Saturday, March 22nd, 2003

Getting specific.

Filed under: fallacies,naïveté,unwanted knowledge — alison @ 16:08

Smoking is bad for you. Saddam Hussein is a very bad man. These are statements we accept without thinking, though we don’t necessarily really believe or understand them.

Mona stopped smoking when her naturopath told her that the yellow streaks on her arms meant that she would develop emphysema if she didn’t quit. (Well, yes Mona: we’ll all get emphysema if we smoke long enough. That is, if we don’t get cancer first. What is it you didn’t understand about “smoking is bad for you”? Did you not think it referred to you?)

My mother, as Director of Information Services for the Norman Patterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, was recently required to obtain a document from a kurdish woman in england who hates Saddam Hussein and has dedicated her life to documenting bad things about him. The document detailed the bad things he does to kurds. My mother, being tender-hearted, carefully avoided reading the document but the man who ordered and read it offered the following tidbit: Saddam Hussein has a people-shredding machine. Thinking about the people-shredding machine puts a different colour on the war as we watch the video version on television… but what did we think that “Saddam Hussein is a very bad man” meant? That he didn’t call his mother on the weekends?

[originally transmitted by e-mail March 22 2003]

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