How dare this guy second-guess Thomas Friedman’s view of the world?
Friedman can’t easily deal with such analyses precisely because of the tenets of the conventional wisdom, American style, which is that fundamental change in direction is essentially impossible. The world is a growth machine and “nobody can turn it off.” Everyone wants “an American style of life,” and “their governments will not be able to deny” it to them. So the only option is to tinker with the American style of life to make it greener. Hence the longest soliloquy in the book, a hymn to the soon-to-be smart home, where the solar panel calls up to tell the “utility” when there’s been a blackout, where the smart lights in your office are triggered by motion sensors, where you plug in your “Smart Card” (“sponsored by Visa and United Airlines Mileage Plus”) into your Sun Ray computer terminal to start your workday. All this gear is so intelligent, in fact, that “when the sun is shining brightly and the wind is howling” (i.e., when your house is generating solar and wind power), your utility turns on your dryer to finish your laundry.
Does it ever occur to him, in the grip of a fantasia like this, that if the sun is shining brightly, or the breeze is blowing steadily, you could dry your clothes on a $14 piece of rope strung off your back deck, or for that matter on a foldable rack in the apartment hallway? And that since most of the world already knows how to do it, we might be smarter moving in their direction instead of insisting that they buy into our entire high-technology suburban dream?
SSSSSSSSNAP. But seriously, who wants a crummy piece of rope when you can have some fancy-ass robotic washing machine with wi-fi matrix-nodes and chrome digital hologram displays automatically adjusting how much energy it takes from the grid? How are you supposed to impress your friends with a piece of rope?
Friedman can’t see these new probabilities because they conflict with the one great imperative of the conventional wisdom, which is optimism. Just as you can’t run for commander-in-chief on any platform other than “Our best days are still ahead of us,” so you can’t run for pundit-in-chief either. But those instincts can get you in trouble. Friedman, after all, supported the war in Iraq with a similarly glib but upbeat forecast. The day of the invasion he weighed the two schools of thought: the Europeans were predicting “more terrorism, a dangerous precedent for preventive war, civilian casualties,” while Bush was arguing “that it will be a game-changerâ€”that it will spark reform throughout the Arab world and intimidate other tyrants who support terrorists.”
LOL, optimism rules! IRAQ WAR-BOOSTER CREW FOR LIFE, DON’T STOP BELIEVING! “Boo-hoo, how in the world was I ever supposed to guess in a million years that George W. Bush would be incapable of democratizing a region he has zero understanding of? Waah, maybe I should write about futuristic eco-gadgets instead. . .”