Sunday, April 08, 2012

Face It, You're Incompetent!

Yeah, you.  I'm talking to you or at least somewhere around 90% of the people who'll read this.   You're incompetent and while that might be inadvertent, it is by design.

I'm reading Tim Flannery's new book, Here on Earth, a Natural History of the Planet.  Flannery also wrote the excellent book, The Weather Makers, which serves as something of an encyclopedia into the nature and effects of climate change.

In Here on Earth, Flannery delves into the evolution of civilization into a superorganism in which we develop an ant-colony like division of labour that, while it advances society as a whole, also transforms us as individuals into incompetents.  I was jarred when I came across this passage:

"...If you doubt how far our civilization has turned us into helpless, self-domesticated livestock, just look at the world around you.  Does it seem to have lost its commonsense?  It frequently seems so to me.  and how often does a visionary leader arise among us?  So few are truly wise that it seems a whole generation can pass without such a presence.  But of course it need not be so.   We can challenge ourselves - shed our complacency and love of ease - and so reinvigorate our shrivelled virtues.  That's what a well-rounded education is supposed to do, and even those with the most repetitive jobs can in their leisure hours expand their minds.  But while we sit in our air-conditioned homes  and eat, drink and make merry like cattle in a feedlot without the slightest thought about the consequences of our consumption of water, food and energy, we only hasten the destruction - in the long term - of our own kind."

I have repeatedly lamented how, today especially, we have a class of leaders who are borderline incompetents, devoid of vision and dull.  To what can we ascribe the utterly failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan except to astonishingly incompetent military and political leadership?   Failure was virtually pre-ordained.

And then look at the challenges of the day, some of them potentially existential, that go unremarked much less unresolved.  It's a virtual cornucopia of disorders that may easily lead to the end of our civilization - desertification, deforestation, resource depletion and exhaustion, air,soil,water contamination, severe storm events of increasing frequency and intensity, cyclical droughts and floods, the spreading freshwater crisis, species extinction and migration, the collapse of global fisheries, pest and disease migration, overpopulation and population migration, sea level rise and coastal inundation, anthropogenic global warming including induced natural feedback mechanisms, and the host of global security threats including regional arms races, nuclear proliferation, global terrorism, the spreading food crisis and the onset of resource wars.   And that list isn't exhaustive either.

Now a leader of vision would say, "hey, if we don't solve this mess of problems, we're all buggered."   But, then again, a leader of vision of the sort we need to solve these problems would also see the common thread that runs through each and every one of them, the thread that, followed back, leads to the solution.  It's there.  See if you can find it.

Yet even as I write this I realize that we may have already become so incompetent that we can no longer abide a leader with that vision any more than we would accept the solution to all these threats that leader would reveal to us.

Tim Flannery: Here on Earth by tvnportal

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"In our dream, we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or science. We are not to raise up from among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians. Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we now have ample supply."

Frederick Gates, Rockefeller Foundation Director of Charity

So you're right. It is by design.

Not to say that there's a century-old group of evil conspirators, but that ideas like that were in the style at the time. Those sorts of ideas and philosophies had an impact on the creation of modern society's systems, and so still have some influence today. Not overt influence pushed by particular groups, but from features of the system that remain/self-perpetuate because "it's always been that way".