But more importantly, I don't want to imply that there is any sort of equivalency between the fact that Tom Friedman likes to pull metaphors out of his ass, contort them to the point where you no longer sure if that's still a turd in his hands, and build a column around said contorted turd (or a book around several) and the fact that Tom Friedman says things like this:
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?" You don't think, you know we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This. That Charlie is what this war is about. We could of hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. Could of hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.But. If I'm going to have a Fire Tom Friedman blog and actually update it (and this is my fifth post in less than a week - look Mom, I have a blog!), I'm going to need some material. And Tommy's prose is the gift that keeps giving. So having gotten the obligatory disclaimer out of the way that I don't think murdering the English language is as bad as cheering on the murder of innocent Iraqis (boy, you're glad I cleared that up, aren't you?), onto Sunday's column!
The veteran global investor Mohamed El-Erian, who runs Pimco and has lived through many a financial crisis, recently issued a report describing the new, perilous state of today’s global economy. He described it like this: “The world is on a journey to an unstable destination, through unfamiliar territory, on an uneven road and, critically, having already used its spare tire.”Of course you do, Tommy. You wish you had thought of it yourself. You wish you had thought of it so you could have built a column around it, and then a book chapter, and then you could have gone on Meet the Press and gazed into David Gregory's eyes when he asked you your thoughts on the economy and dazzled David and America with your world is a car without a spare metaphor.
I like that image.
We all admire the works of others. But what sets Tommy apart is that he's not going to let a little fact like the fact that someone else thought of it keep him from doing all of the above. (I can't shake the feeling that in the pre-Internet era Tommy would have pulled a Maureen Dowd on El-Erian ). And that when Tommy goes to a museum and sees a painting he likes, he pulls out a magic marker and starts drawing on it:
America used its spare tire to prevent a collapse of the banking system and to stimulate the economy after the subprime market crash. The European Union used its spare tire on its own economic stimulus and then to prevent a run on European banks triggered by the meltdown in Greece. This all better work, because we’re not only living in a world without any more spares but also in a world without distance.Conspicuously absent: All those spare tires we dropped on Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars that Tommy wanted and we're still killing and dying and paying for - it's like they never happened.
Still, I have to admit, when Tommy said the world was without distance, I was relieved. Because if I'm driving without a spare, I don't want to go too far. So maybe since the World is Flat, it's OK not to have a spare since we don't even need to leave our house to outsource all our jobs and pollution to developing countries. Phew.
But wait. The very next sentence:
Nations are more tightly integrated than ever before. We’re driving bumper to bumper with every other major economy today, so misbehavior or mistakes anywhere can cause a global pileup.This is the kind of shit that drives Friedmanologists crazy. That nonexistent distance apparently has nothing to do with the distance we're traveling in our car without a spare to an unstable destination; it's the distance between cars, all of which are lacking spares. So the world is no longer a car; it's a traffic pattern. And "We’re driving bumper to bumper with every other major economy today" - so the car no longer represents the global economy, but each nation is its own car. I think. And the danger is a pileup, not a pot hole, in which case an airbag, not a spare tire, would be the crucial accessory. You can't even see the original painting under Tommy's magic marker scribbling.
The point is that Tommy heard something that sounded like something he might say about metaphorical cars so he said to himself, "That's really brilliant." Then he said, "What else do cars do besides drive? They crash. And if they crashed, it would be . . . a . . . a global pileup! If I can work that in somehow, I'll have killed two paragraphs."
Which is essentially what Tommy admits next:
And that leads to the real point of this column: In this kind of world, leadership at every level of government and business matters more than ever."The real point"? That was just an exercise? You're not even faking it any more. It's all, "I'm Tom Friedman. I have three Pulitzers, I'm a best-selling author, my wife is really rich, and the New York Times has to print whatever I write because I don't have an editor (really), so read my filler, bitches!" Fuck you, Tommy. Just for that, I'm skipping to the last paragraph:
Winston Churchill famously observed that, “You can always trust the Americans. In the end, they will do the right thing, after they have eliminated all the other possibilities.” Is that still true for our generation? We’re going to find out. The time for bluffing ourselves is over. Are we going to do what it takes to fix our country, or are we going to be remembered as the generation that received more poker chips from their parents than any other and then had to turn around and toss a single chip to their kids and tell them to put it on “Lucky 21” — and hope for the best.You see what he did there, right? Instead of saying "the time for fooling ourselves is over," he said bluffing. And that little sneaky word change sets us up for Tommy's Whirlwind Casino Metaphor! Never mind that one doesn't bluff oneself. Or that we're playing poker and then all of a sudden we seem to be playing some sort of roulette/blackjack hybrid called "Lucky 21." Or that he could have just said, "are we going to be remembered as the generation that received more from their parents than any other and squandered it?"
Which brings me to the real point of this blog post: The night after I read this, I had a dream that Tommy invited me over to his mansion to play poker. And while he riffed on how the world was hot, flat, crowded, and smelly, I won all his money and the house, too. Then I invited a bunch of Iraqi refugees to live with me in Tom Friedman's house. And we let Tommy stay there, too, because he knew where all the bathrooms and the closets were and the Iraqis found him funny. One of them called out, "Tommy, tell us again about the first rule of holes." And Tommy dutifully replied, "The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging. When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels." Then we all laughed and laughed while Tommy fixed us sandwiches.