Do you really need to know how presidential candidate X insulted presidential candidate Z in Nowhere, Iowa ten minutes ago? While it is nice to watch the gorgeous Fox News girls with long legs and ample bosoms deliver these tidbits breathlessly, how does this better inform you on what you may do in the voting booth in November, 2016?
Do you know the world got along perfectly well—and maybe better in some instances—without 24 hour news on the television, and now available on your wrist if you want, 24 hours a day, beeping you to not only messages, but also waking you at night to let you know the Queen of England had a mild heart attack, but she’s going to be ok.
Lots of people in this country don’t even know we fought against the Queen’s ancestors in the American Revolution, but they are listening all the time to the “breaking news” about some poor dog rescued after he walked from Arizona to Kansas, or the other way around.
Can you imagine how Christopher Columbus broke the news to the King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabela of Castile, that he had discovered the “new world.”
“Breaking News! We interrupt our sixty second roundup of what’s happening in the world to take you to Barcelona, Spain where a mariner named Christopher Columbus has just reported to the King and Queen of Spain!”
“Your majesties, I have found the way to China!”
“China? dear Admiral,” the Queen asked, a bit confused, “I thought you were headed to discover a new way to the Holy Land so we can kick out those dagnabit Turks and restore Christianity in Jerusalem.”
“Not to worry your Majesties, that’s on the agenda, but it seems there are some islands far out in the great Atlantic, filled with Chinese and Saracens of course, but,” he stopped to find the right words, and looked at King Ferdinand, “mostly occupied by people I’ve called Indians since we found the way to India and the spice islands, and so they must be Indians, mostly running around near naked, decked out in gold earrings and worshipping faieries.”
“And now for more breaking news in our 60 second roundup of what’s happening in the world. In Beijing, a two headed calf was born, interpreted by Chinese astrologers as a good sign that Chinese currency will rise in America….”
Well, you get the drift.
You are bombarded with tidbits and never see the big picture of anything. You are, in fact, tidbitted (new word) to death, the death being your understanding and knowledge of what is really happening in the world outside your television, iPad, or cell phone.
Centuries ago, news traveled by slow sailing ships, or on the backs of horses, slowly making their way across the seas, plains and mountains of the world.
It took weeks and months for Caesar sitting on his throne in Rome to communicate his thoughts and orders to his legions in Briton or Africa. Low ranking bureaucrat like Pontius Pilate stuck in Jerusalem among hot headed and rebellious Jews who didn’t like Rome had to figure out things for himself.
The bureaucrats and soldiers of Rome needed to be smart, educated, well versed in making decisions in keeping with the safety and welfare of the Empire, and able to act as true emissaries. They didn’t need a President back in Washington or the Prime Minister in London to micromanage their behavior.
They had everything they needed in their head. George Washington didn’t need to consult with Congress when he caught up with General Cornwallis and his redcoat army at Yorktown.
“Well, general, what do we do?” his adjutant asked.
“Wait a sec while I text Congress and see what they want,” the general asked, flipping open his cell phone. Washington was old fashioned. His phone still had a battery which could be charged at the battery-charging station where a mule was assigned turn the generator. The Army always seemed to be last the get the new equipment.
I believe the noble mule still adorns the Army team from West Point when they roar onto the field. Nice salute to their history.
Good leaders in olden days were educated. Today all those in authority, or the several hundred running for President and wanting to be in authority, browse almost instantly to the latest poll which lets them know what to think.
I’d like someone like Abraham Lincoln who could think for himself, and write, and then act upon, some of the most powerful prose in history.
Try his A Matter for Conscience for starters. Read it. It’s free on the Internet. It’s a nice way to get engaged with a man with a mind, not one whose mind is but a keystroke away in his hand. That’s just information, not knowledge.
Published as We Have Too Much Information and Not Enough Knowledge in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, August 9 2015.