When in doubt...
We live in an age of obnoxious certainty, where a couple of Google searches is all it takes to establish professorial authority.
Do you know someone who is uncertain, who hems and haws over every little decision, consults everyone around him and only reaches a conclusion after going through a process more painful than a tooth extraction? Congratulations, you have a “doubter” on your hands.
You may be forgiven for never encountering this species before. Thanks to Wikipedia and its evil spawn, even the chronically insecure are just a couple of minutes away from feigning blissful expertise. We live in an age of obnoxious certainty, where a couple of Google searches is all it takes to establish professorial authority. Like all things that affix the word “instant” in front of them – just remind yourself how awful instant coffee is – the instant expert is a tepid imitation of the original. To become a true expert requires immersion, dedication and, here’s that word again, doubt.
The instant expert is an easily-recongised subset of humanity. He or she is a graduate of a prestigious university with an advanced degree in groupthink. Sure, they flout their individuality as Paris Hilton does her latest fur coat. But they are ultimately as vapid as the typical Hollywood celebrity. Such people flock to the same, fashionable professions. In the ‘50s it was the civil service, in the ‘90s anything related to the dot-com boom.
Unfortunately, the media boom has made journalism the current destination of choice for the instant expert. I say unfortunately because if there is one profession that demands doubt, accompanied by its steadfast ally humility, it is journalism. Where we should be mining the accumulated wisdom of our elders, people who toiled in journalism at a time when the occupation was as glamourous being a door-to-door salesman, we dismiss them as irrelevant relics. Above all, we should keep Voltaire’s words in mind: “Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous.” And before you congratulate me for choosing such an apt quote, let it be known that I’d never heard of it until I Googled it a couple of minutes ago.