Thucydides says: “Ignorance is bold, knowledge reserved.” The more someone knows about any given subject, the likelier he is to include a lot of boring, hard-to-follow caveats, complicating factors and exceptions in discussing it. Which is why, for example, climatologists, who have actually studied the data and know how to interpret it, tend to carefully hedge their claims, declining to assert any direct causality or make predictions, whereas professional obfuscators will confidently assure you that global warming is a lot of alarmist hooey.
Or we could just link a lot, and make a liar out of Thucydides, who as you know never wrote a line of English that anyone I know could understand. (Saucy Chaucer ne’er did either, yet I digress,). Besides if you’re going to appeal to higher authoritie, then why not just say I got it from God while waiting for Godot, who as far as I know never wrote a line of readable English either.
Since I am not and never will be anyone who knows enough about anything to be worth listening to on the basis of my expertise, my only possible claim to anyone’s attention is honesty. Unalloyed honesty is the iridium of the information economy — vanishingly rare, and therefore precious. We don’t respect people like Louis C.K. or George Saunders because of their credentials; it’s because they’re among the few people in public life who’ll say anything obviously true — or, at the very least, anything they really mean.
Never heard of them. I have heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Colonel Sanders, mostly because his suit was on Antiques Roadshow, and of course he makes a hell of burrito.
We trust that, unlike politicians or their spin doctors, corporate flacks, think-tank flunkies or cable propagandists, they have no agenda beyond the self-evident one of making a living with their work. I have no pretensions to any special knowledge, let alone anything like wisdom; I am just some guy, a PERSON IN WORLD looking around and noticing things and saying what I think. If what I say doesn’t reflect your own experience, it’s possible that it isn’t about you. It’s also possible that something that’s not About You might still be of some interest or use. There is even some remote possibility that I am oversimplifying, missing something obvious, or just speaking ex rectum.
So you’ve eaten the Colonels burritoes too?
Sometimes the most honest and helpful thing a writer can do is to acknowledge that some problems are insoluble, that life is hard and there aren’t going to be any answers, that he’s just as screwed-up and clueless as the rest of us. Or I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.
Now I’m not at all sure if you’ve ever really eaten the Colonels burritoes or you would know that, speaking ex rectum, (the voice has change but the breathe is the same,) that life is a gas gas gas. I heard that on the radio, so you know that must be true.
(Really, it’s worth a read.)