Tom Friedman: Metaphors are the Perfect Metaphor for Mideast

friedmanDistinguished New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s most recent column has made waves around the world with its assertion that “metaphors are the perfect–indeed, the only–metaphor for the Mideast.”

According to the Times’ columnist, the only way to make sense of the Mideast is by considering it a metaphor of a metaphor.

“You know, what strikes me as really neat, but also as pretty confounding, is that the solution is, as it so often is, one of perspective, or, in other words, looking at it, the problem, differently.

“Since the ‘palm-tree-paradigm’ shift,” Friedman wrote in his Sunday column, “when, as I wrote in 2008, the world understood that palm trees cast shadows, and shadows, which provide shade, are really an indication of just how tall the Mideast is, we’ve come a long way in our thinking.”

“But that was 2008,” Friedman goes onto argue. “Since then, we’ve learned from little Malawa Jamailika, who today runs a farm where he uses funds collected from trading in Israeli soda cans at Palestinian recycling centers to finance a watermelon farm that the world has changed–considerably. While in 2008, this would have looked, and sounded, impossible, today we see that it indicates a profound shift in the Mideast from a simile-dependent region to a total metaphor-zone.”

Friedman goes onto show how applying the metaphor of a metaphor to conflicts around the world “we can not only end sectarian strife, like that facing the Arabs and the Israelis, but also crime, poverty, and even economic scarcity, making alarm clocks a thing of the past.”

Friedman’s comments have sparked a firestorm with different sides lining up to offer their spin on his new “Like a Metaphor” theory, which, incidentally, is also the title of his forthcoming book.

Both Palestinian and Israeli representatives have called the metaphor-as-metaphor thesis bogus but that hasn’t deterred Friedman, who told The Falafel from his mansion in upstate New York that, “These people just don’t get it. If they one day have the courage to look at the Mideast not as a real place but as if it’s a real place, they must just find peace.”

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