Thomas Friedman on Egypt's 'Martyrs for Democracy'

In his 1999 book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman described the tug-of-war between globalization and tradition. Most cultures, he explained, were torn between a yearning for prosperity (symbolized by shiny new cars) and a deep-rooted sense of identity. That was before 9/11 and the Second Intifada, when the Arab world seemed to veer away from the Lexus and lodge more firmly than ever into the knotty branches of the olive tree.

The Ideas ReportNow the balance is shifting again. This past winter, Friedman was in Tahrir Square as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered to demand a change in government. He was especially struck by signs he saw around the city glorifying the "martyrs" -- the young protestors who had fallen victim to Mubarak's forces. 

"I've see martyrs against Israel," Friedman reflects in this Aspen discussion with Walter Isaacson. "I've seen martyrs against America. But martyrs for democracy? I've never seen that before." With such fierce passions flaring up in the Middle East, Friedman says, "every single one of these Arab leaders is a dead man walking."

More video from the 2011 Aspen Ideas Festival

Presented by

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What LBJ Really Said About Selma

"It's going to go from bad to worse."

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

More in Global

Just In