There’s a large elephant in the room and he’s wearing glasses

Published: 13 Jul 2017 By Secret Engineer

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It’s time we took action to address a growing cultural distaste for technical detail and expert opinion argues The Secret Engineer.

I read the comments under the last Secret Engineer piece with interest and noticed a few referenced something that’s been bugging me for a while. So, in part, this is a response to that – this is a sort of “meta-opinion piece” if you will forgive my being so nerdy? Which is precisely what I have a problem with. When did we start apologising for having an interest in technical things, or just for being educated within a certain field? I think I first became aware of it in the late 1980’s, but as a fairly young person it was the creeping realisation of a change in attitude rather than something specifically noted.

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A nice picture of an elephant wearing glasses. Not “in the room” but you get the picture

I seem to recall that Top Gear and their ilk started using phrases such as “Its a bit nerdy but…” or “This is a little technical but bear with me.” It was like the dissemination of important information – information of inherent interest – was a distasteful exercise that could not be escaped. Even shampoo adverts felt the need to warn viewers about the impending illustration of pseudo-science before coming out with something utterly banal. At about the same time I also noticed that offhand dismissive comments were being made about “men with pipes”.

However, I am not going to write two pieces running on television programme makers so please be assured that this is something I see around me generally, and the “visual arts” are merely one part of it.

If I go back further to the dim distant days of my youth, my impressions of school broadly conform with the stereotypical dynamic regarding sporty types and academics. Funnily enough all pupils seemed to belong to one camp or the other, with only a very few managing to cover the bases of both softball and mathematics.

Of course the sporty types appeared to be glamorous and were a hit with the girls (once we’d reached the age where girls were of interest.) I couldn’t say whether this was because children are still less refined and more animalistic in their methods of attributing status, or merely because sporting success is more conspicuous. Perhaps there is simply a more introspective and private satisfaction to be found in academic achievement?

Stop apologising for being bright, stop qualifying comments just because others may not have the wit to understand what lies behind them and stop allowing people to proudly flaunt their ignorance unchallenged.

As we grow older though there should surely be a growing realisation within our peer group that, while a small number will be able to achieve greatness through physical prowess and playing games, most will need to establish their place in society through other skills and abilities. Games and sports are important for any number of reasons but they do not exactly shape the world around us. This then should be where those of us who have sweated over exercise books rather than exercise machines find ourselves elevated. Sadly, something that cannot happen while popular culture seeks to undermine us – and certainly not if we aid that process by meekly compounding the problem.

There is no wonder that there exists a growing movement of politicos being dismissive of experts, an increasing number of public and blunt refusals to accept scientific opinion. This is the natural conclusion to being steadily victimised for the past 30 years and something that is harmful to the future of all of us. It does take two parties to create a victim though, and thankfully in this case we can do something about it.

I say stop apologising for being bright, stop qualifying comments just because others may not have the wit to understand what lies behind them and stop allowing people to proudly flaunt their ignorance unchallenged. Its time we stood tall and fought back against being treated with dismissive disdain.

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