Friedman could claim that the entire world was flat, when so many people in developing (and even developed!) countries don’t have access to the flatteners he describes in his book. Most of this affects the developed world more than it does the developing world, even if the products we use are developed and shipped from the developing world.

    Also, what are you thinking about writing? We need some new authors, now that everyone seems to be writing (fictional) autobiographies. 🙂

  2. I’m writing two ebooks now – one on moving to Bali, and the other on international teaching. Then I have one that I’ve just started on Islam. Then, too, there’s that novel that has been sitting around in a drawer for years.

  3. Sounds good. I would read all four, actually. 😀

  4. I agree, Kay, on both comments, actually. 🙂

  5. Thanks Maya and Kay. I’ll let you know when they’re finished. How’s the job thing going by the way?

  6. Hi Doc:) You’ve articulated a lot of what I’ve been thinking about lately. I also teach in an affluent community, and my students have access to cutting edge technology and resources; but most of the world is still being left behind.

    On writing, you say, “I’m ready to write, whether that means that I’ll make some money at it is a question that won’t be answered for a number of months, but it’s what I want to, what I’ve wanted to do for decades.”

    I want or need to write, but I don’t see myself making a career of it any time soon (the very thought makes me cringe, perhaps because it turns writing into a burden, or perhaps because I still lack confidence, not sure). But I, for one, am really looking forward to reading your writing. Best of luck!

  7. Thanks Preya,

    I’ve made a little (very little) money on a few articles, but I wouldn’t mind selling the books and making some extra money for the kiddies. Either way, writing is just one of those things that I’ve been doing for decades, and it’s the process as much as the results that I look forward to. I’m also looking forward to hearing about your move to Bangkok.

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