While stopping over at the Kaliningrad airport on my way to Antibes from Almaty, I was recently asked a most remarkable question by Evgeny Malchik, executive vice president and crew chief of the McDonald’s in Terminal 5. “Do you want fries with that?” It took a while for the true significance of this question to sink in.Do you want fries with that? In a plug and play world, soon we’ll all be having fries.
Either that, or the fries will be having us.
Hold that thought. Point is, there is no corner of our lives that hasn’t been impacted by what I like to call Globalization 3.0. Take tucking in your daughter at night, done the same way for generations. That is, until now. As Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart told me, “Wal-Mart intends to become a world leader in tucking in children by 2014, or we just don’t deserve to be the planet’s biggest retailer. Tucking in kids is a field we’ve neglected in the past, and not just because we used to lock our night workers in the store.” He gets it.
Natalie, you as my daughter know about these developments better than anyone. So I’ll address this to you.
Let me start by saying, Natalie, that I’m a little disappointed you haven’t become a leader in green technology in this household. As I look around your bedroom, I see you haven’t switched to biofuels and wind power the way Denmark did long ago. This is not sustainable. End of story. Full stop.
You see, in a flat world, we have options. Believe it or not, Natalie, your mother and I have been talking about replacing you and your sister with lower cost, lower carbon-footprint daughters from China and India. I like to call them Daughters 2.0. You can pick them up at the Shanghai airport, next to the Cinnabon in Terminal B. As usual, Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, is ahead of the curve. He has three or four of these kids in each of his homes.
“Zheng, Jibao, and Pijiu are plug and play, no tuck-in required. Hate to say it, but they’re twice as efficient as my American children,” says Immelt. “All these insourced kids need is some Vitamin Water and a couple of soda crackers, and they’re off assembling motherboards in the guest bedroom. These kids are green, they’re sustainable, they’re what GE needs to be in the 21st century.” He gets it, all right.
So Natalie, what’s your take-away here? You might move up the value chain by getting an engineering degree instead of playing with that Dora the Explorer stuff. And frankly, you might spend a little less time pouting next time I forget your birthday on account of my having to appear on “Davos-wood Squares” with Warren Christopher, Bono, Henry Kissinger, and Phyllis Diller. Think about that, or you may find yourself replaced by little Su-Ling or Indrani. Because we can do that. Got it?
But Natalie is a (Pentium!) chip off the old block, full of her own fresh insights about today’s flattened world. I should have seen it coming.
“Dad, that is so Globalization 3.0. In today’s pancake world, locally based daddies just aren’t the necessity they used to be. Fact is, I already called the tuck-in center in Bangalore, and Nandeen Nilekani, CEO of InfoSys, read me a Dr. Seuss book that I preselected on their website, and he did it with a pretty good American accent. He wished me good luck with my math test tomorrow, and he texted me a really awesome biryani recipe. Make no mistake: Nandeen Nilekani gets it. Frankly, your role in the parenting value-chain is starting to look a little precarious. This is the age of Bedtime 4.0. We’re not in Kansas anymore. End of story. Adios. May I have what I like to call a glass of water? Goodnight.”
Well! On a certain level, I have to hand it to my daughter: the kid gets it. At least she understands Globalization 4.0, even if our federal government doesn’t—and maybe never will. But there’s one big thing my daughter Natalie doesn’t get: security. As master of the house in a flattened world—Globalization 4.0!—I’m responsible for household security.
Sorry, but I can’t have a kid smarting off to me like that without inviting another terrorist attack.
As I told President Obama over lunch, daughters are a lot like Sunni Muslims. (And vice versa!) When you tuck them in, you can’t just do it with a Big Bird puppet on your left hand. You’ve got to have Dick Cheney at your right shoulder, tapping an aluminum baseball bat, muttering softly, “Time. For. Bed.” Which one of those three words don’t you understand, Malia? Time. For. Bed. What’s that, Sasha? Come again? ’Cause if your princess doll wants its polystyrene head to stay on, I better see some increased horizontalization on the mattress and hear some snoring. Fast.
Does Obama get it? We had all better hope so. Because frankly it doesn’t matter how well I tuck you in if you’re not willing to be tucked in yourselves. Hey, Afghans and Iraqis: I hope you’re listening. If you’re busy resisting our authority with the aid of social networking sites like Facebook and jihad.com, no amount ofGoodnight Moon, lullabies, or drone attacks will help you get to beddie-bye. This is not complicated. I want all your bedrooms to be a peaceful, tolerant region of this interconnected world. Hey, wake up, I’m talking to you. Because ultimately this is your bedroom. Your country. Do you want it to prosper? Or do you want to get strafed by unmanned aircraft for the next three generations? Because we can do that. The choice is yours. Now sleep well—and do you want fries with that?
—as told to Chase Madar
Thomas L. Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at the New York Times and author of such bestselling books as The World is Flat and Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York.
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