You know those annoying people who think they know everything, and keep trying to find ways of reminding you they do, while to you it's clear that they totally don't get it?
I sure hope I'm not one of those people. Although, I'm pretty sure that I am to someone, and often enough I catch myself having behaved like one. I like to think that's because there's an incongruence between what I manage to communicate, and what I actually think. I'd try to put it down to a failing of language, or commonality in understanding, more than dishonesty or ignorance.
Anyway, I've consciously acknowledged a human behavior recently (that I think I'm sometimes guilty of, although hopefully into the future I can fix that) whereby humans are contemptuous of people who didn't already have information. I don't know why I'd never really thought of it before... guess I must have been thinking about other things. Or maybe I have, and I've just forgotten. Or maybe I did, but owing to growth the context in which I considered it has shed a different insight.
So what I mean is: Say you don't know how to change a light bulb, and I do. It may be the case that you're a remarkably capable human, but due to the particular circumstances or environment in which you've lived out your life to date, it has never been necessary for you to change a light-bulb. You could probably figure it out with a little bit of experimentation, but you might still feel it would be prudent to ask someone experienced with replacing light bulbs about some of the fundamentals. What caveats apply to taking the globe out of it's packaging? What state should the power switch be in? What, in general, do I need to be conscious of? Etc.
So you might ask me how to change a light-bulb. In my experience of how humans typically live, that would be unusual indeed. And I could easily be contemptuous of your ability. I could ridicule you, in my head, behind your back, or to your face. I mean seriously? You don't know how to change a light-bulb? How fucking stupid are you!?
I might make various assumptions and extrapolate your lack of light-bulb changing skills to try and paint a picture of you. I might be so unamazing, that it isn't even possible for me to realise that you have deeper insight into many things than I do. I might hold on to those thoughts well into the future too, even well after you are a competent 'light-bulb changer'.
After you ask, I might laugh at you, and cling to the notion that I'm smarter than you, but I'll still probably let you in on a few of the basics of light-bulb maintenance. Now you know how to change light-bulbs too. Being the clever person that you are, you might supplement my basic instructions with your insight into physical reality, and become far better at changing light-bulbs than I am. Indeed, you might be far better at changing light-bulbs than I am within 60 seconds of your first exposure, while I have struggled for years to learn some basic ideas, like not grabbing a bulb that's still hot with my bare hands, turning the power off, standing on a stable platform, etc.
I suspect that one of the reasons I might be so contemptuous of you asking is because changing light-bulbs is 'my thing'. It's what *I* do. It's what I'm good at. I might in fact not wish to give that up. I might actually realise that you are likely to be far better at changing light-bulbs than I am, so I go out of my way to 'differentiate' our capabilities on the strength of this specific skill. That the skill is acquirable, or that the concepts are within grasp of any reasonably competent human is neither here nor there, because in my day to day interactions with humans who engage me to change their light-bulbs I derive social benefits from my light-bulb changing skills. That is, those people think I'm pretty clever, and that's important to me. I therefore might not be inclined to tell you about the really great book which taught me everything that I know about changing light-bulbs. Because if you had that book, then you might cease to be awed by my mad light-bulb changing skills. Further, you might undermine the impression of me among others who would otherwise have still been very impressed by my light-bulb changing skills. And if you already knew how to put a screw into a wall, something that I'm really struggling to master, then suddenly people might realise that you're more competent than I am. That'd suck, right? I mean, how could I go about convincing everyone that I'm an elite light-bulb changer if that happened? I guess, if the worst came to the worst, I could let you into the 'light bulb changing inner circle' where we could sit, and watch all those other lame arse humans fumble their globes, mocking them, congratulating each other, rubbing each others' penises, etc.
Sometimes I'm convinced that entire societies thrive on such attitudes. Anyway, I've run up against a massive amount of that attitude in various Linux communities recently. I suspect it is perhaps an 'adolescent male nerd' syndrome. It certainly seems to flourish in that demographic. You could probably cross out one of any three parts of the description and still find it applies. Actually, no. It's just people. It's so easy to find people who totally suck. With every emotional hang up under the sun. (Their ignorance fueled by mass media, advertising, their peers, in a great big vicious cycle of ignorance. But let's not digress, I think I've made the semblance of a point.)
p.s. The other thing that shits me is when you've got to switch out a bank of stadium lights, and a less than insightful person pontificates about how he'd never do it 'that way' based on his experience of changing the bulb in his flash light. Or they repeat vague advice or 'best practices' that they don't follow, but that they heard someone else parrot once too.
p.p.s. I've heard that when changing light bulbs, particularly halogen ones, you can increase the life expectancy of the bulb by using a towel while handling the globe. Apparently it's the oil on your fingers, left as finger prints, that 'cooks' on the surface that diminishes the life expectancy of the bulb.
p.p.p.s. Did you know I don't have a television? Not having a television, and therefore being generally unaware of what is actually on the television, do you think that I lack the requisite knowledge or attitudes that I'd need to engage in effective communication with you?
p.p.p.p.s. I love my blog. If I don't understand what I mean, then how could you try to infer anything from what I say?
p.p.p.p.p.s. I don't even remember what I wrote. I suspect I should proof read this one... but the spell check says it's OK. :)
Just thought I should mention something that passed through my mind while I was venting above.
I've actually found that in general, particularly in the IT profession, information is now 'cheap'. It's really becoming less of a big deal.
I guess that's because it's so much easier to acquire information these days than it used to be. If you're in IT this is particularly so.
Thus there are plenty of people with professional, or sharing attitudes. Not childish, protective ones. For example, the guys who helped me out on #svn the other day.
One thing that really bothers me is when I run across a young punk touting the virtues of, say, Linux, and who thinks he's pretty clever because he knows the ABCs of it, who'll deride you if you ask a question about B, even though his best chance of having it survive (i.e. a collaborative effort) is to help people like me (i.e. programmers) get involved.
It's just immaturity I guess. Although in my experience I'm not sure that what we refer to as maturity is actually something acquired with age.
Well written, John! :)
(except for that part about the penis rubbing -- that was rather off-putting, but I'm going to put that out of mind now)
I've actually thought about some of this stuff lately, too, especially wrt information being cheap and the effects on those who hoard it for the primary purpose of deriding others.
The whole post is thought-provoking to me.
Oh, and no -- I don't think your lack of a television and the knowledge of what's on it hinders your ability to communicate effectively with me.
I don't care about mass media and pop culture, but even if I did (or considering other people who speak of such things rather exclusively), I reckon your lack of tv doesn't deprive you absolutely. You still listen to the radio (or whatever). You're still on the interweb. There's plenty of advertising to go around. ;)
"Well written, John! :)"
You know, the other type of people who annoy me are the type of people who still can't change a light-bulb even after you've shown them exactly how to do it over 13 times.. :P
That's where I reckon it's OK to draw the line for the 'inner circle'. :)
Well written; well said; well done.
I'm in agreement with you John, and with Stuart's comments as well. (I will say that the 'penis rubbing' part struck me as less offensive and more of a metaphor for ego stroking (which I tend to imagine as pretty close to a form of penis stroking or self-gratification behavior of sorts).)
I also think you're close to the mark with your mention of the general behavior you described as resulting from a lack of a certain type of maturity. My own opinion on the matter includes the notion that this particular immaturity is fueled to some extent by personal insecurity (which may be the exact same thing, but I like it as a differentiator).
Anyway, excellent post. A fine example of what makes your writing worth reading.
"Well written; well said; well done."
Oh, you're most welcome Rick. :)