Or do they?
I am constantly amazed at how much people "know."
Comment sections on political blogs, sports talk radio callers (and hosts), friends, enemies, co-workers, even those annoying "got a moment for the environment" people, are all rife with (self-identified) lucid observations on any number of topics. "You choose the topic, buddy. I'll do the schooling," seems to be the norm these days.
The most troubling occurrences happen now, during cocktail party season, where we are regaled with one full year's "information" in a matter of minutes or, God forbid, hours.
In my attempts to get to the bottom of the font's well-spring of knowledge on so many topics, the most common response happens to be, "I read the (or several) newspapers every day!" This, I had no idea, was the purest path to scholarship on any and every subject in the known world.
If only my mother had known. She spent an entire afternoon listening to a pitch from an Encyclopedia Salesman, then made payments on the set over the course of a years' time. The many hours I spent in those volumes, traveling to far-away lands, learning of people an cultures long gone, sprinting alongside the big cats of the African Plain as they brought down their prey, copying hieroglyphics to the point of calling myself an expert, visiting the top of every mountain and, conversely, the bottom of every sea. That solid foundation, could easily have been formed by a subscription to the Chicago Tribune? Momma was cheated!
Never mind that those encyclopedias were a supplement to all the children of my family, who were required to read the newspaper, biographies of historical figures, watch Ted Koppel and films that I still have no idea their meaning. The point being, my family stressed, not academic or social excellence, but intellectual excellence -- full stop!
We were taught to learn beyond what is taught, explore beyond the borders of easily-available information and access or develop new tracts of thinking in order to understand the world in which we live.
That said, I'd like to share with you a few things that are not in the newspaper, on the season's hottest cocktail topics. This way you'll either command the flow of the conversation, or feel as nauseated as I when bombarded with Fox News, CNN or MSNBC talking points all night. Enjoy Yo'self:
Health Care Reform
The dominant theme of every gathering I have found myself a part of.
Here is the only thing you need know to know more then everyone else you know.
The bill is H.R. 3590.
Nobody you know has read it, me included, so they cannot know this. I have spent about 6 hours, total, reading the bill but find I have only made it through 25% of the legislation. Which happened to be more than enough for me to find fault with the bill. How anyone can cogently discuss a book without knowing it's title is beyond me.
Bad Human! Bad Human!
The United States Senate
The U.S. Senate was never intended to be the "Voice of the People."
When the constitution was drafted, the House of Representatives was created so that the (then-small) voting pool would have political representation. The short election cycles (two years) were put in place, so as frustration with the actions (or inaction) of said Representatives could be corrected fairly quickly. This is why the House is apportioned according to population. Incidentally, the Electoral Collage is set up the same way for the election of the President.
The Senate was created to serve the monied interests of their home states. This is why Senators were APPOINTED, not elected, for the first 138 years of our nation's existence.
Until the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified in 1911, and put into practice in 1914, members of the Senate were appointed by their local legislatures. This meant anybody, and I mean ANYBODY, could serve as a Senator, provided they met the stringent rule of being over 30 years-old, a resident of the State (at time of swearing in) and be a male (there were even African-American Senators before 1914, but ZERO women).
Since the House was created to "represent the citizenry" and the Senate was a body of unelected officials, beholden only to their monied elite masters back home, which body of government was allowed to make treaties, ratify treaties, approve judges for the bench, appoint federal officers and approves ALL Cabinet Officers to the President (who are essentially the heads of all functions of the government)? If you said anything other than the unelected members of the Senate, you'd be wrong.
There are 100 members in the Senate, of which, 61 are confirmed millionaires (and 7 more that are thought to be millionaires). Senators serve six-year terms and are therefore vested for medical, dental and life insurance for life and receive robust retirement benefits after a period of 5 years, not even one full term.
Lastly, the push to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment is gaining real voice. The hope is to take the voting (accountability) out of the voters hands and put it back "where the Founding Father's intended." This would be laughable, if not for what the American Electorate has allowed and enabled (the systematic dissolution of the American Ideal) over the past 30 years, in the name of "remaining (?) safe."
People seem to know so little of the country we invaded on March 20, 2003. The idea of this being a backward, babbling, unsophisticated people plays as a convenient narrative for our going along with the invasion, which has turn the country, literally, upside down.
Had the very Christian President, George W. Bush, said, "America, we are going to bomb the country that God gave to Abraham (Genesis 15:18) and where Daniel heard the voice of God (Daniel 10)," I think it would have been a hard sell.
It is standard corporate jargon to say, "Don't re-invent the wheel." Iraqi's do not have such a problem. For it is was the ingenuity and intelligence within the borders of the of this nation of 31,000,000, that their ancestors actually invented THE wheel. Writing that predates that of the Iraqi people is unknown. Many of the fruits, vegetables and spices that adorn your and my table were developed, hybridized and put in usage for human nutritional consumption sprung from this land.
These are far from a non-modern people. The reason they are not understood in the West has more to do with our having to carve out a culture for our new republic, America. Our country is less than 250 years-old, so the firm idea of what American Culture is has not fully taken hold, we change frequently because we have not yet found the fullness of our identity as of yet (which we will).
Iraq was 250 years-old in 6,422 BC! What we see as primitive, or out-dated, in the Iraqi culture, is really a time-tested culture which has been manicured over the ages at the hands of history's greatest poets, scholars, agrarians, social designers and leaders.
That is not the totality of the picture of Iraq, but to discuss the country without the knowledge of the small few important facts, to me, is OUTRAGEOUS! Depth People.
There has been a continuous (and ongoing) Civil War waged in Afghanistan for the past 844 years. Yes, sometimes it quiets to a trickle, sometimes it explodes into full fury, but the war has not ceased since it's beginning in 1165!!!
We have, much like the former Soviet Union, just chosen a side on which to fight. When we have "achieved victory," as President Obama has guaranteed recently, the War will continue to be waged by these two massive factions.
Afghanistan is so big in relation to it's number of citizens, to have an understanding of how sparsely populated it is, one needs to imagine searching for an eyelash in a bathtub full of water, with ripples. Throw in the vast cave networks, which were created to avoid the frigid elements in the winter (like Minneapolis's and Indianapolis's walkway networks) and the tub now has bubbles, to boot.
The reason the primary method of attack has been with Drone planes is because the terrain is not conducive to movement on foot (or vehicles, for that matter). It is difficulty in movement which has led to the country not having it's population see tremendous growth in relation to it's size. This development, known since Alexander the Great wrote about the inhospitable nature of the Afghani landscape in 327 B.C. (and where 100% of his military advisers begged him to stop), will prove difficult on our infantries, making it impossible for them to successfully prosecute the war with purpose.
Committing Ground Forces to Afghanistan made, and makes, no sense when weighed in terms of "risk/reward." This is why so many informed persons were thrilled with President Obama's decision to table all the plans for Afghanistan in September, but ultimately dismayed when he forged ahead with the troop increase. The strategy has no chance for success, it only mollifies the war hawks by keeping the wars theater open.
These nuggets, combined with all your previous understanding of these topics, will greatly aid in your deftness or grief, I am sorry to say. It is a great responsibility, knowledge. Just remember the words of Elbert Hubbard:
"The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge."