Hello. I am here to tell you about the article entitled "The Power of Green" (AKA "The Greening of Geopolitics") in this week's New York Times magazine by my American friend Mr. Thomas L. Friedman. Allow me to introduce myself. I am called Pookunhi Takahiro Pierre Velazquez y Al-Sadr. By birth, I am of the Oulad Bou Sbaa ("Father of the Lion") tribe; it is a noble tribe. Because of the globalization, however, in the mid-1990s, I became a cab driver in Abu Dhabi, and it was on the corner of Liwa and Sheik Hamdam Bin Mohammed, peace be to Zarathustra, that I first met my American friend Mr. Thomas L. Freidman, who was flapping his arms like that traditional bird I know about, which I still take seriously as a beautiful metaphor even as I face down modernity. Anyway, he came into my taxi and asked to learn my name, and also my existence.I told him the latter would be benefited by a new line of luxurious sedans from the Toyota Motors Company and a new e.-v. o. o. that went better with those too-sour artisanal balsamics my vinaigrette-Nazi wife was always having me try at home. He nodded knowingly, but could not pronounce my name, so he said he would call me simply "John," which is a popular name in America. I told him that that was fine but I preferred the Old Testament resonances of "Jon" to the "h"-inclusive Christian spelling; he explained that I was likely illiterate and probably did not care.
Mr. Thomas L. Friedman — in my culture, it is customary to shorten the name "Thomas" to "Tom," but my American friend said there were some things even he would not countenance in the name of golden interdependence — was craving a Royale with Cheese, so I pulled over at the neighborhood McDonald's, and he disembarked. Though he is a very good friend whose inner life I understand with a depth comparable only to the height that that bird I talked about earlier can fly, this was sadly the last time I saw Mr. Thomas L. Friedman. I am not sure, but I believe his country and my country are now at war.
In any case, imagine the surprise when I saw my old friend's article on the cover of today's New York Times magazine! I am embarrassed to say, though I am a subscriber (there are things behind the Select wall that infidels could not even fathom!), I make it past The Funny Pages only rarely — in my culture, The Funny Pages are the funniest pages in the media and all the online blogs talk about them, so I always laugh so hard at them the whole magazine rips apart in my hands. But, of course, I owed it to Mr. Thomas L. Friedman to read what he had to say about America and the environment and the world, because he once showed me such empathy and understanding, and because, as I learned from our last meeting, Mr. Thomas L. Friedman entertainingly enjoys pointing outside the windows of moving vehicles and yelling out new, absurd words for the familiar things he sees. In my culture, this way of communicating is very non-traditional and exciting — alas, we know about Koko the talking gorilla only from pirated VHS copies of PBS documentaries purchased at bazaars, next to harems, next to sultans — so I set aside my insatiable curiosity over what happens next in that Michael Chabon serial novella, and turned straight to "The Greening of Geopolitics" by Mr. Thomas L. Friedman.
Wow! Things are very different in the United States and — praise be the Merovingian kings! —not entirely in a bad way either. We in the Emirates have a lot to learn from the simplicity and resourcefulness of Americans like my friend Thomas L. Friedman, and so, before you make judgments based on preconceived notions of what an original, properly argued magazine article should be, I ask you to read "The Greening of Geopolitics" in a generous and culturally sensitive way that does not immediately appeal to such terms as "hack" and "embarrassment to the Pulitzer committee and, moreover, the art and practice of writing as such." For example, I read in a fascinating (though traditional and properly argued) piece by John Colapinto in the New Yorker last week that there is a very primitive tribe in Brazil that can only count with "one," "two," and "many," and have no fixed words for colors. I did not expect this to be true of Mr. Thomas L. Friedman the time I met him — when he told me I have a "beautiful odor" and a terrifically patterned traditional tunic (it was a slim-fit Zegna my sister-in-law picked up for me in Milan) — but perhaps he in fact exhibits the same marvelously dignified penchant for solipsistic extrapolation and sophistic elision (so often ridiculed in our traditional culture as "lazy 'tardation") as those wonderful Pirah tribesman. Perhaps it is a recessive allele?
That is to say, we are being dangerously ethnocentric if we ask my American friend Thomas L. Friedman to have the same sense of history, or even basic non-demagogic short-term memory, that we would expect of a journalist here at home. Of course, because we are always shopping for pirated DVDs of An Inconvenient Truth at bazaars, next to harems, next to sultans, we remember the man named Al Gore, and, as such, it would be plainly ridiculous for any individual in our traditional culture to claim to make, on April 15, 2007, an original argument about how environmentalism should become a non-partisan issue that everyone rallies around. But, with no fixed words for colors — or, for that matter, the sets of programmatic predilections customarily second-order signified by them — in my friend Thomas L. Friedman's society, a shamanistic practice ethnologists call "obliviously stating the obvi" holds sway:
We will need to find a way to reknit America at home, reconnect America abroad and restore America to its natural place in the global order — as the beacon of progress, hope and inspiration. I have an idea how. It's called "green...." Well, I want to rename "green." I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century.... How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world? Those are, in a nutshell, the big questions facing America at the dawn of the 21st century. But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green states — not an America divided between red and blue states.I did some searching on the Google, and want to point out to the reader that, xenophobic lies aside, Americans do not actually believe that the planet Earth is flat, is becoming flatter, or was ever flat before. In fact, it seems that Americans are just inordinately transfixed by strained catchphrases, which, according to my taxi conversation with Mr. Thomas L. Friedman, they love affixing to such things as books commonly found in the "Political Science" sections of public libraries, Sunday-morning talk show appearances, and even statements in the sorts of venues we in the more traditional world usually associate with serious truth claims. Take that into consideration when reading utterances like this:
The good news is that after traveling around America this past year, looking at how we use energy and the emerging alternatives, I can report that green really has gone Main Street — thanks to the perfect storm created by 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Internet revolution. The first flattened the twin towers, the second flattened New Orleans and the third flattened the global economic playing field.Now, it may be shocking to for us to hear such crudeness, but if we are to answer the big questions facing a twenty-first century of Times Op-Ed domination, it is best to learn well the environmental lesson that my American friend Thomas L. Friedman first taught me all those years ago: polish up a cubic zirconia anecdote and it might just pass — for two or three decades at least — as a diamond factoid:
My Pakistani friend and I were allowed to observe a class of young boys who sat on the floor, practicing their rote learning of the Koran from texts perched on wooden holders. The air in the Koran class was so thick and stale it felt as if you could have cut it into blocks.... I went to Moscow in February, and my friends told me they just celebrated the first Moscow Christmas in their memory with no snow.... Outside my window the smog was so thick you could not see the end of the terminal building. When I got into Beijing, though, friends told me the air was better than usual.In the olden days of my culture, custom would dictate that we try to figure out what is meant by such foreign babble. But as a properly glocalized man, I say hogwash: It's enough to know that, deep down, despite all the superficial differences, the world's people are really, truly best friends forever.
The Power of Green [NYTM]