Hide your kids, hide your wife: Thomas Friedman is back and pontificating

ThomasFriedmanI just conducted a quick spot check, and was horrified to learn that — in the entire history of this blog — I have devoted only two posts to mocking New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. This is really too bad, as he deserves regular treatment of this sort on a monthly basis, at the very least. (Turns out, in fact, that my first post on Sir Thomas was actually my first-ever post on this blog, which I launched on December 12, 2010. Can I get a “happy two-year anniversary?”)

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Friedman has caught my attention again with his latest missive, which you really should go take several minutes to read. Let’s examine the opening line:

When you fly along the Mediterranean today, what do you see below?

Now be careful here. This may seem like a question with a remarkably obvious answer, but you only think this because you’re not Thomas Friedman. If you were, in fact, Thomas Friedman — God save us all — you’d know that, when life gives you lemons, it’s time to make lemonade.

Now you may be asking yourself, “But what does that have to do with not knowing where you are when you’re flying along the Mediterranean?” But again, as you know — starting to get the hang of this? — you’re not Thomas Friedman. In fact, if you were Thomas Friedman, you’d likely have written some tired cliche like “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” many times by now in your columns. And you would have known this axiom to be useful because both a cabdriver you once met in Amman and a flight attendant on Singapore Airlines have said it to you. And both of those people’s companies use solar panels. And so all of this is why it is not remarkably obvious to Thomas Friedman that all one needs to do to figure out what one sees below oneself when one is flying along the Mediterranean is to…look down.

Next:

If Syria and Egypt both unravel at once, this whole region will be destabilized. That’s why a billboard on the road to the Pyramids said it all: “God save Egypt.”

Oh. Yes, that explains it.

Having watched a young, veiled, Egyptian female reporter tear into a Muslim Brotherhood official the other day over the group’s recent autocratic and abusive behavior, I can assure you that the fight here is not between more religious and less religious Egyptians.

You can be forgiven for thinking that extrapolating one angry journalist’s question into a nationwide trend is a bit of a specious argument. Or that assuming any Egyptian veil-sporting female must be a card-carrying member of the Muslim Brotherhood is just downright stupid. But then, you’ve clearly forgotten who employs Thomas Friedman: the New York Times is notorious for its three-instances-make-a-trend approach to narrative-building, so the fact that Friedman has downsized to a mere one-instance-makes-a-trend paradigm is simply a reflection of his desire to conserve energy and save our planet. As we should be doing but aren’t, because we’re not China. (Yet. Maybe someday?)

Whenever anyone asked me what I saw in Tahrir Square during that original revolution, I told them I saw a tiger that had been living in a 5-by-8 cage for 60 years get released. And there are three things I can tell you about the tiger: 1) Tiger is never going back in that cage; 2) Do not try to ride tiger for your own narrow purposes or party because this tiger only serves Egypt as a whole; 3) Tiger only eats beef. He has been fed every dog food lie in the Arabic language for 60 years, so don’t try doing it again.

I am astonished that Friedman forgot to insert a Tiger/Tigris pun here. How could he have let this opportunity slip by? Sure, Egypt’s not Iraq, but Syria isn’t either and that never stopped Sir Thomas. By the way, why didn’t anyone else covering the Tahrir Square protests in 2011 notice a tiger escaping from his cage and making a beeline for the nearest beef steakhouse? Why did only Thomas Friedman see this? I’m starting to understand why he couldn’t see the Mediterranean below him earlier: while everyone else saw the sea, he was staring at a blue monkey playing the harmonica. A solar-powered harmonica.

Friedman closes:

God is not going to save Egypt. It will be saved only if the opposition here respects that the Muslim Brotherhood won the election fairly — and resists its excesses not with boycotts (or dreams of a coup) but with better ideas that win the public to the opposition’s side. And it will be saved only if Morsi respects that elections are not winner-take-all, especially in a society that is still defining its new identity, and stops grabbing authority and starts earning it. Otherwise, it will be all fall down.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’d always thought a relatively secular, progressive, democratic government was a better idea than one that strong-arms the opposition and attempts to consolidate power by pushing through an unpopular constitution. So doesn’t that mean the Egyptian opposition has already taken Friedman’s advice to heart? And if so, why hasn’t the public been won to their side?

Maybe it’s because Egypt is more complicated than all that. But more likely, it’s because they haven’t yet learned to make lemonade.

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4 thoughts on “Hide your kids, hide your wife: Thomas Friedman is back and pontificating

  1. I make lemonade a-la-Friedman everyday.

    In fact, I have now given up Occam’s razor for daily life choices because I’m in need of a closer shave. I use Friedman’s machete.

  2. what’s the solar thing?

    *Andrs Lizcano Rodriguez* International Public Management student / PSIA – Sciences Po Paris Economic and Political Development student / SIPA – Columbia University Phone: +1 3479269453 110 Morningside Drive, #31A New York, NY 10027

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