Experts? We don’t need no stinkin’ professionals

VoltairesBastardsPeople sense that our society is backwards but they lack the understanding of why.

Saul suggests that it has to do with our fetish with the individual:

Just how confused we are over what we mean by individualism can most easily be seen by looking at the West from the outside. Buddhist societies are horrified by a great deal in the West, but the element which horrifies them most is our obsession with ourselves as a subject of unending interest. By their standards, nothing could be unhealthier than a guilt-ridden, self-obsessed, proselytizing white male or female, selling God or democracy or liberalism or capitalism with insistent superior modesty.

The individual is an old idea but “individualism” began to take form in the early 19th century. This is when the idea of “professionalism” came about:

The rise of the professional was therefore intimately linked – throughout the Industrial Revolution, the accompanying explosion of inventions and the growth of the middle classes – with Western man’s assertion that he was a responsible individual. He was responsible to the degree that he was competent. Thus the value of individualism was pegged to the soaring value of specialization.


By becoming better at what he did, each man believed that he was increasing his control over his own existence. He was building his personal empire of responsibility. This was both the measure of his worth and the sum of his contributions to society as a whole.

But, oddly, as the specialization and professionalism increased, the expert became much more isolated. In fact, we have pepper/fly poo time:

While our mythology suggests that society is like a tree with the ripening fruits of professional individualism growing thick upon it, a more accurate image would show a maze of corridors, blocked by endless locked doors, each one leading in or out of a small cell.

Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, John Ralston Saul, 1992.

  • Franchising is barren because certain members of the franchise bar feel personally insecure as men.

Maybe in the 2nd half of their life they can become less fearful of death (and life).

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