Saturday, 14 January 2017

Opinion: I'll rather have a smug pilot


Catching up on The Week
By coincidence, I was on a flight back from Frankfurt when I encountered the above cartoon in an outdated copy of my subscription to The Week magazine. I am probably 6 to 8 weeks behind and I doubt if I’ll eventually catch up with the issues I have missed.
The Week is both an aggregator of the best news stories globally with sections that offer contemporary analysis issues and events, social, political, economic, scientific and about life in general. I will sometimes have The Week lead me to do more research on topics I have been introduced to. The Week has become my preferred magazine subscription.
The point the cartoon makes is succinct and deep; when taken in the context of the political earthquakes of rejected orthodoxy in #Brexit, referendums in Columbia, Italy and Hungary, the election of Donald Trump in the United States of America, it can only be concluded that we live in fearfully interesting times.
Chuck the pilot for a tyro
Now, to imagine that someone rather than a competent, well-trained pilot with the necessary qualifications, essential sobriety, and the presence of mind was at the controls of the flight I took from Frankfurt to Manchester is at best scary and with the knowledge, bordering on the suicidal.
Then to think, in having an unqualified pilot volunteer to take the controls just as all the other passengers' vote to jettison the qualified one just because they feel they have been ignored, disrespected, thought little of or just out of unfounded dislike. No, it does not bear thinking of.
Yet, that is what we did in 2016, the situation exemplified in the statement of Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary when he said, “People in this country have had enough of experts.
The function of the expert
Now, experts are supposed to have the full knowledge and experience in their areas of expertise. However, being an expert does not make you perfect, even with all the data to hand, there might be variables completely outside the control of the expert to be able to give a definitive statement that represents the outcome that eventually is experienced.
However, the expert is not only necessary, they are also important to the decision-making process especially when met with a crisis that would call on experience to resolve. An expert as a pilot knowing how to land a plane if an engine is lost or the landing gear does not deploy. The expert as a consultant that told me that they knew how to treat my cancer, but the variable outside their control was my physiology, that alone could determine if I survived or died within 5 weeks.
The experts that were thought little of by Michael Gove were the economists who thought post-Brexit Britain would be disastrous. Whilst things have not turned out so bad, things are less than perfect, in fact, everything is in flux with the pound scraping the bottom of the barrel in the foreign exchange markets. Once Brexit is triggered the uncertainty might lead to other unintended shocks to the economy, no one can say, but the experts are there at least to give some guidance.
Taking offence at smug pilots
The other narrative of the ‘smug pilot’ is an aversion to fact, truth, knowledge, and expertise. The tendency not to need to verify anything before it is accepted and relayed as the truth it is not. There was a lot of that during the referendum campaign in the UK and quite a good deal of that in this cycle of the US presidential campaign.
Basically, Donald Trump got away with murder literally and Hillary Clinton could not get away with a mere email scandal, the end result would be an interesting 2017 where a man who has never ever held elective office, whose antecedents in business leaves much to be desired, with such thin skin, given to slights and vituperation, lacking in decorum and class would now assume the mantle of the leader of the free world.
Democracy’s suicide pact
Like the man in the cartoon says, “These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?” A man with no verifiable experience apart from the willingness to take a risk that could lead to the loss of souls along with the plane has just been voted in to fly the plane. You wonder if everyone who raised their hands in that plane thought of the possible consequences of their collective votes.
Maybe, they were on a suicide mission just because they have taken umbrage at ‘smug pilots that have lost touch with regular passengers like them’, that is where we are with the democracy we have played in 2016, if we do not crash land with the loss of all souls in a major air disaster, we might just count ourselves lucky.
I’ll rather have a smug pilot at the helm of the plane than someone who makes me feel special, but knows nothing about how to fly a plane.


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