“ It is becoming ever more obvious that
it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer but man himself who
is man's greatest danger to man, for the simple reason that there is no adequate
protection against psychic epidemics which are infinitely more devastating than
the worst of natural catastrophes. ”
C G Jung, The Undiscovered Self
“ We need to learn to set our course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship. ”
Omar Nelson Bradley
July 17 2006
Parking the professionals
It was just an incidental comment that struck me in an idle moment as I was half-reading a report in today's online Guardian about why we should be nice to parking wardens (written by the chief executive of the British Parking Association, natch). He says "The British Parking Association is the largest organisation in Europe for parking professionals."
I've no doubt it is, but parking professionals? Without wishing to be in the least bit insulting to parking wardens, who I've no doubt are fine people doing a pretty boring and unenviable job, this does seem to be stretching the definition of "professional" somewhat. Or am I just being an elitist snob? It does seem that if we're to call everyone who earns a living by some gainful employment in which they observe the standards of that employment a "professional" then the usefulness of the word to distinguish some parts of the working population from others has been lost. Though given the word's elitist associations, perhaps this is no bad thing.
However, this stampede to claim the label for all manner of activities in recent years is perhaps something that needs closer examination. Why does everyone want to assume the mantle? Aside from the desire to create a more egalitarian perspective on the value of various activities to society as a whole, there's this whole business to do with "professionalism", to do with the upholding of certain standards. We talk about having a "professional" attitude to distinguish it from some other attitude which by definition is other than "professional" and by implication the expected norm. Yet a closer examination of what makes up that "professional" attitude reveals mostly a set of moral, ethical, behavioural and competency standards that are only natural to any average decent person intending to do a good job. Why should we be trying to turn these standards into some kind of mask, a false persona to be donned only during working hours?
The fact that we are, and seem not to be noticing that that's what we're doing, speaks volumes about what's happening to that underlying natural human decency. Perhaps we could do worse than do away with professionalism altogether? That way at least nobody is being encouraged to pretend to be something they're not. I'd far rather see who I'm dealing with up front than be part of a disingenuous pantomime in which the human being I'm speaking to behaves more like some kind of unhuman robot. "Professionalism" seems to have become almost a by-word for putting distance between people, which hardly seems to be in the best interests of good communication or in the spirit of what it's all about.
Genuine heartfelt core personal ethical standards and values render "professionalism" pretty much redundant. They're not enforced by legislation and policing, but learned through example and experience, and are far more pragmatic and flexible as a result. They're not part-time and partly owned by some faceless organisation, but are something for which every individual who holds them is wholly responsible and permanently engaged with. They're not something to aspire to or indulge in pride or arch superiority over, they're just the product of natural ordinary human decency and respect for one another. Isn't this where we should be placing our emphasis instead of adding yet more layers to a hollow mask?
Once again it seems we're putting all the emphasis on the ultimates, outer appearances, instead of considering the underlying state that spontaneously gives rise to the desired behaviour.
July 17 2006 | | | Permalink