27 March 2008

Now for the serious stuff.....

The following is a reprint of an unpublished article (well, I guess technically it isn't a reprint then) that I wrote a while back when I was in a cynical mood. It bears great import for the future of our country and society!!

An Assessment of Incompetence - Causes and Outcomes

All around us in this world we are faced with incompetent individuals. Perhaps for you it's that trashy next door neighbor that you always see sitting barefoot and shirtless on his front porch when you leave for work in the morning and return in the evening, and you doubt if he even has a job. Perhaps it's that disheveled, pathological loser coworker with the bad case of BO at the office, who can't seem to do anything right, no matter how simple or how much you try to break the task down for him. Perhaps it's a sibling of yours who has no job and still lives at home with your aging parents, who just can't seem to get her act together no matter how much you try to help her, and you're at the end of your rope there. Perhaps it's the obvious illiterates you have to deal with at the counter of the local fast food joint, who never can get your order right. You can find them in all walks of life. In any case, you know what they are. Do you ever ask yourself why they are what they are?

Why Incompetence?

The explanation is simple. Incompetent people have no desire to be active players in life or anything else. They are, in a nutshell, afraid of taking risks, because they are above all afraid of failure. They fear failure because they wish always for other people to think highly of them. They desire this because deep down inside, they know they are rotten, since their prime goal in life is to extract as much from others for exerting as little effort as possible in return. So they must have other people always thinking highly of them, in order not to permeate their thin skinned personalities, their narcissistic self images. Though they may appear not to possess much self-esteem at the surface, in reality they believe that they are far superior to everyone else on the planet, are thus special, and should be exempt from the requirements of life such as working to support oneself and related things. This permits them to morally justify, semi-consciously, negative actions which harm others ranging from the trite to the barbaric.

They desire above all to be coddled and have other people manage their affairs. This includes such things as supporting them, permitting them to indulge in their self-gratifications, etc. Think of a drug addict – the simplest yet most fitting example.

They respond primarily to people who respond positively to them by stroking their massive egos (often, these hapless, well-intentioned individuals, unintentional victims of the incompetent’s ego complex, are doing it unknowingly). Even the worst incompetent may, admittedly, have a few surface facets of his personality which elicit positive responses from peers.

Often nowadays, these individuals are flagged by their elders when still young for their unsociable behaviors or effects thereof, and are usually diagnosed by the psychiatric profession as having an attention deficit disorder or some form of higher functioning autism such as Asperger’s Syndrome. These “disorders” were more or less invented by the psychological profession to describe typesets of behaviors stemming from incompetence, and have no basis in biology. Diagnosis of a psychological “problem”, unfortunately, serves to remove the blame from where it lies – the individual’s moral character, which only he alone can change due to free will – and conveniently removes it from the incompetent, chalking up his negative, ultimately self-destructive behaviors to an “uncontrollable” fluke of nature which is beyond free will to control. It also provides a cover and a justification for the incompetent to continue his lifestyle – “I can’t help it.” A period of medication usually follows, which does not generally pose harm to physical health, though it produces no changes in behavior as the “disorder” is of a moral character, which cannot be touched by physical medicine.

The incompetent, in order to protect himself from the simple fact that his delusions of grandeur come nowhere close to the reality, is on a race to the bottom. The question of how the massive disconnect between presumed normalcy, or even exceptionality, and incompetence comes to exist, however, has not been answered. The answer is several pronged, and may not be the same for every individual incompetent:

  • The individual is so consumed with protecting himself from being thought of negatively by others that all his energies are consumed in avoiding the undesired outcome, and thus work and life is neglected. Ironically, of course, this behavior produces the very attitudes among peers that the incompetent desires to prevent. (A somewhat more productive method to deal with this is to presume everyone hates you anyway, and then to leave it at that, or otherwise set out to far exceed their most reasonable expectations of you.)
  • The individual is a pure narcissist who above all puts himself first; thus any task not meeting his immediate, self gratifying needs is secondary and unimportant, and thus done poorly if at all. This thug-like character has not learned, or desired to learn, that cooperation and doing work unrelated to your immediate needs (such as in a job setting) is one of the few ways of sustaining one’s existence.
  • The individual has a poor work ethic due to circumstances (sometimes beyond control, sometimes not) and life difficulties that lead to mental disengagement from the workplace. He may not actually be full of himself, but has so many pressing personal issues weighing on his mind that his work performance declines. These cases are salvageable; removing the life stressors which cause the work deficiencies will generally take care of the problem.
  • The individual is an absent-minded fool who has not taught himself the rigor of concentrating on a sustained task for a long period of time. This person is very prone to slipping up on details, leaving “finished” tasks uncompleted, and is generally seemingly unable to learn from previous mistakes. While not as much of a narcissist as the other types, he seeks to get his work out of the way as quickly as possible to make time for self-indulgence. He has not learned the value of rigor of detail and doing a job right, and that others might be harmed or otherwise negatively impacted by his mistakes. In short, he simply does not think of others, except in situations when the opinions and actions of those others threaten to harm him, or more expressly, his livelihood, lifestyle, and/or habits. He can be counted on to defend his work ethic, which he rightly binds up with his moral character (or more specifically, lack thereof), even in the face of severe criticism. Above all, he hates criticism – even slightly critical remarks can send him into a depressed mood for days. Generally his incompetence is not completely, if at all, willful. In certain elements he may appear to be a model employee. However, personal behavior traits combine with an underlying narcissistic personality to lead to incompetence. At first, it extends primarily to minor, petty things (though even that can get you fired in the secondary labor market); though over time, if left unchecked, manifestation of these behaviors in important matters is inevitable. Eventually the employee can not be trusted and, if not outright terminated, has his duties reduced to those work tasks which he has demonstrated in the past to have exercised a reasonable level of competence in performing. In short, if he remains employed, his career for all practical purposes is immediately truncated.
  • The individual is a thug. Meaning, of course, that he is a sociopath, extremely narcissistic, and violent; almost always possessing a criminal record, a poor to nonexistent employment record, and a history of violent, brutal, and unpredictable behavior. In truth, these individuals have far deeper problems than mere incompetence, and so we will simply leave it by saying that even if there were an employer actually willing to hire them, their willingness to work at a legal job for which they are qualified (which is primarily confined to minimum wage work) is questionable indeed.
  • The individual truly cannot perform the required tasks due to hereditary, biological limitations on mental (or physical) aptitude. In this case the person is actually just plain “stupid” or unintelligent, either due to biological disorders (e.g. Down syndrome) or simple dullness on the IQ scale (think Forrest Gump), and care must be given at the start when choosing what lines of employment to pursue given his limited mental abilities.

In certain cases (except for the last), perhaps most, more than one or even all of the above factors may be jointly at work.

Symptoms of Incompetence

Casual incompetence: ‘minor’ elements of incompetence, the person is able to get along in the world for the most part for a time, but will generally have trouble or complete failure at retaining steady employment, sustaining relationships with peers, and coping with life generally. Almost always the individual ends up as a ‘major’ incompetent.

  • Forgetfulness of small but crucial details
  • “Cutting corners” at work
  • Generally incompetent at work tasks – usually employee is shunted towards the simplest, least complex, most repetitive tasks available
  • Refusal to initiate interpersonal relationships or ‘do their part’ in sustaining same
  • Pathological shyness
  • Unsanitariness (not brushing teeth, bathing, general unkempt appearance)
  • Poor physical shape – often overweight/obese
  • Bare existence – usually lacking money for more than the basics
  • Poor financial competency – little to nothing saved, disrespect for valuables which then must be replaced
  • Willful ignoring of proper response stimuli to other people
  • Complete disregard of other people’s rights, feelings, or needs
  • Generally held in very low regard by peers – perception of contributing little to society
  • Makes a “show” of contributing but in fact contributes very little
  • Pessimistic – a ‘loner’
  • Tendency to interrupt when other people are talking
  • Prone to occasional violent and fascist leaning thoughts
  • Believes that the cards are stacked against them, that society is “out to get them”
  • Very self absorbed, selfish, self centered - generally an whiny, snorty thug by nature
  • Perceives personal “enemies” everywhere
  • Peers attempt to avoid their presence whenever possible; can hardly tolerate being in their presence
  • Unmarried, with few prospects for marriage or children – if male, women will consider being around them something akin to a life threatening situation
  • Extremely present oriented – unable to plan ahead or perceive anything beyond the immediate moment

Major incompetence: The ultimate end of casual incompetence, major incompetence encapsulates all of the above behaviors/traits and more. Generally the lowest, least valuable, and least productive members of society, major incompetents are the primary denizens of the moocher classes – the welfare mothers, hustlers, street people begging for change, and others who apparently have decided that they cannot get along in life without the subsidy of the productive and confident. They are absolutely unable to cope with the demands of human existence in a free society and often bounce from personal crisis to personal crisis. These are the net drains on society whose incompetent behaviors and inability to cope with life have led them to their natural bottom – the life of an animal.

  • Believe themselves to be quite competent at life, despite their overwhelming incompetence – actually have great self esteem, are overconfident and ‘full of themselves’
  • Heavily prone to violence and outbursts of narcissistic rage, particularly if something is being denied them that they feel is their ‘birthright’ (such as food if they lack cash)
  • Believe they are entitled to far more in life than they have been able to earn with their feeble efforts
  • Often dream big, but plans invariably fall through
  • Are usually the beneficiaries of some wealth confiscation and transfer program (welfare, disability, etc.)
  • Extremely narcissistic and refuse to delay self-gratification
  • Gratify themselves to excess despite the fact that their energies should be focused on more productive endeavors
  • Generally have produced several children out of wedlock, and if male does not (and likely cannot) regularly support them, if at all
  • Unable to obtain decent paying employment
  • Unable to retain any type of permanent employment for more than a cursory period
  • Prone to ‘walking off’ (what they perceive as an undesirable) job, even after just a few hours of work; or by extension, not even showing up for work after being hired
  • Prone to substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc.)
  • Have absolutely no regard or feelings for other people, and will definitely harm others to further their interests
  • Frustration with life in general
  • Very low to extremely low levels of inate intelligence (this is intelligence divorced from academic achievement, aka ‘common sense’ or ‘street smarts’)
  • Other people are completely put off by them and cannot bear to be in their presence for an instant – elicit extremely negative reactions from peers and strangers, to the point that they feel threatened enough to call law enforcement
  • Has often violent fantasies involving women
  • Has violent delusions of grandeur involving exertion of absolute power over other people’s lives (many politicians exhibit this trait)

What We Can Do About It

For starters, don't become incompetent yourself. Do your best at whatever you do every day.

If you recognize yourself in the above description, and you understand the need for changing the way you are, you first need to understand that restoring yourself to the ranks of the productive is a long and difficult process. The most important thing, for the sake of your future employability and overall positive appeal to people who are not incompetents, is to restore your reputation as a productive, valuable individual. This never happens overnight; when people make up their minds about the kind of person you are, it's hard to change them easily. For many of the most far gone losers such as ex-convicts, it can take a lifetime (and then some) to restore themselves into society's good graces.

This inconvenient fact will likely make most of you turn around with your tail between your legs right back into the pathetic life you lead now. Just remember, before doing so, that incompetent people will be the first to die of starvation in the coming economic lean years.

Don't tell me you weren't warned.