Back when I was a lad, when all this around ‘ere was just fields, competence was a prized thing.
In fact, extreme competence was so prized that you could be a complete nightmare, the proverbial mad scientist, and indeed our history is replete with such people who were extremely competent at one thing, and complete nightmares in every other aspect of their lives, and so effective were these people that you rarely find a technological milestone invented or created or developed by a fairly normal easy going chilled out guy.
It was the same in business, even relatively small trades where each shop employed only 20 or so people, the “old man” was a pain in the ass, but the shop put out fabulous quality work, and the staff are replete with tales about what a bastard the “old man” was, but said tales were always told with a tone of respect, and humour for the poor unfortunate who was the subject of the old man’s attentions…. “I paid for ALL of that hacksaw blade boy, not just the bit you are using!”
I don’t know when the change started, but I do know that by around 1985 competence and care had sunk below the line where they were considered mandatory pre-requisites for many jobs, with obvious remaining exceptions such as airline pilots.
Now in 2011 being competent and careful in your work has sunk in status to such a level that they are actually negative traits as far as your employment prospects are concerned…. and indeed increasingly as far as your legal and social status is concerned.
They are negative traits because the proportion of incompetent and negligent employees in every organisation has risen to such a level that the merely borderline competent make them all look bad, and so the merely borderline competent are reviled, plotted against, and eventually forced out.
My own personal first experience of this was in 1983, an engineering shop where older employees had words with me about slowing down my output, which being on piece work I objected to, which led to increasing tension, and by the end of the week I had had enough, and quit.
A year later that company had ceased trading.
I soon became self employed, and discovered the truth behind the saying “You are only as good as your last job.” and one bad job could finish you and finish your business…
That was when those lessons hammered in to me by older men, including my own father, really started to come to life and make 3D Technicolor sense, fucking this job up doesn’t just mean not getting paid, it meant getting a bad name and not being able to work at my trade or earn money again.
The result of that was the odd nightmare job where everything you touched turned to shit, and you eat the time and money it took to make it right, and only billed the customer the amount you said up front.
And that taught you to check every job thoroughly, and not trust anyone else’s competence or care as a factor in your pricing the job up, just because Joe Bloggs said that these widgets were all replaced with factory new last year, and only that widget over there was dying now, doesn’t mean shit if Joe Bloggs is a butcher who fucked up all those new widgets installing them, and damaged the widget holders…
Then you discovered just how smart those older men were, because it doesn’t matter what your job and your speciality is, you always rub up against and deal with other trades as jobs are progressed and handed over, a first fix electrician will work alongside plumbers and plasterers, and “core competence” in your trade meant being able to communicate with them, about their trade, in appropriate trade language.
This was why you can train to be a doctor/surgeon in four years, but it took you about ten years before you dared to call yourself an Engineer, you didn’t have to be a Turner, but by God you’d better be able to centre some work in a 4 jaw chuck and turn a couple of thou accurately off it and achieve a nice finish, now matter if it took you ten times as long as the Turner, because if you could not do that you could neither talk to the Turner nor understand him, and an Engineer all by his lonesome is a remarkably unproductive individual in a commercial sense….
Yes, I can build an entire motor car from raw materials, but it will take me several years, which means it will cost more than a top end Rolls Royce, which leads neatly into exactly what the Industrial Revolution was all about, mass production vs bespoke work.
Incidentally, all these terms, such as Core Competence have been stolen and bastardised, the wikipedia entry for it says it must fulfill three critera, namely;
- It is not easy for competitors to imitate.
- It can be leveraged widely to many products and markets.
- It must contribute to the end consumer’s experienced benefits.
Which is complete fucking bollocks, Core Competence means an absolutely essential MINIMUM level of ability in various fields, but then again any cunt can edit wikipedia and spout any old shit as being factual… there is no Core Competence in Encyclopaedias required to be a wiki editor…
Back when I was doing an apprenticeship an Engineer was described as a man who could determine a solution to a problem, then make a tool that would make the product that formed that solution.
Nowadays any cunt who can plug an AGP card into a motherboard walks around calling themselves a fucking Personal Computer Engineer, back in my day Wozniak could lay claim to that, as could Moore and many others, not some cunt performing the mechanical equivalent to shoving one lego brick against another lego brick.
In my recent introduction to the secret family courts I gained first hand knowledge that the systemic and endemic incompetence and negligence that I had up until then assumed had spread into the local council office etc etc, had also spread into the legal system.
I talked to many lawyers, all told me the same tale, they grew up, learned about the Law, as I did, found it fascinating, as I did, and went off to study it, as I did not, and then became qualified and became introduced to the real world of law in every day practice, and became thoroughly and utterly disillusioned.
I have talked to many policemen, same story, all the good ones quit in disgust, except for a very few who stuck with it, leaving the majority to their disillusions and incompetence and negligence… what the fuck, it’s just a job eh.
And yet these same cunts are the first to complain if the guy fixing the brakes on the wife’s school run 4×4 takes a what the fuck attitude, and the vehicle plows into a fucking lamp post.
In 1980 my bank manager summoned me to his office, he rang my boss and told him to send me over, because I had written a cheque that would put me six pence over drawn, four days before my monthly salary was about to be paid in. At the time I thought he was a stuffed shirt, but in hindsight who is more competent, him, or his modern replacement who up until recently was quite happy to give customers self certified 125% interest only mortgages?
My dad was in the REME (British army engineering corps) in Singapore in 1945 and cut his foot on coral while swimming, a year later back in Blighty a country doctor diagnosed the lump in his groin as the bits of coral being carried up there by his blood stream, dad was about to take his trousers off to show the doctor the lump, the doctor noted dad’s suntan and told him to take his shoes and socks off, and saw the cut…. todays doctors can’t even diagnose fucking meningitis, and send kids home with some calpol to die.
What in many ways frightens the living fucking shit out of those ever dwindling numbers of those of us who are competent, is the simple fact that the one class of person least able to either gauge their own level of incompetence and negligence, and also least able to visualise the inevitable consequrnces of their own incompetence and negligence, are the terminally fucking clueless incompetents and negligents themselves.
When you see and hear a judge declare that some skank ho making a False Rape Accusation is the clearest case of a rape victim they have seen in 20 years as a judge, you are hit by a chilling insight, that EVERY SINGLE CASE EVER HEARD by that judge in their illustrious 20 year career needs to be re-heard as a crash priority… quite apart from the poor innocent bastard he just sent down for six years.
A certain writer wrote stories about how an alien race put all their lawyers and telephone hygeinists into one spaceship and sent it off one way (to crash into the then unpopulated Earth) and everyone else got into another spaceship and went to a different planet.
It’s funny as far as it goes, but the reality on the ground is the few places left on the planet where you can find core competence is in small teams of men working jobs that kill you quickly if you fuck up or fuck around, deep sea fishermen, hard rock miners, foundry workers…
As mentioned previously, disillusionment with the job, or with the effectiveness of the job, is an excellent indicator of incompetence and negligence….. sadly excess hubris and delight in their role is often also an indicator of incompetence and negligence…
I could not stand even ten seconds of The Office (UK David Brent version) it made me cringe with revulsion and want to shoot everyone even remotely involved with it, including props and wardrobe, but we live in a world where such things are celebrated, as are shows about skank ho teen moms, etcetera.
Sadly, I cannot think of any way of remedying the situation, short of making incompetence and negligence the most expensive of all possible options again, as they once were, and I cannot see any way of making that happen, short of total financial and economic collapse, which, luckily enough, looks to be on the horizon as we speak.