Communication Across Vast Distances

“Carly Fiorina received a BA from Stanford in medieval history and philosophy almost 40 years ago, but she’s always ready to revisit her undergraduate glory days. Last Sunday, the Republican presidential candidate tried to burnish her national security credentials by claiming that her bachelor’s degree prepared her to fight Isis. She said: “Finally my degree in medieval history and philosophy has come in handy, because what Isis wants to do is drive us back to the Middle Ages, literally”.

I’d like to state unequivocally that my years of training to become a professor of medieval history in no way make me fit to be appointed commander-in-chief of the US military. While the Middle Ages do in fact shape contemporary events all the time, Fiorina unfortunately almost always gets the lessons of history wrong.

When we use the word “medieval” to characterize something we don’t like, be it Isis, the Ferguson Police department or Russia’s driver’s license regulations, we are trying to impose chronological distance between ourselves and things we find unpleasant. Thinking of these distasteful or evil aspects of the modern world as belonging to the past makes it harder, not easier, to understand their root causes and fight them……………

 

If Carly Fiorina really wants to draw on the Middle Ages for inspiration, I do have some suggestions. Lesson one: support universities, scholars, writers and artists, as their contributions outlive us all. Lesson two: peasants, oppressed for too long, always rebel. Lesson three: don’t go to war in the Middle East without a good exit plan.

Reference

@lolardfish, No Carly A Degree In Medieval History Doesn’t Qualify You To Fight Isis, The Guardian

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