Monday, April 27, 2015

the news I don't know

There is nothing like reading the news to drive home the understanding of how much I don't know. This is not to congratulate the news organizations for their ever-diminishing hard work, but rather to acknowledge the vast arena -- a veritable Gobi Desert -- of stuff I don't know about.

I first noticed this concretely at a time when Russia, which was then known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, had 13 time zones. The continental United States had three or four and yet less space/time was allocated to the USSR than might be granted to Rhode Island. How could this possibly be full coverage or, as the New York Times ballyhoos at its masthead, "all the news that's fit to print."

Thirteen time zones is a lot of territory. Something had to be going on there, but it was clear from the limitations of TV or newspaper coverage that I was not going to be told what it was. To the extent that I was informed by the news, it would be more accurate to say I was informed of what I did not know ... which, since I didn't know it, I was unlikely to complain about.

Anyway, as time passed, this appreciation widened until today I read the news, am more and less interested, but am occasionally reminded of all the shit I simply do not know. Politicians may rely on my ignorance and/or laziness in admitting it, but I dislike relying on it. Ignorance, from time to time, feels stupid when it's not downright harmful.

Kicking this snoozing understanding back to life this morning was a story that did not come out of the 13 time zones. Instead, it occurred in Nebraska, a place that, in my ignorance, might just as well be in one of the underreported faraway places:
LAS VEGAS (AP) — This much is certain: Two handcuffed inmates at one of Nevada's toughest prisons brawled in a hallway, and one ended up dead from several shotgun blasts. The other was declared guilty of murder, even though he never touched a gun.
It sounds like people treating other people as animals ... a characteristic that is equally deplorable among police and criminals. Man-made dog fights, cock fights and, for all I know, people fights ... but far away from my eyes or consciousness. Maybe in time zone six or time zone twelve.

It's not as if I could possibly know everything all the time, but the breadth and depth of what I don't know is awe-inspiring.

Perhaps it's the only reasonable thing I can, in a sense, know.

1 comment:

  1. I've given up on remembering what i once knew, much less keeping up with new stuff. And of course it was frustrating, when my memory was sharp, to learn that i knew so little anyway. But i do know this, it's a safe assumption that a lot of what i don't know would only make it worse if i knew.