Who knows better?

There is a downside to the concept of listening to everyone – sometimes the professionals know better.

It is fashionable to bash “professionals” for thinking they know better than everyone else. It is fashionable *because*, in many instances, those professionals don’t bother to pay attention to the people they are serving. Nadinne Cruz, the keynote speaker at the 2008 Quest for Community conference has done it (and spoke passionately about it), the professional class in West-by-God has done it, and I have done it as well. It’s a perfectly human failing.

The problem is, sometimes the professionals really *do* have a better idea of what is going on. I’ve had to argue to women that they *are* being oppressed, even as they tell me they aren’t (and usually while they’re asking for a “strong man” to help them or are bemoaning how “fat” they are) . I have customers bemoan the loss of a local fast-food restaurant chain, even though the replacements are very arguably a better value dollar for calorie. It’s strange, but fairly commonplace, for people to not realize (or choose) what the best and most optimal outcome for them is.

As an aside – I don’t mean “most optimal” in any kind of elitist economic sense, I mean in the terms they themselves use. For example, when I choose to have extra pizza despite my bemoaning my waistline. (I do love me some bemoaning.)

I am talking about this: People who routinely state goals and desires – and then act in ways contrary to them

That is often due to being embedded in the system. We take for granted the limitations and social constructs around us. Who to marry, who to talk to, date, hire, employ, buy from. All of these are merely constructs and arbitrary rules – but they are also *us* as well. We as individuals have been shaped (literally, since brains are shaped by cognition) by these rules.

Or in other words, is that preference for princesses and ballerinas genuine, a relic of the patriarchy’s oppression, or some twisted amalgam of both?

Ultimately, we all have to listen to each other. Academics and professionals to laypeople, laypeople to professionals. Ben Franklin had a good idea over 200 years ago, and seem to have forgotten it since:

“We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

4 thoughts on “Who knows better?

  1. Well, this post is very definitely the counterpoint to yesterday’s point. You very accurately point out the problems that “professionals” create for themselves. But just as professionals must remember that they don’t have all the answers, the laypeople must remember that they don’t either. The outsider’s perspective can be extremely useful – but without being tempered by the insider’s knowledge, the outsider can be horribly ineffective.

    (or, in other words, we’re really agreeing.)

  2. with regard to the one i’ve referenced, it’s more a disconnected with those whose solutions you’re concocting. Like the Health Department thinking that a smoking ban alone will curb smoking, a segment of the “professionals” (in this case degree-bearing, and pining for, as was recently diagnosed, an urbane sophisticate life in Appalachia) thinks offering an ad campaign and a cheery attitude is going to remedy the “stereotype” problem. I benevolently overlook their misunderstanding of the term “stereotype” and if I need my omg ipod repaired, i’ll call them. But, addressing the unfair and calculated slurs against our region will take social dissection and an active interaction with those most under attack and defenseless, and more resembling the seed of truth in a monolithic distortion. Thankfully, Obama won the nomination and the press might, just might, give us breathing room. heh

  3. Well, yeah, i just had to elaborate. I think Weber would have a comment on this, too, being a functionalist argument.

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