“staggering from crisis to crisis…”

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A very important point from Oliver Burkeman in his Guardian blog post.

Institutions – from national newspapers to governments and politicial parties – invest an enormous amount of money and effort in denying this truth. The facades they maintain are crucial to their authority, and thus to their legitimacy and continued survival. We need them to appear ultra-competent, too, because we derive much psychological security from the belief that somewhere, in the highest echelons of society, there are some near-infallible adults in charge.

In fact, though, everyone is totally just winging it. [added emphasis]

That would be everyone.  But read the whole thing.

As he goes on to say,

This realisation is alarming at first, but it’s ultimately deeply reassuring. As the UK organisation Action for Happiness likes to point out, one of the biggest causes of misery is the way we chronically “compare our insides with other people’s outsides”. We’re all mini-New York Timeses or White Houses, energetically projecting an image of calm proficiency, while inside we’re improvising in a mad panic. Yet we forget (especially in an era of carefully curated Facebook profiles and suchlike) that everyone else is doing the same thing. The only difference is that they think it’s you who’s truly competent.

[Well... not you, obviously...  - Ed]  Obviously!

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  • belfastboyo

    The people who do well in their careers are not necessarily the most proficient or best at their job.
    They tend to be the most self confident.

    Confidence is the key!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    And because they are “not necessarily the most proficient or best at their job” when they squeeze out all those who are, you get a general growth of mediocrity in just about every field. You just have to look at my old pitch, TV, to see where this takes us all in the end.

    The line up at Stormont, Westminister and the Dáil all too sadly confirms this too. I suppose its all down to the decent into complete homogeneity that the second law of thermodynamics posits. Ernest Gellner thought so……..

  • Pete Baker

    I’ve swapped the title quote for another line from the linked Oliver Burkeman post.

  • Mc Slaggart

    SeaanUiNeill

    ” my old pitch, TV, to see where this takes us all in the end”

    Breaking bad? TV is better today than it ever was. Their is even British TV if your stuck.

  • aquifer

    So we should try to make sure that big mistakes and big slow building crises get noticed and fixed instead of covered up by egos on the make.

    Like falling male fertility, or mental illness in children that has a possible link to the digital media eroding the privacy and emotional support of home life .

    Transparent government could be very efficient.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Glad, McSlaggart, to find that someone out there is still finding something to enjoy on the small screen. There’s quite a lot of really good US programming (although the mores of US political correctness on a lot of it leave me gasping!) and I did enjoy “The Thick of it” but I found about twenty years ago that I could not sit through being told what to think and how I should interpret news stories for more than about ten minutes and so had to join most of the Hollywood actors and film-makers and refuse to have a TV in the house. But I keep up on the steady drop in quality in localy made programming when I visit friends.

    Now back to the line of the thread: “Institutions – from national newspapers to governments and politicial parties – invest an enormous amount of money and effort in denying this truth. The facades they maintain are crucial to their authority, and thus to their legitimacy and continued survival.”

    The other side of this is how they can assess the effectiveness of their disinformation activities. Over on the “DUP fight for flag” thread I put up (and translated) a big quote in French from the CEO of Google, Eric Emerson Schmidt, about how he sees the role of the internet in serving these institutions by delivering his everyday customers to them. Just a little part of my translation:

    “We do not actually need you to type anything on your computer. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We know pretty much what you think. I really believe that most people do not want Google to simply answer their questions……they want Google to tell them what they should do next. If you think something or do something you do not want other people to know, maybe you should not do or think it in the first place. We need to create a service that can positivly identify what people are up to. Governments will demand it, demand in effect, something to allow internet control Chinese style.”

    I had quite a bit of experience in advertising over some decades some time back and could watch the development of this slick machine of disinformation as it refined its techniques. I found it chilling……….

  • aquifer

    And the major consumer co-operative in these islands finds itself beholden to private equity.

    With government downsized and loaded with the bankers’ debt, capitalism can now shape our desires unhindered.

    You want that home?

    We have the money and control of the interest rate.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Exactly aquifer, and there’s precious little we can do except watch……..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks for the 1.51am posting, aquifer. One of the big problems of digital media is that it assumes other forms of literacy. The people who created it, at least those I spoke to in north California, all took the existence of general book literacy as a given, and assumed transfering it onto the screen made little or no change to how we understand it.

    But understanding is not simply an abstract cognitive exercise, it also has an element that is physically encoded, so, for better or worse, the habits of using a screen develop a quite different pattern of personal understanding to the habits of using paper and books. In shorthand, the screen makes for quicker but more superficial response patterns. Its more complex than that, but I already write too much on my postings.

    I’ve also used the term “Technological Hypnotism” in an interview on TV once. Computers give the illusion of allowing their users to access a powerful aid to their native intelligence and the illusion that the computer will fill in the gaps with its own special magic. The above sentence:

    “energetically projecting an image of calm proficiency, while inside we’re improvising in a mad panic.”

    hits exactly on this Olympian aura the computer permits its user to project by allowing us to gloss over the chaotic improvisation. This occuring on a massive scale across every facet of society means that the general pattern of “dumbing down” is masked for the time being……

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “We need them to appear ultra-competent, too, because we derive much psychological security from the belief that somewhere, in the highest echelons of society, there are some near-infallible adults in charge.”

    I need this illusion, but I find it harder and harder to cling to.

    I had always assumed that those at the top places in our government and banking system were seriously clued up and efficient.

    During the Blair years I started to doubt this, my late uncle was particularly aware of something amiss and summarised the situation thusly:
    (strong south Derry rural accent) “a pile a men drunk in the pub would rule the country better”.

    A few months later followed an addendum as he watched (filled with horror) as Andrew Marr calmly explained that the reason for so many old bars near the financial district is that this is where deals are done and important gossip is traded (or summat) to which my uncle exclaimed: “The country IS run by a pile of men drunk in the pub!!!!”

    Oh how I laughed. Until the economy collapsed round me…

  • sergiogiorgio

    I’m surprised this comes as news. Power and leadership is the art of appearing in control. Its got little to do with actually being in control. Its the current Labour election mantra – big, bold, sweeping statements with no detail – “so Ed, you are going to freeze energy prices for 2 years. How are legally going to enforce that decision? What are you, or more importantly Joe Public, going to do after the 2 year price freeze?” It sells headlines and gives the appearance of being in control. Its the same throughout business – just look at the banks – in the end no one knew or cared how the numbers were being reached, just as long as the profits kept flowing. Unfortunately the dumbest are us lot for wanting to believe things are in control. Trust me, they are not. Its all seat of the pants baby………

  • Mc Slaggart

    I am shocked that anyone thinks the politicians are in control of anything?

    We know that capitalism cannot deal with global warming. At least in Europe we have a chance as “local” governments have someone to blame (Its all the EU fault) to start addressing some of the basic issues.

    More scary for places like the US is the growing gap between the super rich and the middle classes. Yet again in Europe we have a model which will hopefully get us true but even that will be hard:

    “They may be among the brainiest professionals in Britain, but scientists, university academics and architects are struggling to cling to the privileges of middle-class life as a super-rich elite pushes up prices for property and private education.”
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/career/article4008422.ece

  • Mc Slaggart

    true = though

  • David Crookes

    Here is what Byron said.

    Shut up the world at large, let Bedlam out,
    And you will be perhaps surprised to find
    All things pursue exactly the same route,
    As now with those of soi-disant sound mind.
    This I could prove beyond a single doubt,
    Were there a jot of sense among mankind;
    But till that point d’appui is found, alas!
    Like Archimedes, I leave earth as ’twas.

  • Pete Baker

    “and politicial parties…”

    “staggering from crisis to crisis, concocting credible-sounding policies in cars en route to press conferences…”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you David, I wonder if there is something just as apposite in Byron’s very own master “the Little Queen-Anne man.”

    I’ll just drag out my Twickenham edition of the “Dunciad” before this dumbing down’s “universal darkness buries all”…..