Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mexican Geometry

There was a book fair yesterday in the town's main square, where I saw for the first time the Spanish version of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. I haven't read it in either language - if I want to know what cab drivers around the world are thinking, I'll ask them myself - but the cover is pretty amusing. Maybe the book addresses this, but it seems to me that there's a difference between "flat" and "cube-shaped," isn't there? Or is Friedman's thesis that globalization has made the world a three-dimensional square with perfectly sharp, crisp edges?


radosh said...

The cover is no less accurate than the premise of the book. As Matt Taibi noted a while back,

"The book's genesis is conversation Friedman has with Nandan Nilekani, the CEO of Infosys. Nilekani causally mutters to Friedman: "Tom, the playing field is being leveled." To you and me, an innocent throwaway phrase—the level playing field being, after all, one of the most oft-repeated stock ideas in the history of human interaction. Not to Friedman. Ten minutes after his talk with Nilekani, he is pitching a tent in his company van on the road back from the Infosys campus in Bangalore:

As I left the Infosys campus that evening along the road back to Bangalore, I kept chewing on that phrase: "The playing field is being leveled."

What Nandan is saying, I thought, is that the playing field is being flattened... Flattened? Flattened? My God, he's telling me the world is flat!

This is like three pages into the book, and already the premise is totally fucked. Nilekani said level, not flat. The two concepts are completely different. Level is a qualitative idea that implies equality and competitive balance; flat is a physical, geographic concept that Friedman, remember, is openly contrasting—ironically, as it were—with Columbus's discovery that the world is round.

Except for one thing. The significance of Columbus's discovery was that on a round earth, humanity is more interconnected than on a flat one. On a round earth, the two most distant points are closer together than they are on a flat earth. But Friedman is going to spend the next 470 pages turning the "flat world" into a metaphor for global interconnectedness. Furthermore, he is specifically going to use the word round to describe the old, geographically isolated, unconnected world."

Maybe it's better in Spanish.

Burro Hall said...

At least he got the invasion of Iraq right.

Anonymous said...

Whaddya mean he got the invasion right? He was all for it. Oh, I guess that's what you mean. I protest. (Btw, the verification word looks like ''molotov.'' You wouldn't be a terrorist, would you? Maybe we ought to invade Queretaro just in case.)