(I wrote this back in 2007, thus the reference to “The Surge.” But the principles apply now as much as then. In fact, I think they apply MORE now. The increased use of “social media” has merely amplified the bloviation x100 from the ancient times of 2007. In these Presidential Election Crazy Times I thought I needed a reminder of how little I know about the candidates. I truly have NO IDEA what any of them will eventually do when elected. God Bless the United States of America!)
The Poetry of Don Rumsfeld:
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.
Our former Secretary of Defense took some kidding for the quote above a few years ago–but I thought it was a pretty deep and accurate little saying. In fact, as part of our series on (hopefully, clearer) thinking, I’m going to remind you of just how little you know, and how much you know is from very questionable sources.
I don’t know, with absolute certainty, that Paris, France exists–sure I’ve read a lot about it, but I’ve never been there, never even flew over for a visual inspection. The weight of testimony from other people is tremendous–from thousands of references in books, movies, television programs and people I’ve talked to personally, maps, satellite photos on the web; but maybe, just maybe, all of that is part of a nefarious plot to make me think Paris, France exists. Perhaps the Secret Cabal What Actually Runs It All wants me to think it’s there so that at some future time I might play a small part in the stage-managed drama that we think of as History…
Or not. In fact, all of us, all the time, operate on assumptions about millions of things like the existence of Paris, France, because we have to, and because it works. Some great stories and books by Phil Dick and Robert Heinlein, among others, have explored situations where, in fact, the world was staged…but I don’t think that’s my world.
But back to the point, which was–oh yes, how little we know.
A good current example was in the headlines of all the Lamestream Media in the last few days: Seventy percent of Americans oppose troop surge in Iraq. This led me to ponder how these good Americans formed their opinions. How many of them know the number of American troops there now? How many know about the various regions of Iraq, the number of Iraqi security force personnel, the name of the Iraqi Prime Minister, his brand of Islam and his party? Just how many of the 70 percent could freakin’ find Iraq on a map of the world?
The answers are of course: not many, hardly any, very few, very few, and finally, less than half.
In other words, their opinion doesn’t mean a goddam thing, because their opinion is based on almost complete ignorance, and most of what they do ‘know’ has been fed to them by major news outlets that filter out 99.99 percent of what takes place in Iraq every day and condense it down to something like, “100 Iraqis and six U.S. troops died today. And that’s today’s news from Iraq.”
The Iraq situation is just an example; most of us, including me, know a little about a few things and very little or almost nothing about most everything else. Of course, that doesn’t prevent most of us from having an “opinion.”
Knowing when you don’t know enough to have a bleeping opinion is another small step on the road to true wisdom.