The Big Issue : Edition 474
THE BIG ISSUE 26 DEC 2014 – 8 JAN 2015 13 the ultimate, clean and economically trouble-free end to global warming?” This kind of ignorance in a world of geniuses is pretty difficult to manage. Of course, the lasting benefits of absolute peace and material comfort to all creatures are a real ‘plus’, and I guess I should just deal with the sad truth that I don’t know as much as everyone else. But I have become a real bore in social situations and find that this community of Keynesian–Einsteins who have fixed everything with recourse to economic and physical science don’t have much time for a dimwit like me. Yes. Of course. I’m being a willy. You and I are quite aware that the things in the world we do not know far outnumber the things we do. We are mostly confused and, on good days, awed by the feats of knowledge and science others have managed, and we go about in the darkness with no idea what it takes to illuminate a lamp. But I have lately noticed a newer trend. Perhaps it’s a Google thing, but nearly everyone seems to carry a bundle of solutions for big problems around with them. Maybe it actually goes back a little further than instant Google knowledge. I saw this urge to appear to know, without actually knowing, about 20 years ago when I travelled in my ancestral homeland of Ireland. Back before Google Maps, one was forced to find one’s way around with bits of paper and directions. This is normally fine, but in Dublin this crude mode of navigation comes with ancient risks. Ask a Dubliner, “Can you show me the way to Temple Bar?” and even if he or she has no holy clue, they will give you a set of instructions that are as detailed as they are horribly wrong. One night while travelling (and on top of a half-dozen Guinnesses), I asked a local “Why are you all giving me terrible directions?” And she told me that Dubliners are a friendly bunch and don’t want to seem rude or disappointing by not offering a response. Even if they don’t actually have a real one. Last flu season, I sniffled at a meeting at work and several people offered me very reasonable-sounding prescriptions. These included “Olive leaf extract, which has been proven to aid the immune system”, “Why not try vitamin C?” and the more sensible: “For Christ’s sake, Razer. Go home.” All but the last were instructions offered with apparently scientific basis and all are, in fact, unproven by science (I checked). But such is the urge not to feel as though any of us has lost our way in the streets or is unable to deal with the common cold, we all offer solutions. I know how to fix the obesity epidemic. I know how to save the ABC from funding cuts. I know how to reverse climate change. We all know. Or, at least, we increasingly believe we do. Well. I’m confused. And I have no solutions. Except for one. And that is, if I’m confused about something, I should shut my mouth and wait for someone who has a clue to speak. “I know how to fix the obesity epidemic. I know how to save the ABC from funding cuts. I know how to reverse climate change.” RAZER Know Way, Know How PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND I AM NOT sure when it happened but, certainly at some point, everybody in the world suddenly knew everything. This was a marvellous day for most, given that the wide dissemination and comprehension of all human knowledge meant niggling problems like world hunger, disease and poverty were solved. But there was one terrible problem: I didn’t seem to share the wisdom. I mean, can you imagine what it’s like in a world of absolute information to be the only dullard left on the rocks saying: “Look, I’m just not sure about this whole particle theory thing and I was wondering if you could explain the details? And while you’re at it, could you bring me up to speed on » Helen Razer is a writer and urban anthropologist. This is a stressful time of year for her. Summer. Heat. Inadequate rainfall. Plants suffering. We feel her pain.