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Emergency. There's an emergency going on. It's still going on. - The Ex-Communicator

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April 5th, 2011


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10:19 am - Emergency. There's an emergency going on. It's still going on.
I have been womanfully resisting all temptation to post on the various and hilarious political blunders that are unfolding before us. I was just thinking about Confidence, though. You remember that early Red Dwarf episode Confidence and Paranoia? The guy who played Lister's personified Confidence - Craig Ferguson - I recently discovered is now a big talk show host in the USA! Way to go Craig!

Anyway, we are told that one of the advantages of a public school education is that it out-puts people who resemble this depiction of Confidence. Untroubled by self-doubt they assume responsibility as if their birth right. Though I am native here, and to the manner born, it is a custom more honour'd in the breach than the observance.

Yeah. I think the appropriate response to this disparity is not to try to make ordinary British people super-confident, so we stop apologising so much and worrying that we aren't good enough. The answer is to make the toffs more like us, not us more like them. It's the women's way, the poor man's way, to feel cautious, to be pessimistic, to worry that things might go wrong. To have a plan B. Although we are lower in status, our way is actually better. It may be less invigorating, but it does less harm.

Or as Confidence put it. 'We don't need to wear a space suit! Vacuum can't hurt us!' *BANG*

ETA - I found the script online. The actual words are:
CONFIDENCE: Who told you you needed oxygen, huh? Some loser who was
trying to make you feel small. Look, I'll prove it to you. I'll take
mine off first. We'll soon see who the crazy one is around here!
LISTER: NO!!!
(Explosive decompression)

(27 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 5th, 2011 11:00 am (UTC)
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So Fettes is responsible for the Iraq war? I must bring that up with the Headmaster next time I'm passing.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 11:06 am (UTC)
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Indeed, the way that rich men are educated has done great damage in our world, and the hounds are now unleashed without restraint, and gnawing at the roots of the world tree.
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 5th, 2011 02:53 pm (UTC)
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I don't think the world is run by overconfident people because elite schools inculcate overconfidence. I think elite schools inculcate overconfidence because the world is run by overconfident people.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
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It's a vicious circle. At least at one time they had to do something dangerous - explore Antarctica or fight at Agincourt or fly spitfires. Nowadays they don't have to be capable of anything at all.
[User Picture]
From:atreic
Date:April 5th, 2011 11:35 am (UTC)
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Oh, that's _interesting_. And probably true.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 11:43 am (UTC)
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It's not so much that our system rewards mediocrities, it's that it makes those mediocrities think they are pretty brilliant guys, and that the slapdash careless approach which got them where they are is a real winner.
[User Picture]
From:felinitykat
Date:April 5th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
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Pah ha ha!

Ohh, would that it were the case that over-entitled Government types were only putting themselves in the vacuum firing-line, and not dragging all the rest of us with them. *BANG* indeed. Where's my space suit...
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 11:46 am (UTC)
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We are standing in the airlock, and has anybody noticed it's getting a bit windy... hey guys... are you sure this is a good idea
[User Picture]
From:tehomet
Date:April 5th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
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Yeah. I think the appropriate response to this disparity is not to try to make ordinary British people super-confident, so we stop apologising so much and worrying that we aren't good enough. The answer is to make the toffs more like us, not us more like them. It's the women's way, the poor man's way, to feel cautious, to be pessimistic, to worry that things might go wrong. To have a plan B. Although we are lower in status, our way is actually better. It may be less invigorating, but it does less harm.

I agree.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 12:40 pm (UTC)
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I don't know if you know the Dao De Jing, but it's got a lot like that in it, and it's like I find new things in there when I read it: 'That which is best is like water, and takes the lowest route', 'the wisest men proceed cautiously, as if they are edging across a frozen river.'
[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:April 5th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
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I think it can work the other way round too. Although I enjoyed my education at a single-sex direct-grant-turned-independent school, I eventually concluded that it had left me diffident, not with men so much, but with working-class people, who seemed to have a better idea of what to do or say than I did, and I didn't know how to respond.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Really? I wonder if any upper-middles think that about me? My guess is not.
[User Picture]
From:kalypso_v
Date:April 5th, 2011 07:32 pm (UTC)
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It's possible that it's just down to personality types, and anyone confident and/or extrovert can intimidate me. But I think it's also possible that my class has a code of evasion and self-deprecation which flounders when it comes up against people who simply say what they mean.
From:huskyscotsman
Date:April 5th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
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I discovered that Craig Ferguson is semi-famous in the US when I found myself sitting next to a fan of his on a plane. "You're scottish? Craig Ferguson is scottish!!" Since I was only vaguely aware of him as an occasional bit-part actor in British TV circa 1990, it was a weird experience.

Since then I've watched a few of his interviews on YouTube, and he's pretty good! He has a nice line in innuendo. Like an American version of Jonathan Ross, except also British.

To address your actual topic, I generally associate this kind of brash confidence with Americans, since I work with lots of them. Sometimes it's invigorating, sometimes it's irritating. I think some of the US people get frustrated at working with (relatively) subdued, pessimistic, sarcastic British people. An old manager of mine was a particularly energetic can-do kind of guy. He was lovely, but every so often he'd explode in a torrent of fury at some piddling little bureaucratic obstacle some pen-pushing Jobsworth happened to throw in his way.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:04 pm (UTC)
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I just found the script

RIMMER: Lister, what are you going to do about them?
LISTER: Do? What can I do?
RIMMER: I think we should arrest them.
LISTER: What for?
RIMMER: For being hallucinations.
LISTER: It's a bit of company, though, isn't it?
From:huskyscotsman
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
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I love early Red Dwarf.
[User Picture]
From:houseboatonstyx
Date:April 6th, 2011 05:27 am (UTC)
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A US military version is, "In a crisis, give everyone orders immediately -- and hope you're right at least 51% of the time."
[User Picture]
From:snowballjane
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
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Phil Hammond does an interesting routine about how going to public school sixth form gave him a "mask of relaxed brilliance" - and that people often prefer posh doctors precisely because they project that confidence. But this can lead to stupid risk taking at times and unwillingness to listen to nurses' expertise etc.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
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I think it's dangerous. To some extent less so with the genuinely brainy ones, and I guess by the law of averages some of them must be smart.
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 5th, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
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There's a different, but similarly dangerous problem at the other end when it comes to medical education (at least, there was a couple of years ago when someone I know well was teaching nurses). Government targets for nurse numbers were such that there was tremendous pressure on the educators not to fail any student nurse, no matter how appalling the student's performance might be. Thus, a cohort of nurses dangerously lacking in skill, but believing they are good at the job because they have a certificate that says so. As you say, it's not a problem with the genuinely smart ones.
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:13 pm (UTC)
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There are two things which I try to convey through my teaching to the prospective rulers-of-the-universe with whom I come into contact: 1. reflecting on the difference between managing and being managed; and, 2. imagining the experience of unfreedom.

Having said that, there is much that I would bottle from their experience of education, to be able to give to every child in the world.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Don't you think it's mostly a positional good rather than an absolute good? It seems to me they don't actually learn to do anything, just how to get on without having any skills.
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 5th, 2011 08:07 pm (UTC)
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There's also an important difference between leadership and management. There's a lot in Rawnsley's "The End of the Party" about Blair's struggle to deal with this distinction.
[User Picture]
From:altariel
Date:April 5th, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC)
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What a shame Mr Blair never attended my supervision in which we discuss Abraham Zaleznik's 1977 article from the Harvard Business Review, which is the classic statement of that distinction. Much would have been made clear to him.
[User Picture]
From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 5th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
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Not only his loss, but the nation's loss.

To what extent would you say communicator's opposition of the overconfident high-status people and the cautious low-status people is similar to Zaleznik's distinction between leaders and managers?
[User Picture]
From:londonkds
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:17 pm (UTC)
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I have to recommend these blog posts about the new Big Society approach to small business support. And these are the Tories' entrepreneurial petty-capitalist natural audience!
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 5th, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
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I actually did look into Start Up Britain, thinking it might have something to help me get started - I was thinking I'd get some benefits to counter-balance the bad things, and as you say, I thought it was the natural group they would favour - so I was surprised at how empty and thin the offer was.

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