Given the hectic pace of life these days, I suppose it should come as no surprise that we Americans are inexorably loosing our ability to think for ourselves. Social critics have long sought a definitive explanation for this phenomenon, but have so far failed to come up with anything beyond a working hypothesis. The prevailing arguments tend to fall into one of three basic categories. They are:
a.) Americans are too busy to make sense of the complex geopolitical realities of the modern world;
b.) Americans are too stupid to make sense of the complex geopolitical realities of the modern
c.) Americans are too stupid to know they are too stupid to make sense of the complex geopolitical
realities of the modern world.
Being the sort of person who would rather spread the darkness than curse a candle, I have come up with what I believe is a novel antidote to this debilitating condition. I call it the “Designated Thinker” solution.
This ambitious plan calls for each of us to adopt a really, really super-smart celebrity journalist/columnist of our choice to do the heavy mental lifting for us. (I like to pick mine from the Brahman stables at the New York Times, but hey, to each his own.) In my case, I rely on the prophetic and erudite visionary Thomas L. Friedman to pre-digest the steady stream of unpronounceable Arabic names and crazy-quilt geography coming out of the Middle East, and present it to me in an easy-to-comprehend format along the lines of Schoolhouse Rock. You know, something like:
America’s the greatest, and there isn’t any doubt,
But our choo-choos won’t be chuggin’ if the oil runs out!
Our little Shia brothers are just dyin’ to lend a hand,
But if the Sunnis don’t agree, we’re gonna gobble up their land…
But you get the idea. So let the ditto heads leech off the limbic system of Mr. Limbaugh; I’ll take “Tom Terrific” of the Times any day. Now when somebody questions me about events in Iraq or Iran (or any of those irrational Muslamistic countries) I always answer with, “Well, Thomas Friedman believes that (fill in the blank)”, and boy are they impressed! But you know, the most satisfying part of this symbiotic relationship is that I get to feel like a real intellectual heavy-weight (without having to engage in any of the time-consuming bother of processing all that information myself), while Tom gets to flog enough copies of his books to comfortably cradle a nest egg the size of Qatar.
Imagine my delight, then, when I happened to catch my surrogate cerebrum on the cable news networks the other night. Apparently, he had called an impromptu news conference to announce his startling discovery of a gigantic flaming gas-ball in outer space that seemed to be orbiting our disk-shaped planet. Friedman first noticed this star-like object (which he has taken the liberty of naming “the Sun”), when the intense luminosity emanating from the incendiary sphere temporarily blinded him, causing him to fall clean out of the saddle of the Tactical Nuclear Cruise Missile on which he was riding, Major Cong-style, toward Damascus. When asked by reporters to identify the likely origin of this gaseous body, Mr. Friedman would only say that all would be revealed to us in over-simplified form in his upcoming best-seller, The Sun is Fat and So is My Head.
This latest (and perhaps most profound) revelation to issue forth from the pen of my erstwhile muse comes on the heels of two other monumentally important discoveries made by Friedman earlier this year.
The first of these was his heroic (and ultimately successful) effort to pinpoint the precise location of his own derriere. As he described this defining moment in an NYT exclusive, “My head had become irretrievably lodged in a dark and malodorous place, but when I instinctively reached ahead of me with both hands, I was able to grasp my elusive posterior with surprising ease. Curiously enough, it had been right in front of my face the entire time! Who knew?…”
Friedman’s other recent journalistic coup, of course, was his scooping of the entire Western World last August with the breaking news that the invasion of Iraq was not such a good idea, after all.
I wish I’d gotten an Oxford education! All I could wrangle was Chico State…