Expertise

“Everyone is ignorant, just in different subjects” – Will Rogers

I sometimes commiserate with other workers in the service sector of our corporate reality, that allegedly brilliant lawyers, stockbrokers, even policy-makers cannot seem to find a book or order a sandwich intelligently to save their lives. I am not implying that this invalidates their other skills, just illustrating how none of us are as smart as we think we are.

This phenomenon can be illustrated by the way people interact with my room. One friend of mine, amidst party-goers and video-game players, managed to effortlessly peruse my vinyl collection (even pointing out a miscategorization) and select three musical gems in succession. Others would not have been adept at operating a record player, no matter how new. Different people react differently and with varying levels of interest, curiosity, and affinity to my eclectic bookshelf. Even more counter-cultural types will be drawn to the sticker wall, perhaps recognizing a street art hero or adding to it themselves.

I noticed that a recent visitor, compatriot and video-game enthusiast who stayed on my couch was immediately familiar with the whirring sound an XBox makes while the controller is left in to charge. He unplugged it before drifting off to sleep, but others would’ve (and have) been confused, not knowing the sound’s origin, how to stop it, or been mistaken as to its utility. Compare this to the complex usage of remote controls on my system, which is nearly impossible for anyone to master.

At this point, my girlfriend knows nearly everything about my room, its contents and workings. I’m really not all that complicated.

Even the video games themselves offer a microcosm of the diverse talents, skill sets and interests available to the general population. Many require Halo or some other FPS to really excel and be entertained. My girlfriend and many others only seem truly fulfilled by Action/Adventure RPGs, such as Skyrim, Fable, or Fallout. Almost everyone has some patience for a good puzzle game, like Braid, but with their own level of competency. Throw in a classic copy of MarioKart, however, and you really start to see some sparks fly. A rare few seem able to dominate any gametype. And most people who visit, ‘hang out’ or party have no interest or skill in video games at all.

The possible extrapolations of which really have me thinking. It’s not that Jamie Dimon is an idiot, I’m sure he’s very skilled and competent at dominating and cheating the system. He just has no patience and knowledge of how ridiculous he looks lying in front of Congress. It’s not that Mitt Romney misspeaks when he alienates the “lower classes” using Ivy League, Ayn Rand 1% rhetoric. He just doesn’t understand, he isn’t experienced, and can’t comprehend what America means to most Americans.

This does not excuse them, of course, from pretending to know what’s best for everyone, while really only serving their own self-interests.

Whether they are attempting to preach economists (while refuting the top economic analysts), make claims about science (while contradicting leading scientists), or speak for the American people (in spite of the protests of their constituents and customers), the authoritarian types can’t seem to stop “being experts” on everything! It’s really quite remarkable, what with all the information that’s out there, that any one person could make such a claim, and assume they are 100% correct.

If I came over to your house and started rearranging your kitchen utensils based on my own knowledge of culinary efficiency, I would be in no proper context at all. I am neither a chef, nor am I as intimately familiar with your organizational comfort level and and ease-of-use as you are.

Whenever the rich, the pundits, the legislators, the lawyers, the demagogues, the elites, and the corporate mouthpieces try to appeal to authority, make sure you ask, on whose authority, anyway? More often than not, they’re speaking out of their ass, scientifically speaking.

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