You Are Not An Expert

It’s hard admitting that we don’t have the answers. What’s harder is trying to get to the answers while everyone is screaming their wrong answers out loud .

06/04/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 06/04/2017 03:57 SAST

You are not an expert on economics. You are not an expert on tax law. You are not an expert on the law. You are not an expert on education. You are not an expert.

Okay, maybe. Maybe there are one or two things that you legitimately expert at. I'm pretty good at apostrophes. I would say that I have a fair expertise around the works of Terry Pratchett, Lego, and making lemon meringue pie. I get paid to make jokes, and write about politics, but I am definitely not an expert.

I love listening to experts. I love it when they let us in, and I do believe that we should all be dedicated to getting experts to communicate their expertise whenever possible. It's often tricky, because the gap between what we know and what they know is vast, containing years of study, experience, knowledge, and hard work. And so I am grateful to those who try. I am grateful to journalists who try to bridge the gap, to learn more than the average citizen, to try and be an interpreter of experts.

And hey, sometimes experts disagree. In fact often. So even being an expert doesn't make you right. But that's not the topic today. The topic today is: you are not an expert.

So stop acting like one. This weird affliction, this belief that one is suddenly an expert because you read a few articles or blogs, or maybe tweets, or just heard from a guy at a braai...this is going to kill us. And this affliction seems particularly to strike white men. I don't know what it is, white men. Why you are so convinced that you know more than other people? Why you are so convinced that you need to explain things - things that you yourself don't properly understand.

Sometimes, you like to try and explain things to the experts.

Here's a radical thought: how about, when you hear about something that might dramatically affect you, like the credit rating downgrade, you do some research. Find some articles written by an expert. Share those. And then, and this is the crucial part. Listen. Listen to what the expert is advising you to do. In most cases - spoiler alert - it's really nothing. In some cases, there are coordinated plans that experts have thought through and devised, and you can then do everything in your power to help.

In fact, that's really what I wish we would do more. Listen, and help. See an issue that you care about? Listen, and help. Think about what you actually can do - resources or expertise that you do have. Maybe it's money, or donations. Maybe it's time. Maybe it's bringing your actual expertise to bear, maybe you're an expert graphic designer and you can volunteer your time for an NGO needing a logo, maybe you're an accountant and you can do the books. Maybe you're an expert knitter, we definitely need those.

Maybe you're expert at listening. Or caring.

I know it's hard. It's hard admitting that we don't have the answers. But what's even harder is trying to get to the actual answers while everyone is screaming their wrong answers out loud at the top of their lungs, because doing something is better than doing nothing.

It isn't though.

You are not an expert.