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. ◼︎

 

10 thoughts on “Learning English from History

    1. Brad Keyes Post author

      Canman,

      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?)

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  1. H. D. Kline

    Naomi Oreskes is indeed a rare intellect, but NOT A PATCH ON NAOMI KLEIN, even if the latter (like a lot of Klines, it must be said) cannot spell her surname properly. Klein’s grasp of climate science is so remarkable that I would go so far as to say that she is probably the world’s leading climate scientist among those climate scientists who are not actually scientists.

    Klein has a unique genius for combining incisive analysis with cogent, eloquent argument regarding the dangers of climate change: “The only historical precedent for a crisis of this depth and scale was the Cold War fear that we were heading toward nuclear holocaust, which would have made much of the planet uninhabitable. But that was (and remains) a threat; a slim possibility, should geopolitics spiral out of control. The vast majority of nuclear scientists never told us that we were almost certainly going to put our civilisation in peril if we kept going about our daily lives as usual, doing exactly what we were already doing, which is what the climate scientists have been telling us for years.” (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/06/dont-look-away-now-the-climate-crisis-needs-you )

    Has anyone other than Klein even noticed – let alone bothered to mention – the vitally important fact that the vast majority nuclear scientists failed to warn us of the dangers of climate change? WHY THE MEDIA BLACKOUT ON THIS MATTER? MORE TO THE POINT, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE DAMNABLE NUCLEAR SCIENTISTS? WHY HAVE THERE BEEN NO PROSECUTIONS FOR THEIR IRRESPONSIBLE FAILURE TO WARN US? Without Klein these questions wouldn’t even be asked. I shall stop there, before my admiration for Naomi Klein spirals out of control.

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