Yesterday, I knocked off a from-the-heart blogpost complaining that Europeans (in particular) have a tendency to patronise Americans when said Americans are struggling with?really big issues like health care. To summarise, I said that Europeans often failed to understand American politics and American history, in particular the very different between individuals, states and the federal government.
It is fair to say I did not really know what I was talking about.
This is not to say I was wrong (although some people said I was), nor that I shouldn’t have said anything. It is just to point out that here, on my blog, under my domain, I do rather reserve the right to sound off on subjects of my own choosing and my own interest.
As it happens, I’d just finished reading James M McPherson’s magisterial?Battle Cry of Freedom, a history of the American Civil War. What had struck me in that volume in particular was the astounding literacy of the letters sent by soldiers back to their families. What had also struck me was the passion and intelligence with which all the participants – politicians, soldiers, newspaper editors, writers and wives – had engaged in a debate about the relationship between the individual and the state.
Thus, when people started satirising those Americans who held a different view on them about Obamacare, I simply pointed out that their assumption that Americans were somehow stupid about this stuff was very wrong.
In other words, a little reading is a dangerous thing.
My point in writing this, though, is to ask: when does one have permission to write about something, particularly in a blog? How much knowledge is assumed and/or necessary to fire off a from-the-hip remark about space travel, nuclear fusion, Japanese pop music and all the other stuff we talk endlessly about in pubs and at dinner parties? Is a blogpost somewhere between a hand-wavy assertion over drinks and a newspaper column? Where, exactly, is it in that continuum? Is it OK to fly kites, or should one only land facts? Should I pretend to be more sure than I am? Or should I constantly reassert my lack of knowledge about anything and everything?
Should I just, at the end of the day,?shut the hell up?
Possibly. Probably. But this space, it seems to me, is primarily for my enjoyment. And the enjoyment stems from me saying something, and other people arguing with me – better-informed people, for the most part (like, for instance, on yesterday’s post about Americans, people who are actually, you know, American). So I’ll keep on being wrong, and other people will correct me, and thus we shall advance the sum of human knowledge and move forward together into a glorious future.
And with that, on to nuclear fusion, about which I have some?very strong thoughts.