The World is Flat ~ Thomas L. Friedman
On August 22, 2008, Thomas Friedman, speaking at a United Way conference in Greater New Hampshire made this statement in reference to his definition of the flat world and globalization, “whatever can be done will be done…the only question for you is will it be done by you or to you?’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oM2BguxRSyY) In reading chapters 15 and 17 of “The World is Flat” I would offer the question what kind(s) of leadership will it take for it to be done for the global common good?
These two chapters offer a fair amount of detail outlining the circumstances around 9/11 and the fears and insecurities that came as a result of the attacks on the US. Friedman points out that when your approach is out of fear, you risk losing your ability to be imaginative about what can be done. You risk forfeiting your ability to collaborate and problem solve for the common good. I believe that operating out of fear, is actually the opposite of falling and staying in love with the work as defined by Kouzes and Posner in the last chapter of the “Leadership Challenge.” Operating out of fear causes you to be suspicious of everything around you; you retreat inside and lose out on creativity and forward thinking. Hope is also lost. Operating out of love (and I acknowledge the discomfort with the term love) allows an openness to innovation and possibilities. Hope is gained. Friedman states that “there are two ways to flatten the world. One is to use your imagination to bring everyone up to the same level, and the other is to use your imagination to bring everyone down to the same level” (p.613). Can you site personal examples of when fear or love has affected your ability to bridge cultural (broadly defined i.e., language, ethnic, or class etc.) divides?
Friedman also talks about the too sick, the too disempowered and the too frustrated. These terms refer to a level of consciousness about the globalization and the notion of a flattened world. These terms are also about inequity of access to the opportunities that are afforded though a flattened world. The term “too sick” is a literal reference to people devastated by the ravage effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in certain parts of the world. It also refers to the illnesses brought on by extreme poverty and broken governments where there is no system or resources to connect to the flattening world; in essence these are the areas where the world is not flat and there is no consciousness of or connection to the technological advancements. The too disempowered refers to people who are keenly aware of the advancements that are around them but there is an inability to contribute to or benefit from the flatness in any meaningful way. The too frustrated, according to Friedman, are those feeling humiliated and threatened by the suddenness of the flattened world and their exposure to the entire world; the frustration can also arise from anger at their lack of having a voice. This is where some of the debate over globalization, for whose benefit, at whose expense comes in. This is also where some anti-American sentiment can arise in reference to the view that Americans are not always open to viewing the world from other perspectives. Here I will ask you to comment on globalization, the advancements and breakthroughs that not every one benefits from, the effects on the environment when more people can and do participate, and the implications that being a developed country means being like Americans.