The Things You Don't Know

In a humbling way, it’s sometimes nice to learn something you should have known for decades, but somehow escaped becoming aware of.

I had this experience recently while helping my daughter with her history studies. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how the Soviets had been able to blockade West Berlin. Please don’t laugh, but my mental model of post-war Germany was that it had one border between east and west and that same border also split Berlin into its western and eastern halves. It didn’t take long to work out that this was utterly wrong, and that West Berlin was actually deep in East German territory — almost 200 kilometres from West Germany.

How did I make it this far without knowing what seems now like a totally basic fact of modern history? Did I miss school that day? Did that page fall out of my textbook? What about all the films I’ve seen that take place there? Surely it must have been mentioned sometime or other.

This raises the question of what other completely basic facts everyone else knows but I’ve inadvertently dodged learning. Can’t wait to find out!

Published on Wednesday, July 1 2020