SOLUTION: ENG 139 University of California Irvine Just Too Damned Fast Book Analysis Essay

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Table of Contents
A Note About the Author
Copyright Page
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This is my seventh and, who knows, maybe my last book. Since I published From
Beirut to Jerusalem in 1989, I have been extremely lucky to have had a special group
of teacher-friends who have been with me on this journey, many starting with that
first book and others on virtually every one since. They have been incredibly generous
in helping me think through ideas—over many years, over many hours, over many
books and many columns. So this book is dedicated to them: Nahum Barnea, Stephen
P. Cohen, Larry Diamond, John Doerr, Yaron Ezrahi, Jonathan Galassi, Ken Greer,
Hal Harvey, Andy Karsner, Amory Lovins, Glenn Prickett, Michael Mandelbaum,
Craig Mundie, Michael Sandel, Joseph Sassoon, and Dov Seidman. Their intellectual
firepower has been awesome, their generosity has been extraordinary, and their
friendship has been a blessing.
Thank You for Being Late
Everyone goes into journalism for different reasons—and they’re often idealistic ones.
There are investigative journalists, beat reporters, breaking-news reporters, and
explanatory journalists. I have always aspired to be the latter. I went into journalism
because I love being a translator from English to English.
I enjoy taking a complex subject and trying to break it down so that I can
understand it and then can help readers better understand it—be that subject the
Middle East, the environment, globalization, or American politics. Our democracy can
work only if voters know how the world works, so they are able to make intelligent
policy choices and are less apt to fall prey to demagogues, ideological zealots, or
conspiracy buffs who may be confusing them at best or deliberately misleading them
at worst. As I watched the 2016 presidential campaign unfold, the words of Marie
Curie never rang more true to me or felt more relevant: “Nothing in life is to be
feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we
may fear less.”
It’s no surprise so many people feel fearful or unmoored these days. In this book, I
will argue that we are living through one of the greatest inflection points in history—
perhaps unequaled since Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, a German
blacksmith and printer, launched the printing revolution in Europe, paving the way for
the Reformation. The three largest forces on the planet—technology, globalization,
and climate change—are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our
societies, workplaces, and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be reimagined.
When there is a change in the pace of change in so many realms at once, as we’re
now experiencing, it is easy to get overwhelmed by it all. As John E. Kelly III, IBM’s
senior vice president for cognitive solutions and IBM Research, once observed to me:
“We live as human beings in a linear world—where distance, time, and velocity are
linear.” But the growth of technology today is on “an exponential curve. The only
exponential we ever experience is when something is accelerating, like a car, or
decelerating really suddenly with a hard braking. And when that happens you feel
very uncertain and uncomfortable for a short period of time.” Such an experience can
also be exhilarating. You might think, “Wow, I just went from zero to sixty miles per
hour in five seconds.” But you wouldn’t want to take a long trip like that. Yet that is
exactly the trip we’re on, argued Kelly: “The feeling being engendered now among a
lot of people is that of always being in this state of acceleration.”
In such a time, opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw, is a
necessity. It is not a luxury or a distraction—it is a way to increase the odds that you’ll
better understand, and engage productively with, the world around you.
How so? “When you press the pause button on a machine, it stops. But when you
press the pause button on human beings they start,” argues my friend and teacher Dov
Seidman, CEO of LRN, which advises global businesses on ethics and leadership.
“You start to reflect, you start to rethink your assumptions, you start to reimagine
what is possible and, most importantly, you start to reconnect with your most deeply
held beliefs. Once you’ve done that, you can begin to reimagine a better path.”
But what matters most “is what you do in the pause,” he added. “Ralph Waldo
Emerson said it best: ‘In each pause I hear the call.’”
Nothing sums up better what I am trying to do with this book—to pause, to get off
the merry-go-round on which I’ve been spinning for so many years as a twice-a-week
columnist for The New York Times, and to reflect more deeply on what seems to me to
be a fundamental turning point in history.
I don’t remember the exact date of my own personal declaration of independence
from the whirlwind, but it was sometime in early 2015, and it was totally
serendipitous. I regularly meet friends and interview officials, analysts, or diplomats
over breakfast in downtown Washington, D.C., near the New York Times bureau. It’s
my way of packing more learning into a day and not wasting breakfast by eating
alone. Once in a while, though, with the D.C. traffic and subways in the morning
always a crapshoot, my breakfast guests would arrive ten, fifteen, or even twenty
minutes late. They would invariably arrive flustered, spilling out apologies as they sat
down: “The Red Line subway was delayed…” “The Beltway was backed up…” “My
alarm failed…” “My kid was sick…”
On one of those occasions, I realized I didn’t care at all about my guest’s tardiness,
so I said: “No, no, please—don’t apologize. In fact, you know what, thank you for
being late!”
Because he was late, I explained, I had minted time for myself. I had “found” a few
minutes to just sit and think. I was having fun eavesdropping on the couple at the next
table (fascinating!) and people-watching the lobby (outrageous!). And, most
important, in the pause, I had connected a couple of ideas I had been struggling with
for days. So no apology was necessary. Hence: “Thank you for being late.”
The first time, I just blurted out that response, not really thinking about it. But after
another such encounter, I noticed that it felt good to have those few moments of
unplanned-for, unscheduled time, and it wasn’t just me who felt better! And I knew
why. Like many others, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the
dizzying pace of change. I needed to give myself (and my guests) permission to just
slow down; I needed permission to be alone with my thoughts—without having to
tweet about them, take a picture of them, or share them with anyone. Each time I
reassured my guests that their lateness was not a problem, they would give me a
quizzical look at first, but then a lightbulb would suddenly go on in their heads and
they would say something like: “I know what you mean … ‘Thank you for being
late!’ Hey, you’re welcome.”
In his sobering book Sabbath, the minister and author Wayne Muller observes how
often people say to him, “I am so busy.” “We say this to one another with no small
degree of pride,” Muller writes, “as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to
withstand stress a mark of real character … To be unavailable to our friends and
family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know when the sun has set
at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single, mindful breath, this
has become a model of a successful life.”
I’d rather learn to pause. As the editor and writer Leon Wieseltier said to me once:
technologists want us to think that patience became a virtue only because in the past
“we had no choice”—we had to wait longer for things because our modems were too
slow or our broadband hadn’t been installed, or because we hadn’t upgraded to the
iPhone 7. “And so now that we have made waiting technologically obsolete,” added
Wieseltier, “their attitude is: ‘Who needs patience anymore?’ But the ancients
believed that there was wisdom in patience and that wisdom comes from patience …
Patience wasn’t just the absence of speed. It was space for reflection and thought.”
We are generating more information and knowledge than ever today, “but knowledge
is only good if you can reflect on it.”
And it is not just knowledge that is improved by pausing. So, too, is the ability to
build trust, “to form deeper and better connections, not just fast ones, with other
human beings,” adds Seidman. “Our ability to forge deep relationships—to love, to
care, to hope, to trust, and to build voluntary communities based on shared values—is
one of the most uniquely human capacities we have. It is the single most important
thing that differentiates us from nature and machines. Not everything is better faster or
meant to go faster. I am built to think about my grandchildren. I am not a cheetah.”
It is probably no accident, therefore, that what sparked this book was a pause—a
chance encounter I had in, of all places, a parking garage, and my decision not to rush
off as usual but to engage with a stranger who approached me with an unusual
The Parking Attendant
It was early October 2014. I had driven my car from my home in Bethesda to the
downtown there and parked in the public parking garage beneath the Hyatt Regency
hotel, where I was meeting a friend at the Daily Grill for breakfast. As required, I got
a time-stamped ticket when I arrived. After breakfast, I located my car in the garage
and headed for the exit. I drove up to the cashier’s booth and handed the man there my
ticket, but before studying it, he studied me.
“I know who you are,” said the elderly gentleman with a foreign accent and a
warm smile.
“Great,” I hurriedly responded.
“I read your column,” he said.
“Great,” I responded, itching to be on my way home.
“I don’t always agree,” he said.
“Great,” I responded. “It means you always have to check.”
We exchanged a few more pleasantries; he gave me my change and I drove off,
thinking: “It’s nice to know the parking guy reads my column in The New York
About a week later, I parked in the same garage, as I do roughly once a week to
catch the Red Line subway to downtown D.C. from the Bethesda Metro station. I got
the same time-stamped ticket, I took the subway to Washington, I spent the day at my
office, and I took the Metro back. Then I went down to the garage, located my car,
and headed for the exit—and encountered the same attendant in the booth.
I handed him my time-stamped ticket, but this time, before he handed me my
change, he said: “Mr. Friedman, I write, too. I have my own blog. Would you look at
“How can I find it?” I asked. He then wrote down the Web address on a small
piece of white paper normally used to print out receipts. It said “,” and he
handed it to me with my change.
I drove off, curious to check it out. But along the way my mind quickly drifted to
other thoughts, like: “Holy mackerel! The parking guy is now my competitor! The
parking guy has his own blog! He’s a columnist, too! What’s going on here?”
So I got home and called up his website. It was in English and focused on political
and economic issues in Ethiopia, where he was from. It concentrated on relations
among different ethnic and religious communities, the Ethiopian government’s
undemocratic actions, and some of the World Bank’s activities in Africa. The blog
was well designed and displayed a strong pro-democracy bent. The English was good
but not perfect. The subject didn’t greatly interest me, though, so I didn’t spend a lot
of time on the site.
But over the next week I kept thinking about this guy: How did he get into
blogging? What did it say about our world that such an obviously educated man works
as a parking cashier by day but has his own blog by night, a platform that enables him
to participate in a global dialogue and tell the whole world about the issues that
animate him, that is, Ethiopian democracy and society?
I decided I needed to pause—and learn more about him. The only problem was that
I didn’t have his personal e-mail, so the only way for me to contact him was to take
the subway to work every day and park in the public garage to see if, by chance, I
could bump into him again. And that’s what I did.
After several days of coming up empty, I was rewarded when one morning I
arrived very early and my blogger-parker was there in the cashier’s booth. I stopped at
the ticket machine, put my car into park, got out, and waved to him.
“Hey, it’s Mr. Friedman again,” I said. “Can I have your e-mail address? I want to
talk to you.”
He found a scrap of paper and wrote it down for me. His full name, I discovered,
was Ayele Z. Bojia. That same evening I e-mailed him and asked him to tell me a
little bit about his background and when he started blogging. I told him I was thinking
of writing a book on writing about the twenty-first century and I was interested in how
other people got into the blogging/opinion-writing universe.
He e-mailed me back on November 1, 2014: “I consider the first article I posted on is also the first day I start blogging … Of course, if the question is also
about what motivates me doing that, there are quite a good number of issues that
bother me back home in my country of origin—Ethiopia—on which I would like to
reflect my personal perspectives. I hope you would excuse me if I am not able to
instantaneously respond to your message as I am doing that in between work. Ayele.”
On November 3, I e-mailed him again: “What were you doing in Ethiopia before
you came here and what are the issues that bother you most? No rush. Thanks, Tom.”
And the same day he wrote back: “Great. I see a big reciprocity here. You are
interested to know what issues bother me most while I am interested to learn from you
how I can best communicate those issues of my concern to my target constituency and
the larger public.”
To which I immediately answered: “Ayele, You have a deal! Tom.” I promised to
share with him all that I could about how to write a column, if he would tell me his
life story. He immediately agreed, and we set a date. Two weeks later I came from my
office in downtown D.C., near the White House, and Bojia came up from his parking
garage, and we met nearby at Peet’s Coffee & Tea in Bethesda. He was sitting at a
small table by the window. He had salt-and-pepper hair and a mustache and wore a
green wool scarf wrapped around his neck. He began by telling me his story of how
he became an opinion writer—and then I told him mine—as we each sipped Peet’s
finest brew.
Bojia, who was sixty-three when we first met, explained that he’d graduated with a
BA in economics from Haile Selassie I University, named after the longtime
Ethiopian emperor. He is an Orthodox Christian and an Oromo, the largest ethnic
group in Ethiopia, with its own distinct language. Dating back from his time as a
campus Oromo activist, he explained, he’d been promoting the culture and aspirations
of the Oromo people in the context of a democratic Ethiopia.
“All my effort is geared towards making it possible for all peoples of Ethiopia to be
proud of whatever nationality they belong to and be a proud Ethiopian by citizenship,”
Bojia explained. Those efforts drew the ire of the Ethiopian regime and forced him
into political exile in 2004.
Bojia, who bore himself with the dignity of an educated immigrant whose day job
was just to earn money so he could seriously blog at night, added: “I am not trying to
write for the writing sake. I want to learn the techniques. [But] I have a cause to
He named his blog after a town in Ethiopia near the capital, Addis
Ababa. The town is currently being touted to become the administrative and cultural
seat of the Oromia regional government. He explained that he began his writing career
on various Ethiopian Web platforms—,,,
and, an Oromo site, but their pace and his eagerness to participate in
ongoing debates did not match: “I am appreciative of those websites, which gave me
an opportunity to express my views, but the process was just too slow.” So, he
explained, as “a person working at the parking garage with certain financial
constraints, I had to open this website [of my own] to have this regular outlet for
myself.” His site is hosted by for a small fee.
The political field in Ethiopia is dominated by extremes, Bojia added: “There is no
middle ground open to reason.” One of the things that impressed him about America
and that he wanted to bring to Ethiopia was the way “people stand for their rights, but
also see the other guy’s points of view.” (Maybe you have to be a foreigner from a
divided land working in an underground parking garage to see today’s America as a
country where arguments are bringing people closer, but I loved his optimism!)
He may just be in the cashier’s booth making change, he told me, but he’s always
trying to observe people and how they express themselves and convey their opinions.
“Before I came here I never heard of Tim Russert,” Bojia said of the late, great Meet
the Press host. “I don’t know him, but when I started following [his program] it was
kind of infectious for me. When he engages he doesn’t push people in an extreme
way. He is merciless in presentation of his facts and very respectful to others’
feeling.” As a result, Bojia concluded, “by the time he is finished every discussion
you feel that he gave us some information”—and triggered something in the mind of
the person he interviewed. Tim would have liked that.
Does he know how many people read his blog? I asked.
“From month to month it fluctuates with the issue, but there is a steady audience
out there,” he informed me, adding that the Web metrics he uses suggest that he is
being read in around thirty different countries. But then he added: “If there is any way
you can help me manage my website, I will be extremely happy.” The thirty-five
hours a week he’d spent over the last eight years working in the parking garage were
just for “subsistence—my website is where my energy is.”
I promised to do what I could to help. Who could resist a parking attendant who
knows his Web metrics! But I had to ask: “What’s it like for you—parking attendant
by day, Web activist by night—to have your own global blog, while sitting in
Washington and reaching people in thirty countries”—even if the numbers are small?
“I feel like I am a little bit empowered at this time,” Bojia answered without
hesitation. “These days I kind of regret that I wasted my time. I would have started
some three or four years ago, and not sent stuff here and there. Had I concentrated on
developing my own blog by now I would have a bigger audience … I have a deep
satisfaction from what I am doing. I am doing something positive that helps my
country.” …
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