It's the gaps that hurt...
Helping with one of my girls' history homework recently. This is a pretty safe bet for a bit of daddy show-off time. I mean what can schools throw at me that I don't know? Backwards. Upside down. Usually, the only problem with me helping out with the homework is a) that it's either The Bloody Tudors because 1485-1603 is like, the only time in history. Ever. b) Wet behind the ears 22 year old teachers doing lessons on how Britain was a racist, imperialist piece of shit that exploited the rest of the world and so caused all subsequent poverty, famine and wars with sidelines in - don't you know that Islam kinda invented everything in the 12th Century and that Christians persecuted everyone, everywhere and like, SLAVERY! man. Only Britain and the US had slavery and it was only brought to an end by some freed slaves doing a dance somewhere and, who's William Wilberforce and the West Africa Squadron anyway? Yeah.
But history lessons... Although the actual topics within the eras the school picks may be bollocks on stilts, I know the broad facts, right? Usually true but this week it was all about the pre Civil War reign of Charles I. And I know jack shit about this. Well, okay, I know more than 95% of the population, but that's a pretty low bar. Ignorance isn't bliss. I'm tortured by my lack of knowledge. It physically upsets me. Why don't I know? How can I be a sentient human being if I don't know about the Ship Monies? I'm the anti-noble savage. I have to know everything.
And as I write this three general thoughts occur to me:-
1) The shocking ignorance of our 'leaders' who feel they can invade Afghanistan, Syria, Libya with no understanding, appreciation or curiosity about the history of where they are committing troops. How can supposed sophisticated politicians make life or death decisions from total ignorance? It's really quite sickening.
2) The flip side. Clearly, ignorance can drive decision making but pursuit of knowledge can make one appear weak, unsure; unable to make a decision. I have a split personality; on some things I always need more data before I form an opinion; on other things - mainly personal - I make my mind up in nano seconds. But for historical pronouncements, I've found it expedient to temporise fully aware that my high level of knowledge only makes me more conscious that I actually know nothing.
3) The universal truths of history. Always forgotten. Every generation thinks it is the first.
So what is the point of knowledge? What is the point of studying history? I heard the drumbeat of war for Afghanistan. For Syria. For Libya. It seemed wrong at the time, worse now. These days - inexplicably it's Russia that's the MSM bad guy. Why? Who is pulling the strings? I get bombarded on TV and radio about Russia. Trump and Russia. But for what end? - Ukraine? Crimea? Georgia? Sanctions? Who understands these counties anyway? This region? I find ignorance so all-prevailing that the only sensible position to take is scepticism.
And the main way we can fight back is to read. Read history. Ancient history. Understand the Renaissance. The Enlightenment. Understand why we are where we are where we are. It is no accident. See patterns. There is 'nothing new under the sun'. And then withdraw your support. Not in my name. Vote for anti war candidates.
I'll leave you with one thought to think about. What is the difference between Russia/Syria booting nutters out of Aleppo and the US/UK/etc/Iraq booting nutters out of Mosul? One was daily charged with war crimes, the others painted as liberators. I see no difference. The bombs still kill innocents whether you're an evil bastard or saintly. All is vexation. And vanity.
Interestingly, Aleppo conjures up images of battles long gone, long forgotten, bigger, more catastrophic. I look at a map and see that Marcus Crassus met his end with his legions nearby at Carrhae. One of the great disasters of the Ancient World. Is that comforting? Possibly.
And here's the Byrds singing the wisdom of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 3) with the tear-jerking modern addition of 'I swear it's not too late' after "A Time for Peace'.