How Do You Know What You Know?

It seems to me that Stef and some of his countrymen are more likely than most of my crowd from the world of science and industry, to believe in explanations other than the official ones about various recent catastrophes, and I can’t say I blame him.  Skepticism is to be encouraged, and to be found among nationalities which have spent their whole history wedged between empires.

I try as an exercise to put myself in the mind of a Romanian soldier on August 26, 1944, who awoke to find himself charged with killing the Germans along whom he had fought side by side for the last three years against the Russians, whose alliance with the Romanian interest was doubtful.  What is it like, to be so mentally flexible?  But I can’t put myself in the mind of a soldier.  I don’t know enough about the army, a piece of ignorance I spent some effort attaining in the Vietnam years.

Andrei’s grandfather got along well with the German soldiers.  He was a blond child, not one of the 13,000 residents of Iasi who were systematically suffocated in railroad cars in June of 1941.  When you’re ten years old and a soldier lets you fire his gun — well nowadays that in itself would be suspect; as John Waters said, “Making eye contact with a child will get you life.”  But back then, it won friendship.

When the Russians came, their family lost its land and the Russians were loutish.  They had their reasons to be loutish, owing to three years of invasion eagerly participated in by the Romanian army which had switched sides so belatedly.

With so many people with such conflicting histories living in close proximity, perhaps it is well not to overdevelop the critical capacity.  I know that my house was built on land that was captured from a people, the Ohlone, who were murdered.  But at least they aren’t living next door to me, so it’s a philosophical issue.  That’s the upside of genocide.

But having cultivated ignorance and denigrated imagination, how do you treat new questions?

What sort of tools do you need, in order to evaluate the competing explanations of history? — especially, I would say, the official versions.  I think most people are willing to conjure themselves up into an Illuminati board meeting where a master plan is made to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center, blame it on the Arabs, and reinvest the huge profits from the Osama-puts into securitized fraudulent mortgages to bring down the global economy.  It would be just one more closed caption parody on an Angry Hitler video on YouTube, and some of them are really funny; although Top Gun 2 Brokeback Squadron is still my favorite recut.

Contrariwise, to imagine the effort of going to the moon is beyond many people’s experience; hard to shoehorn into a clause containing the verb “can has”.

The education system doesn’t encourage careful thinking because it would destabilize the church, and the church is a big campaign contributor.  If you were to develop the mental tools to determine that it was unlikely on the evidence that a baby alien was caught in a mousetrap in Mexico, and you were to train these intellectual superpowers on the stories about a man who survived crucifixion or one who rode a magic horse to Heaven from Jerusalem — well, you can see where that would leave some extremely rich ecclesiastical organizations, so we are just going to have to live with an overwhelming majority of ignorant people for a long, long time.

For that matter, California schools must be of two minds to teach even statistics, since they are nominally dependent on silly poor people playing the lottery (fortunately, most of the lottery cash seems to be getting stolen before it gets to the schools, which decouples their interest somewhat with the perpetuation of out-and-out mathematical illiteracy.)

We speak on Andrei’s porch.  There are grape vines overhead and the sound of animals in the street.  PETA would admire the independence of the dogs and cats in urban Romania, though not some of the other cultural things.  Maybe Madonna will take up the issue.  Andrei’s parents pretty much don’t let you sit around without food in front of you.  It all begins with cucumbers and tomatoes and onions and cheese and it continues until it is time to go out to a cafe and converse.  I have this point to make, arranged neatly this time in paragraphs:

What would you have to learn, to evaluate the OFFICIAL explanation of:

The World Trade Center attack?  Do you know what’s involved in demolishing a building?  The total amount of energy contained in the tanks of a fully fueled 767?  The way in which the design of the insulation around steel girders to resist ordinary fires works against the stability of the girders when you have a sustained jet fuel fire?  The actual policies on the handling of hijacked aircraft in effect on September 11, 2001, given that every hijacking in the world to date had played out approximately the same way, with the commandeered aircraft flown to some airfield to begin a negotiating process carried out with some level of gentility, even at Entebbe?  The performance of those or any other military policies under stress?

There is a tremendous will to believe that the U.S. military functions perfectly at all times, and any apparent mistake must be a gambit.  Don’t know where that idea comes from, except that few people have direct military experience now.

The Moon Landing: There must be some standard course material on the analysis of two dimensional pictures of illuminated three dimensional surfaces.  Eyes are a start.  Do the moon pictures look so unlike a picture of a landscape to you?  How powerful a laser pointer would an amateur astronomer need, to fire up to the corner reflector the astronauts left on the moon and recover the signal back a few seconds later?

What search terms should be used to locate the amateur astronomers who listened in on space conversations in the 1960’s?  You read about them from time to time.

Laboratory AIDS:  One must at least look up “cladistics” in Wikipedia, understand something of the published history of the early samples and the human and animal genetic variations of the virus, and know the basis of the calculation that AIDS transited from chimpanzees to man around 1910.  Then you can speak of whether it’s more likely that all of these samples were faked together with all of their genetic variations, all in a decade when biological knowledge was a fraction what it is now, and cladistics not even a word, unless you postulate an entire alternate science which is kept entirely under wraps and so on and so forth until you are directly examining the Solipsistic Paradox, which of course cannot be resolved, as any scientist will tell you before changing the subject.

Global Warming: One must know at least the elements of atmospheric science.  One must understand in some detail what it means for a particular molecule to trap the energy of solar radiation as atmospheric heat.  And at a very minimum, one must have a map of the earth and the atmosphere to a one meter resolution, together with something at least as useful as 65,536 petaflop 128-bit processors, each with a 256 terabytes of memory, and the whole of human chemical knowledge loaded in as initial conditions, so as to be able yourself to evaluate the latest published theories just like Galileo was able to build Lippershey’s telescope.

The JFK assassination:  Learn to fire a sniper’s rifle, and kill a few people.  Go to Dealey Plaza and to the Grassy Knoll.  See what it looked like from the School Book Repository.  Imagine the mind state of a bar owner and guess why he would decide to shoot the most heavily guarded man on the planet because he loved JFK, and die of cancer shortly thereafter.  Study Texas history and learn how many people in Dallas in 1963 loved JFK.

Madonna and the Gypsies and the Homosexuals:  What should the relationship of music and politics be?  What is the history of these bedfellows, from Joe Hill to Horst Wessel to Volunteers Of America?  Does a performer have the right to say anything on stage that isn’t about a shimmying booty?  Is there nothing political about the booty?

Is an audience supposed to agree with everything, and do they have the right to do anything but clap if their opinion diverges?  And as far as content, what would you do if you were born Roma?  All of us not Bedouins, Tuaregs, or Mongolians, have given up the nomadic life for that of cities.  It would be good to learn the history of our personal races while making this transition, to learn how and whether to encourage it among gypsies.

Why is it OK for Proudhon to say “Property is Theft”, but not OK to live it, if that in fact is what happens?

And what if Zamfir comes to Oklahoma and mentions the Trail of Tears?  Does Nadia Comaneci have any Cherokee gymnasts in her Norman atelier?  I’m sure they only talk about booty, though.

There was a discussion at Andrei’s table about the practice of buying and selling babies, another place where the gypsy story and the Madonna story intersect.  It really is a critique of market systems, in my point of view.  It seems obvious that buying any individual baby offered for sale is a tremendous benefit to the baby, because he loses a mother who would sell him for money and gains a mother who was willing to pay for him.  But once you establish that that can be done, people start fabricating babies for sale and a large social distortion ensues, rewarding some seedy folk.

It’s not so different from saying, wow, lets have the state get the numbers money instead of the Mafia, which is good for the first month but shortly the state finds itself in the position of depending on the revenue stream and advertising stupid behavior, and I guarantee you that if drugs are “legalized and taxed”, or “distributed” by “doctors”, there will be a huge industry in radio ads for heroin that use the same taglines as the current ads for lottery tickets.  Dream a little dream……..

Moving right along, the psychology of somebody at a Madonna concert who would boo her for propagandizing for gay rights is completely beyond me; it’s like the standard scene in all the date comedies where whoever Seann William Scott is playing wanders into a gay bar and doesn’t realize it right away.

Who do they think is dancing up on stage, and why do they think they have a boner?  Unless of course, it was the serious condescension of it all.  I don’t know much about Romanian society but nobody slags Dave and me for getting a double bed when we are both here and the distribution of opinion seems to be about like any European country, less gay than Amsterdam, less homophobic than the Vatican.  Homophobia is an interesting mental condition.  Is there an animal model?  Did God make a mistake with humans, and make boys so cute and so hot that He had to synthesize a psychological state, else the race die out, that would force boys and girls to mate with each other in spite of the fact that it was obviously not the best option?  Butza, Leon, any comment?