You may have thought that soothsaying mustachioed one-trick pony Tom Friedman had done his best work of the summer last week, when he achieved near-total conceptual pointlessness. Not so! Yesterday's column was an altogether masterful demonstration of Friedmania.
Starting with the headline: "A Theory of Everything (Sort Of)." Are you unfamiliar with Thomas Friedman's oeuvre? I can think of no way to sum it up better than "A Theory of Everything (Sort Of)." That is, fundamentally, what Thomas Friedman strives to present to his audience of weary business travelers: "A Theory of Everything (Sort Of)." Tom Friedman hopes to have the words "A Theory of Everything (Sort Of)" on his tombstone, which will be made in China, cheaply.
There is political unrest in the Middle East. There is political unrest in Europe. There is political unrest in America. "What's going on here?" asks Thomas Friedman, with his typical rhetorical flourish.
There are multiple and different reasons for these explosions, but to the extent they might have a common denominator I think it can be found in one of the slogans of Israel's middle-class uprising: "We are fighting for an accessible future."
Not only are there multiple reasons; those multiple reasons are also different. Very important. And all these multiple as well as different reasons add up to: "The world's vaguest slogan." Coincidentally, "The world's vaguest slogan" is the backup inscription for Thomas Friedman's tombstone. (He is having the backup tombstone made in India. Hedging those bets!)
Why now? It starts with the fact that globalization and the information technology revolution have gone to a whole new level. Thanks to cloud computing, robotics, 3G wireless connectivity, Skype, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, the iPad, and cheap Internet-enabled smartphones, the world has gone from connected to hyper-connected.
This is the single most important trend in the world today.
Sorry, did I just pull a random quote from any one of Thomas Friedman's hundreds of identical columns and/ or books over the past decade and paste it, above? No, that is from the column which we are discussing, from yesterday. It is. Just because it could have appeared in any of hundreds of other Thomas Friedman columns on hundreds of other subjects is no reason to think differently. What is the most important trend in the world today? "A list of random words related to the internet." ("A list of random words related to the internet" is the second backup Tom Friedman tombstone inscription, the one that he outsourced to Brazil, to be on the safe side.)
Surely one of the iconic images of this time is the picture of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak - for three decades a modern pharaoh - being hauled into court, held in a cage with his two sons and tried for attempting to crush his people's peaceful demonstrations. Every leader and C.E.O. should reflect on that photo. "The power pyramid is being turned upside down," said Yaron Ezrahi, an Israeli political theorist.
[Item in the news this week about the Middle East.] [Nonsensical patronizing platitude directed at audience of fanboy businessmen.] [Crushingly obvious quote from Israeli political person,] says Thomas Friedman.
Cancel your New York Times subscription and simply reread this post three times a week for the rest of the year.
[NYT; photo via Getty]