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Monday, January 23, 2006

Wiped Out By Slackers

Whoa. What a day. Some idiotic core processor couldn't answer a question about an apparent discrepancy in the way they were calculating CD interest and APY's, so they told their customer to call me. Totally different companies. It had nothing to do with my stuff all, and it was hard to back out and find the exact formulas they are using from a couple of interest statements. But I did it. I did it because the person who called me is also my customer, and she was desperate for an answer because she needed one for her customer. It was one of those occasions in which the "Do Unto" rule comes into play. If I had been that desperate I would have wanted the help.

And that was just one incident. The biggest problem is that I have hired two young programmers, both of whom have the ability to do the job well. And both of them really need the job. And I hope they succeed for their own sakes. But man, they lack the motivation, and right now they are on greased skids headed out the door. They did not receive this news well. The air of hurt innocence is radiating throughout the office, but I am not impressed. I'm whaling on them so that they have a chance to keep their jobs, although that will depend on them far more than me.

Did I mention that I am now running the software division in my company? Yup. Life just gets more bizarre. I am still a brain-damaged hunk of humanity that fights a very difficult battle to be functional each day, but I'm making progress.

So then I came home, plotting further torture programs for my slackers in the attempt to save them from their own self-destructive self-esteem and baseless complacency, and looked for some blogging inspiration. Rasky blows it out of the water. I laughed until my eyes watered. Tommy has a political quiz that's quite apropos! Carl stares into the maw of the scientific beast, and you will wince until your shoulderblades hurt. The real threat to science is definitely not Intelligent Design. Apparently most science is now political science, and that's because the government is handing out the grants. We need to stop this quickly, while we still can.

And the Anchoress just blew me away with another magnificent post regarding self-esteem and our children:
We hear, “it’s not fair to distinguish a few, because EVERYONE is special.” Which means, of course, that no one is.

Excellence is not to be celebrated, unless average-ness is celebrated too. The message it sends is not “be all you can be,” but “average is the new superior, and mediocre is the new outstanding, and don’t tell Johnny there is something he’s not good at.”
Perhaps our society seems so out of whack because everyone is trying so desperately to stand out from the great vast ocean of unremarkable “specialness” into which they have been thrust.

It is simply true that most people live their lives unknown to all but their immediate family and friends, and they die and in a generation or two, they are completely forgotten - except, perhaps, by people like me, who like to go to cemeteries and take rubbings from headstones. This has always been true, since the dawn of time, and there is absolutely no reason to downplay the dignity and effectiveness that comes with being an average human being.
She's so right. The battle of life, so often, goes not to the brilliant but to the doggedly persistent. Woody Allen was wrong. Just showing up is not enough, and never has been. What my slackers don't realize is that this country was built upon competence. It keeps competence to keep it running, and if the US-born are going to be incompetent, either the jobs will go elsewhere or immigrants will fill them. Nature abhors a vacuum, and this one will be filled.

Believe me, you don't want to drive on a bridge the slackers designed. You don't want to drive a slacker-built car. You don't want to get medical care from the slackers, and you don't want slackers doing your taxes or keeping your books. There is nothing that slackers do well, and this generation hasn't been taught the huge difference between showing up versus achieving something. I see it everywhere.

There are many reasons why I like blogging, but the main one is that it's such an astonishing pleasure to be in the company of thinking, analytical, pondering human beings who put effort into what they do.

Great post!

Sorry to hear about the new yoke- I have a mnetal image of the Atlas in front of Rockefeller Center, bearing the world on his shoulders...

"Excellence is not to be celebrated, unless average-ness is celebrated too." How true. Never mind the celebration of mediocrity- Can self esteem as a measure of true greatness be far off?

Mark my words, that's coming.
As for the bridges designed by slackers (or traffic engineers or the morons in charge of keeping the traffic lights synchronized- a task obviously suited only for NASA), well, their offspring are working at department store, in the 'no customer service' department.

Thankfully, they have plenty of self esteem.
I agree -- great post! Those moments are great for reminding the rest of us we're not just okay but pretty darn good. And you are great!
Self-esteem as a measure of greatness - now there's a recipe for the ultimate in self-referential value systems. Shudder. It reminds me of Alex in The Clockwork Orange.

It's not really a new yoke. I still have the other plan, and if I can do this I think it greatly increases my chances at the other.

Esther, no, I'm not great. But the average people all over this country have together built greatness. That's the instinct that is being lost.
Great post!

The underlying problem with the idea of building "self-esteem" is that everyone seems to have it backwards. "SELF-esteem" is created when children accomplish something on their own and the accomplishment builds a sense of capability and self-worth. Instead, we've got a culture in which self-esteem hinges on others' praising them.

I don't think praise is bad, but it's out of proportion to the accomplishment. I thought about that a few weeks ago when a toddler announced to her grandparents (and the rest of the restaurant) that she "went potty". We all grinned because it IS a praiseworthy milestones for a small child. However, we wouldn't cheer a normal 20-year-old who accomplished the same thing, would we?
I'm writing about very simple principles of faith if you want to come visit me. I would feel honored!
Saddam and his sons had quite a bit of Self-Esteem (TM).

So does Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.
The subtitle of Thomas Sowell's "Vision of the Anointed" is "Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy."
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