that I’m not doing it right. I think there are any number of ways to approach this problem, but the easiest is probably to draw a little diagram of a spectrum:
Time spent from time available:
Capability <---------------------> Publicity
The thing about life is that (from a certain metaphysical perspective) it’s made of time—time that is finite. Spend it on one thing, in other words, and you can’t spend it on another.
The other thing about life is that we live it in an incredibly competitive and crowded world in which literally billions of people are vying for attention and opportunity and food and energy all the time, and in which most will not live comfortably.
And that’s the crux of the problem. Because there’s such competition for opportunity, opportunities tend to go to those that have the largest social opportunity structues—that are the most “out there,” in other words; that nurture the strongest kind of continuous “publicity.” They talk and propose and “create” (regardless of the value of such creations) endlessly, almost unable to help their ceaseless and inane chatter and sociality, and their ebullient social networks and solidary connections are the stuff of tsunamis more than social gatherings.
However, when time is spent on publicity, it isn’t spent on developing capability (i.e. becoming skilled or qualified). Because of the amount of competition, however, only the most visible, connected, insistent, and liked end up with jobs, titles, and power. So we have this paradox: the more you get hired or are likely to get hired, the less you are actually qualified to and/or the less you actually know.
The more you can do and the more you know, the less likely you actually are to be given a chance to contribute it to society.
The second-class minds have the jobs, literally; the people with no skills or poor skills or who seriously overestimate their skills. The bigger the fuck-up, the better the job they have, because the hiring is done by fuck-ups (to start with) and because the fuck-ups, by virtue of spending almost none of their time developing actual skills and the vast majority of it becoming popular and “networking,” rise that much more quickly.
I’m supposed to be looking for work. But instead I’m turning my nose up at multiple “opportunities” in a row. I tell myself it’s integrity, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not helpful to my cause (i.e. to live). I don’t know. I simply have this absolute distaste for incompetence. I hate it when I see idiots doing jobs poorly for lots of money. I hate it even more when they invite me to join in and/or when their work actually makes society worse.
Don’t get me wrong, I like money. But I can’t bear (at least not yet) the prospect of letting myself attach my name to utter crap. I think, in fact, that it’s vanity on my part that causes this. In the long term (say, a few lifetimes, a couple centuries), crap rots and disappears from human memory. What’s left is the hidden greatness—often not discovered until much later—that came from those whose contemporaries dismissed them or were far too busy saluting each others’ crap to take notice. I don’t want to leave behind me only totally forgettable crap. Even worse, I’d hate to be remembered from amongst the few who get remembered as one of those responsible for filling the world with crap.
Eventually, I suppose, I’ll have to concede and compromise. I did at Media Tenor. But for the moment, I’m not finding anything equivalent. I’m finding things that are much more idiotic, people doing much worse jobs than I saw there and at the same thinking they’re doing them that much more skillfully, and doing so with much bigger budgets in some cases.
And it explains all the prejudice I’ve heard from people I know about “college people” and “egghead Ph.D.” holders who are dumb as rocks. As it turns out, a great many of them are.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Any Ph.D. student worth his or her salt in any discipline can run off a list of giants in the history of their field that were ridiculed while they were young and/or alive, alongside the imbeciles in their field that have dominated it for a decade here or there, gaining converts and enriching themselves shamelessly until suddenly they are transformed from orthodoxy into community of circus clowns literally overnight when their own social network falls into disrepair.
Am I bitter?
Maybe I’m just better than everyone else. 😉