Monthly Archives: September 2017

Learning English from History

ON THIS AFTERNOON IN HISTORY,

nothing really happened in Dresden, the cultural and choreographic capital of wartime Germany.

Little girls hopped scotch in the streets. Their brothers kicked feetball around or biked-ride at local ducks- and fish-pond. Häusenfrau whistled to themself as they sprang-clean (having sprung-clean not six months earlier—such is the hell of war). While the women threw out moldy newspaper and used teethbrush, their manfolks and brother-in-laws sipped gins-and-tonic and brokedance at the gentlemens’ club that lined the streets of the old city of an evening.

What might have become of Germany’s Hip Hop Prenaissance, we can only speculate.

At six o’clock, in the amber Götterdämmerung, Allied pilots dove-bomb Dresden. Down they swooped in one fell sweep after another, raining truckloadsful of fiery Heil on the City of Gothic Love.

Unlike physics or chemistry, history is unforgivable—or so we were taught in high school. But isn’t war just a trade-off between ethics and effectiveness, like science itself? One takes no pleasure in bombing entire cities back to the Jazz Age, of course. But if, in the dark of night, the Greatest Generation hadn’t shatstorm the living daylight out of Dresden, who knows what we’d be speaking right now?

Not grammatically-correct English, that’s for sure.

This kind of imponderable is the reason I never could stand blogging about the restive, stochastic progress of human civilization. Let’s stick to what we know for certain here at Nuremberg, shall we: the future state of the planet’s atmosphere.

Don’t get me wrong. Overlapping magisteria is not only incredibly useful, but are incredibly useful.

And I’m one of the biggest, longest fans of the Naomi Oreskeses’—the rare intellects that can bore a fistula between Science and History. But such great bores are rare, and I’m just not that kind of tool, I’m afraid. The work Naomi does every day is far too diabolical for me.

What makes the history books so cryptic, contradictory and confusing is that they’re written by winners.

You won’t find that problem in science, Gott sei Dank. ◼︎