Thomas Friedman, Please Read What I'm About to Say

June 14, 2018

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In 1999 a book came out that permanently changed my perspective on the world. Written by NY Times multiple Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman, it very clearly and forcefully introduced the concept of globalization and the techtonic shifts that the entire world would experience going forward. The World Is Flat as a masterpiece that gave a wonderful and potentially incredible blueprint for the US in a globalized economy. So I'm an unapologetic globalist. My ambition is to live on all seven continents. And I don't mean live in the "I studied abroad and spent 3 months in Venice" living, I mean the kind of living where you spend an Olympic cycle - 4 years in a location, enough time to start dreaming in that language. I was pretty excited about future generations evolving towards a life that is often depicted in science fiction movies.

 

If you think about cinematic representation of the human population's future, it posits two common themes. The first idea is that there will be an existential crisis that could result in the complete expungement of human beings -- a catastrophic global event that manifests itself in disease, aliens, our destruction of the environment, schizophrenic climate change, and yes, even sharknados. The second concept that is very common is the creation of a political unit that is a result of collaboration of many different countries and populations all working together in relative peace and harmony to ultimately prevail. Go watch a movie that is set in the future, and you'll see in the crew white, latin, black, and occasionally the minor supporting role of Asians. All represented, fairly or unfairly, in mankind's struggle for survival.

 

Given all of our technological achievement thus far and the permanent intersection of nations into a truly enmeshed economic system, we should be making positive strides towards global collaboration, right? And to be fair, there are many instances of multinational efforts in research and development to be sure. But I am starting to see some cracks in the future international coalitions that are so optimistically and positively portrayed in movies. Some of you will say, well, of course, that's Hollywood, what would they know? And I would suggest that Hollywood has shaped a lot of our development since the beginning of moving pictures and the next time you walk through an automatic sliding door into a store, you can thank science fiction for that. 

 

I used to live in Barcelona. I liked it when I could call it Barcelona, Spain. But with the separatist movement and the push towards Catalan independence, who knows what it will be affiliated with. Spain is not a natural country like Japan or one with stable ethnic solidarity like Mexico. It was a political creation of the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile. You might remember their first king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, as they sponsored Columbus in his exploration of the New World. I was under the hope and impression that when Spain entered the European Union, all the smaller regions of Spain would give up their quixotic quest for independence. Galicia, Catalunya, and the Basque country are hell bent on having their own identities. 

 

The Brexit is another step in weakening the EU at what I believe is the absolute worst time. You have 2 economic titans starting to wake up in China and India. I do not see Wales winning the battle against these juggernauts. I steadfastly maintain that the viability of European brands and living is to collaborate, not isolate. NAFTA is becoming increasingly more unpopular in conservative circles in the United States and disrupting it has become a political platform that plays into populist nationalism that has swept the US. If it were up to me, I'd negotiate a North American Union and open the borders between Canada, US, and Mexico. Because whether you know it or not, we've been at war with China economically for quite some time now, and we're getting our fucking asses kicked. We're helping China win. Tariffs are not the solution, creating new markets and comparative advantages by being the first ones to the table is. Friedman talked about four cornerstones for our survival in a flat world. Those were nanotechnology, biotechnology, alternative energy, and internet porn. The Chinese and Indians still make lousy porn, thank God. 

 

Living in Texas, there is a growing population that is becoming more and more interested in seceding and being its own country again. The number of examples of the desire to become micro-nationalistic are increasing. The pragmatic in me asks why? My German car might have been manufactured in Spartanburg, SC. Actually it was made in South Africa, but that only goes to prove my point. Outsourcing has made all of us connected in a way that is hard to remove. I would say the absolute most un-American thing you could possibly do is to shop at the star spangled awesomeness of Wal-Mart. Why? Well, all you're doing is making China and the shareholders rich. And you're also supporting and endorsing a corporation that refuses to make employees full time so that they can enjoy benefits like health care. That's a topic that requires a whole lot more discussion than this. My point is that for me (and I believe billions of others) globalization has made my life much, much better. I'm typing on a Japanese computer that is charging my Korean cell phone. I have whisky from Scotland sitting in a glass made in Luxembourg. I'm wearing German soccer shorts made in Indonesia. And I'm eating food that came from Mexico. I think most people would say that I'm just typing on a computer, drinking alcohol, wearing shorts, and eating an avocado. Because really, that's all it is.

 

When I joined the Korean American Adoptees (KAD) page, I thought it was a cool concept. It was a group that had members that experienced a very unique cirmcstance and had 5,000 members! All coming together under one umbrella! How cool is that! Then I was invited to join a different KAD group, this one being much more conservative and the first rule was to swear allegiance and fealty to the guy sitting in the White House right now. I vey quickly declined that offer. There is a KAD Women's group, a KAD LGBTQIA (I don't have the current DSM to fill in all the new letters, don't protest my bigotry, it's on my to-do list), even a KADs Gone Wild. I swear that is true, even I couldn't make something like that up. Honest. So I think this community is a perfect example of what the current global trend is. It's not to unify and collaborate, it is to isolate. The thinking that prevails is "You are different than me. I don't like difference. I will retreat to a safe space where everyone thinks like me or looks like me or acts like me." What a complete crock of shit. We will never advance, evolve, learn, or defeat the asteroid because we're too busy figuring out whether our own little micro-group should participate or not. 

 

I believe that it is important to have an identity. I am proudly an American, but I believe that I am more proudly a global citizen and that my strongest interest is in uniting, not dividing. MY goal is to celebrate our shared values and goals instead of isolating and criticizing that which makes you different. I have many conservative friends. I have many strongly Christian friends. I have many friends who think the best idea for gun control is to shoot all liberal scum like me. But we're still members of the same community and we have found a way to exist in a friendly manner and I believe a respectful one at that. The problems we face now are microscopic to the ones coming towards our future generations. And I am not very optimistic of humanity's ability to survive it because we as a Catalan don't want to work with an Andalusian. 

 

My dream one day is to see a unified Korean peninsula. I hope it is one that follows the South Korean economic model because I'm a capitalist American pig. But I would like to see a unified Korea just be part of a broader Asian community that is part of an even bigger global one. And I'd like to see the global community take top priority. Until interstellar space travel is a viable option. At which point, all of you fuckers are on your own, I'm starting my own country of rugby obsessed wine snobs. I'm sure there is a KAD page for even that. 

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