In the first chapter Friedman sets the stage. Here is the flagship section of the chapter: “I am convinced that the best way for America to solve its big problem -the best way for America to get its “grove” back- is for us to take the lead in solving the world’s big problem. In a world that is getting hot, flat, and crowded, the task of creating the tools, systems, energy sources, and ethics that will allow the planet to grow in cleaner, more sustainable ways is going to be the biggest challenge of our lifetime.” p.6
He goes on from their to finish the chapter describing what he says are three trends; two that trouble him, one that gives him hope. The first trend is about a walling up of our lives and an emotional disconnect. He uses recent changes in Foreign Embassy procedures, but just as easily could have sited the dramatic increase in gated communities.
From there, the discussion focuses on the second trend – what he says is a sentiment among many Americans who unabashedly claim, we can be “dumb as we wanna be”. I read in this an implied “my choice is my choice, and I don’t have any reason to be respectful or even listen to you. Leave me alone, I”m busy doing whatever-the-hell I want to do.” This, thankful ends, and the book focuses on the hopeful trend.
Ultimately, Friedman points to the idealism and the energy and enthusiasm of people who are innovating and learning/creating new ways to live smartly and with conscience. Some of what I hear Friedman talking about in this section I see in the rise of interest and enthusiasm surrounding social media.