Learning English from 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 fishpond. Häusenfrau whistled to themself as they sprang-clean (having just 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 in the gentlemens’ club that lined the streets of the old city of an evening.

What would 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 joy 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, I’ll tell you that much.

This kind of imponderable is the reason I never could stand blogging about the long and winding story 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 not that kind of tool, I’m afraid. The work Naomi does every day is much too diabolical for me.

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

Thank God the scientific literature doesn’t have that problem. ◼︎

4 thoughts on “Learning English from History

    1. Brad Keyes Post author


      Wait—are we talking about the same Prof. Seitz: the inimitable, laugh-out-loud climate wit?

      I wasn’t even aware of his attempts at “serious” writing!

      If he’s really having trouble with the transition to dead-earnest, literal-minded climate commentary like today’s post, please don’t hesitate to give him my email address—it will be my giddy and starstruck honor to offer what meagre advice I can.

      It’s the least I can do in return for the many years of gelastic convulsions induced by Russell’s drollery! As someone who couldn’t tell a joke if my life depended on it, I’ve always looked up to funnymen and funnypersons in a mixture of awe, perplexity and envy.

      (Why, I wonder, does nobody else even seem to exist in the climate-satire space? Obviously I’m not expecting anyone to reach Seitzian heights, but surely the climate world has room for more than one comedian?)

      Liked by 1 person


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