14 July 2006

I Never Knew

I pride myself on the breadth of my studies, and on having a sort of general familiarity with all kinds of things. So finding huge gaping holes in what I know is somewhat distressing... and it's even worse when it's a hole I didn't even know I had. I mean, I know I know nothing about astrophysics, for example, but that's a comfortable edge of the map for me. But last night, the family was snuggled down together, watching Michael Palin's "Sahara". It's a fabulous BBC documentary that follows Michael (of Monty Python fame) on a trip around the Sahara. It's quite engrossing. And it's highlighting so many things I don't know. Some of it is comfortable edges. Until he got to Senegal. I had never heard of Goree Island. And am thoroughly ashamed that at my age, I had to be sitting, listening to an Englishman lecture me about something that I bet 90% of the people in my town know all about. The town I live in has a huge "us-vs-them" dynamic. It's more compartmentalized here than in any other place I've visited, with less cross-traffic. And with isolation, comes hostility and mistrust. There are a lot of acts of violence here, and of racial hatred and misunderstanding. So there on my TV, a group of American dancers is rehearsing a performance commemorating the suffering of their ancestors in that hideous place. African Americans, Michael tells me, make pilgrimages to that island every year, to see the place where their ancestors had their last sight of Africa. I never knew. And if I never knew that.... what else don't I know? What other critical component of understanding am I missing? And for christ's sake... why did no one teach me before now?


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