Saturday, 20 September 2008
Can you draw the map?

John Joyce regularly ends his posts by telling us where we can find their subject on a map. In this week's Spectator, Paul Johnson has a new challenge for those who profess to be well-informed about a place: map it.

Ignorance of map-reading is just part of a wider ignorance of geography. I suspect the subject is badly taught, especially in the state schools. The old system, learning capes and capitals and countries by heart, and poring over atlases, was mechanical but it meant children learned facts and had a good idea of where places were, and their shapes. A generation ago the subject was taken over by the Left, and instead of facts and places children learned about protecting the environment, saving the planet, emissions and how nature is being ruined by industry in the USA. The result is they simply parrot current fads and fantasies, and know nothing. They cannot draw maps, the ability to do which is the essence of geographical knowledge. If I hear somebody ranting away about the Middle East, Iraq, etc., I say ‘Let us see what, if anything, you know about the subject. Here are pens and sheets of paper. I want you to draw a map of the Middle East, including Egypt, the Gulf and Iran, the northern shore of the Black Sea, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Put in all the political boundaries, including those of the Gulf states, and all the capital cities. Mark all the principal oil fields. You need not put in the rivers except the Tigris and Euphrates, but I expect key points such as Mecca to be accurately indicated. While you are doing it, I will draw a similar map and we can compare the two.’ This tactic works very well in deflating the ranters. It confirms something I have long suspected: few people know exactly what is in the Middle East (a term invented by Winston Churchill in 1920-22 or thereabouts) and may mix it up with East Africa. I have never come across anyone who can draw an accurate map of Iraq.


The magic of a good atlas is that you can scan its pages and conjure up in your mind images of distant landscapes. Mere travel will not do this: a knowledge of history is more vital. It is one of the most dangerous myths that travel broadens the mind. If the mind is not broad in the first place, mere tripping and junketing will make no difference. No group travels more today than the 15- to 25-year-olds, and none are more ignorant of geography. I heard recently of a couple who went to the Seychelles believing them to be in the West Indies. Moreover, they returned, after a fortnight in a beach hotel, none the wiser.

The Spectator's offices are in Old Queen Street, which you can find on a London A-Z. They used to be in Doughty Street. Is the move symptomatic of the general pansy-ass wussiness that we are told is taking over our once great country?

Posted on 09/20/2008 10:45 AM by Mary Jackson
20 Sep 2008
Send an emailUncle Kenny

The usual male/female stereotypes aside, the ability to form an abstract representation of a geography is something that is not all that common and is, as they say, a g-loaded skill (logico-spatial, I believe they call it).  As curriculum is dumbed down so that no child is left behind, of course maps must be left out.

Outside of the political ramifications that Mr. Johnson emphasizes, the sadder loss is a sense of place associated with literature.  Can one read Ulysses without a map of Dublin at hand?  ... to cite the most obvious example,

20 Sep 2008
Send an emailreactionry
Kto Kogo To Hell?
Or: Topography Of The Bottomless Pit
Or: Digging Up Queen Anne
–adjective, -ti·er, -ti·est.
steadfastly courageous and resolute; valiant.

[Origin: bef. 1000; ME; OE dohtig worthy, equiv. to *doht worth (c. OHG toht; see dow1, -th1) + -ig -y1; r. OE dyhtig, c. G tüchtig]
Dear NER:
You won't find the place I'm in (on account of my anti-Semitism) on any proper map, but I know whereof Paul Johnson speaks, given that these digs are chockablock full of Muslims and "Leffligies" ranting about the Middle East.  To hear them tel aviv of it, you'd think that Israel was size of Australia. Chat up any one of these burning blokes, and I doughty could have found a copy of my Travels in Arabia Deserta on his shelves, or for that matter, his arse with both hands in the dark (come to think of this place is awfully dark and you really don't want to know what the demons regularly do to our backsides).
I'm starved for conversation (the hot coals we're fed are not those of witticism*), but am hoping (for my benefit, not his) for some food for thought given the recent death of a renown Bulgarian archaeologist..  Kto kogo, Kitov?, as your Hugh might say.
There isn't much to see around here, either; the "museums" try to fob off (for an arm and a leg; though not necessarily your own if you're good at dealing cards from the bottom of the deck) on you snow globe tschotskes converted to miniatures of Piss Christ. The only books available are those written by inmates. I'm trying to "plough through" (hat tip to an erstwhile NER writer who once opined that books about poets, such as the one by Bates about John Clare, should not weigh more than the collected poems) a dreary tome by a Turk who was in life an unscrupulous travel guide:  Leading On Schliemann: Clods, Knaves & Dollars. 
Yesterday's news and all that, but Blackbeard says he's a tad peeved about Esme's truncation of the name of his ship, which was, of course, Queen Anne's Revenge.  And Queen Anne is dead; which is getting as stale as speaking like a pirate the day after. Still, I should try to look her up - or vice versa.
Well gotta' go; the line is damned long and dangerous behind me at this terminal for the terminated.
Worst of Times,
Charles M. [name withheld by bequest]
post mortem postscript:  You might try er (or Arrrr -sorry; I'm a day late and a scholar short) elevating the study of cartography for the lil' momsers with this muppet map mascot:
Yes, he's dead too, but says, "Topo Gigio of the mourning to ya."
*Hat tip to Owen Harries' A Primer For Polemicists

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