Unknown known unknowns: Rumsfeld Vs Sharon-Rose Khumalo

Sharon-Rose Khumalo
Donald Rumsfeld
———- Quote usually attributed to Copernicus (1473-1543) ———-

Do you recognise the distinguished gentleman on the left? He was Donald Rumsfeld (1932-2021), Secretary of defence to GW Bush from 2001 to 2006. Like Putin, he’s an invader, but his targets were Afghanistan and Iraq1.

As to Sharon-Rose Khumalo, the lady on the right, I discovered her in The guardian a couple of days ago2. She suffers from a rare genetic condition: although she’ s genetically male (with a Y chromosome), her body does not respond to male hormones and she developed as a female. She discovered at the age of twenty that she did not have an uterus. Rose is thus a special case in the LGBT spectrum… and probably a very distressing one.

Donald and Sharon-Rose have one thing in common: their statements about knowns and unknowns.

Rumsfeld notoriously declared in 2002 that there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

Now to Sharon-Rose. Here is what I read in The guardian: One day, she had lunch with two friends who were chatting about not knowing what the “I” in LGBTQI stands for. Not that she blamed them: “I mean, you don’t know that you don’t know something until you actually know that you don’t know, right?” she says.

Compared to Rumsfeld, she introduces a time dimension: we don’ t know that we don’ t know until we learn about our ignorance. This is simple, linear, clean.

Rumsfeld’s statement is made more ambiguous by the fact that his colleagues in the government of GW Bush included an impressive array of liars (Bush himself, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, to name just a few3); they deliberately mislead the public because they just fancied invading someone else’s country. The bad guys were Saddam Hussein and his Government, of course, but also Hans Blix, a “UN Swedish” diplomat combing Iraq for “arms of mass destruction”. He stubbornly refused to comply and endorse the US government sponsored lies and disinformation. Who can ever trust a Swede after that?

In another recent Guardian article, I was surprised to read that most of the Liars’ club members are unrepentant, as if lying and invading had just been part of their job description.

On a scale from 1 to 10, Sharon-Rose’s candid statement is at 1; Donald’s twisted mind earns him a 9. As for 10, I assign it to Epimenides the Cretan , the guy who declared that all Cretans are liars.

This was Rumsfeld’s ambition: a statement that no-one could possibly prove or disprove, not even time.

  1. The United States and Russia take turns invading and bombing other countries, even if their motives are different: share the benefits of American-style democracy for the former, and to quench her thirst for power for the latter.[]
  2. Sharon-Rose seems to be the last person on the Planet not to have a personal home page.[]
  3. There was also this nice smiling guy called Tony Blair, but was a British liar.[]
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