Thomas Friedman Finally Gets It (Kind of)

May 16, 2011

In Thomas Friedman’s latest piece he laments the Arab Spring may not be. After some mumbo jumbo building a castle in the sky argument based on a protest sign a friend of his noticed on TV, he concedes:

“But that also explains that pit in the stomach. These Arab regimes have been determined to prevent any civil society or progressive parties from emerging under their rule. So when these regimes break at the top, the elevator goes from the palace straight to the mosque. There is nothing else in between — no legitimate parties or institutions.”;

Oh yeah, that. Even if Arabs were interested in Democracy where were they going to learn about it? According to a UN study, the number of books annually translated into Arabic is one fifth that of Greece.

This does not connote a society with deep interest in foreign ideas.

The Kalima project seeks to end all that. Founded in 2007 with backing from the guy running Abu Dhabi it has already translated an astonishing nine books!!

Here are the candidate titles:

I’m pretty sure Thomas Friedman’s Libyan friend speaks English, and I’m also pretty sure he has as much similarity with the average man in Libya as does my cousin Vassili in Athens. Ideas such as Democracy don’t spontaneously become accepted canon. They require nurturing as in the course of Western Civilization or unapologetic military occupation as with Japan and Germany. There may be another way, but I don’t know what it is.

Oh, and if you don’t believe me about the number of books translated into Arabic, take this quote directly from Kalima’s site.

· Spain translates in one year the number of books that have been translated into Arabic in the past 1000 years and

· For every one million Arabs only one book is translated into Arabic each year. (That’s 250 books a year)

I think they’d know.



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