Here is a simple and crude mental experiment. Consider these two statements about the same event below:
1. I went to Home Depot, bought myself another can of paint and painted over a big scratch on one of my walls.
2. I painted one of my walls and made a big scratch on it. I went to Home Depot and bought another can of paint to paint over the scratch.
Anyone, even with the rudimentary logic and attention, will easily notice that, while using almost identical set of words and, seemingly, same facts, two statements above tell quite a different story. Statement #1 leaves more numerous opportunities for interpretations on the cause of the scratch, while #2 names the cause directly--it is me. Yet, both statements are true, but the real truth is delivered by the second statement only. The reason it does? It establishes causality. It also demonstrates how the information differs from the knowledge. Of course, this example is very crude, but it will do for the sake of argument. Normal people, to whom yours truly hopefully belongs, want, and sometimes demand, to know the truth. Apart from the purely moral considerations, we want the truth because it allows us to see causality. Establishing this connection between cause and effect is crucial--it allows us to choose an appropriate course of actions.
Information by itself is not enough and it becomes a knowledge only when a minimally necessary number of cause and effect connections is established and, generally, the information is placed in a proper context. Modern militaries use a somewhat similar method when they develop, again crudely presented, concepts of:
Situational Awareness--I know where my adversary is;
Tactical Awareness--I know what my adversary is going to do.
In general, militaries try to obtain the truth about their battlefields. You may say, sure--it is the same in the everyday life, surely it is true for academia. Not so fast. Military pays with lives and health if it gets it wrong, while, as the Sayre's Law states:"Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low." It is very true but with one very substantial correction--in the long run stakes can grow very high. Sayre's Law has another derivative--the patriotism is directly proportionate to the distance from the battlefield. Today, when one looks at the overall state of the American political class and the global mess it helped to create, one has to ask the question--what were they thinking about? Well, for starters we can say what they, and the academe which serves this class, were not thinking about--the truth. In fact, the idea of the American Exceptionalism, and that's what dominates an American political discourse today, is so detached from the reality and the basic facts of global history, it is so antithetical to the laws of cause and effect, that it is worth taking a brief look into the recent past. No, I am not going to quote Alexis De Tocqueville.
The crucible of the modern world we live in remains on the battlefields of the World War II. It was an event of unprecedented scale in human history. In fact, it dwarfed anything humanity had experienced before. The Allied victory over Nazism seemed to pave the way to a better future but things changed very fast. One way they changed was the fact that, as David Glantz and Jonathan House note in their seminal "When Titans Clashed" (pages 275-276):"...the Soviets, by rights, had an undisputed claim to the lion's share of the spoils of this victory over Nazi Germany. In Western perceptions, however, the political consequences of that victory deprived the Soviet Union of that right." Here, these two brilliant American scholars, make one substantial mistake--the claims were not "undisputed", the whole industry, from media to academe, was born to dispute and to completely pervert the history of WW II. This industry is alive and well and it continues to work to reinforce generally Anglo-Saxon, and American in particular, point that it was thanks to the United States that the Nazi Germany was defeated. One of the ways to do it is to, and you may have guessed it already, break the causality link and deprive a proper context--exactly as it was done in the statement #1 in the beginning of this post.
|Here is how Life celebrated the D-Day in 2014
|I love Ike, I mean it but the claim is dubious
I foresee some, not entirely illegitimate, claims by Americans that the US is a free country and people are free to publish whatever they want and read whatever they want. Agree, it is a valid argument, it is also one of the reasons I have an admiration for the United States. But what matters here is not what some brilliant American scholars write as an exception, however significant, to dominating narrative, or what is the opinion of a fairly thin strata of the American history buffs who do bother with educating themselves. Majority of people do not read these kinds of books, they just follow what is being dispensed to them by the mass-media and American mass-media, virtually without any exception insist--it was the United States who beat Hitler and thus saved the world. Majority of Americans and, what is most fascinating and dangerous, US political class honestly do believe it. One of the three major pillars on which contemporary American exceptionalism rests is precisely this myth of the United States winning the WW II and (re)emerging as the preeminent global power for "good". But the conventional wisdom states that sand castles do not last. This will help us understand why the whole gigantic blunder in Ukraine will have, and is already having, huge ramifications for the United States............
To be continued....