"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Friedman Update

A Yemen-based reader, anonymously offering this perfect reaction to the Friedman post.

Nor did I expect to find civil society organizations here staffed with young American volunteers — and, in the case of The Yemen Observer, an English-language newspaper, a whole newsroom full of them. All I could do was look around at these American college students and wonder: “Do your parents know you’re here?” They just laughed.

as one of the "young college students" that was in the room with him at the yemen observer office (i am youngish, not a college student, none of us are currently in school...) i thought you might like to know that the anecdote you mentioned abover NEVER HAPPENED. he never asked us if our parents knew we were in yemen...we never laughed.

Now, I suppose it is possible that Friedman asked that question to other civil society organizations, but if that is the case then this is some seriously bad wording.  I know when I read it I was picturing the Observer offices.

This tangentially reminds me of one of my favorite Friedman anecdotes.  I was studying at the American University of Cairo and he came there to give a talk about globalization and his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree.   He was talking about how everything is modern and new and how global Cairo is, and to prove his point he mentioned how he had just rode the train down from Alexandria and all he could hear was the constant buzzing of cell phones.

Well, thought I, I had also ridden that train*, and I didn't hear any cell phones.  But then, I wasn't in first class or anything.  There were chickens on the train.  And I am not trying to present myself as a rugged traveler or anything like that- just one on a modest budget.  To me that perfectly captured Friedman's problems- taking a small subset that you experience and extrapolating it to create a model of the whole.  Hell, he wrote an entire book based on an off-hand remark he heard from a tech guy in India.

I won't focus too much on Friedman here.  By now he is pretty much fish in a barrel.  But I appreciate the post, and the chance to reminisce.

*I want to say I was on the same train on the same day, but it has been a decade** now, and I really can't say for certain.