联合早报
2007/12/26

台湾中时电子报报道,当今美国最负盛名的通俗史家大卫.麦卡勒(David McCullough),最近公开道出两则他亲身体验的故事。

  第一则是他在密苏里大学演讲美国开国史之后,一位女生跑鴠L前面睁大眼睛告诉他说:「刚刚听您的演说,我才知道美国建国之初最早的13州,原本都在东北部!」麦卡勒很感慨地说,密苏里大学是个好学校,为什么竟有如此文盲的学生?

  第二则是他到常春藤盟校(nucifera注:Ivy League)之一的新罕布夏州达特茅斯学院(nucifera注:New Hampshire Dartmouth college),向25位主修历史的绩优学生讲课。他首先问学生有没有听过乔治.马歇尔(George Marshall)这个人?全班静默了一段时间,终于有个男生胆怯地向麦卡勒:「这个乔治.马歇尔是不是和『马歇尔计画』有关?」麦氏说是的,然后开始介绍二战期间担任美国陆军参谋长,负责整个战略与后勤的马歇尔将军。马帅在战后曾被杜鲁门总统派至中国调处国民党与中共的冲突,但铩羽而归;回国后历任国务卿和国防部长1953年因推动欧洲战后复兴(即「马歇尔计画」)而荣获诺贝尔和平奖。

  麦卡勒所述的是两则大学生「史盲」的故事。最近有一则更可怕、更骇人听闻的史盲新闻,故事就发生在白宫。

  白宫发言人黛娜.裴莉诺(Dana Penino)是白宫史上第二个女性发言人,第一个是柯林顿时代的迪迪.麦尔丝。裴莉诺是在今年9月14日才正式上任,白宫记者对这位35岁发言人的印象还不错,至少她比较嫩、比较虚心,不会强辩。裴莉诺最近承认她根本不知道什么是「古巴飞弹危机」,她说她听都没听过!裴莉诺说,有次在白宫新闻发布会上有位记者提到1962年古巴飞弹危机,她当时不知道是怎么一回事,回家后就问她丈夫,其夫比她大18岁,是个英国商人。

  裴莉诺生于1972年,毕业于南科罗拉多大学(已改名为普布鲁梭区科罗拉多州立大学),主修大众传播;后来又在春田梭区伊利诺大学获传播硕士学位。一个拥有硕士学位的白宫发言人,竟然在她的知识成长过程中不知道1960年代发生过古巴飞弹危机这件大事,真是匪夷所思!身为白宫新闻秘书,竟连美国现代政治史上的大事都未听过,如何能做全国首屈一指的发言人呢?

  白宫发言人有严重史盲,白宫主人亦不遑多让。布希出任总统前完全不清楚巴勒斯坦问题的源由,对亚洲历史和国际关系更是一问三不知,亦毫无兴趣,欠缺好奇心是布希的特色。如此无知的人,竟要负责推动美国外交政策,天下怎么会不乱呢!布希不懂历史,不知道越战的教训,才会在伊拉克重蹈覆辙。

  麦卡勒说,美国年轻一代患了史盲症,做父母的、各级学校的老师、专业历史学者和通俗史家都应负责任,美国有许多中学已不教历史。《纽约时报》前专栏作家杰姆士.雷斯顿(James Reston)20多年前即已感叹美国人民对历史的漫不经心。他指出,导致美国人民出现史盲的原因,学校和政治要负责任。前《时代》周刊总编辑唐诺文(Hedley Donovan)曾应卡特总统之邀出任白宫特别顾问,他在白宫观察一阵后发现卡特竟是一个没有历史感的总统。雷斯顿说,另一个没有历史常识和历史修养的总统就是雷根。

  角逐民主党总统候选人提名的希拉蕊,最近屡次批评欧巴马从政经验不够,还不能当总统,甚至连前洛杉矶湖人队名将「魔术强生」亦说欧巴马是「政治菜鸟」,还要再加磨练。

  从政经验够不够,并不是做好总统的必要条件,反倒是具备丰富的历史常识,才有助于思考和制定大政方针。

  已故美国史家山姆尔.伊略特.莫里逊(Samuel Eliot Morison)尝言,懂一点历史可以使我们多知道一点做人的分寸。扩大而言,如果一个国家的领导层多懂一点历史,他们也许就不会胡搞乱搞。堂堂白宫发言人都不知道有古巴飞弹危机这回事,美国人民还能期望什么呢!

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nucifera:美国的情况是很糟糕,不过东南亚的情况更差。举个例子,一位新加坡知名大学的会计学院生,不知道谁是Tony Blair。

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By SLAVOJ ZIZEK
Published: December 24, 2007

London

LAST week, European Union leaders put an end to a decade of diplomatic wrangling and signed the Treaty of Lisbon, which outlined a complete overhaul of the organization, including the creation of a permanent post of European Union president to represent Europe on the world stage. During the ceremony at Lisbon’s grandiose Jerónimos Monastery, a choir performed Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” in the background. While the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, first performed in 1824, may seem an innocuous choice for the official anthem of the European Union (it was declared such in 1972), it actually tells much more than one would expect about Europe’s predicament today.

The “Ode to Joy” is more than just a universally popular piece of classical music that has become something of a cliché during the holiday season (especially, oddly, in Japan, where it has achieved cult status). It has also been, for more than a century, what literary theorists call an “empty signifier” — a symbol that can stand for anything.

In early 20th-century France, the Nobel laureate Romain Rolland declared it to be the great humanist ode to the brotherhood of all people, and it came to be called “the Marseillaise of humanity.” In 1938, it was performed as the high point of the Reichsmusiktage, the Nazi music festival, and was later used to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. In China during the Cultural Revolution, in an atmosphere of total rejection of European classics, it was redeemed by some as a piece of progressive class struggle.

In the 1950s and ’60s, when the West German and East German Olympic squads were forced to compete as a single team, gold medals were handed out to the strains of the “Ode to Joy” in lieu of a national anthem. It served as the anthem, too, for the Rhodesian white supremacist regime of Ian Smith. One can imagine a fictional performance at which all sworn enemies — Hitler and Stalin, Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush — for a moment forget their adversities and participate in the same magic moment of ecstatic musical brotherhood.

There is, however, a weird imbalance in this piece of music. In the middle of the movement, after we hear the main melody (the “joy” theme) in three orchestral and three vocal variations, something unexpected happens that has bothered critics for the last 180 years: at Bar 331, the tone changes totally, and, instead of the solemn hymnic progression, the same “joy” theme is repeated in the “marcia turca” ( or Turkish march) style, a conceit borrowed from military music for wind and percussion instruments that 18th-century European armies adopted from the Turkish janissaries.

The mode then becomes one of a carnivalesque parade, a mocking spectacle — critics have even compared the sounds of the bassoons and bass drum that accompany the beginning of the marcia turca to flatulence. After this point, such critics feel, everything goes wrong, the simple solemn dignity of the first part of the movement is never recovered.

But what if these critics are only partly correct — what if things do not go wrong only with the entrance of the marcia turca? What if they go wrong from the very beginning? Perhaps one should accept that there is something of an insipid fake in the very “Ode to Joy,” so that the chaos that enters after Bar 331 is a kind of the “return of the repressed,” a symptom of what was errant from the beginning.

If this is the case, we should thus shift the entire perspective and perceive the marcia as a return to normality that cuts short the display of preposterous portentousness of what precedes it — it is the moment the music brings us back to earth, as if saying: “You want to celebrate the brotherhood of men? Here they are, the real humanity …”

And does the same not hold for Europe today? The second stanza of Friedrich Schiller’s poem that is set to the music in “Ode to Joy,” coming on the heels of a chorus that invites the world’s “millions” to “be embraced,” ominously ends: “But he who cannot rejoice, let him steal weeping away.” With this in mind, one recent paradox of the marcia turca is difficult to miss: as Europe makes the final adjustments to its continental solidarity in Lisbon, the Turks, despite their hopes, are outside the embrace.

So, when in the forthcoming days we hear again and again the “Ode to Joy,” it would be appropriate to remember what comes after this triumphant melody. Before succumbing to the warm sentiment of how we are all one big family, I think my fellow Europeans should spare a thought for all those who cannot rejoice with us, all those who are forced to “steal weeping away.” It is, perhaps, the only way we’ll put an end to the rioting and car burnings and other forms of the Turkish march we now see in our very own cities.

Slavoj Zizek, the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, is the author, most recently, of “The Parallax View.”

nucifera: chikungunya,骨痛热症的亲戚来到了意大利北部,这还得拜全球暖化所赐。这是首宗热带疾病来到了欧洲,所以所引起的回响自是非同小可。

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By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: December 23, 2007

CASTIGLIONE DI CERVIA, Italy — Panic was spreading this August through this tidy village of 2,000 as one person after another fell ill with weeks of high fever, exhaustion and excruciating bone pain, just as most of Italy was enjoying Ferragosto, its most important summer holiday.

“At one point, I simply couldn’t stand up to get out of the car,” said Antonio Ciano, 62, an elegant retiree in a pashmina scarf and trendy blue glasses. “I fell. I thought, O.K., my time is up. I’m going to die. It was really that dramatic.”

By midmonth, more than 100 people had come down with the same malady. Although the worst symptoms dissipated after a couple of weeks, no doctor could figure out what was wrong.

People blamed pollution in the river. They denounced the government. But most of all they blamed recent immigrants from tropical Africa for bringing the pestilence to their sleepy settlement of pastel stucco homes.

“Why immigrants?” asked Rina Ventura, who owns a shop selling shoes and purses. “I kept thinking of these terrible diseases that you see on TV, like malaria. We were terrified. There was no name and no treatment.”

Oddly, the villagers were both right and wrong. After a month of investigation, Italian public health officials discovered that the people of Castiglione di Cervia were, in fact, suffering from a tropical disease, chikungunya, a relative of dengue fever normally found in the Indian Ocean region. But the immigrants spreading the disease were not humans but insects: tiger mosquitoes, who can thrive in a warming Europe.

Aided by global warming and globalization, Castiglione di Cervia has the dubious distinction of playing host to the first outbreak in modern Europe of a disease that had previously been seen only in the tropics.

“By the time we got back the name and surname of the virus, our outbreak was over,” said Dr. Rafaella Angelini, director of the regional public health department in Ravenna. “When they told us it was chikungunya, it was not a problem for Ravenna any more. But I thought: this is a big problem for Europe.”

The epidemic proved that tropical viruses are now able to spread in new areas, far north of their previous range. The tiger mosquito, which first arrived in Ravenna three years ago, is thriving across southern Europe and even in France and Switzerland.

And if chikungunya can spread to Castiglione — “a place not special in any way,” Dr. Angelini said — there is no reason why it cannot go to other Italian villages. There is no reason why dengue, an even more debilitating tropical disease, cannot as well.

“This is the first case of an epidemic of a tropical disease in a developed, European country,” said Dr. Roberto Bertollini, director of the World Health Organization’s Health and Environment program. “Climate change creates conditions that make it easier for this mosquito to survive and it opens the door to diseases that didn’t exist here previously. This is a real issue. Now, today. It is not something a crazy environmentalist is warning about.”

Was he shocked to discover chikungunya in Italy, his native land? “We knew this would happen sooner or later,” he said. “We just didn’t know where or when.”

It certainly caught this town off guard on Aug. 9, when public health officials in Ravenna received an angry call from Stefano Merlo, who owns the gas station.

“Within 100 meters of my home, there were more than 30 people with fevers over 40 degrees,” or 104 Fahrenheit, said Mr. Merlo, 47. “I wanted to know what was going on. I knew it couldn’t be normal.”

August is not the season for high fevers, Dr. Angelini agreed, and within days of interviewing patients she was intrigued.

“The stories were so similar and so dramatic,” she said. “But we had no clue it was something tropical.”

Hard-working shopkeepers could not get out of bed because their hips hurt so much. Able-bodied men could not lift spoons to their mouths. (Months later, many still have debilitating joint pain.)

From the start, doctors suspected that the disease was spread by insects, rather than people. While almost all homes had one person who was ill, family members seemed not to catch the disease from one another.

They initially focused on sand flies, since the disease clustered on streets by the river.

Canceling their traditional mid-August vacations (in Italy, a true sign of panic), health officials sent off blood samples, called national infectious-disease experts, searched the Internet and set out traps to see what insects were in the neighborhood. The first surprise was that the insect traps contained not sand flies but tiger mosquitoes, and huge numbers of them.

The scientific survey confirmed what residents of Castiglione had come to accept as a horrible nuisance, though not a deadly threat.

“In the last three or four years, you couldn’t live on these streets because the mosquitoes were so bad,” said Rino Ricchi, a road worker who fell ill, standing at the entrance to his neatly tended garden, where mosquito traps have now replaced decorative fountains. “We used to delight in having a garden or a porch to eat dinner. You couldn’t this year, you’d get eaten alive.”

Said Dr. Angelini: “They were treating the mosquitoes like an annoyance. They knew that mosquitoes could spread tropical diseases but they had peace of mind because they knew this didn’t happen in Italy.”

Ravenna immediately set about killing the bugs in the hopes of containing the epidemic. Workers sprayed insecticides and went into each family’s garden, emptying flower pots, fountains and the rainwater collection barrels to remove the mosquitoes’ breeding ground.

By early September, there were no new cases in Castiglione di Cervia. But there were a number of mini-epidemics in the region — in Ravenna, Cesena and Rimini — set off by tiger mosquitoes there. Each was controlled in the same way.

By that point, the doctors had cataloged the patients’ symptoms and tried to match them to mosquito-borne diseases.

“We realized,” Dr. Angelini said, “we were seeing a photocopy of an outbreak on Réunion,” a French island in the Indian Ocean where more than 10,000 people have contracted chikungunya in the last two years. Blood tests confirmed the diagnosis. By summer’s end, home-grown chikungunya had been diagnosed in nearly 300 Italians.

Chikungunya is spread when tiger mosquitoes drink blood from an infected person and, if conditions are right, pass the virus on when they bite again. Tiger mosquitoes first came to southern Italy with shipments of tires from Albania about a decade ago but their habitat has expanded steadily northward as temperatures have risen.

But the doctors were baffled by how chikungunya made its way into mosquitoes in northern Italy since no one in Castiglione di Cervia had been abroad. In the past two years France, especially Paris, has had a number of imported cases of chikungunya, in travelers returning from Réunion. But the disease has never spread in France, because the mosquito cannot thrive there yet.

Eventually investigators discovered a link: one of the first men to fall ill in Castiglione di Cervia had been visited by a feverish relative in early July. That relative, an Italian, had previously traveled to Kerala, India. Chikungunya traveled to Italy in his blood, but climatic conditions are now such that it can spread and find a home here.

Now it is winter in Castiglione di Cervia, near freezing as the sun went down on a recent evening and Christmas lights glowed across the piazza. There are no mosquitoes now.

But dozens of residents still suffer from arthritis, a known complication of chikungunya.

Mr. Ricchi, the road worker, says he still has trouble clenching his fists, and his left ankle has horrible pains. Three people in the town died after getting the virus, Mr. Merlo said, although all of those victims had other illnesses as well.

From the start, townspeople noticed that the very elderly never got the disease. Now it makes sense: “If all you do is walk the 50 yards from your home to the church, there’s not much chance to get bitten,” said Mr. Ciano, the retiree.

But the biggest mystery is whether chikungunya will emerge here next summer. In the tropics, it is a year-round disease, since the mosquitoes breed continually. But the virus can winter over in mosquito eggs, too, and no one knows if there are reservoirs of sleeping eggs in some pool of water in Italy.

With climate change at hand, Dr. Bertollini said, chikungunya will surely be back somewhere in Europe again.

nucifera: 到底在诸多古老文明走向衰落和灭亡的过程中,他们彼此之间是否遵循着一定的路子?到底是否能总结出有那么一个或者几个简单的因素或是力量,促成那些古老文明的灭亡?

这个问题不见得会有令人满意的答案——即便是有,也不见得所有的学者都会同意。Jared Diamond在他那两本书中对此问题给出了一个统一的解释,但是好些人类学家并不认同。至少在那些人类学家看来,文明的灭亡和衰落并不见得有统一的解释。

这让我不禁想起了quantitative和qualitative的关注点和差异点。

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By GEORGE JOHNSON
Published: December 25, 2007

As I pulled out of Tucson listening to an audiobook of Jared Diamond’s “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” the first of a procession of blue-and-yellow billboards pointed the way to Arizona’s strangest roadside attraction, “The Thing?”

The come-ons were slicker and brighter than those I remembered from childhood trips out West. But the destination was the same: a curio store and gas station just off the highway at a remote whistle stop called Dragoon, Ariz.

Dragoon is also home to an archaeological research center, the Amerind Foundation, where a group of archaeologists, cultural anthropologists and historians converged in the fall for a seminar, “Choices and Fates of Human Societies.”

What the scientists held in common was a suspicion that in writing his two best-selling sagas of civilization — the other is “Guns, Germs and Steel” — Dr. Diamond washed over the details that make cultures unique to assemble a grand unified theory of history.

“A big-picture man,” one participant called him. For anthropologists, who spend their lives reveling in minutiae — the specifics and contradictions of human culture — the words are not necessarily a compliment.

“Everybody knows that the beauty of Diamond is that it’s simple,” said Patricia A. McAnany, an archaeologist at Boston University who organized the meeting with her colleague Norman Yoffee of the University of Michigan. “It’s accessible intellectually without having to really turn the wattage up too much.”

Dr. Diamond’s many admirers would disagree. “Guns, Germs and Steel” won a Pulitzer Prize, and Dr. Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, has received, among many honors, a National Medal of Science. It is his ability as a synthesizer and storyteller that makes his work so compelling.

For an hour I had listened as he, or rather his narrator, described how the inhabitants of Easter Island had precipitated their own demise by cutting down all the palm trees — for, among other purposes, transporting those giant statues — and how the Anasazi of Chaco Canyon and the Maya might have committed similar “ecocide.”

By the time I approached the turnoff for Amerind’s boulder-strewn campus, Dr. Diamond had moved on to the Vikings’ fate. But for the moment my mind was in the grip of “The Thing.”

Detouring past the conference center, I parked in front of the old tourist trap, paid the $1 admission and followed a path of stenciled yellow footprints to a building out back. Inside a cinder-block coffin lay the subject of my quest, what appeared to be the mummified remains of a woman holding a mummified child.

“The Thing” looked human, or maybe like pieces of human dolled up with papier-mâché. Either way, it seemed like a fitting symbol for the complaints I’d been hearing about Dr. Diamond: that through the wide-angle lenses of his books, people appear not as thinking agents motivated by dreams and desires, ideas and ideologies, but as pawns of their environment. As things.

The backlash had been brewing since a symposium last year, “Exploring Scholarly and Best-Selling Accounts of Social Collapse and Colonial Encounters,” at a meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Jose, Calif. Although “Guns, Germs and Steel” has been celebrated as an antidote to racism — Western civilization prevails not because of inherent superiority, but geographical luck — some anthropologists saw it as excusing the excesses of the conquerors. If it wasn’t their genes that made them do it, it was their geography.

“Diamond in effect argues that no one is to blame,” said Deborah B. Gewertz, an anthropologist at Amherst College. “The haves are not to be blamed for the condition of the have-nots.”

Dr. Diamond anticipated this kind of reaction. In the epilogue to “Guns, Germs and Steel,” he acknowledged that human will was an important pivot in the turning of history, as were freak accidents and chaotic “butterfly effects,” in which tiny perturbations are amplified into cataclysms. But the accidents of geography — the availability of raw materials and crops, a hospitable climate, accessible trade routes and even the cartographical shapes of continents — step forth as prime movers.

While “Guns, Germs, and Steel” explored the factors contributing to a society’s rise, “Collapse” tried to account for the downfalls. Here, human agency played a more prominent role. In case after case, Dr. Diamond described how a confluence of factors — fragile ecosystems, climatic change, hostile neighbors and, ultimately, bad decision making — cornered a society into inadvertently damaging or even destroying itself.

In his haunting chapter about Easter Island, he weighed the data — radiocarbon dating, charcoal and pollen analysis and botanical and archaeological surveys — and concluded that the inhabitants had mined the forests to extinction, setting off a cataclysm. What, Dr. Diamond wondered in an often cited passage, was going through the mind of the Easter Islander who cut the last tree?

But what was intended as a cautionary tale was taken by some readers as blaming the victims. Terry Hunt, an archaeologist at the University of Hawaii, came to the Amerind conference with a different story. Deforestation, he said, was caused not by people, but by predatory Polynesian rats, with the human population remaining stable until the introduction of European diseases.

Dr. Diamond, he said, “shifts all of the burden to people and their stupidity rather than to a complex ecosystem where these things interact.”

Taken together, the two books struck Frederick K. Errington, an anthropologist at Trinity College in Hartford, as a “one-two punch.” The haves prosper because of happenstance beyond their control, while the have-nots are responsible for their own demise.

Dr. Errington and Dr. Gewertz, who are husband and wife, work in Papua New Guinea, a treasure trove of ethnic groups speaking more than 700 languages. Dr. Diamond has also spent time on the island, where he first went to study birds.

Dr. Gewertz still bristles as she recalls picking up “Guns, Germs, and Steel” and seeing that it had been framed around what was called “Yali’s question.”

Yali was a political leader and a member of a “cargo cult” that sprung up after World War II. By building ritualistic landing strips and control towers and wearing hand-carved wooden headsets, islanders hoped to summon the return of the packaged food, weapons, medicine, clothing and other gifts from the heavens that had been airdropped to troops fighting Japan.

One day Yali asked Dr. Diamond, “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?”

Thus began Dr. Diamond’s tale about the combination of geographical factors that led to Europeans’ colonizing Papua New Guinea rather than Papua New Guineans’ colonizing Europe.

“We think he gets Yali’s question wrong,” Dr. Gewertz said. “Yali was not asking about nifty Western stuff.”

With more of the cargo their European visitors so clearly coveted, the islanders would have been able to trade with them as equals. Instead, they were subjugated.

What Yali was really asking, she suggested, was why Europeans had never treated them like fellow human beings. The responsibility and struggle of anthropology, Dr. Gewertz said, is to see the world through others’ eyes.

In “Collapse,” Dr. Diamond proposed that a precipitating factor in the Rwanda genocide of 1994, in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutu compatriots, was Malthusian. The country had let its population outstrip its food supply.

Christopher C. Taylor, an anthropologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, saw the tragedy through the other end of the telescope. One afternoon, he sat in the living room of Amerind’s old mission-style lodge, which looks out onto the desolate beauty of the Little Dragoon mountains, calmly describing how he and his Tutsi fiancée had fled Rwanda just as the massacres began. Safely back in the United States, he studied the country’s popular political cartoons, sensing that for many Rwandans, politics was tangled in a web of legends involving sacred kingship and fertility rites. The king, and by implication the president, was the conduit for imaana, a spiritual current symbolized by liquids like rain, rivers, milk, honey, semen and blood.

In times of droughts, floods, crop failures, infant mortality or other misfortunes, he might have to be sacrificed to spill his imaana back into the soil.

“In order to understand the motives of the Rwandans, you have to understand the local symbolism and the local cosmology,” Dr. Taylor said. “Because, after all, what Diamond is doing is imposing his own cosmology, his own symbolic system.”

By the time I left Amerind, I realized that what I had witnessed was a clash of world views. Central to the “cosmology” of Dr. Diamond’s tribe is a principle celebrated throughout the physical and biological sciences — to understand is to simplify and seek patterns.

In an e-mail message, he said that progress in any field depends on syntheses and individual studies. “In both chemistry and physics, the need for both approaches has been recognized for a long time,” he wrote. “One no longer finds specialists on molybdenum decrying the periodic table’s sweeping superficiality, nor advocates of the periodic table scorning mere descriptive studies of individual elements.”

For the anthropologists, the exceptions were more important than the rules. Instead of seeking overarching laws, the call was to “contextualize,” “complexify,” “relativize,” “particularize” and even “problematize,” a word that in their dialect was given an oddly positive spin. At some moments, the seminar seemed less like a scientific meeting than a session of the Modern Language Association.

But the anthropologists had a point. As Einstein put it, explanations should be as simple as possible — but no simpler. Is it realistic to hope, as Dr. Diamond did at the end of “Guns, Germs and Steel,” that “historical studies of human societies can be pursued as scientifically as studies of dinosaurs”?

One afternoon I drove out to Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, about 130 miles northwest of Dragoon. Turning off North Arizona Boulevard near a Blockbuster Video store and KFC/Taco Bell, I saw the Great House, four stories high, loom into view. Abandoned over half a millennium ago by the Hohokam people, the earthen ruins have been incongruously protected from the elements by a steel roof on stilts designed in 1928 by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.

One suspects that the Hohokam were content to let the place melt. Depending on which eyeglasses you are wearing, Casa Grande is a story of environmental collapse or of adaptation and resilience. When conditions no longer favored centralization the people moved on, re-emerging as the O’odham tribes and a thriving casino industry.

Abandonment as a strategy. Driving back on Interstate 10, past an umbilical cord of eastbound railroad container cars owned by Hanjin Shipping and the latest crests of urban sprawl, I tried to imagine the good people of Tucson or Phoenix bowing out with such grace.

At the seminar, Dr. McAnany suggested that the very idea of societal collapse might be in the eye of the beholder. She was thinking of the Maya, whose stone ruins have become the Yucatan’s roadside attractions. But the descendants of the Maya live on. She recalled a field trip by local children to a site she was excavating in Belize: “This little girl looks up at me, and she has this beautiful little Maya face, and asks, ‘What happened to all the Maya? Why did they all die out?’”

No one visits Stonehenge, she noted, and asks whatever happened to the English.

龙应台:历史课

十二月 24, 2007

联合报
2007/09/17

有一天,和一群来香港留学的德国大学生聊天,刚好是台湾的歷史教科书问题正闹得沸沸扬扬的时候──民进党政府试图在教科书裡进行所谓「去中国化」,反对者则抗议纷纷。我问这些德国学生,「你们高中的歷史课是怎麼上的?」

每个人来自不同的省,而德国的教育权下放在各省自治,因此有些差异,但是在七嘴八舌的争相发言裡,我发现两个共同的特点,一是,在他们的歷史教学方式裡,教科书不重要。一是,歷史教学是开放式的。
如果这一个课是1870年的普法战争,那麼老师在上课前要求学生读的会是很多第一手资料,譬如俾斯麦首相的演讲原文,要学生从演讲稿中探讨当时普鲁士的外交策略,从而分析普法战争的真正原因。除了瞭解德国观点之外,学生必须知道法国观点,老师可能用电脑图片放映当时法文报纸上的时事讽刺漫画、评论,或者画家笔下的巴黎街头图像。在分析战争本身,老师可能出示一张他带来的1870年普鲁士的经济发展指标图,用来解释当时的「新科技」──譬如铁路的广泛使用和新製大砲的威力──如何使普鲁士在战场上占了上风。法国本身贫富之不均、工人阶级之不满、社会压抑已久的不安定,老师可能用当时法国的生產指数和土地分配的图表来说明。

也就是说,在整个讲课的过程裡,教科书非但不是唯一的教材,而且不是核心的教材,甚至可能根本没用到。

第二个特徵是开放式的教学。教学的主轴不是让学生去背诵任何已经写进某本书裡的叙述或评价,而是要学生尽量从第一手资料裡看出端倪,形成自己的判断。如果这一堂课的主题是纳粹,学生可能必须去读当时的报纸、希特勒的演讲、工会的会议纪录、专栏作家的评论、当时的纪录片等等,然后在课堂裡辩论:纳粹的兴起,究竟是日耳曼的民族性所致,还是〈凡尔赛合约〉结下的恶果,还是经济不景气的必然?各种因素都被提出来讨论,至於结论,学生透过资料的分析和课堂的论辩,自己要下。

满头捲髮的路卡士说,「我们那时就读了托马斯曼的弟弟,亨瑞琪曼的书,《臣服》,因为他认为德国人的民族性有惯性的服从性格。我们在课堂上就此辩论了很久。」

如果主题是1948年的欧洲革命,学生必须从经济、社会和政治的不同层面分析革命的起因,然后又要试图去评价这场革命的后果:这究竟是一个失败的革命,如法国的Alesis de Tocqueville所说,「社会顿时撕裂成两半:羡妒的无產阶级和恐惧的有產阶级」;或是一个成功的革命,因为二十年后,德国和义大利都统一了,而法国扩大了选举权,俄罗斯废除了农奴制。

事情的是与非,人物的忠与奸,往往没有定论,学生必须自己从各种资料的阅读裡学习爬梳出自己的看法。

「我们还常常要做报告,」刚刚来到香港的汉娜说,「一个人讲四十五分鐘,等於教一堂课。」

「你记得讲过什麼题目?」

「当然记得,」她说,「因为要做很多的準备。我讲过英国的殖民主义。」

在这样的歷史教学方式裡,教科书的地位,只不过是一个基本的参考资料而已。在眾多一手和二手的资料裡,包括演讲、漫画、照片、统计图表、新闻报导和学者评论、人物日记、法庭纪录等等,教科书只是一个指引,不具任何一鎚定音的权威。

开放式的歷史教学,著重在训练学生运用材料的能力,尤其在培养学生面对纷杂的史实做独立思考和独立判断。教科书充其量只是路边一个小小指路牌,不是烫了金的圣经。

「那考试怎麼考呢?」

考试,他们解释,也不会以教科书为本,而是开放式的题目,都是要你写文章答覆的,譬如「试分析俾斯麦的外交政策」或者「试分析魏玛共和国失败的原因」;测验的是一种融会贯通的见解,教科书根本没有答案,也不可依赖。

如果教科书根本不被看作一鎚定音的权威,如果课堂中的歷史老师有独立见解,又有旁徵博引的学问,如果我们的考试制度不强迫老师和学生把教科书当圣经,我们需要那麼担心教科书的问题吗?歷史教学的真正问题所在,恐怕不在教科书,而在教育的心态、制度和方法本身吧。

「可是美国的歷史教育比较跟著教科书走,」来自奥地利的约翰在美国读过一年高中,他插进来,「而且他们的歷史课教得很细,不像我们在欧洲,著重在大事件、大歷史。」

克力斯说,「那没办法,他们只有两百五十年歷史可以谈,所以连什麼『三十年代流行时尚』都可以在歷史课裡讨论一整节。」克力斯也去美国交换过一年。

话题转到美国去了。克力斯接著,「我发现美国人跟欧洲人真的很不一样,譬如说,有一次老师出题,要大家挑选二十世纪本国某一重要人物来做报告,结果,你知道吗?有五个人,选的是蝙蝠侠!不可思议,是高三呢。」

大家轰一下笑开了。我忍住笑,说,「美国嘛,大眾文化特别重要。如果是你们德国班上做这个题目,大家可能选什麼样的人物呢?」

克力斯回答,「阿登瑙尔、希特勒、布莱希特、托马斯曼……或者舒马克、贝克包尔什麼的,都可能。可绝对不会是米老鼠、蝙蝠侠或超人吧。」

苹果日报
2007/12/23

圣诞节到了,普天同庆,圣诞是人类的第一喜节。虽然近年欧美的许多左倾知识分子,出于白人莫名其妙的原罪感,像台湾总统陈水扁拆除「大中至正」牌匾一样,声称为了照顾其他宗教和民族感情,避免宣示「基督教霸权」,视「圣诞」(Christmas)一词如寇仇,不敢宣之于口,改以所谓「冬节」(Winter Festival)代之。这种思想,浅薄幼稚,是对于文化的无知。圣诞节为甚么成为节庆之王?因为圣诞节为普世带来希望,无论世间如何纷乱,战火多么嚣狂,圣诞节永远令人在黑暗中相信将现曙光,中国的重阳和清明,是敬拜祖先的节日,讲求「慎终追远」,情感虽然深远,终究未可超越伦常的俗套。农历新年也相当欢乐,家庭团聚,兄友弟恭,却互祝「恭喜发财」、「万事胜意」,恐怕还是以金钱和私欲挂帅,层次也俗气了一点。圣诞节却不同。儿童在平安夜,把袜子挂在窗沿,期待圣诞老人的礼物,从小就懂得「希望」的意义。教宗的子夜弥撒,「拆礼物日」的惊喜,圣诞节不止家庭团聚,而是把欢乐与普世分享。基督教提倡分享,不止是家庭同堂三代之相亲,还讲究兄弟四海之博爱。中国的农历新年,一句「恭喜发财」只限于亲友之间的道贺,但「圣诞快乐」却可以向不相识的人传递欢乐。圣诞的时机,安排也巧见匠心。美国人从感恩节就开始培养节日气氛,儿童从万圣节之后就开始期待。圣诞的高潮之后,紧接的是除夕新年,更是许愿时刻。欧美在圣诞之后,企业商店才会为四月「公布业绩」而投入忙碌的商机,然后才是放暑假。西方文化的节日和工作氛围,分配得很均匀,此中自有中产阶级和工商业活动之大兴。
  
  希望是一种快乐的流行性感冒,在圣诞节前后让人间一起感染:圣诞、烛光、美酒、礼物,因为基督教的末日审判和升天堂就是承诺和希望。虽然未许令人尽信── 在理性上,耶和华如果要救赎世人,为甚么要绕一个大圈,派他儿子下凡,一番扰攘,任由爱子在十字架上死而升天,做一场费劲的「大骚」,却又无力感召全人类于千秋万世?神力如果有尽,凭甚么令人相信天国永恒?然而这一切矛盾在圣诞节都没有人再争论,不管教徒与非教徒,一起欢庆,在快乐中融和团结,圣诞节像一年一度永不「穿崩」的一场小小的神迹。以圣诞节为题的文学作品,多是导人向善的经典,从狄更斯的《圣诞述异》开始,横跨工业和科技世代,也无非「希望」此一主题。最动人的作品之一,应该是占士史超域主演的《美好人生》(It’s A Wonderful Life),故事讲美国一个财务公司的小东主,被地产商吞并市场,走投无路,正想自杀;这时天使下凡,与他一起忆述大半生做过的善举。这部电影被评为影史上最感人肺腑之作,比起《孤雏血泪》中的那个在圣诞节前夕、拖着一只雪橇挨家抵户地出卖几个弟弟妹妹的那个孤儿孩子,圣诞节永远是属于未来还有希望的人。今天的处境无论多艰难,坚信明天一定会更好,明天会更好,不是那一个失败的政客向社会散播的假大空口号,而是圣经的福音啓示。挂在「希望号」这座火车头之后,西方资本主义发挥了强大的生命力。「消费」一旦与「快乐」而不是贪欲挂钩,经济增长也就带来巨大的道德回报。在花钱消费的同时,也想到贫穷的人,想到慈善和分享,这是基督教的文明力量在背后默默推动的,与其他「第三世界」追求的纯粹口腔感官的贪欲,本质有天渊之别。这就是圣诞节永远年轻、长久时尚的理由,因为气魄宏大,抓住了「希望」这个高尚的主题。一个道德的社会,也没有希望,暴富者疯狂消费,削山伐木,枯泽涸河,因为他们心中没有明天,只有现在,没有别人,只有自己,他们污染环境生态,因为不信神明。他们误以为经济就是一切,利润就是终极。除此之外,别无其他。但圣诞节毕竟不一样,在节日之外,还有那么多巨大的精神增值量。在世界上成为文明的领袖,正如拿破仑说的:「领袖就是『希望』的批发商」(A leader is a dealer of hope),二十一世纪的世界,属于庆祝圣诞的国家和人群,因为希望会带来欢乐,欢乐能泯灭仇恨,民主、自由、宽容,大同理想,清凉世界,只能从圣诞节而来而不是其他,你同意吗?祝你圣诞节快乐。