Samstag, Oktober 08, 2005

A Fine Line

There is the usual storm and fury about the Meiers nomination, this time from both sides.

I'm not goin to comment on either: a pox on both.

This is the side that I am on: VariFrank hits the nail on the head cleanly and drives it all the way in.

When you join the Supremes, it's a gig for life. Nice job if you can get it.

Our "elites", those that go to Harvard and Yale and MIT, who become lawyers and academics and consultants and politicians, have become a significant part of the problem. One of the aspects of being an elite is that you actually do think you are "better" than the comman man, that you, on the basis of your education and background - after all, summers in France are much more interesting than working as a lifeguard in the local Y - know better than Joe Sixpack.

That way lies madness.

Why? Because that is at the core of the afflications of the modern age: those that think on the basis of their social status that they are inherently and necessarily better at life than those who never had the benefits and opportunities that they had.

If you apply this on the basis of race - us Red-Headed Left Handers are inherently the super race - then you end up, logically, with fascism.

If you apply this on the basis of sociology - us academic achievers are inherently better at making decisions - then you end up, logically, with communism.

I've been priviledged in my life: I've had the summers in Europe, I have an advanced degree from a European university, even though I am an American, I've had the luxury of time to find out what I am good at before having to take any job to pay the bills.

But the last thing I think is that I'm better than my fellows. I'm not.

I am priviledged to count the following people as my friends: cops, patent lawyers, electricians, people who take care of the elderly, teachers, econometricians, financial professionals, Marines and Rangers, physiotherapists, social workers, construction workers, cooks, insurance investigators, programmers, music industry managers, musicians, shoe designers, engineers, civilian employees in the military, State Department people, academics and artists.

They are my elite: they aren't an elite at all. There some people in there who aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer; there are some in there who are one heck of a lot smarter than I am and will ever be; there are some in there who are very, very wise; there are others in there who are heavily neurotic in that they keep on making really dumb decisions.

In my experience there is no meaningful correlation between education and wisdom; between priviledged upbringing and success; between financial savvy and riches; betwen having the trappings of elitism and being a better person.

None. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

It would be nice if there was: but there isn't.

Doesn't mean that an education is worthless: there are some that are, but generally speaking there is a massive positive correlation between education/training and financial success. It's not that having a priviledged upbringing doesn't help you in life: it does. It doesn't mean that investing in your own education and skill sets is a waste of time: it usually means that you will end up making more money, i.e. your investment usually pays off.

But it's not a guarantee.

I listen here near Frankfurt to AFN, both AM and FM. Every so often there's a bit which always has the refrain: charachter counts.

It's not enough to be highly educated and trained if you are ultimately lazy and aren't willing to work; it's not enough to be groomed for success if you think with an organ of your body that is located between your legs and you end up repeatedly making a fool of yourself with the opposite sex; it's not enough to be technically proficient, indeed brilliant, and at the same time being such an unbearable person to be with that you are desperately, horribly lonely.

In other words, having the best education and training in the world isn't enough.

You've got to be the best person you can be.

And if you think that this doesn't mean walking a fine, fine line in your life, between your duties and having a good time, between caring for others and neglecting yourself, between understanding complexity and identifying what's important, between skepticism and trust, then you haven't understood that at the end of the day, it's not about where you studied, what you work at, who you know and who you sleep with.

It's about being the best person that you can be.

Which brings us back to VariFrank.

If the president thinks Meiers is his best choice for the job: so be it. Not happy with it? Get elected president and make your own recommendations. Not happy with her? Tough.

Amen, VariFrank: I didn't go to Harvard either. And you know what? I'd rather talk to you than to talk to the people I know who did go to Harvard, because I think you'd be more interesting to talk to.

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