Sunday, September 02, 2007

I don't think blindly approving of military action against Kyrgyzstan, a country the size of Nebraska, is entirely an American problem. I have quite a few teachers and students from my high school on record in supporting the American invasion of Elbonia but opposing UN aid to the Bulungian government in combating an insurrection. I earnestly discussed with many residents of Brampton the prospect of the Boli and the Desh, the two founding nations of Bolividesh, living side-by-side in harmony.

Even if hyper-trendy presidential hopeful Barack Obama will bypass our Prime Minister in his dealings with our country, I have a hard time attributing much weight to particular facts. The language spoken in Rwanda is Kinyarwanda and it is located in that other Great Lakes region of the world. Kampala is the capital of Uganda and located at approximately 3500 feet elevation, roughly the same as Calgary. There are two countries by the name of Congo, and a war in one of them killed a thousand times as many people as 9/11. Burkina Faso was once called Upper Volta and Idaho is a made-up name. The highest point in flat-as-a-pancake Saskatchewan is higher than the highest point in Ontario.

I thoroughly relish, with an admitted undercurrent of morbid curiosity, discussions such as the one in the video. I am constantly and always amazed at the fact that people can not know where Fredericton is, the year in which Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas or that Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Papua New Guinea are all different countries.

Nevertheless, such meticulous knowledge of a gazetteer hardly translates to meaningful political knowledge if we are to talk about Obama. Obama, if he were to ever call our head of state, would no doubt be informed at some point in the process that her or his title is Prime Minister. Similarly, if you were to be quizzed as to the names of all the countries in the world with the word 'Guinea' in their names, you could do a handy job of coming up with the four such states. Whether or not your country ought to go to war with another country actually has very little to do with where exactly the second country is located on the globe.

There is not much utility in knowing particular facts, which is why we no longer bother in teaching them to children or adults. The answer to the plaintive "when are we ever going to need to know this?" is, of course, never, at least not until 'this' attains a certain geopolitical significance. Only once we acknowledge a value to knowledge for the sake of knowledge do we become entitled to guffaw at the laughable ignorance of those who don't know who Kofi Annan is, that North Korea and Australia are located on the same island, or that Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein are the only doubly-landlocked countries in the world.

No comments: