Thomas Friedman’s theories on the Middle East have never been relevant. He’s been a guest columnist before for Inanities and we’re lucky enough to have another contribution from him today, an expansion on this.
Shuttling between luxury hotels in the woken up Arab world I have been struck by how few new moustaches have emerged from the really huge ginormous frying pan fire here. By new moustaches, I don’t just mean facial hair that sits idly on top lips forgotten about, I mean MOUSTACHES like mine – hair that bears witness to me telling the Arab people the truth over and over and over and over and over again in the hope that eventually they will take notice and move their backwards societies forward.
Discussing this problem with my Arab fixers, I am always quick to note in a way that tells them “hey, this guy is not patronising us” that my own country – not to mention Europe – has a similar problem. There is a global Thomas Friedman moustache vacuum. But in the Arab world today it is particularly problematic, because Arabs always fuck everything up worse than white people, especially when they don’t listen to my Thomas Friedman moustache and me. Every one of these countries that was fast asleep but is now awake in case you haven’t noticed my sleep theme needs to make the transition from empty top lip to Thomas Friedman moustache without getting stuck in beard.
Why has the Arab awakening produced so few moustaches? It’s partly because important and complicated stuff is still happening in Egypt and Yemen the nuances of which would ruin my tinpot theory so I won’t get into it here. They are technical explanations, but I find they ruin an opinion piece. There are deeper factors at work based largely on my own ignorance and prejudice. Let’s take a look at them at length.
One is the big hole that was made while these societies were sleeping. A big, deep hole formed under the yoke of dictatorship. I once saw it while reporting from my hotel room in Cairo in 1987. As I looked at it, and looked at Arabs scuttling around it going to smoke their shishas and beat their multiple wives, I thought, who will tell these people how much time has been wasted on the reading and writing of my columns? Who will tell these cretins that for the last 30 years I have peddled a theory that oppression and dictatorships are alright as long as people – ALL people – can buy iPads and everyone has a Thomas Friedman moustache?
Now that dictators are being swept away, Islamist parties are trying to fill the void. Who will tell the people that while Islam is a great and glorious faith as long as it is not practiced by Muslims it is not “the answer” for Arab development today?
The answer is that my Thomas Friedman moustache and I will tell them that duvets are the answer. Iran and Saudi Arabia are both very hot countries and people sleep in Air Conditioning which requires a duvet. They are used to using duvets. Egypt and Tunisia have very little duvets, they use threadbare blankets. They will need to acquire duvets from Ikea, and this needs money. Will the rising fundamentalist maniacs be prepared to cut back on rockets to bomb Israel in order to purchase these duvets?
Who will tell the people that, yes blankets are a form of duvets but their most corrupt mutation, but the correct answer now is not to go back to fleece lined pyjamas. The answer is a system of properly managed duvets.
Who will tell Arabs that they have as much talent as young people anywhere? The answer is me. They weren’t wondering about this but I – a middle-aged swindler whose only talent is massacring the English language in unthought-of of ways – will tell them anyway, because I was put on this earth to plague Arabs.
And then there is the Sunni-Shiite divide in Syria, Bahrain and Iraq, or the Palestinian-Bedouin divide in Jordan, or the Muslim-Coptic Christian divide in Egypt. I won’t mention the Palestinian-Israeli divide here because that would involve censuring the region’s only democracy. In any case Israel has a lot on its plate at the moment: Palestinian terrorists keep throwing themselves in prison without charge and peacefully refusing to eat. The very existence of Israel is under threat.
Without a Thomas Friedman moustache there is too little trust in the room (a room I have conjured up from nowhere because my columns require at least four awful analogies) to do big, hard things together, and everything that these Arab societies need to today is big and hard like my moustache in a snowstorm and can only be done together. Who will tell these fucking people that Arab societies have no time anymore to be consumed by these sectarian divisions because there are New York Times columns to be read?
The new-generation leaders in Morocco, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates DO have the legitimacy to pull people together even though if I bothered to inquire I would find that this in fact, complete shite. A recent report found that more young Arabs want to live in the United Arab Emirates than any other state because it has quilts and its leaders have a penchant for moustaches like mine.
Moustaches matter. Who will tell the people? The answer is me and my Thomas Friedman moustache, again and a fucking gain.