The Unknown Zone of Bone

I do like Donald Rumsfeld.
The man who was mocked for talking about ‘known unknowns and unknown unknowns’ is a military strategist of remarkable acumen.
It would be highly improper for anyone to accuse him of not being honest with his employers (the American taxpayer).
However, it is hard to forget that Rumsfeld once reassured the public that going to war in Iraq was necessary to oust the vile dictator…and that the military campaign might run for five months and cost no more than fifty billion dollars (which, at the time, was a staggering fortune).
We now find ourselves in January 2013, looking at a conflict situation which has lasted almost ten years and cost…well, opinions differ, but there is one online calculator which keeps a running total, and the clock hurtles effortlessly past the 1,415-billion dollar mark.

The scorn that was heaped upon Rumsfeld for his comments about ‘unknown unknowns’ was quite unjustified; it is reasonable to acknowledge that we have a body of information (known) accompanied by a lack of information (known unknowns) together with a lack of awareness (unknown unknowns). The concept of fundamental research relies on people being able to both answer questions – and to ask questions which have not previously occurred to the experienced thinkers in one’s field of study.
According to Wikipedia (the grandest compendium of things we didn’t know we didn’t know),

“Psychoanalytic philosopher Slavoj Žižek extrapolates from these three categories a fourth, the unknown known, that which we intentionally refuse to acknowledge that we know:[6]

If Rumsfeld thinks   that the main dangers in the confrontation with Iraq were the “unknown   unknowns,” that is, the threats from Saddam whose nature we cannot even   suspect, then the Abu Ghraib scandal shows that the main dangers lie in the   “unknown knowns” – the disavowed beliefs, suppositions and obscene   practices we pretend not to know about, even though they form the background   of our public values.”

I disagree with Žižek on the exact nature of unknown knowns; they do not have to be wilful ignorance for the benefits of a clear conscience (the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind) but can also include the vast body of subconsciously absorbed knowledge – tacit information – which people hold and which can be exploited by advertisers and politicians eager to influence the general public. How many times have you answered a quiz question, only to think ‘How did I know that?’

Journal Entries, October 1990:
Am sat here listening to the new PSB album for the 5th or 6th time. Tomorrow might go to London avec Mike and Dan.
Never went to London, instead met the lads in town and went boyspotting. Firework display in South Parks so Marston Rd packed with cars & pedestrians and it took half-hour to reach Carfax.
Spent evening in Apollo – everyone was there – Keith, Dennis, Lance, the Didcot Boys, Peter P, Mike & Dan. On way home walked my bike up to Carfax with M & D. Suddenly the bearded boy in a leather jacket appeared: young Robert.
Last night had cheese and wine party with Di, Elaine, Sheilagh, John C, mike, Danny, Lance and Keith. Woke up with hangover, found a yellow Post-It note from George saying ‘sorry but I hate smokers and I don’t entertain them in my house’ all in shaky block caps.
Went to training restaurant (Oxford Poly catering dept), Di thought she was going for a quiet meal with Elaine but found five of us waiting. We brought in a large cake with an equation iced on top:

Tg/G [Σ(1-v) = 25 (or something like that…)

‘Happy Birthday!’ we all trilled, and she went very red.

Journal Entry, Sun 14 Dec ’03:
Went to Poplars on A50 for MAG regional meeting. Tev wants us to have a rock night at the Village Inn. In the news: nothing much. Allied troops have captured Saddam Hussein. But how does one punish someone who has caused so much suffering?

Journal Entry, Tue 4 May ’04:
Big story in the news – smuggled photographs showing Iraqi PoWs being humiliated by US and later UK soldiers. Some people pay good money to be pissed on by a uniformed squaddie.
Sunday night went out with B to Legends for Bears’ Night. Last night rang Lady K and she told me that Stevie Teats (visiting Manchester on Sat night) exclaimed ‘Oooh, Mary!’ after narrowly avoiding being mown down by a pushbike.
The rider screeched to a halt, glared at him and snapped ‘My name’s not Mary!’ before riding indignantly away.


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