Have we become a society of amateurs?

People buy their own shoes without any real idea of sizing. They “don’t need” a trained salesperson. Then complain when their feet hurt. More and more people search for the cheapest price. Then complain when they get what they pay for. Mom & pop landlords “don’t need” credit and background checks. Then complain when tenants skip after trashing the place.

In our search for the cheapest, we’ve forgotten to value time. In our search for the cheapest, we’ve lost our respect for others’ expertise. In a society that searches for the cheapest thing rather than the best solution, for a quick fix rather than a long-term investment, is it any wonder that people feel that no one appreciates them or respects them for who they are or what they can do?

I’ve lost count of the people who’ve told me how they’ve spent hours on the internet searching for answers they’re not really qualified to judge when a few minutes with a professional – or a qualified friend – could give them a more appropriate solution to their issue. Experts cost more than amateurs because we’re paying for their knowledge and experience. Are we in an age of good enough vs. doing it right? Of “good enough” being “OK” for ignorant people because they just don’t know any better or can’t afford better?

Gresham’s Law [the bad drives out the good] was originally coined to describe the economic consequences of debased currency. I believe it describes life in general. In today’s world there’s so much information available to so many people that it’s driving those with the knowledge and judgement to deal with it from any jobs where they can use their skills. Pick almost any profession and you’ll find too many examples to count.

The result? We have fewer and fewer knowledgeable people with more and more being demanded of them. They can’t do their job as well, leading to a loss of credibility and increasing numbers of amateurs guessing at what’s best.

Yes. I know that there are times when we don’t have the time, money or energy to find someone who knows more than we do. So we deal. We do. We move on. But when we believe we can do everything ourselves – ignoring the social, technical and civic infrastructure that makes this possible – we weaken the social fabric that makes a good life possible. We’re a single thread flying in the wind instead of a beautifully warm coat or a comfortable pair of shoes.

Whether you’re destroying your feet with ill-fitting [but fashionable] shoes, or destroying a cohesive society with an ego that says you don’t need others because you believe you’re totally self-sufficient, it’s all the same.

And it aint pretty.

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