Experts & Specialists Scrapbook

Specialization: the beginning of the road to extinction
Loren Eisley


Links will be fixed as more K. is moved here.
2010 10 03 Rulers guide the public to believe that the experts are there because they know best; actually the experts are there to train the public sit passively while mumbo jumbo trumps sense.
2010 09 17 Experts: Not only do the experts not know best, not necessarily, not automatically; the experts may not know best how to protect themselves, or to grow their privileges! If they did, those in power 10,000 years ago would still be in power!

2006 01 08 I’m going to read in here a series of quick scribbles just begun on my scratchpad. I wasn’t thinking of them as belonging together, I was thinking of them getting distributed to a dozen different K. places: and why not here? the “expert” word is used at least once after all.

The more obvious a truth the more impossible it is to explain to the experts.

The missionary calling the cannibal black cannot see his own color, cannot be shown, has hydrogen bombs to prove that his authority is unchallengeable.

The cannibal can be shown that the Christian is no different from the cannibal, but the Christian cannot be shown.

The Jew, the Pole, was never deceived about the Nazis; it was the Nazis who were deceived about the Nazis.

Christians wear their sin, mistaking it for proof of honor.

Playing to the fools, playing to the fake king; playing to the real god, to the truth.

This Korean scientist could fake a paper past the press, maybe with a little more luck past the Nobel committee, past congress; but could he fake it past God’s god?

With that last entry it starts to fritter toward the trivial. And I’m about to further demean it with a personal recollection of an experience: and who knows what will follow beyond that. I’ll find out: then decide what goes where.

Jesus failed to demonstrate the Jews’ humanity to the Jews. Christians blame the Jews without getting the lesson.

Ivan Illich failed to demonstrate parallel lessons to Christians. His failure is regarded as his own.

I failed to demonstrate Illich to Americans: but then I was already dismissed as a nincompoop. But there’s a little squiggle on the tail I find really cute:

An exception damn well ought to be John Q. [2013 08 05 John got arrested and jailed after I did. Which Illich disciples did not get arrested and jailed? Any>]
It was John Q. who had hailed me as one of the greatest philosophers of the Twentieth Century in our original long-distance conversation. He had called and introduced himself in terms of work he was doing for Ivan Illich at Ivan’s request. (Ivan had never asked me to do a thing for him, though I had volunteered to be his slave (a foolish offer for a married man and a father), but I was familiar with Illich’s string of altar-boy-like adults who performed any number of tasks for the Don. [It was “altar boy Denis Detzel who called Ivan the DI: Don Ivan!])
A few years ago, a couple of years after first introducing himself, John came to visit me for a few days, Sebring becoming a stop along his route from California to Bremen Germany and back to California: some globe hopping for a saint who (as I had for so many years) lived in his car, homeless, his family something between dispersed and ripped-from-him. When he sees my Illich library, including prepub drafts of a series of the books, John goes berserk.
Anyway, we’re out in the boat on Lake Istokpoga to talk without interruption. I’m trying to introduce John to my original mind set as I recognized Ivan as the true successor of Jesus. I explained my own background as “anti-Catholic.” John heard the phrase as anti-Christian.

I’ll plead guilty to that latter phrase these days, but it’s not what I’d said, not what I’d meant. John, a Catholic (just as Ivan was a Catholic priest), was treating “Catholic” and “Christian” as synonyms: despite our mutual hero being the guy who emphasized that they were antonyms!

Illich had said: “If the Catholic Church wished to become Christian …” The Church didn’t get it. The Church proved how right Illich was by defrocking him. On his death bed, suffering unbelievably from a cancer he refused to let the doctors have their way with, Illich called a bunch of cardinals to him. They came. (I wish I could have been there: though he probably addressed them in Latin or Greek … or Catholic — something I wouldn’t have followed more than a word of.

They didn’t get it. They didn’t understand a word either.

And they never will. Jews cannot be told about God. Christians cannot be told about sin. Americans cannot be told about liberty.

And Shakespeareans cannot be told about Shakespeare.

Both being state-fiated, experts are to competence as greenbacks are to gold: at ever greater distances.

PS 2014 09 02 Illich disciples get thrown in jail, framed. I was arrested and jailed in Oct 2006: for “extorsion”! Ha! John’s been in jail for years now in Nevada: for statutory “rape”. John’s son had been jailed years before for raping the same girl: his cousin, John’s niece: a family affair. John has no energy to talk about Illich these days, no audience; he now talks about jurisprudence: still no audience.
(PS the niece is in the Protestant branch of the family: anti-Pope. I’m antiPope too, always have been, but not to the point of bearing false witness.

2006 01 23 The missionary cannot see what the cannibal sees: that eating his enemy-victim-superior-god is a good and necessary thing, necessary for the cannibal’s spiritual and physical well being.

So long as the missionary has Jared Diamond’s guns, germs, and steel, the missionary can force the cannibal to say that he’s a cannibal, a dog, no good, damned … but the missionary cannot make the cannibal see that it’s so: without the cannibal becoming a missionary.

What would it take for the cannibal to make the missionary say that he’s no good, damned …? Why Jared Diamond’s guns, germs, and steel, of course.

Meaningful communication is simply not possible across epistemologies differing in too many basics.

2005 07 23 Bruce Sterling’s The Zenith Angle quotes Robert Heinlein:

“No man should ever get too specialized.” …
“‘A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, write a sonnet, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, solve equations, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.'”
The protagonist is a super-geek (computers). His father was a super-geek (languages). The speaker here is the grandfather: super-geek (airplanes).

2004 07 19 pk has mocked officialdom’s arrogance in pretending it can reliably identify “experts” for decades. Starting, I found McLuhan ahead of me. These days I find a few others, like Catfarmer, around me. None of us are saying exactly the same thing, but some of the things we are saying find common ground. Once my old Society folder merges with this new one I’ll try to group leading themes by file name. That will only be doable one or two levels deep, since all modules deal freely with any number of themes. Meantime, the search feature below will find themes (where the same word is used) no matter where among, Macroinformation, or Deschooling they are to be found. What I intend to abandon, a nice idea but crushingly time-consuming (and uneditable on my budget), is my hitherto cross-referencing links.

Today I add the observation that in a governed society (and that’s just about all of us), the government is forever dividing the population into sheep and goats; experts and laymen; those who are labeled as knowing the law and all those who are unlabeled and therefore do not know the law … Governments (and soon, the governed) pretend that truly possible qualities — know-how, rationality, (relative) objectivity … — can be identified by officials: that the qualities can then be trained in others: that the government can then initiate a limited mass production run (education, schooling) … and then label their clones as officially possessing the elusive quality. Thus we magically promote graduates, experts, scholars, lawyers, judges, teachers …

At no point is the process open to rational falsification. Thus Caiaphas is labeled as speaking for God; Jesus is not. The best doctor in Troubleland, after the coup, fleeing to New York, may drive a taxi, not treat the ill. Some government bureaucrat can tell Einstein what constitutes valid

These points also belong in my Homeostasis notebooks: the society finds ways to protect mediocrity by mislabeling it. These points also belong in my Magic notebooks: the society finds ways to render the elusive identifiable to the normals: the ignorant majority can decide what’s sacred, what’s taboo, what’s intelligent … outvoting the geniuses. The Church decides who can perform miracles (any priest) and who can’t (anyone not so labelled by the Church).

These points also belong … lots of places.

Now, in this context (and others), consider this: governments first don’t have a clue what Freud, Jung … are saying. Then governments take over: establish schools, issues licences … to their cookie-cut clones: none of whom have been blessed by Freud, Jung … Now the clones can help the government separate the sheep from the goats. The madman says that the group is running lemming-like off the cliff. The experts can now label the madman as having a Cassandra complex. (If you’re not so labeled, then you don’t have a complex: innocent until found guilty by experts!

Jesus (dead) is sacred: safe from criticism; but any contemporary who behaves like Jesus has a complex. For his own good we’ll put him in the Loony Tunes. Translation: we’ll put him out of touch with the population, where we don’t have to hear him, don’t have to judge what he says by any rational standards. (See? He’s been judged by rational standards: by the government clones!)

By now she knew that people understood very well —
that is, if they weren’t experts, doctors.

Lessing, The Fifth Child

2004 09 21 Experts are the buffer between intelligence and public: just like the church stands between God and the people, assuring that no messages not approved by the experts may pass in either direction.

Always more to say than I have time to express. Ghastly movie with the impossibly delicious Halle Berry: Gothika. Hallucinogenic haunted hospital for the criminally and insanely mislabeled. A ridiculously neat Halle Berry doesn’t listen to a ridiculously ragged Penelope Cruz. Everyone is boldly labeled / mislabeled.

Halle Berry is an Expert, a Psychiatrist: her role is to be authoritative in not hearing the patient. Penelope Cruz is insane: her role is to be caustic, hysterical. The insane label things with cast-off labels: devils, possession …; the expert substitutes labels absurd for a mere century: psychotic, deluded … The sheer superstition of it all shows through anyway.

I thought it would be a relief if we ever got outside the mis-wired hospital / prison; but no: in this film, “nature” itself has a loose wire: has taken too many amphetamines — but for sure has paid the bill for the strobe lights.

Emphasis: all the relations in the film are expert / client relations. The sheriff tells a relabeled Halle Berry that she’s guilty, all the evidence says so; but the evidence is locked away and may not be examined by ex-experts.

Everything in this universe is imposed. As in: doctor / client-victim; teacher / client-victim; cop / client-victim … The relationship are nearly all imposed: non-voluntary. Those that are voluntary prove fraudulent.

What do the doctors and guards do for fun? All day long, they bully and ignore; after hours, they slash, torture, rape while the client is chained …

Oh, yes: and they video-tape it: make movies! Gee, just like this movie that contains that movie!

The sheriff hates Halle Berry because she’s threatened to let in a little real evidence: his career is now in jeopardy. She becomes an ex-expert with his blessing; but he’ll destroy the universe before allowing himself to become ex-pert.

Like Sardanapalus: can’t have everything your own way? then burn everything!

Delacroix, Sardanapalus
Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus

Like Hitler, with his Gotterdamerung.

2005 02 02 Can someone explain to me why I didn’t read more Paul Goodman when he was alive and writing? Richard Wall supplies some relevant text:

Anarchism is grounded in a rather definite social-psychological hypothesis: that forceful, graceful and intelligent behaviour occurs only when there is an uncoerced and direct response to the physical and social environment; that in most human affairs, more harm than good results from compulsion, top-down direction, bureaucratic planning, pre-ordained curricula, jails, conscription, states. Sometimes it is necessary to limit freedom, as we keep a child from running across the highway, but this is usually at the expense of force, grace, and learning; and in the long run it is usually wiser to remove the danger and simplify the rules than to hamper the activity.

Paul Goodman, “Like A Conquered Province”, 1965, Chapter 6: “Is American democracy viable?”

That citation came on the heels of these thoughts:

After reading your Experts section, I found myself beginning to spring to the defence of ‘expert skills’ – but of course, doing something expertly and with agility precedes the misappropriation of expertise in the service of control, gatekeeping and contempt for the non-expert.

Wall then cites his own reference to Goodman from his essay The Radical Individualism of Paul Goodman:

Lack of meaning begins to occur when the immensely productive economy overmatures and lives by creating demand instead of meeting it: when the check of the free market gives way to monopolies, subsidies, and captive consumers; when the sense of community vanishes and public goods are neglected and resources despoiled; when there is made-work (or war) to reduce unemployment; and when the measure of economic health is not increasing well-being but abstractions like Gross National Product and the rate of growth.

Human beings tend to be excluded when a logistic style becomes universally pervasive, so that values and data that cannot be standardized and programmed are disregarded; when function is adjusted to the technology rather than technology to function; when technology is confused with autonomous science, which is a good in itself, rather than being limited by political and moral prudence; when there develops an establishment of managers and experts who license and allot resources, and which deludes itself that it alone knows the right method and is omnicompetent. Then common folk become docile clients, maintained by sufferance, or they are treated as deviant.

Deviant: exactly.

bkMarcus reminds me that he has had the former Wall / Goodman citation posted at for a while. Check out that context: and, while there, visit the neighborhood.

2005 02 21 Catfarmer alerts us to a nice piece on experts at Lew Thanks, Cat.

2005 03 29 I must budget time to clarify something I’ll state merely baldly for the moment: I hope it’s obvious that I have nothing against (and everything for) geniuine skill: true expertise (though I do believe that any life, however specialized for certain projects, should retain a generalist balance. It’s fiated, certified, authorized (false) expertise that should fall into hell and be covered over with bubbling pitch.

Kleptocracy protects its privileges by surrounding itself with brain-washed and obligation-laden “experts.”
from Deschooling Philosophers, Bucky


Loren Eisley on Specialization:

Eisley goes on (illustrating anthropocentrically): hoofs prevent hands, wings forestall tool use … (The illustrations are his, the paraphrase is mine.)

PS: Funny: I’ve always liked some of Loren Eisley’s points but I’ve never been able to read him. His prose is a shade or two too poetic. Perhaps his flaws remind me of my own. Now for the first time I’m reading his The Invisible Pyramid, which I inherited from my mother’s library but which lay idle in storage till the other day. It’s all the funnier now that I realize that I gave the book to her in 1970. (The dated dedication is signed pk, Hilary, and bk.)


Bureaucrat Tells Einstein:

An email to bkMarcus refers to a favorite illustration: During Vietnam the government dispatched a platoon of experts to the University of Wisconsin. Treating the Ph.D.s like children, the lifers overruled facts with myth, smothered rational inquiry with propaganda. My favorite detail consists in one professor refusing to allow his questions to be ducked: the lifer said, “Sit down, I’m finished with you.”

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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