Let’s talk competence, shall we?
Competence is not intelligence. Competence isn’t even innate ability. Competence is, instead, the ability to focus on and do the job.
Yesterday a commenter who has commented here occasionally, though not regularly, took exception to my guest poster (who, trust me, has reason to know — there’s a reason that wasn’t even under a nom de net or an anagram of the name) saying the left is not competent.
He (? I don’t remember the sex of that particular nick) said he knows many very competent lefties. And also that if the left weren’t competent they couldn’t take over everything.
Which I think is what necessitates this discussion, and this …. disentangling of the threads of “what makes someone competent.” And “what is competent?”
Individual leftists can be extremely smart. However you define smart. Whether it be knowing tons about an extremely abstract field or simply being able to run their lives such that you make tons of money, or even managing to make vast fortunes/careers from frankly almost nothing. I know several of those. Because of course I do. And FYI a vast core of Mensa is hard left. (Though again, Mensa is not everyone who qualifies, but those who joined. For instance our lower IQ son joined (because we needed to impress a school) but his younger brother never did (no point) and I haven’t renewed in nigh on 20 years. So Mensa is self selected for above a certain IQ (and it’s not amazingly high.) and “wants to be part of a society that defines itself by high IQ.” No judgement. At one time and in one place it was our best bet at making friends. And it worked. Since then…. not so much.) Which means there a lot of left-wingers who are in the top 2% for IQ. I’d honestly estimate there to be the same right and left percentage, or whatever the percentage is in the population.
And yet, this is UNDENIABLY true, and many of us have seen it play out real time:
So, why do they kill and gut the respected institutions — or businesses — or entire business areas?
You’re going to say it’s because they want to kill those, but that’s not always true. True, say, maybe of some conservative institutions or IDK oil companies. But not true when it comes to things like publishing or the news industry, which they hope to use for their purposes and which, therefore, they would do better with if it were thriving.
There is a side issue here with such convinced leftists (Obama comes to mind) that their entire set of judgement is not from reality, but that is perhaps best evaluated at the end.
So, let’s start with “leftist gets hired in a field that is predominantly right wing”. I want two caveats here: first, no field in the Western world has been predominantly right wing for at least a hundred years, and going back before that the terms “right” and “left” are far, far more muddled. For the nineteenth century, for instance, I’m almost screamingly left wing. What I am not is Marxist.
The institutions have not been predominantly right wing because, (if you read books published around that time it’s not hard to gather this, btw,) in the aftermath of WWI and the turmoil of the fall of royal families all over Europe (which had been going on for about a century, to be fair) the youth of Europe latched onto Marxism as a new doctrine to give their world meaning. It’s not even hard to see that. Even solidly prosy middle-class women like Agatha Christie (who was also a storytelling genius, but that often descends on people with no regard for who they are) made their communist characters very smart and socially conscious and you know, even when in the wrong kind of right.
For sure for at least 80 years publishing was explicitly left wing and preparing the “great socialist future” with notable exceptions, like Campbell. I’ve read more publisher bios than I can shake a really big pen at and all of them were explicitly encouraging “fiction that moves us to more progressive policies.” Even in the pulps.
So, even back then the way to get accepted was to be explicitly left and cater to the publisher’s own obsessions (same as it ever was.) But the publishers were still competent.
Two or three years ago, I undertook, for reasons known only to the psychiatrist I don’t have, to read back on the books I read as a kid. The project got interrupted for various reasons, but I intend to go back to it, and perhaps do reviews.
However, here is what shocked me: the premises of the stories were often either scietifically laughable or (by now) done to death. The characters were walking stereotypes. The settings were often barely sketched in.
And yet those books grabbed me from the first chapter. And no, it wasn’t nostalgia, as I didn’t remember a lot of them. What they were was…. competent at the primary job of a pulp science fiction book: have the reader read you and enjoy it, so he’ll buy more.
Oh, the ideas were also extremely poisonous, since I read mostly “between the wars” when the line between socialism and fascism was often nonexistent. (We’re kind of there again. Hello, darkness my old friend.) So paens to socialism alternated with sounding the alarm on the NEED for “racial hygiene” (barfs.)
I can attest, having re-read those books that, being entertaining and drawing you along even as you thought they were ridiculous, they were a far more effective way to sell the poison than the current dry and lecturing tomes on the glories Gramsci’s edit on Marx.
So as far as I can tell, those leftists were very competent. And to be fair, they were probably hired on competence, not their ideas, because that’s how non-Marxists hire. “Can you do the job?”
But that was at least four generations ago as working lifespans go. Maybe more, as people after WWII started work later and died younger than we do.
And that competence has been ditched along the way.
Now, how did that happen?
I don’t know. I once read a book on the transformation of Universities in the sixties, but I can’t remember the title because it was a decade or so ago. This happened, btw, in the sixties, so I wasn’t really aware of it. I couldn’t even read till sixty six and it was the end of the seventies before I started trying to understand the world and events.
I do know that my education wasn’t nearly as good as my dad’s. And my brother’s (about ten years older. It’s complicated) was halfway as good as dad’s. For instance, under the excuse of “modernizing” I never got Latin or Greek and knew ancient history only because I found dad’s school books and read them. Other things, such as math, were stretched out over a much longer time. Geography was elided, economics never taught us the basics and went on a grand crusade for Marxist (or in the case of one teacher mixed) economies. We learned way more “activism” than actual facts. In fact most of the classes were devoted to telling us the past of the west was unfair and evil and such, only you know, a little better disguised than now. Also to make us feel superior to our parents and grandparents that we knew this, while they didn’t. The same poison pill has been served, in increasing dosages to every generation since.
Now, the book I read said this was done to submit to the demands of protesters in US universities, and maybe it was? Craziness in the US tends to propagate throughout the world. Witness the “black lives matter” demonstrations/riots all over the world. But one could adduce other causes, such as the greater prosperity of the post WWII era, combined with a need for more “trained” white collar workers having facilitated concentrating on “the things they’ll need to use.” I know in the US this meant a lot of science graduates knew almost nothing about the liberal arts.
What I do know is that a large portion of the theme of my — and most of my friends’ — adult lives has been “creating competence.” Because we didn’t leave our educational institutions with much of it.
I was recently complimented on my English not along the lines of “Oh, and you are so good at it” but at how astonishing it was for me to use all the levels of the language, know what I was doing and using them for effect. I know there’s a ton of other examples from the past, but this person — by no means a fool — was amazed at someone our generation doing it.
Well, I was lucky in that my first through third year teachers were exceptionally competent and bucked the trend of making learning fun. One of them said “you will memorize the vocab lists, and be tested on them till your eyes bleed. And you will be proficient. And when you leave my hands you will be fluent.”
And yes, that’s part of it, but not all. The fact is in English, and in so many other things, I was aware that while making very good grades, I wasn’t being taught much of anything. So I set about learning. For English this involved finding a bookstore that had forgotten a bunch of books in its attics, and never remarked them after WWII. So I read a lot of abridged works “for foreign learners.” From those, in my second year, I graduated to a (cost the Earth, because of culture-protecting tariffs) a paperback copy of Dandelion Wine, US version. I spent what must have been six months working on that book. This is why every word I wasn’t sure about has notations in pencil on the top. The next book took three months, etc. BUT the point is, “I didn’t get that from school.”
Also, often, in my professional life, I came across the very basics that everyone should know and I wasn’t taught. One of those was: margins. (Not even joking.) Another was punctuation, and I still struggle and periodically have to spend a day doing exercise books just to ‘set it properly’ because early (lack of) learning tells.
To this day I’m not sure how to do proper bookkeeping, something mom knew with a (pre-apprenticeship, that’s something else) 4th grade education.
So what I suspect happens in all the “get woke go broke” instances, or the Iowahawk paradigm is that the people coming in, having been hired by true believers (every generation is more of a true believer) and educated by true believers, have no clue how to do the job.
In my own field I was staggered to find out, for instance that there are NO market studies done for publishing. None. They have no idea what the public wants to buy. This is like “management 101” but they don’t do it. Not for content, not for type of plot and pacing, not for SIZE or price.
And my guess would be because they have no clue how to do it.
They were hired for their beliefs, so what they concentrate on is blazing those beliefs and looking good to their bosses. Which is not a bad personal strategy, but sucks for the business long term. And stems from a lack of competence, not intelligence.
There is a subset of true believers that aren’t either smart or competent and skate through solely on “excessive belief and signaling.” I’d put Obama in that category. I’m still convinced he firmly believes if he ruins the US enough the rest of the world will get richer. Because economics is a foreign language to him and he was taught a bunch of dogma that just ain’t so.
But it is a lot like what happens when “advancing women’s rights” women get hired into a field or take it over. Instead of being passionately interested in the THING be it games, or sf books, or whatever it is they’re messing with this week, they’re passionately interested in “cause.”
No matter how smart or well equipped intellectually they are, they’re going to take that area of business or endeavor down. Because it has ceased being the main job.
They can be intelligent and good at what they’re doing, but what they’re doing is not for the benefit of the house/company/endeavor.
BTW a related side of this is how I understand the left thinking we’re stupid. This was particularly true when I was deep in the political closet. When pitching, or talking books with friends, I could hear the other person going “Come on, put in the talking points that will take it “to the next level.” And they’d say things like “oh, you’re just not that deep a thinker. it’s all right.” What it means is that they can’t understand why we don’t parrot the right points to benefit ourselves, since obviously the THING isn’t going to get done, anyway. So we’re stupid.
…. They might not be wrong. But only on the very short term, and the problem is that they’re not “deep thinkers.”
Anyway, that is why there is a competence gap between right and left. It’s not because they’re not capable, but because they don’t find the “thing” as worth of their time and devotion as we do. Also because the ideology blinds them, they don’t realize there’s anything to FIX in their education. So even if they wanted to they couldn’t fix what they’re doing wrong.
This, btw, is the explanation for “everything is broken” and is a massive threat to civilization, bigger even than rigged elections, bigger ideological craziness, bigger than anything else.
We’ve sold competence for a pot of message.
And we need competent people to save civilization.