Sunday, 10 March 2013
The curse of credentialism.
So after that neurological breakdown/amygdala-pounding I took yesterday, I was enjoying the decline this morning with my copy of the Captain's Enjoy the Decline, and my father passes by the dining table on his way to the televitz and peers at what I'm reading. I am beholden as a dutiful son to show him just that, and after reading the blurb on the back and the foreword, he frowns.
"You shouldn't believe everything you read," he tells me. "You need to think critically."
I point out that Mr. Clarey has backed up all his assertions with evidence, and show him some of the graphs in the book.
"But do these figures come from a reliable source?"
This eventually devolves into a half-hour "discussion" on what the meaning of "reliable" is, of which my father's definition essentially boils down to: if it comes from the government or an "expert", it's reliable and to be willingly taken verbotem.
Because the government will never lie or distort/omit the truth, and only wants what is best for you. And of course, having a Ph.D in anything will wipe you free of any agenda and immediately transform you into a paragon of truth.
As an example, I point out how the US government regularly plays around with the definitions of the consumer price index and unemployment to make things look better than they actually are. This provokes another good ten minutes of discussion, of which I finally break by making a pretext of getting a drink of water and taking my time about it. By the time I return, my dad's firmly in his recliner and watching one of those travel shows he loves so much, vicariously being in the places he never got to go after sacrificing thirty-odd years of his life for us all.
Best not to wake the sleeping; let them enjoy their rest as long as they can. I don't blame my father for wanting to live in his little peaceable world - I have days when I wish I could just crawl into a dark box and pretend the world outside didn't exist.
I honestly think my dad is stuck in a time when everyone honestly believed the government had their best interests at heart, and then he went and extrapolated the neat little benevolent dictatorship of the Singapore government to all governments worldwide that were at least paying lip service to the ideas of democracy, freedom et al. It certainly matches up with the attitude of the Singaporeans who were young adults in the 60's and 70's, that's for sure. I get the feeling that he wants to be left alone in his little world where everything is all right and lead is to be feared while fluoride isn't, and I would have been content to let him so do if I weren't his son and hence feel some sort of filial responsibility to him, which is more than what can be said for my brother.
As I said during my Lunatic Fringe with Aurini, I blame the scholar reverence of Ancient China for this. Of course everyone wanted to be a scholar. After all, they were the only ones who could take the Imperial Examinations and thereby gain some vestiges of social mobility. Of course we had to romanticise and idolise the starving scholar; to follow the glorious narrative of years of suffering memorising Confucious' Analects so one could become some official and have the easy life. Of course, up to the 60's and 70's, teachers were still venerated and lower-class parents would still give gifts of food and other small tokens...because they were teachers and were hence important.
That's not to say I'm against having something in your head to fill the space between your ears, but when this reverence goes overboard to the point where anything anyone says about any subject is taken to be inviolate because they have a title before or after their name, something's wrong. It doesn't make one any less inviolate to pride, dogma, peer pressure, or any others of the host of problems which pervade modern academia today.
Now that's thinking critically.