Image Source: Creative Commons: https://www.imoa.ph/event-archive/
All Hail To The Expert!
What must I think in the face of life’s daily challenges?
What is my acceptable course to follow in times of stress?
Why, just listen to an expert stupid. A nice accredited answer this, you might say. The final solution to the thought processes of the common man (and woman ✓).
When in doubt, call an expert. That is the spirit of the modern age. When not in doubt, call two experts.
Now who are these experts? Where can you find them?
No problem. They will emerge from your woodwork wherever you turn.
You will find they proclaim themselves energetically. There will generally be a verbal signal in their titles that advertises their virtue: words such as noted, respected, qualified, experienced, professional, distinguished, famous, prominent, renowned, eminent, celebrated, illustrious, legendary, lionised or latest will mollify your brain, relentlessly.
The problem is no expert is always right. There is no such thing as the absolute truth, and that’s the absolute truth. In a few words that sums up the spirit of this essay.
Let us look at history to develop this point further. Have you noticed how big mistakes litter the pathways of human progress? Inelegant disasters are all too common. A few random samples will serve to clarify this.
The Great Fire Of London
The Love Of Lead
The Great Depression
Two World Wars
The Vietnam War
The Cold War
The Iraq War of 2003 et seq.
Now on with the analysis. Not mere description but hard core analysis.
The Great Fire Of London: 1666
Here is one expert’s opinion.
For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge].
Sir Edward Coke (pronounced Cook), in The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628.
This expert was right sometimes, but not in 1666.
Now how’s this for poor advice from another expert?
Words of Sir Thomas Bloodworth, Lord Mayor of London, before the great fire got under way: “Pish! A woman could piss it out.”
Here are more details of the burning.
Pepys Diary Entry, September 2 1666
By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places . . . and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side of the bridge . . .
So down [I went], with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it began this morning in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding Lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish Street already. So I rode down to the waterside . . . and there saw a lamentable fire. . . . Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that lay off; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the waterside to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies, till they some of them burned their wings and fell down.
Having stayed, and in an hour’s time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody to my sight endeavouring to quench it . . . I [went next] to Whitehall (with a gentleman with me, who desired to go off from the Tower to see the fire in my boat); and there up to the King’s closet in the Chapel, where people came about me, and I did give them an account [that]dismayed them all, and the word was carried into the King. so I was called for, and did tell the King and Duke of York what I saw; and that unless His Majesty did command houses to be pulled down, nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor from him, and command him to spare no houses. . . .
[I hurried] to [St.] Paul’s; and there walked along Watling Street, as well as I could, every creature coming away laden with goods to save and, here and there, sick people carried away in beds. Extraordinary goods carried in carts and on backs. At last [I] met my Lord Mayor in Cannon Street, like a man spent, with a [handkerchief] about his neck. To the King’s message he cried, like a fainting woman, ‘Lord, what can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses, but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it.’ . . . So he left me, and I him, and walked home; seeing people all distracted, and no manner of means used to quench the fire.
The houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tar, in Thames Street; and warehouses of oil and wines and brandy and other things.
Source: http://www.pepys.info/fire.html 10/10/19
This poetic expert is closer to the truth today:
The Love Of Lead
Here is some more advice from the past.
Lead has been known to us humans for thousands of years. It has a low melting point and has thus been easy to separate from its bedrock. The Romans after their invasion of England were responsible for the wide dispersal of lead throughout their vast empire. This is probably why many Roman aristocrats suffered from lead poisoning.
What about this quote for misguided lead glorification ?
Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.
Thus spake authority, flawed expert on wealth in praise of lead.
Here are some more details of the big mistake. Many past people were so sure of things.
Lead was a popular, valued, intricate part of life for millennia. It has had many uses ranging from bullets to water works. The first plumbers got their name from the Roman word for lead: plumbum. One of the biggest mistakes was linked to its sweet taste. Many drinks in ignorant times were flavoured with it. Poisonous outcomes. Experts of the formative past knew nothing of lead’s dangers. Time in the end did tell.
The Great Depression
Now this piece of expertise ranks very highly in the history of misguided advice.
1932 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS
There are three definite directions in which action by the Government at once can contribute to strengthen further the forces of recovery by strengthening of confidence. They are the necessary foundations to any other action, and their accomplishment would at once promote employment and increase prices.
The first of these directions of action is the continuing reduction of all Government expenditures, whether national, State, or local. The difficulties of the country demand undiminished efforts toward economy in government in every direction. Embraced in this problem is the unquestioned balancing of the Federal Budget. That is the first necessity of national stability and is the foundation of further recovery. It must be balanced in an absolutely safe and sure manner if full confidence is to be inspired.
The second direction for action is the complete reorganisation at once of our banking system. The shocks to our economic life have undoubtedly been multiplied by the weakness of this system, and until they are remedied recovery will be greatly hampered.
The third direction for immediate action is vigorous and whole souled cooperation with other governments in the economic field. That our major difficulties find their origins in the economic weakness of foreign nations requires no demonstration. The first need to-day is strengthening of commodity prices. That can not be permanently accomplished by artificialities. It must be accomplished by expansion in consumption of goods through the return of stability and confidence in the world at large and that in turn can not be fully accomplished without cooperation with other nations.
BALANCING THE BUDGET
I shall in due course present the Executive Budget to the Congress. It will show proposed reductions in appropriations below those enacted by the last session of the Congress by over $830,000,000. In addition I shall present the necessary Executive orders under the recent act authorising the reorganisation of the Federal Government which, if permitted to go into force, will produce still further substantial economies. These sums in reduction of appropriations will, however, be partially offset by an increase of about $250,000,000 in uncontrollable items such as increased debt services, etc.
Herbert Hoover: State of the Union, December 6 1932
Some people today still speak in Hoover’s tones. Can you believe it?
Here are some more details of the Depression mistakes.
The Failure to “Trickle Down”
Source of Image: https://tricountynews.mn/2016/07/14/ccc-helped-millions-of-unemployed-in-great-depression/ 12/10/19
Now here’s an expert with a point actually worth checking out:
(2) The Great Depression in the United States, far from being a sign of the inherent instability of the private enterprise system, is a testament to how much harm can be done by mistakes on the part of a few men when they wield vast power over the monetary system of the country.
Source: https://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/private-enterprise.html 12/10/19
Two World Wars
World War I
Here’s some startling, misguided expert advice from a vanished past.
Why should we not form a secret society with but one object, the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole world under British rule, for the recovery of the United States, for making the Anglo Saxon race but one Empire? What a dream, but yet it is probable; it is possible.
Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/british-empire-quotes 11/10/19
And here’s an admission that might surprise you. The spirit of its times?
I think a curse should rest on me — because I love this war. I know it’s smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment — and yet — I can’t help it — I enjoy every second of it.
Winston Churchill, a letter to a friend (1916).
World War II
Now the following is among history’s most famous (or infamous) pieces of wrong expert advice.
My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour.
I believe it is peace for our time… Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.
Neville Chamberlain, British Prime Minister, 30 September 1938.
A consequence now worth considering: the German Blitz of Britain.
“The Second Great Fire Of London”
Target: City of London
Location: London, England
Date: 29–30 December 1940; 6:15 pm – 4:00 …
The economic damage from such large devastation of a major city is thought to have accelerated the collapse of the British Empire, and the decline of Great Britain as a superpower in the decades following the war.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Great_Fire_of_London 12/10/19
The Vietnam War 1965-1975
Two Expert Opinions Giving Rise To Conflict
Source: Creative Commons: https://www.awesomestories.com/images/user/c0110706d589f929da4dc9fd5a2e49eb.jpg 12/10/19
Source: Creative Commons: https://66.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m0z1wymbsa1rrgzb0o1_400.png 12/10/19
The expert artists above sum up the propaganda of the time pretty well. The excuse for war wrought havoc in many lives. And it didn’t stop unwilling conscripts fighting a different kind of battle. More trouble for innocents.
The Vietnam Outcome:
We lost the war! Mind you, you don’t find winners of wars, only who’s left.
Here’s a harsh reality:
Estimates of casualties of the Vietnam War vary widely. Estimates include both civilian and military deaths in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Total Number of Deaths.
Allied military deaths 282,000
NVA/VC military deaths 444,000
Civilian deaths (North and South Vietnam) 627,000
Total deaths 1,353,000
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War_casualties 12/10/19
As for the trauma of the war’s surviving soldiers, and the shattered lives of napalm victims, I’ll let you visit the archives of Hell for yourself.
The Cold War
Now here’s an interesting description of how Cold War experts misled us.
Brinkmanship is the ostensible escalation of threats to achieve one’s aims. The word was probably coined by Adlai Stevenson in his criticism of the philosophy described as “going to the brink” in an interview with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles under the Eisenhower administration, during the Cold War. In an article written in Life Magazine, John Foster Dulles then defined his policy of brinkmanship as “The ability to get to the verge without getting into the war is the necessary art.” During the Cold War, this was used as a policy by the United States to coerce the Soviet Union into backing down militarily. Eventually, the threats involved might become so huge as to be unmanageable at which point both sides are likely to back down. This was the case during the Cold War; the escalation of threats of nuclear war, if carried out, are likely to lead to mutually assured destruction.
For brinkmanship to be effective, the sides continuously escalate their threats and actions. However, a threat is ineffective unless credible—at some point, an aggressive party may have to prove its commitment to action.
The chance of things sliding out of control is often used in itself as a tool of brinkmanship, because it can provide credibility to an otherwise incredible threat. The Cuban Missile Crisis presents an example in which opposing leaders, namely U.S. president John F. Kennedy and Russian Leader Nikita Khrushchev, continually issued warnings, with increasing force, about impending nuclear exchanges, without necessarily validating their statements. Pioneering game theorist Thomas Schelling called this “the threat that leaves something to chance.”
Now some details of the consequences:
(1) Brinkmanship was an effective tactic during the cold war because neither side of a conflict could contemplate mutual assured destruction in a nuclear war, acting as a nuclear deterrence for both the side threatening to pose damage and the country on the ‘receiving end’. Ultimately, it worsened the relationship between the USSR and the US.
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brinkmanship 12/10/19
Now some more details of Cold War mind play. More consequences.
(2) After World War II, the consequences of the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazis were rejected, and a global containment of communism was elevated into a doctrine by President Truman. By the Cold War, we spurred the Soviet Union from exhaustion to great-power status, the atomic bomb, and space achievement. Our policies against communism in China had much the same effect there. The Cold War has also frozen the world into its immediate postwar postures and prevented peace settlements in East and West. Since 1945 the United States has spent enough resources on the Cold War to make many ailing societies healthy, resulting in a dangerous weakening of our economy. We ourselves have submitted to the militarism we fought in two world wars and have gone far to create a United States dominated by the military. We have depleted our resources for peacetime living, while our competitors have forged ahead with such technologies. We have sadly neglected the nation’s poor, and the President’s Great Society legislation, aimed at helping them, is suffering because of the expense of the war in Vietnam. By making anticommunism our life motive, we have fostered rightist fanaticism. We have forgotten the inexorable law of life that every social system is in constant evolution, and, now that the Cold War with the Soviet Union has eased, we are preparing to wage one against Communist China. Is it too late for us to welcome China to the community of nations, avoid the final world war, and try to organise the unity of man?
Note Well This Guardian Spirit Of The Cold War!
In order to bring a nation to support the burdens of maintaining great military establishments, it is necessary to create an emotional state akin to war psychology. There must be the portrayal of an external menace. This involves the development to a high degree of the nation-hero, nation-villain ideology and the arousing of the population to a sense of sacrifice. Once these exist, we have gone a long way on the path to war.
John Foster Dulles
This confession of Dulles, the fanatical exponent of combative social values, turned even the air we breathed into a substance of violence and hate.
Source: https://quotes.thefamouspeople.com/john-foster-dulles-1907.php 13/10/19
The Iraq War of 2003 et seq.
Yet another double-crosser of the truth came forth in this year.
Colin Powell February 5, 2003.
My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence…
…My second purpose today is to provide you with additional information, to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction as well as Iraq’s involvement in terrorism, which is also the subject of resolution 1441 and other earlier resolutions.
I might add at this point that we are providing all relevant information we can to the inspection teams for them to do their work.
The material I will present to you comes from a variety of sources. Some are U.S. sources. And some are those of other countries.
Some of the sources are technical, such as intercepted telephone conversations and photos taken by satellites. Other sources are people who have risked their lives to let the world know what Saddam Hussein is really up to.
I cannot tell you everything that we know. But what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling.
What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behaviour. The facts on Iraqis’ behaviour – Iraq’s behaviour demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort – no effort – to disarm as required by the international community. Indeed, the facts and Iraq’s behaviour show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction.
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/feb/05/iraq.usa 12/10/19
Now look what GW and his experts did for us.
It’s been 16 years since President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. That’s when the American people were told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (false); that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators (false); and that overthrowing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would bring democracy to Iraq and security for the United States (both debatable).
Here’s what the United States has accomplished: As of the end of February, the number of Iraqi civilian deaths sits at 202,757. More than 2.7 million have been displaced internally (2.42 million, down from a peak of 6 million) and externally (280,014). American troop casualties rest at 4,540, and with over 1.5 million U.S. servicemen and women cycling through Iraq, we’re looking at costs — human and financial — that Americans will have to bear for generations to come, with over a trillion dollars being added to U.S. debt…
…The wars against Iraq (and Afghanistan) have been paid for by raising the national deficit, so the United States has put off actually paying for these wars for nearly two decades (the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001)…
…But veterans themselves are paying a heavy price now, with injuries (including traumatic head injuries), PTSD, depression, and high suicide rates.
Source: https://thinkprogress.org/iraq-war-15-year-anniversary-ac6c5461c69e/ 12/10/19
All forgotten? When will we ever learn? One solution cries out from the wilderness of anguish:
One more example wants to roll off my pen. Here is yet another notable self proclaimed expert’s opinion.
In a letter to Pope Francis, Christopher Monckton, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchely, wrote
I have listened carefully, and I can inform Your Holiness that science is divided on the climate question. A small number of totalitarian profiteers of doom in various self-serving national academies have issued pompous statements about it, but a large number of papers from reputable scientists, and a larger amount of hard data, suggest that global warming is and will continue to be a non-event. (June 19, 2019)
Source: https://www.desmogblog.com/christopher-monckton 12/10/19
The above distinguished viscount was welcomed by some in my country at times of hearty debate.
One final folly beckons. This time we go to the top.
First the virtue:
CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT, 23 SEPTEMBER 2019
Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society. To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is asking leaders, from government, business and civil society, to come to the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September with plans to address the global climate emergency. The Summit will spark the transformation that is urgently needed and propel action that will benefit everyone.
Next the imprudence:
Australia’s Prime Minister, visiting the United States at the time, did not attend this Climate Action Summit.
Now if the expert is infra dig, to whom can we turn when we need advice? When we need a plan that will work?
The answer is
Why is this so?
Well the scientist knows he (or she ✓) is fallible. The scientist therefore constantly checks his or her findings and lives by logical argument based on verifiable evidence. The scientist accepts peer group sharing and peer group criticism. The scientist publishes all methods used so that others can repeat the research in question. The scientist holds all beliefs tentatively and stands ready to modify or abandon according to the results of the latest experiment or observation. The scientist, working within rigorous probability, is a thinking reed facing up to and surviving in a hostile universe.
So climate change IS a threat to all life, to everything we love on earth...