Monday, December 15, 2014

Can't Say that Anymore

Yesterday I made a brief stop at the Princeton Battlefield in New Jersey, scene of a militarily minor but psychologically important American triumph during Revolution. I was struck by this half-dismantled monument. What, dare one think, did the sign here say that made it imperative for us to remove it? What horror of racism, sexism, historical inaccuracy or bad grammar made this official vandalism necessary?

8 comments:

kpgoog said...

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/PrincetonBattleb.jpg

kpgoog said...

Map

G. Verloren said...

"What, dare one think, did the sign here say that made it imperative for us to remove it? What horror of racism, sexism, historical inaccuracy or bad grammar made this official vandalism necessary?"

What lead you to the conclusion that this was a monument? Or that it was dismantled by human design rather than the possibility that it fell apart in the natural course of time? Or if it was dismantled, that it wasn't merely because it had been ravaged by the elements over said course of time? Or perhaps even by decidedly unofficial vandalism?

As "kpgoog" so helpfully demonstrates, this was in fact the site of a damaged map, not a monument, which was presumably removed (either officially or not) because it was literally falling to pieces. In hindsight, this seems like an obvious explanation - but reading your post in the absence of the photographic evidence of the site's prior state, I found myself immediately believing your viewpoint as accurate. Did we both fall prey to cognitive biases?

How we choose to frame things, the assumptions we choose to make about things that we honestly don't know the truth about but feel we can easily intuit the answer, tells us much about our failings as rational beings. A visual example below:

http://i61.photobucket.com/albums/h50/StarwindPhoto/errol-text-edit.jpg

G. Verloren said...

Link error - replacement image link:

http://boingboing.net/filesroot/errol-text-edit.jpg

(An edit feature is sorely missed at times.)

John said...

If it had been vandalized, why not replace it?

John said...

It occurs to me that the question of where the events in the Battle of Princeton actually happened is being fought over in zoning boards all the time, as people try to block new developments by arguing that they are on the battlefield. An official map of the battle would necessarily be offensive to one or the other party in all these disputes. So maybe it was some homeowners association that came out by night and chiseled away the offending monument.

I suppose it might just be a combination of bad teenage behavior and budget cuts, but come on! How boring is that?

John said...

And now I am somehow highly amused, for the first time, by the message from Blogger asking me to "Choose an Identity."

Who do I feel like being today?

G. Verloren said...

"If it had been vandalized, why not replace it?"

Lack of funds? Tied up in red tape/bureacracy? Other options being considered? Looking for or waiting on contractors/suppliers/laborers/artists? Et cetera? All of the above?

Why immediately assume the worst, when available evidence leaves all options roughly equal in plausibility?

"I suppose it might just be a combination of bad teenage behavior and budget cuts, but come on! How boring is that?"

While I do recognize that you are being jocose, in my mind I consider this mentality to be one of the primary failings of humanity - we seek out the most "exciting" and outlandish solutions over the most rational but mundane. We embrace the bombastic and shy away from the jejune - which in essence means we prefer the fantastic to the realistic.

People don't want to believe that we are arbitrarily and semi-randomly descended from apes; they want to believe we are the children of deities intentionally crafted in their image. People don't want to believe that we're all roughly the same when it comes down to what matters; they want to cling to clannish notions of race and nationhood and culture, elevating their own "kind" and demonizing others. People don't want to believe that our lives are essentially meaningless, with our entire history a minisicule blip on the cosmic timelime; they want to believe we will always endure, and that we will somehow always (or even ever) matter in some meaningful sense.

And so we operate on assumptions of our own self importance, and in turn mistreat one another in countless ways, "justified" by our delusions of self grandeur.

But at least we aren't boring, eh?