Shots of Wit

A regular posting of witticisms, aphorisms, and general musings by Clifford Cohen.

Equivocal competency…

We live in an age of equivocal competency: if you want, you can be a competent dictator, a competent self-promoter, a competent terrorist. Just because you can do something well does not mean you should be doing it.

Back Story

Sorry, but I will gladly risk being thought of as naïve for saying this, but if you haven’t noticed, the bad guys are finally figuring out to be highly competent at what they do—so much so that the normal mechanisms that used to work to unseat such people no longer seem very effective. With just the right amount of pressure—carrot or stick—against just the right people at just the right time, some world leaders have effectively eliminated even the notion of coordinated dissent. In entertainment, politics, and other fields, others have thrust themselves into the limelight through skillful use of media. We then get to hear their thoughts about everything and/or consume their creative output—even when their talent does not justify such exposure or influence. Terrorists today know they’ve got a winning formula working: convince someone angry to commit an atrocity. Then watch as the public becomes polarized against that person’s entire race. Smile, as the resulting ostracism and fear of that race create even more angry people who you can use to further the vicious cycle. Eventually, your wildest dream comes true: you manage to engineer oppression and expulsion of a people. You then simply wait for the dispossessed to find their way into your waiting arms.

What is the answer to the above aberrations? Strangely, I believe the answer is honest, frequent, and open communication. Throughout the world, the unspoken is eating like a cancer at the fabric of societies. Leaders of every country must create venues designed to give safe harbor for people to speak their minds—the good, the bad, and the ugly—regarding the things they fear and the things they want. The input received must be treated very seriously by leadership…and acted upon decisively and transparently. In the absence of such discourse the potential exists for demagogues to “articulate” the public frustration and act in ways that may not adequately or reasonably address the underlying issues. It is time: we have to face and bare our demons openly if we are to have any hope of surviving (or preventing) what comes next. While solutions will be anything but easy to find, at least such effort will be based on a clearer understanding of the problems as they actually are.

Finally, this aphorism exhorts those who would pursue a course of action simply because they can succeed at doing so to reconsider whether the ability to achieve something is reason enough to try. Sometimes we are amply endowed with the talents to achieve our own (and others’) destruction. It is our choice whether to give expression to such talents.

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