In my old age I am becoming a bit of an armchair adventurer. My armchair makes me like a man marooned on an island; it may be tropical and comfortable, but it’s darn boring. I want to quit the island and go to sea, but old men become too feeble to crew. Then, because I lack the stamina to go out and get myself in trouble any more, I instead read about others going out and getting in trouble. This then gives me bits of factual trivia, which I can then use, to get in trouble from the supposed safety of my armchair.
When my Dad was old his manner of “livening things up a bit” was to annoy someone like my older sister by being atrociously politically-incorrect. He wasn’t very racist, but would intentionally make some statement that made my sister’s hair stand up. Of course, when she was younger she had a militant zeal that made it very easy to offend her. I used to do it all the time innocently, without meaning it. For example, one time I called a man from China a China-man, and my big sister exploded, “What do you mean by that!?” Backpedaling across the room and looking for a window to escape through, I quavered, “A man from China?”
I’m getting a bit like my Dad, in that I backpedal less, and tend to just be amused when others get mad. For example, one way to get people fuming is to call an Eskimo an Eskimo. You are suppose to call them “Inuit”, and if you use the word “Eskimo” it means you lack spiritual grace. I then beg to differ, by hitting them with some armchair trivia:
The word “Eskimo” means “People who lash on a snowshoe”, and it is a good, solid, Native American word. I see nothing racist about it, unless it is racist to notice a neighboring culture is different. It was used by the Innu to describe outsiders, and likely specifically applied to the Micmac to the southeast, but also more generally applied to my Abenaki ancestors to the south and to what are now called Inuit to the north. The original word sounded something like “ayasâkimew”, and it took the French to mangle it into its current form in English. In any case, I don’t think it bothers Eskimos to be called Eskimos, as much as it bothers university prigs, (who dislike being called “university prigs” even more than they dislike Eskimo being called Eskimo.)
I respect the word “Inuit”, as the word Eskimos use to describe themselves, and also respect the word “qallunaat”, which is the word they use to describe outsiders. It means, “People who jump to conclusions”, which some prigs might say is a heck of a lot more racist than “People who lash on snowshoes”. But I don’t take offence at all.
When I lived out west I spent a lot of time living with Navajo, and discovered their name for themselves was “Dinè”, which means “the People”, and their word for white Europeans was “Belighana”, which meant, “People who we fought”. I never got in a single fight with the Navajo, and sure wasn’t going to start one, about what I was called. I don’t object to how words are defined, for I tend to feel language is a beautiful thing.
In fact, if I was going to quibble with the Eskimo it would be that they don’t show proper respect for the English language. A sacred English-language tradition I was taught by my elders is that the letter “Q” must always be followed by the letter “U”. Because the pen is mightier than the sword, great power is involved, and you sure don’t want to mess with a power more mighty than a sword. (Of course, it was probably university prigs who mangled the spelling of Eskimo words.)
As a person uneducated by university-morality, but taught by Masters about the power of the English word, I advise Eskimos to reject the misuse of the letter “Q”. (It doesn’t even make sense, as the word “qallunaat” sounds, to the average ear, like it begins with a hoarse “H”.) I hereby warn Eskimos that it is very bad luck and “bad medicine” to use a “Q” without a “U” following it. Bad things happened to me when I tried it, in school. And just look what has happened to the nation of Iraq.
In any case, you can perhaps imagine the trouble I can get into, sitting here in my armchair, when I ventilate such views. Perhaps it is not as much fun as sailing in a stormy sea, but it does “liven things up a bit”.
One rule I try to uphold, while trying to stir things up, is to stick to the Truth. There is no need to use any sort of falsification, to get people going.
I see this all the time when discussing Global Warming. Truth drives people absolutely wild, and in many ways they seem to prefer to be told bunkum. Why does this happen? I suppose this phenomenon occurs because, once we have used a smattering of data to create the assumptions we call “a belief”, it is annoying to have to dismantle the assumption and start all over again.
The more data that goes into making the assumption, the harder it is to dismantle. It doesn’t matter if the belief is in “God” or is in “There-is-no-God”, people resist seeing their belief dismantled, and when their belief is dismantled they can experience trauma and even go into shock. Therefore it may seem cruel of me to “liven things up a bit”. I try to know when enough is enough, and not to “liven things up too much.” However there are some people who deserve a shock close to that of an electric chair. They are often either “university prigs” or “overbearing Christians”, and can be so rude and obnoxious, when pontificating how righteous their beliefs are, that they deserve to be shocked by Truth, and having their high-nosed utterances exposed as being balderdash and blather. And this is precisely what Jesus did, when he tore a strip off the Pharisees (Matthew Chapter 23), poking fun at their ostentatious tassels and phylacteries, and saying they “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel”. Of course, he did get crucified, which may explain why I am more of a coward. I just speak itty-bitty Truths, about far-away sea-ice.
Besides those (like me) who get in trouble for questioning Global Warming, there are those who get praised for speaking bunkum. This is called “supporting the narrative”. People are placated and feel soothed when they hear things that they already believe. This is why some websites (both Alarmist and Skeptic) are basically echo chambers full of parrots, and delete differing views. They don’t want anyone “livening things up a bit”. But I find such sites more boring than the company of a corpse, for, even though a corpse has nothing to say, it at least scares you a bit. The only thing scary about an echo-chamber-website is that the people in it find delusion soothing. Far better are sites alive with discussion.
One bit of silky-smooth, scientific-sounding bumkum I once heard, regarding sea-ice, was after a very low sea-ice extent, the summer of 2012. Basically the premise was that the ice would be even less the following summers, and be largely gone by the summer of 2015. We now know such a premise is bunkum, for the sea-ice is still with us, but the premise sounded feasible at the time. However what seemed most impressively scientific-sounding was the “mechanics” involved, supporting the premise.
The suggestion was made that, because so much new “baby-ice” had formed during the winter of 2012-2013, the summer of 2013 would see more melt-water pools. Why? Because old, multi-year ice was crumpled and uneven, and melt-water would run off surfaces with a pitch, but baby-ice was nice and flat, and many more pools would form. Why would this speed the melting of ice? Well, melt-water would be darker than white snow, and would absorb more heat from the sunshine. It was an eloquent explanation. But then I came along and spoiled things with the Truth. What Truth did I state? Well, there were cameras bobbing around on arctic buoys, and they did not show smoother ice. In fact there were more pressure-ridges than were seen before. There were also adventurers out on the ice, and the pictures on their Facebook pages did not show smoother ice. In fact one adventurer stated he had never before seen sea-ice so riven and tortured, and he dubbed it “crazy ice”. These observations revealed that the above-described “mechanics” of the original premise, although silky-smooth and scientific-sounding, was built upon bunkum.
Just in the past few weeks a silky-smooth hypothesis has been offered for the very thick sea-ice that piled up on the coast of Newfoundland, which caused problems for the fishermen up there. It was explained that the striking increase in thicker amounts of piled-up sea-ice seen on the Newfoundland coast was due to Global Warming melting sea-ice. (Huh?) A lovely explanation then was given, stating the phenomenon was like Styrofoam in a bathtub. (Eh?) If the bathtub was full of Styrofoam from side to side, you could puff at a piece of the foam and the Styrofoam wouldn’t budge, for there was no space for it to move. However if the tub’s surface was only half full there would be space for Styrofoam to move, and when you puffed at a piece of Styrofoam it would scoot over the surface. Less was more, for less Styrofoam meant the Styrofoam could move more. And this explained how less sea-ice could move more, down to the shores of Newfoundland and, in that one place, “look” like more, though there was in fact less.
Don’t you just love it when a scientist comes down to our level and explains things in terms we little children can understand? We should all nod and wear enlightened expressions and say “eureka” and nod some more. But then I came along and spoiled things with the Truth.
It just so happens that, due to the need to resupply the Hudson Bay company trading posts, we have 350 years of records of sea-ice conditions in that area. There were also whaling ships that sailed further north after whales, and we can consult their ship-logs. Also British explorers, who sought ways through the Northwest Passage, kept surprisingly scientific records, and American explorers who wanted to be the first to reach the North Pole also kept records. And finally, because I, in my armchair, like to get away on vicarious adventures involving the daring exploits of sailors, I have perused these stories, and consequentially (and somewhat accidentally) my memory owns all sorts of trivia about sea-ice conditions of the past. Therefore I immediately recognized the bunkum involved, in the statement that sea-ice is now more mobile than it once was, due to Global Warming.
One adventure I was awed by was that of a group of men camped on the sea-ice beside a ship, who woke one morning to see the ice they were on had broken away from the ship, leaving the sailors and their Eskimo guides marooned on sea-ice, far from their ship. This occurred at the very top of Baffin Bay, by Nares Strait. Then these men drifted over 1800 miles south aboard their berg, to a rescue by sealers off the coast of Newfoundland.
This adventure does tend to suggest that sea-ice moved in the past as it moves today, and that history, in turn, suggests that such motion is not merely a modern thing, and is not caused by Global Warming, and, in conclusion, that suggesting otherwise is pure bunkum.
But I gained other trivia as well, for one does wonder why the men on the ship didn’t pick up the marooned crew. One scrutinizes the history for the reasons. And it turns out the expedition was government-funded science.
Oh boy, can I ever have fun with this!
Unfortunately I don’t have time, at the moment. As a teaser, I’ll just state the captain was murdered, there was a lot of drunkenness, half the crew drifted off on an iceberg, the boat later sank, but (miraculously, considering how unforgiving the arctic can be), no once else died.
The moral of the tale I hope to tell will be that a ship needs one captain who is obeyed, and that to sail by a bureaucratic committee is bound to be a debacle. Politics always complicates leadership, because in-fighting and jockeying-for-position results in either overt, or subtle and secret, mutiny.
And Science? Science involves all sorts of debate, but there should be no doubt who the captain is. The captain is Truth.
Truth is not honored when the second half of this motto is followed: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” And bullshit is just another word for bunkum. And, sadly, climate science has allowed political and financial pressure to make bunkum just another word for Global Warming.
(If you are interested in the men marooned on the iceberg, check out this old book, written in 1874, and containing views that are likely not entirely objective. (But are we ever?) The time adrift-on-a-berg begins in chapter sixteen.)