Blog: Following the Arrow

Following the Arrow
Following the Arrow
Date: 2018-Mar-04 19:36:48 EST

I've been thinking recently about the people I've known that became really prominent, and my general tendency to prefer to be visible-but-not-highly-prominent. I made this decision because I'm not very social and extended social interaction for me is painful, and also because I've found the tension between expression and pushback is less harsh when you're not in the spotlight. Artists, philosophers, and others for whom expression is highly important, this means I can have a kind of mental peace. But recently I've come to understand better what the choice to step fully into the spotlight means. I hope I don't have this fault, but I've seen many people with an incredibly strong fascination with stardom (even when they don't seek it), deciding it firmly implies expertise. My evaluation of expertise generally comes from believing someone is intelligent, has worked on a topic for a long time, and has done pretty well. But in a team that has collaborated evenly on great things, the person who steps up to a podium and gives talks will convince people with defective evaluative criteria of their expertise. And yes, I exaggerate a bit ; it's not entirely unreasonable to trust speakers, it's just unreasonable to weigh that too heavily, or not to realise it's a proxy for a more careful evaluation of someone's career history. Anyhow, all this sounds negative ; while I don't mind being negative, I'm actually meaning it as a a possibility for me to gently explore more in the future. Mostly because it opens doors. Maybe doors I won't end up using so long as I'm in academia, or at least not as a career focus, but I now have some time on the sides to have hobbies and do things outside of work again. I want interesting opportunities to open up, and (as someone who's taught and given talks before, albeit not very frequently) it's not like I'm disinclined to speak.

Speaking is an art though, and I've run the full span from talks that went well to those that totally bombed because I froze up mid-talk. I'd like to get better so as not to recreate the painful memories of the failed talks.

It's interesting watching Democratic politics underway; the difference between the moderate technocratic faction and various other factions is still in play. I cringe a bit when I hear less-moderate factions being labelled progressive while at the same time them being referred to as the "Bernie Wing". Partly because I don't see myself as a progessive, and I don't see Bernie as a progressive either. The way I use the term, the progressives are the enemy within the party, and Bernie is a moderate socialist, like me. He's not that interested on gun issues, he's not a social-justice sort (and neither am I; I see it as a bourgeois distraction from the issues that matter, and a confusion on how to approach areas of agreement on what matter - disparities are more about class than race). I'm happy to work with centist technocrats (I lean technocratic myself, for a socialist). Moderate old-school socialists are my people. But the people I call progressives, I see little value in cooperating with them, and mostly seek their diminishment. Common cause with them usually costs too much and is too unpleasant. For the discourse, I think we can better understand these politics by asking "how far" and "what direction" as separate questions. Just like the conservatives on the other side, there's more than one direction one can go when one steps from the centrists.