Editor’s note: New York Times columnist and multi-millionaire Thomas Friedman has graciously accepted to guest post on this blog. He heard Shyam Sundararaman’s thoughts about a day in the Dutch countryside thru this massive new technological invention called Skype on a cool new gadget called the Iphone 5.
New York city used to be called New Amsterdam. It is time now to call Amsterdam as New New York. Technology, manufacturing, infrastructure and a concern for all make Amsterdam a true 22’nd century Flat world city. My friend set out on a day trip to the Dutch countryside. He wanted to see what the entailed and how different it was from the city of New New York. In America he’d have to figure out where to rent a car and pay a gazillion dollars for gas that was extracted on the backs of the Kurds and Sunnis in a war that was never executed the way it was supposed to be. Here in New New York, my friend just had to pull up the Google Maps app and all the information about the public transportation to get to different countryside towns would pop up automatically. He decided that he would visit the towns of Amsterfort and Naarden-Bussing which were homes to old world agriculture and new world technology and planned his trip accordingly.
On the tram there were immigrants and women from various countries interacting with people from all corners of the world. There were Muslim women in Hijab using Facebook to stay in touch with their oppressed sisters. There were American businessmen in suits enjoying high-speed browsing on their cellular phones unlike in the subway systems and airplanes back home. The tram dropped my friend off at Muiderspoort which is a bustling interconnect with the regional high-speed train network. My friend was able to transfer from tram to train just by buying a 4 Euro ticket from an automated vending machine. Old jobs stood next to technology that steals old jobs such as ticket vendors. What I mean by this is that was a falafel and coffee vendor right next to the ticket machine.
The trains are a testament to a bustling economy that values both the working class and the job creators. There are two classes of seating and two speeds of trains connecting all destinations. While the first class eats have more leg room and a trash can, the second class seats in the slow train get the same high-speed internet browsing experience that the first class seats in the Sprinter trains do. This is a great way to invest in the middle class and allow them to innovate on the move while also making sure the rich and powerful are happy and comfortable.
The same passion for equal infrastructure for all but different comforts was evident when my friend trekked thru Naarden-Bussing. Every street (picture below) had a sidewalk, a lane for walking, a lane for bikes (bicycles in the US) and a lane for cars. Traffic was orderly and the suburban moms and dads who were passing thru the street (for the 5 minutes my friend had his face looking up) were looking extremely happy and satisfied. The kind of happiness and confidence that comes when your health care is taken care of and your infrastructure is good and political parties are not bickering.
Both Naarden-Bussing and Amsterfort are quiet, postcard picturesque towns that are home to new world technology companies as well as old world greengrocer and bakers. My friend had a five-minute conversation with a local Lebanese restauranteurs who shared his wi-fi password for an Euro. Entrepreneurship! Ingenuity! Technology! They all meet as a holy trinity in the New New York’s countryside and suburbs.
My friend spent some time at the local bookstores. It was interesting looking at how crowded the stores were on a weekday afternoon. In America, you can only get that sort of crowd for a Kim Kardashian concert! Here the New New York suburban moms and dads were making sure that their kids were exposed to all cultures and all works of writing as Hello Kitty merchandize and books were being hovered around. New New York knows that old Beijing can take over the mantle of New New New York any day!
Here were the top two best-sellers in the book stores.
Two writers from a different country and language. The Netherlands knows it has to expand outside its horizons if it wants to stay competitive in a flat ever changing world. And the popularity of a cook book is not coincidental. The Dutch walk and bike (bicycle for those in the US) and know that taking care of their health is the best way to keep healthcare costs down and global warming down. This is what a trip to Old New York in the metaphorical 21’st century must have felt like.
Lastly no one knows as much about geopolitical and social local situations like cab drivers. So I requested my friend to chat up an idle cab driver on what the Obama re-election meant to him. He said “Good man! Romney not good for Holland.”
Simple words but so profound and effective in conveying something complex. It was a quote for the Twitter age. Only in New New York……