My son stole my Kindle the other day and ordered a bunch of books because the button looked good. Not much more to add to that story, aside from he’s a digital maniac and I still like to read. So, I went back and looked at what I have read in the past decade and what stuck. As many of you know, I’m still not quite done with my college degree… but I’m still an enthusiastic learner and read a book or two a month. That’s a must-do for any leader who is looking to keep his mind fresh and his thoughts topical.
But there are also some books that I constantly refer to, reread, and recommend. Some of them are great learning on outright effectiveness, others highlight specific processes, a few deal with venturing, others on triumph… and death. Anyways, I think the body of work is indicative of where my values lie. And perhaps my un-nerving ability to make anything into an analogy. So here’s my top list, and why.
Who for Hiring: Great book and a good 30 minute read on spotting, attracting, motivating, and retaining A Players. I currently source a least 5 candidates per month for our business by using his techniques, which boil down to simply listening to what people’s goals are and talking about their strengths and weaknesses. It has helped me attract, retain and motivate hi skilled employees in a brutally tight market.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People:Great book and process on being which was originally the senior thesis of Steven Covey. I had an EO retreat on this last week and reconnected with these powerful techniques for listening, problem solving, goal setting, and self-discipline. It has helped me to craft a mission statement, honor commitments across all roles, and focus on what is most important.
Ownership Thinking: A new one on the scene, and a good read on how people in a business think: like employees or like owners. Obviously, the leverage comes when people focus on the latter. It is just beginning to help me focus the team on what the true company priorities are and why building value in the enterprise creates a positive effect across the whole base.
Flow: The Science of Optimal Experience: A simple yet effective way to find happiness through a combination of challenge and skills acquisition. It has helped me reframe the debate on what we are doing and how we feel about it, making everything a quest for “the way” and a game that never stops. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it never gets old. It is the definition of happiness, for me at least.
Into Thin Air: Another epic adventure that played out as several teams attempted Everest, and a few dozen almost got killed. A lot of lessons to be learned about provisioning, planning, and the effects of elevation on human capacity and performance. There are so many similarities to start-ups, except perhaps frostbite and death. It has helped me to express the entrepreneur’s journey as one in which people join the expedition at different times, but very few actually ascend the peak, safely. It also teaches the lesson it is better to own a part of the expedition than to force your way above an altitude you can effectively handle.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom An epic by any stretch of the imagination, and required reading for every US Army grunt assigned to the MEA theatre in the past two wars. T.E.Lawrence has a lot to say about strategy, preservation of resources, and use of the mighty pen. The fact that it is going on 100 years in print, and was rewritten from memory when his notes were left on a train… says something. This book has helped me to imagine events in great scale and over longer periods than most people think. It also has inspired me to live with minimal drag, and a few very big objectives.
The Art of Racing in the Rain. A touching book, and actually not one you’d expect to see here. But there is something to be learned. Things are not always as they seem, you can effect change in seemingly locked in lives, and good guys do get second chances. It has helped me persevere in situations where I just could not imagine how to exit, and then imagine the perfect exit.
This is a popular post from my prior blog, revived for Miles to Go…I originally called it Herbert Sharpless Spencer and the 1,400 mile crawl across France. It’s true testament to the family traditions of gritty determination, hyperbolic story-telling, and wandering around aimlessly in the French countryside.
Legends die hard in the Spencer family, especially when they are based oceans away and told by grandparents that are beyond questioning. A trip through the French countryside with my father clarified a lot, and embarrassed no-one.
Herbert Sharpless Spencer grew up in a coal mine in central Pennsylvania, as this was all that was left by our forebears. By the time he was of an age he could lie about his age, he volunteered for what appeared to be a much cushier job: rifleman in the US Army’s Big Red One commanded by General Pershing. His proficiency hitting squirrels (for dinner!) at 50 yards with a .22 rifle qualified him for the job, no doubt. Compared to the strip mine, it must have seemed like a nice trade. Obviously never out of the county- let alone the country- Herbert arrived in St. Malo, France in 1918 and was promptly sent to the Argonne Forest to an area called St. Mihiel, where the Germans had been terrifying the French by their proximity to Paris. (Actually, :30 by car for us, but we were flying.) It was warfare at its worst, stagnant lines of barbed wire and trench lasting for tens if not scores of miles uninterrupted.
So Herbert is in France for not longer than a week, stationed in St. Mihiel for not much longer than a few days. He hears the all clear, rises out of the trench, and promptly takes four bullets in the legs, losing one completely and seriously maiming the other. He is given up for dead. But, of course, he isn’t. By his telling, despite what must have been excruciating pain, he bound his (last) leg with his shirt, fashioned two crutches out of fence posts and started walking as best he could.
He finds a stream, drinks profusely from the collapsible army issue cup (now a Spencer talisman) and somehow finds the will and strength to save himself. Powerful force, that self-preservation. Downstream, he happened upon a farm house, and mustered the nerve to knock on the door. It opened, and he came to a tough realization: he spoke no French. True to form, the woman spoke no English, and shut him out. I’ve been treated rudely and felt out of place in some far away places in my life, but nothing like that. And no, the French aren’t usually that bad. But Herbert kept walking to a monastery he called St. Michel and somehow pulled through.
I had been to St. Michel a few times, on the Normandy coast a few hours drive outside Paris. I had shared those experiences with my Dad, and was able to bring him there recently with my publicist Greg and his Dad Paul. The place is glorious, as I imagine has been for 1,000 years. It’s also too far for a recently maimed rifleman to crawl to if he starts from the Argonne forest, even if he did start in 1918. My dad came to this conclusion on his own. “Perhaps there’s another St. Michel”, I suggested.
We spent the next week looking, with stops at the beaches of Normandy and the streets of Paris, just the four of us finding precious experiences together and generally enjoying ourselves immensely. (view short film). The culmination was our journey was the Argonne Forest and a field outside a town called St. Mihiel where 86 years prior my grandfather was shown no great respect by a German machine gunner. After a picnic (Dad is now a pate aficionado) on the banks of the Meuse where Herbert may well have dipped for drink we made our way into town to inquire about. It was a sleepy place, not to much changed from back in the day, I imagine. We were directed toward the old town, where amongst classic French row houses and walled gardens, we discover a monastery. Apparently, it was the Army hospital during the war, and was adjacent to a wonderful church. The name, of course: St. Michel.
Herbert Spencer had crawled across town, not across France. But his wounds were real, as was his valor. I was moved to see his son and my father piece it all together. It was magic.
While you’ll have to read to the bottom for the whole truth, let me at least explain partially: it was excellent training for starting and growing companies. Really. Here is what I used over the next 20 years from what I learned in that one game:
The crowd is mostly noise: forget about them. So many startups compete in crowded fields, with others releasing news and versions day after day. While it’s good to be in tune, an entrepreneur has to be about supreme focus on the task at hand. Nothing else matters.
The break sets it all up- that’s the team and launch. The entire DNA of the table emerges with the first big shot- the break. Same goes for the launch in entrepreneurs. Get it right and give it your all. Otherwise, the table is a mess and takes more effort to clean up.
Know the speed of the table- market. Nothing ruins a well executed shot than a misread of the felt. Rollers become bouncers, or never make it to the pocket. You have to know how fast a surface you are playing on, in either game.
Miracle shots also come with consequences. It’s amazing how many wild triple bank shots present themselves in any nine ball game. But they are low percentage shots. Worse still, they may leave your opponent an easy angle to finish you off, then and there. Calculate the odds, both of the shot, and of the consequences.
Momentum is real. Make a bank shot, a lefty and a combo and you begin to feel you are invincible. You see the table with possibility, and your stroke has a confidence that could achieve anything. It feeds on itself, and it is certainly picked up by your opponent.
Think ahead: making the 3 ball does not mean you are in position for the 4. Ah, yes, the essence of nine ball is actually the next shot. Players and entrepreneurs both have to look down the table at what could be, and how their next move positions them.
Don’t think ahead too much: getting a good leave for the 4 ball only counts if you sink the 3 ball. And the reverse corollary to the rule above is: think longer term, but don[t forget to execute on the little things right before you. Otherwise, there will be no next shot.
Nothing counts as much as the last ball: run eight in a row and scratch and you lose anyways. Funny how people can stroke smoothly and confidently on 1-8 and suddenly look twice at an easy 9 ball shot. Miss and the opponent suddenly has you over a barrel in a way uncommon to the previous 8 shots. For entrepreneurs, this might be analogous to the exit: blow that and it’s a re-rack, plus probably a waste of several of your best years.
Be a creative problem solver: there are more than one ways to sink the shot. My game really improved when I began playing on several levels, mostly to include banks, combos and the occasional jumper shot. But basically, this is looking at a set of circumstances (the balls and their table position) and figuring out the best shot for your abilities and for the odds of leaving nothing good for your opponent. I also shoot left and righty (which most people don’t know and makes me good money on side bets). And the last comment is likely safe because pool players don’t read many blogs!
Don’t confuse luck and skill. I had a little of the latter, and for a moment a ton of the former. In any case, don’t stay too long at any table. Knowing when to walk is a life saver.
Shake hands and be a gentleman, win or lose. Perhaps most importantly, the handshake acknowledges that you won or lost fair and square, and were a sportsman throughout. This plays equally in nine ball and entrepreneurship. Get used to it; you are going to lose a few. Handle yourself with dignity and learn a few lessons for the next game.
*And now, the technicalities: Janet Lee was hosting the Brunswick table at the Chicago Housewares show at McCormick Center, in the mid 90′s which is a large exhibition hall (ok, everyone else was there for blenders and hooks!). The fact I was walking the floor looking for companies (and eventually found a deal I did there) should not get in the way of a good story. I have lots of bizarre analogies, this is but one.
**She challenged me to ONE GAME and sank a ball on the break. She sank two more before trying a two-banker, perhaps playing to the crowd. In my finest nine ball moment, I sank the next six including the 9 ball for the win. She has gone on to tremendous success as a touring pro, and wants to learn about digital media. Knowing the odds were long I ever would beat her in any rack again as long as I lived, I retired from competitive nine ball that afternoon and used the lessons for angel investing and creating businesses.
I was heartbroken this week as news that the wedding of the century lasted 72 days… Actually, what brought tears to my eyes was that the American public took yet another collective step down the ladder in race to the bottom, and this particular bottom is a big one, if that shot from the New York Post isn’t retouched!
How does anyone assemble such a large group of lazy, nihilist, shallow, hopeless aspirationalists and suck them into actually believing that shallow self-absorbed and dumb as a clogheel is any way to go through life (to quote Judge Smails from Bushwood CC). Oh, and all the while selling them products and services that redefine trashy?
P.T Barnum may have said “sell to the masses, eat with the classes… the Kardashian Empire has somehow gotten Americans to consume endless hours of totally worthless pettiness, appears to be selling them fairly lame clothing (with what is best described as VS syndrome it looked so good on her…), and almost loading all those follower/purchasers into a ridiculous fee loaded credit card. That was finally pulled, as the smell from the fees and interest must have even penetrated the perfumed confines of the Dash boudoir. It seems no one every got poor underestimating the class of the American people.
So truth be told, I don’t mind Kim. She’s pretty. And she is not the first to run the table in the star-infatuation for profit racket.
Elizabeth Taylor carried that type of fascination factor throughout her live, and was no stranger to quickie marriages and headline grabbing affairs. But she actually DID stuff. Decent movies. Ardent support of AIDS victims. Classy as hell fashion. And articulate positions on a variety of issues that concerned our society. On the other side of the spectrum of nothingness, there is Paris Hilton, who is furious she can’t muscle onto a magazine cover lately, having contributed equally as much to society’s table as Kim, to date.
Kim has become the most extreme symbol, so far, in just how low and desperate America’s aspirations are for something better, and how totally devoid too many Americans are these days of the skills and work ethic required to actually earn any of it. That’s the saddest part of this progression, and it won’t stop until we find something better to do with our time. Like developing a skill, or creating something that benefits society, our community, or just a circle of friends. And it will take tuning the crap out of our lives and getting on with something more rewarding and redeeming.
And what’s next for Kim and the value of the throne as Queen of Nothingness? Perhaps the best answer came during lunch with Sam Zell yesterday while he talked about distressed assets: price is the cure for any perceived defect.
Sponsorship for her next wedding, or a ringside seat at the birth of her as-yet-un-announced secret love baby (no doubt conceived during an yet-to-be announced affair while married to her now belatedly-beloved for 72 days) may well fetch less that $17M. How much less and how quickly her price falls depends on how soon America snaps out of it, and moves on to something with meaning.
I’m counting on that happening, but not fast enough.
The Kardashians next season begins November 27th. Plans for her run for the Senate are as yet un-announced…
That about sums up the Assad’s family strategy for dealing the outbreak of “Arab Spring” in Syrian towns as it continues into “who’s next to Fall, this Fall”. I think it is a country worth keeping an eye on, though it is very difficult with limited social media permitted.
Fellow Americans know so very little about the little country wedged between Lebanon and Iraq. I know just enough to be dangerous: my trek through the country with Tad Jones gave us a very unique perspective and continues to be the influence for our singular effort to inform our kin with our in-development play, A Line in the Sand. As we’ve said before, the region may look differently if TE Lawrence used twitter. We have tried piecing together Syria’s history enough to understand its future. But we’ve only been noodling it for five years, while they’ve had centuries to create the puzzle. Here’s a few pieces:
First: Syria is a key domino in one of the four big tectonic changes that will define the next generation: access to oil. While they have little oil themselves, they have long been a keystone in the strategic interests of the region, crossing both ethnic and geographic ties. Many of the current conflicts in the region lead back to Damascus, one way or another: Baghdad, Tehran, West Bank, Golan, Beirut, Israel proper, the Palestinian question, etc. etc. The entire region has a long history of being tribal, and Syria has exploited those gaps for centuries.
(for the other three, and a lot more eloquent grasp of geo-politics, see Thomas Friedman and the world’s four ruling bargains): 1) The world’s oil tap is deposing its old regimes, 2) Europe is unravelling as PIIGS spend and Germans save, 3) China’s deliberately undervalued currency and export-led growth keeping the Communist Party’s in power by providing rising living standards, and 4) In America, a credit-consumption-led economy, whereby we maintained a middle class by using steroids (easy credit, subprime mortgages and construction work) and less muscle-building (education, skill-building and innovation).
Second: It’s strategic. because of this position, the region has been fought over for centuries. Long before there was oil, there were the Crusades whereby the Catholic church essentially invented the jihad, IMHO. Teutonic Knights were promised eternal gratitude and absolution in advance for re-taking Jerusalem and slaughtering anyone that stood in the way. This generally meant Muslims. In support of the thousands that made their way to the Holy Land, huge logistical challenges were met as Hospitallers literally paved the path from France to Palestine with roads, castles, and supporting infrastructure provisions (and became rich in the meantime). I have personally visited Krak de Chevaliers in Homs and I can attest to the awesomeness of the work as well as the brilliance of the positioning. It was clear the spot was very important and was not going to be given up easily.
Third: Syria is the ultimate state controlled, exterior influenced, family business. Bashar al-Assad is the current president, and was preceded by his father Hafez al-Assad. Bashar’s prior occupation was ophthalmologist, so it was likely his family connections that got him the job. With very few natural resources and de-minimus GDP (#67 thank you, just beating Oman) sometimes it seems like the whole country gets by playing two rivals against another, or one against the middle. Iran and Russia have deep ties, obviously. The former a result of Cold War support, the latter more like neighborly politics. Syria has been under Emergency Law from 1962, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens, and its system of government is considered non-democratic. Many citizens I know live between terror and resignation. If the Arab revolt continues, hope will replace resignation, but terror will continue.
Fourth: Syria has stunningly rich history. The near future is likely to take inspiration from its past. I had the good fortune to tour just a bit of it, including Jerash which was one of the great Roman outposts and remains today one of the finest of Syria’s 50,000 archeological sites. The Crusaders rolled through a thousand years later and left an amazing collage of castles and fortifications. The French have stuck around for the past millennium in the Levant, and it shows. In this century, Lawrence of Arabia organized the tribes of the dessert into revolt against the Turks by promising Damascus as the prize upon victory. For a people raised in the sands of the deserts, there was no more fertile green imaginable. The bait worked, for at least as long as Lawrence’s promises weren’t already undercut by French-English back-handedness. The West is still reaping what was sown in post WW I Syria it’s no wonder Lawrence is called by one biographer ”A Prince of Our Disorder”.
So, far as I can see, the beatings in Syria will likely continue. It will not fall easily because we have little leverage, outsiders are too interested in the status quo, and the insiders are not interested in anything short of carrying on. Change will depend on those who see the benefits and are willing to risk to consequences of the process. In the meantime, I wish my Syrian friends their safety, peace and a better place than yesterday.
People that witnessed my hoarse performance at this week’s Young Start Up Panel learned I had spent the previous night at U2 show. And believe it or not, U2 can teach entrepreneurs an awful lot about success, because they live a few of its basic principles:
They have meaning and relevance
They understand timeliness
They have local impact with a global reach
They live with respect, gratitude and humility
Five years ago, a lifelong friend Mark (MvK) and I caught U2 at Croke Park in Dublin. We were so impressed, we spent the rest of the night in Temple Bar debating their ranking in “The Most Influential Bands of All Time,” along with perhaps the Stones and The Beatles. I cover that and more in this blog from way back when.
This week, Bono, Edge, Mark and I all reunited in the Meadowlands with a few others (!) and we conceded the Most Influential Band of our Lifetime to U2. The group’s tours ranked them second in total concert grosses for the decade after The Rolling Stones, although U2 had a significantly higher attendance figure than the Stones. They were the only band in the top 25 touring acts of the 2000s to sell out every show they played. In April 2011, the U2 360° Tour became the highest-grossing tour in history, surpassing earnings of $558 million and breaking The Stones’ previous record.
Any entrepreneur with this level of success does not need my advice. But numbers alone are not the reason for our award to U2. In order to transcend a niche, sustain your existence, leave a legacy, and essentially change the world for the better, a band –or even an entrepreneur – needs to consider these big four points:
Point #1) Meaning and relevance
How well are you listening and knowing your audience? Of all the millions of fans that U2 has performed in front of, they have always forfeited 20% of their audience to “backstage blindness.” Though their audience grew up on video mashups (MTV), it now also digests facts in tweet size doses.
Enter the Vid-Squid: a Willie Williams-designed four-legged contraption—which cost around $25 million, weighs 400 tons and is responsible for a harrowing carbon footprint—while offering a 360-degree vantage of U2 with its cylinder-shaped expandable screen and circular catwalk. It was a technical workhorse that solved the 360 problem and served the digital and audio needs of everyone in the house.
How willing are you to Pivot and Reinvent? U2′s most beloved line in my book is “we are reapplying for the job of best rock band of all time.” In three decades, the band has continually morphed, synthesizing punk, glam rock, stadium anthem and mashups, without betraying their core audience. They’ve taken huge chances (Zoo Tour being a big one) that failed, and as I pointed out in a previous post, had the courage to keep reinventing.
A great example of this balls-out kind of courage came when MvK and I were discussing whether Bono indeed had a great voice or just a “people’s voice,” best-suited for sing-alongs or gospel choirs. Moments later, the band began a superb mashing up of an operatic aria into the greatly-meaningful song, “Miss Sarajevo.” With Luciano Pavarotti long since departed, we both wondered who would sing his part. No need; Bono literally channeled Pavarotti and hit every note with chilling brilliance – and in Italian. Not your average rockstar trick there. And extremely courageous.
Burma's msg, via Vid Squid
Point #2) Timeliness
How well do you use your leverage, when you have it? This means not wasting your moment in the spotlight, but using it to extend the franchise and transcend what just good product alone can’t deliver.
Arguably, U2’s moment has lasted quite longer than their two and a half hour concert mastery. For thirty years, the members of U2—as a band and individually—have collaborated with other musicians, artists, celebrities, and politicians to address issues concerning poverty, disease, and social injustice. (This list from Wiki)
U2 and Bono’s social activism have not been without its critics. Several authors and activists who publish in politically-left journals such as CounterPunch have decried Bono’s support of political figures as well as his “essential paternalism.” I think recipients of their largesse would say “paternal me all you want.” Other news sources have generally questioned the efficacy of Bono’s campaign to relieve debt and provide assistance to Africa. Tax and development campaigners have also criticized the band’s move from Ireland to the Netherlands to reduce its tax bill. To which I — and they — say, ‘Yeah, and?”
Point #3) Local impact/ Global reach
KNOW your audience
It has to work first at home. Ask Starbucks. They spent YEARS in Seattle before taking their perfection on the road. So ask yourself… How well is your product received, adored, and used by the locals?
Bono started the evening by saying “We just want to thank Mr. Springsteen for letting us the hall tonight.” It was witty, humble, and got a roar from the crowd because it proved he was totally in tune with a bit of the locals. He thanked people from Conn-ect-i-cut, Penn-syl-vania, Jersey and New York for coming out on such a hot night, by Irish standards. And when he spied a sign in the crowd that said “For Clarence,” he stopped the show to let it be passed up onstage. He owned the locals.
And then he took it global like only U2 can.
He conjured up Commander Mark Kelly on the big screen via space satellite (OK, pre-recorded I later learned) to flip through poster boards of “Beautiful Day’s” lyrics.
His presence gave new meaning to the “Space Oddity” lyric, “Tell my wife, I love her very much, she knows,” which he quoted at the end of the song.
“Walk On” closed out the set with an emotional presentation by Amnesty International, as U2 fans piled onto the catwalk carrying large candles to remember the conflict taking place in Burma and the plight of the recently freed Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, who also addressed the crowd from the expandable screen (above).
It’s a hard act for any little entrepreneur to follow, but this breadth and depth of action can certainly inspire some good work. U2’s efforts have effected change in Famine, Aids, War, National Debt, Political imprisonment, Pro Democracy, and preservation of music around the world. In my own samall way, I try to do what I love, and believe I have a better chance to make an impact as well.
Point #4) Respect, gratitude and humility
If it all works, don’t think it’s just because you’re good. I’ve had the honor to work with and hang around an awful lot of entrepreneurs that have met with some spectacular success.
The best of them recognize that, while they were good (like many others), they were also not strangers to luck and timing. Too many react by saying “that was fun, I want to do it again and again” … and then meet a hard fail. “Once in a lifetime” often means just that.
But U2 was none of that. I was struck by these sincere comments throughout the night:
“Thank you for giving us this wonderful life.” (For an entrepreneur that would be: thanks for letting me be an entrepreneur: it’s is hard, but great)
“Thank you for paying for this monstrosity.” (Entrepreneurs might thank investors for funding their new product launch)
“Thank you to our warm up band.” (Thanks to those that came before us in the innovation chain)
“Thank you Mr. Springsteen for letting us this hall.” (Thanks to the local expert that let us dabble in his warehouse)
So for everyone who thought I was just hanging out with MvK at a concert, taking pictures of mobs of people watching four men and a crazy stage production I say this: I was thinking!
For an entrepreneur, attempting to separate Work from the Rest is not only impossible, it’s a waste of kinetics and karma. As U2 have proven, we are One, with every ounce of our experience contributing to our creative output, bad or good.
Miles to go. Walk on.
PS: How to translate U2 in Entrepreneur
Meaning/Relevance: LISTEN to your damn market. Solve problems that really cause pain. Provide solutions that really are game changers.
Timeliness: Too late or too early is a loser. Being in the trend as it comes ashore is the only thing that works.
Local impact/ Global reach: Make it perfect for a small core group (or locals), but have the scalability to roll it out global.
Respect, gratitude and humility: When it works, it doesn’t just mean you’re hot sh*t and could repeat it. Act accordingly.
I once rode a camel across the desert, with a local named Saba and a TE Lawrence look-alike, Tad Jones. We concluded that the Middle East would be more fun if Lawrence had had access to Facebook and Twitter. If he had, some of his posts might have looked like this:
WTH #Versailles we can’t mix #Sunni rulers with #Shiite peeps. They don’t abide!
Not a drop of water in this damn desert! Black goopy stuff all over. Burns good though… other uses???
#Libya, using bombers on (your) people in the streets? see #Baghdad. Eventually, they do start to hate.
How is everyone spelling #Khadaffi?# Gadaffi? #Quadaffi? In the name of the holy one, please choose!
Lawrence wrote the seminal work on the Middle East in a notebook . Since then, Seven Pillars of Wisdom has never been out of print, and never far from the bedstands of every despot, marine and guerilla with even a passing interest in the region. Here’s the Cliff Notes for the rest of us:
It’s tribal. From Baghdad to Riyadh, there are hundreds of unique tribes and dozens of sects. Sunnis and Shia are just two. The locals have been wandering, sniping and looting each other for a thousand years. Recent behavior has improved, but they don’t trust outsiders quickly. Or much, for that matter.
It’s slightly blessed with a black gooey natural resource, which has fallen into the control of a small elite class. The Western world (France, England and the US, for this discussion) has quite an appetite for said Black Stuff- so we’re willing to tolerate the stench of the despots who control it. China is immune to this moral argument, (see prior post on China: How we roll). In any event, we set up most of them in their cushy situations, but this “buddy deal” tends to upset the masses. And then the leaders have to choose, because…
The borders of these kingdoms are completely made up. It happened one afternoon in 1921 over tea at the Cairo Country Club when Winston Churchill, T.E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell et al literally drew Lines in the Sand (check out the play by the same name in development by writer A.C. Grayling).
Cairo in 2011 has shown what can be accomplished by the people, when the people are informed. What would the rest of the Middle East be like if TEL had been tweeting back then? Here’s my take:
Oil might have been priced higher if the locals knew how badly we wanted it in the 1920′s (by reading Facebook Updates instead of outdated, state controlled papers).