Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thomas Friedman and the Great Man Theory of History

Thomas Friedman recently wrote an article stating that Obama's racial make-up and religious ancestry are the root causes of the turmoil in the Middle east today. According to Friedman, people have decided to fight their governments because Obama is black and his father was Muslim. Here is what Friedman actually wrote:

Americans have never fully appreciated what a radical thing we did — in the eyes of the rest of the world — in electing an African-American with the middle name Hussein as president. I’m convinced that listening to Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech — not the words, but the man — were more than a few young Arabs who were saying to themselves: “Hmmm, let’s see. He’s young. I’m young. He’s dark- skinned. I’m dark-skinned. His middle name is Hussein. My name is Hussein. His grandfather is a Muslim. My grandfather is a Muslim. He is president of the United States. And I’m an unemployed young Arab with no vote and no voice in my future.” I’d put that in my mix of forces fueling these revolts.

Over the last few years Friedman has pretended to be some kind world authority because he's actually been somewhere other than Toronto and Cancun.

Well, I've been in 26 countries on 6 continents. I've been to many countries 20 or more times each.

I can tell you with complete certainty that Friedman has learned nothing in his travels around the world.

Thomas Friedman is trapped in the early 20th century "great man" theory of history. Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Roosevelt, Kennedy... "Great" men (not good men, but powerful men) changed our destiny. According to that view, a "Great Man" is the necessary catalyst for dramatic change.

Friedman desperately wants Obama to be the next "great man" who changes history.

The current reality is very different. The revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East are based on the availability of open and uncensored information. The same kind of open and uncensored information that Friedman and the mainstream American media views as a threat.

The Middle East has a very young population. They are on Facebook, Twitter, email, various discussion groups, and SMS (cell-phone text messages) interacting with their friends and relatives living in America and other western countries, as well as new acquaintances that they met on the internet. They also watch cable stations like CNBC International, CNN, and Al Jazeera. They know more about the world around them than any generation that proceeded them.

These people can actually see our freedom. They don't hate our freedom like Rudy Giuliani and other neo-cons believe. They are envious of it. What they hate are their own rulers who deny them this freedom.

In any societal disruption, changes in the environment build slowly. Eventually, those changes reach a tipping point and then radical change seems to happen overnight. This is what we are seeing in the Middle East today. The change that the internet brought to their countries has finally reached the tipping point. As a result, the people have awoken and the dictators are falling one by one.

I do agree with Friedman on one point -- we are only seeing the beginning of this revolution. There are dozens of tyrannies in the middle east and Africa that will eventually fall as part of this information awakening.

That is a good thing for them and eventually the world. I am glad to be here to see it.

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