The importance of condescension



  • I'm not exactly sure why, but people occasionally take exception to my
    observation of the fact that we are all occasionally irrational and
    that the overwhelming majority of people are irrational idiots most of
    the time. That this is observation is necessary to understand the
    course of human events should not be debatable; the fact that it is
    occasionally debated only serves to highlight the truth of the
    observation.


    I was in Paris recently, which was fitting since I was just finishing up a book written by a resident Parisian, namely, The Devil's Delusion
    by David Berlinski. My plans dictated a brief sojourn on the Metro, so
    I stopped at the sole ticket vending machine in the area with the
    intention of buying a single fare, only to discover that the machine
    did not take notes but instead required Euro coins, which I possessed
    in insufficient quantity. I turned around, spotted a fruit vendor, and
    purchased a banana, which provided me with not only the prospect of
    future nourishment, but also sufficient change for the intended
    purchase.

    However, my little diversion to the fruit stand now
    meant that I was in line behind four people - two of whom made a couple
    that later proved to possess perhaps a third of a functional brain
    between them - and mistakenly assumed that this would delay my
    Metro-boarding intentions by a matter of two or three minutes. The
    first gentleman found it difficult to operate the machine; he first had
    severe problems figuring out the mechanism used to choose between
    different selections, then appeared mystified by the two buttons, one
    green and one red, which were required to either approve or cancel the
    highlighted selection. His purchase of a ticket took approximately six
    minutes.

    The couple also had some trouble working the machine as
    well as deciding where they were seeking to travel. It only required
    them about eight minutes to sort everything out - at this point I was
    timing people since I had nothing better to do - and upon finally
    making their selection, they made the shocking discovery that the
    machine did not take Euro notes. Being a gentleman of decency,
    restraint, and a high regard for the social niceties, I elected not to
    pursue my momentary desire to utilize my extensive martial arts
    training in order to break both their necks and thereby prevent the
    evolutionary horrors the two of them might one day unleash upon an
    unsuspecting planet should they ever happen to stumble upon a method of
    propagating their brainless species. Instead, I directed their
    attention to the fruit stand and suggested that a purchase of one or
    more items might be a reasonable means of acquiring the requisite coins.

    This
    prospect filled their slack-jawed faces with dismay, for by this time
    the line extended back some 15 or 20 people and it was obvious that
    following my example might well require thirty minutes or more at this
    point. However, the rumbles of discontent from what was threatening to
    rapidly devolve into a lynch mob quickly proved persuasive, and the two
    dull young things meandered off towards the fruit stand, never to be
    seen again. It would not surprise me to learn that they were outwitted
    and devoured by a crack squad of strawberries.

    I could only
    wonder how the final obstacle had entertained himself during the 15
    previous minutes, as he had no sooner stepped in front of the machine
    than he began peering around the hall, as if in search of a map of
    station lines. He turned to me and babbled something in French, which I
    correctly interpreted as a question involving lines and stations.
    Unfortunately, my French was inadequate for the task of explaining that
    in the likely event he was intending to travel to a destination
    somewhere in Paris, there was no need to select that particular
    destination at the moment since the same ticket would suffice for all.
    Or, alternatively, he could purchase a slightly more expensive ticket
    that would cover every possible eventuality. I attempted to explain
    this in Italian; I don't know if he understood my point or if he was
    merely alarmed by the ominous rumbles of the expanding and increasingly
    impatient mob behind me, but regardless, he finally came to realize
    that this was not an optimal moment to familiarize himself with the
    layout of the Paris underground system. He selected a single fare, then
    was promptly defeated by the failure of the machine to respond in any
    way.

    Calmly reflecting, as I often do, that most people are
    idiots, I concluded that I should neither be surprised nor dismayed by
    the gentleman's inability to either observe his hapless predecessors'
    actions or interact with an interface that requires a functioning mind
    on the other end. I therefore took the liberty of stepping forward and
    pressing a certain green button on his behalf. Appropriately
    appreciative, he nodded his gratitude and to my surprise, alertly
    inserted the proper amount of coins in the slot and received his
    ticket. It was with some difficulty that I resisted the urge to applaud.

    And
    so it was that only 23 minutes after first approaching the ticket
    machine and noticing that it took only coins and cards, I selected my
    fare, confirmed the selection, inserted a 2-Euro coin and received both
    my ticket and the appropriate amount of change. That took approximately
    20 seconds.

    This is why condescension towards and contempt for
    one's intellectual inferiors are not only important, but downright
    necessary for survival in modern times. Some of you have occasionally
    asked how I can be so tranquil about the persistent illogic expressed
    with such mind-numbing regularity by the atheists, feminists, science
    fetishists and other critics who are occasionally so kind as to grace
    us with their attentions, but the truth is that I find the experience
    to be almost meditational. Call it the Art of Enlightened Condescension
    or the Zen of Contempt, whatever you like, but the only other serious
    option is to withdraw into a hermit's cave and never communicate with
    the larger part of humanity again.

    Lifted from http://voxday.blogspot.com/2008/06/importance-of-condescension.html
    (Don't worry, he's good about sharing his stuff )

     



  • @ropata said:



    This is why condescension towards and contempt for
    one's intellectual inferiors are not only important, but downright
    necessary for survival in modern times. Some of you have occasionally
    asked how I can be so tranquil about the persistent illogic expressed
    with such mind-numbing regularity by the atheists, feminists, science
    fetishists and other critics who are occasionally so kind as to grace
    us with their attentions, but the truth is that I find the experience
    to be almost meditational. Call it the Art of Enlightened Condescension
    or the Zen of Contempt, whatever you like, but the only other serious
    option is to withdraw into a hermit's cave and never communicate with
    the larger part of humanity again.

     

    Enjoyable read until he lost me at the last paragraph.

    "persistent illogic expressed
    with such mind-numbing regularity by the atheists, feminists, science
    fetishists and other critics"?

    Err, what? Never mind the heaping together in one pile of the three - all of which can have their moment of irrationality, seeing they are human. From the context he puts them on par with the mouthbreathers who can't operate a ticket machine. Ah well, followed the link... Christian libertarian and member of the Southern Baptists... perfect rationalists, I see.

    To not say anything about just how Christian his attitude is. Jesus must be really pleased with him... 

    Glasshouse, meet stones! The stones the Bible says you're not supposed to throw unless you're without sin.



  • Putting other people down just to make yourself look great is not only a waste of time but also shows you're no better really.
    As we are all humans, we each make our share of mistakes which is great because not only do we learn from them but we can also have a good laugh sometimes.

    The guy who wrote this must be pretty lonely in his world of great unmatched intellect.



  • This sort of attitude has always bothered me, but there are people like that out there.  Personally, I prefer to take the view we all are idiots in different ways, some more than others perhaps, but we can all be equally idiotic. That's the nature of being human imo.  This guy seems to come across not only that he's better than all "the idiots" but, found away to attribute his "patience" to a nice ego inflating sense of zen-like serenity in the face of the lesser masses he is forced to suffer.

    Maybe those people had just spent way too long in the hot sun - that can sure turn me into a disoriented mess.


    I especially liked the part where he considered using his "extensive martial arts
    training" but decided to suck it up and turn the other cheek - very classy.



  •  I'll go off on a tangent and note how odd it is that there is such a large queue. Just how many ticket machines does the subway in Paris have? We've had a subway system for about a decade in this city and I have never seen a queue in front of a machine. In fact at any one time there's at least one machine free.

    On the other hand however we seem to have a lot of people lacking the basic intelligence to operate a ticket machine. And the machines are not even the complicated monstrosities you'll find in countries where the ticket price depends on your destination. Just select the number of tickets, the type (regular-student), put your money in and off you go. The buttons for this are located right underneath some nice, large, visible instructions. Which are 10cm away from your face when you stand in front of the machine.

    Now since these people can't operate the machines they go and buy their tickets from the ticket window where real people are. Apparently dealing with real people is better because they can do your thinking for you. This wouldn't be so bad except that a line forms and people like me who want to buy a large number of tickets (more than the machines can handle) or some sort of special pass  have to wait behind a bunch of people who are there for a single ticket each.

    Use the machines retard!



  • We are all human, and believe it or not, even all of us are idiots most of the time anyway. Some of us are whizzes in computers, hardware, the like, and other people are downright afraid of them, no matter how simple they are.

     

    The only thing I see wrong here is that even though we function as machines, we shouldn't be totally dependent on them. I've never been to Paris, but would there not be either an information booth or ticket seller that could be of more assistance (and in some cases, provide the proper change ?)  Some people, especially older folks need that kind of assistance. I don't see how being condensending towards these people makes us any better, and although some people inconvenience our time, it sure isn't a survival factor.  Some people are clueless when it comes to some things, doesn't make them better or worse than we are. 



  •  I'll admit that my natural inclination is closer to the OP than I'd like.  That being said, I'm keenly aware that there are a myriad of reasons why someone may be an "idiot" at that particular time.  For example, we've been moving for the past two weeks, and the house we're moving from is far from clean and ready to be turned over.  Last night, I headed to the store to get some cleaning supplies, then to a sandwich shop to grab supper for the kids.  While I'm usually fairly observant, this time proved to all those around that I must be an idiot.  I walked in, ordered the sandwiches then decided I should order some drinks because we didn't have any drinks at our "old" house.  I glance around and see nothing but bottled water.  I asked the girl "Do you have anything besides water?"  She held up a cup and said something to the effect of "We also have soft drinks."  I glanced around again and still didn't see the dispenser.  She kindly pointed out it was behind me, right where I walked in at.  

    I ended up just laughing it off, but I'm sure to those around me they were thinking "what an idiot."  Never mind the exhaustion from the weekend of moving and working, the unfamiliarity with the restaurant etc.

     



  • @pitchingchris said:

    but would there not be either an information booth or ticket seller that could be of more assistance (and in some cases, provide the proper change ?) 
     

    Maybe they wanted to figure this out and learn for the first time.



  •  So, as I read it... stupid people need to be informed of the fact and corrected? Seems fairly benign. Frustrated snark aside (it doesn't show anywhere as strongly elsewhere in the blog archives), I commonly run into my own limitations and appreciate a gentle correction.

    It was a stress-relieving rant. Get over it. 



  • That's mostly bad luck to get three in a row who take ages.

    I was going to suggest that the ticket machine could be a bad design but I found a picture:

    http://www.core77.com/blog/images/krantzticket.jpg


     



  • @Yorick said:

    So, as I read it... stupid people need to be informed of the fact and corrected? Seems fairly benign. Frustrated snark aside (it doesn't show anywhere as strongly elsewhere in the blog archives), I commonly run into my own limitations and appreciate a gentle correction.

    It was a stress-relieving rant. Get over it.

    I also thought the same. Instead of waiting another 20 minutes for Mr. Idiot to learn how to "push the green button", actually help him out, speeding up his process and shortening your own wait at the same time. Its a win-win scenario, but that doesn't mean you aren't entitled to a rant after waiting 23 minutes because of people unable to use the machine.

    Of course, there are those who clog up ATM queues, spending 20 minutes withdrawing money from [b]four[/b] different bankcards, and taking a lot of time with each of them. Those have no sympathy from me.



  • I'm a little surprised to see so many people upset with such a condecending story... on a site that's all about highlighting idiocy in IT.

     

    We mock people for their bad code, this guy mocks people for their inability to operate a ticket machine.



  • @wf_tmro said:

    Putting other people down just to make yourself look great is not only a waste of time but also shows you're no better really.
    As we are all humans, we each make our share of mistakes which is great because not only do we learn from them but we can also have a good laugh sometimes.

    The guy who wrote this must be pretty lonely in his world of great unmatched intellect.

     

    TL;DR? 

    I'm not exactly sure why, but people occasionally take exception to my
    observation of the fact that [b]we are all occasionally irrational[/b] and
    that the overwhelming majority of people are irrational idiots most of
    the time.



  • @BeenThere said:

    This sort of attitude has always bothered me, but there are people like that out there.  Personally, I prefer to take the view we all are idiots in different ways, some more than others perhaps, but we can all be equally idiotic. That's the nature of being human imo.  This guy seems to come across not only that he's better than all "the idiots" but, found away to attribute his "patience" to a nice ego inflating sense of zen-like serenity in the face of the lesser masses he is forced to suffer.

     

    TL;DR? 

    I'm not exactly sure why, but people occasionally take exception to my
    observation of the fact that [b]we are all occasionally irrational[/b] and
    that the overwhelming majority of people are irrational idiots most of
    the time.

     



  •  @merreborn said:

    I'm a little surprised to see so many people upset with such a condecending story... on a site that's all about highlighting idiocy in IT.

     We mock people for their bad code, this guy mocks people for their inability to operate a ticket machine.

    Yeah, but the bad code that gets mocked is written by people who get paid to write it and claim special knowledge.  We all get frustrated with people dithering at ATMs etc but most of us manage to get over it.

    My big problem with this is the awful blend of condescension and the author's apparent conviction that he's P. G. Wodehouse or Oscar Wilde rather than just a pretentious prick.  Apart from that, he does sound super!



  •  So let me get this straight.  His options were, 1. wait in line and stare are people as they can't run the machine; or 2. help them run the machine.

     

    option 2.

    requires no work.  Makes you feel special.

    option 1.

    Requires you to actually do something.  However, it would save about 20 minutes of your time.  Furthermore it would save 20 minutes of time for the 15 people behind you.  It would save the 4 people in front of you about 10 minutes each.  It would also save us the time we wasted reading this piece of shit blog entry.  Assuming 300 people will read this, that would be saving 300 people about 5 minutes each.  So he wasted, 20+2015+104+300*5=20+300+40+1500=1860 minutes = 31 hours.  That's almost an entire work week in Europe!  

    This guy would really save us all a lot of grief if he stopped posting unfunny, uninteresting stories about his worthless life on the internet.



  • @merreborn said:

    I'm a little surprised to see so many people upset with such a condecending story... on a site that's all about highlighting idiocy in IT.

    The condescending story is about people who may not have had any experience with subways, or ticket machines specifically. It also highlights that he was in a position to assist, and didn't offer to assist those people. Admittedly he did say his French wasn't up to the kind of conversation, but it is amazing how universal gesturing is.

    @merreborn said:

    We mock people for their bad code, this guy mocks people for their inability to operate a ticket machine.

    Yes, we mock people for the inability to perform a task that they claim to be good at or even skilled at. We also use these as a form of education, which hopefully reduces the rate of their production.

    And so that i'm not taken wrong, I rather hope that the code (of the people) mocked are representative pieces of their professional life (and not their learning life)



  • @upsidedowncreature said:

    My big problem with this is the awful blend of condescension and the author's apparent conviction that he's P. G. Wodehouse or Oscar Wilde rather than just a pretentious prick.  Apart from that, he does sound super!

    I was wondering about that too. Is this his normal writing style or was he going for a little meta-humor? The only way to sound more snooty would be to name-drop some obscure French cheeses.



  •  I'm thinking he was either a) pissed in retrospect, and blowing off steam via especially snarky humor, and/or b) trying for metahumor, as you say. The vast majority of the blog archives (4 posts a day? As a GOAL? TRWTF, to be sure.) are generally laid-back and fairly earthy. That said, he repeatedly (with support) cites his eligibility to join mensa, his several years spent training at a full-contact martial arts school, and the fact that his editors are constantly asking him to make his articles more accessible. He's been mentioning this stuff since late '03, when the blog was started. If it's a front, it's a remarkably consistent one.



  • It's the funniest thing because I just got this email from my uncle who owns some fruit stands near Paris:

    How's it going? I wanted to tell you this funny story because I know you like to complain about how bad computer interfaces are.

    I got up early the other morning because one of my employees who works the fruit stand that's by the Metro stop was sick and I needed to go fill in for him. So I got dressed and trudged down there. It turned out to be an amusing morning.

    When I opened, there were only about 3 people in line. The last guy in line looked like an American, and sure enough, I soon found out he was. He confidently strode up to the machine and didn't bother to see whether it would take bills or not. He just started jabbing impatiently at the buttons, and not until he was ready to pay did he realize that he had to use coins. (Or his credit card, but apparently that was beyond him.) He stood there for a good thirty seconds trying to figure out what to do while the line queueing up behind him started to get impatient. I tried not to make eye contact, but it was too late. He had already spotted the fruit stand. I figured I'd at least make a Euro or two in the process, so how bad could it be?

    So he comes over and starts talking in Pigeon French. For some reason he keeps asking me for a pineapple. I try to explain that we don't normally sell them and that even if we did, they aren't in season. He gets more and more exasperated when he suddenly realizes that what he was trying to say was "banana." As he's babbling at me, the queue at the ticket machine is growing. I decide to be a prick and am slow at giving him his change while more people get in line. When he turns around and sees the line, I can tell he's furious, though he's trying not to let it show.

    Now the reason I'm writing to you about this is because, as you probably guessed, the interface for the ticket machines is terrible. The first guy in line fumbles through the arcane interface and is about to press the "buy" button when he realizes he's forgotten something. I don't know what - maybe he only got a one-way ticket or needs a second ticket for a friend. But as you may have noticed the last time you visited, there's no way to go back and correct a mistake. Only a green and a red button for "buy" or "cancel." Eventually, he does what everyone does, and just buys his ticket and leaves because he's already had 6 minutes of his life wasted by the insufferable user interface of the machine.

    At this point the American in line is obnoxiously checking his watch, rolling his eyes, and sighing heavily at everything that happens at the machine. He can't believe that there's anyone else on the planet who has needs that are as important (read mundane) as his. Next up is a couple who look to me like they probably live in the French countryside and came to Paris for a romantic weekend.

    As I'm sure you know, the Metro has a very odd naming scheme. Where other cities the world over use colors or numbers to name their different lines, here in Paris, they name each train line after the cities at the two ends. So if you're going in the direction of Notre Dame, you might want to take the La Chapelle line, as that's the last stop before you get to the Cathedral. And if you're only going 2 or 3 stops and have never been to either end of the line, you'd have no idea which line to take without searching the entire map!

    So the nice couple take a few minutes longer than usual to figure out where they're going and what the name of the line they need is. The American at this point is fuming and starts yelling at them and pointing at me! Scared that he's going to start hitting them, they come over to the fruit stand to see if I know what his problem is. They were actually a very nice couple who were having a horrible time in the city. But that's another story for another day. As you probably know, many Europeans think that all Americans are ultra violent, war-mongering jerks. I know that most Americans are actually pretty nice, but others are not so enlightened. Needless to say the wife was practically in tears from the tongue lashing and the rest of the bad day they'd had. I gave her the weekly pass I had purchased, told them which line they needed to be on and they were off to the train in no time, hopefully to someplace happier.

    By this point, there was just a single person in front of the American. Like the couple in front of him, he couldn't figure out which line to get on. (Again, mostly a user interface problem!) He turns to ask the American if he happens to know which line, but the American barely speaks French and sounds retarded when he tries. When he realizes that the Frenchman can't understand him, for some reason he starts speaking in Italian! I'm not sure what the logic of that was, but it did not help. Realizing the American was too stupid to understand, he turns back to the machine and selects a fare. At this point, the machine hangs, as it's sure to do about 5 times a day. The American's face starts turning red, and the crowd behind him starts whispering about what the violent American might do. (I know, I know! Stereotypes!)

    At this point the American shoves his way past the Frenchman, bangs on the machine, violently hitting the button to purchase, which has suddenly started responding again and out pops a ticket. Concerned at this point that the American is going to knife him for having the audacity to be in front of the machine when it hung, he grabs his ticket and runs off to the platform.

    Luckily, that was the last person in front of him. He put his money into the slot, wincing at having been so stupid himself and not carefully looking to see if the machine took bills in the first place, swore, and took his ticket before huffing off to the platform. Oh well, he's probably some Christian cultist who beats his wife and thinks doctors shouldn't be licensed. What a sad life he must lead.

    Anyway, you really should see how bad the interface on those machines is. I'm sure you know what I mean! Take Care.



  • @ComputerForumUser said:

    I was going to suggest that the ticket machine could be a bad design but I found a picture:

    http://www.core77.com/blog/images/krantzticket.jpg

    Unfortunately, that's not a Paris metro ticket machine.  There's no french on it; as far as I can tell, there's only english and (I think) swedish.

    Apparently in recent years, many manned booths in metro entrances have been replaced by the machines... I'll be in Paris in a few weeks, I'll be curious to see these things in person!  I'm assuming there's some sort of WTFs built into them, simply by corollary of the ticket machines in the Charles de Gaulle airport which don't[1] seem to take non-European (or at least Canadian) credit cards... in an international airport?!?!?!

    [1] Well they didn't 3.5 years ago when I was last there. Things may have changed.  Actually I expect them to have changed for the worse (from my perspective) with the popularization of cards with microchips, and me with my non-microchip card....



  • @operagost said:

    I'm not exactly sure why, but people occasionally take exception to my
    observation of the fact that we are all occasionally irrational and
    that the overwhelming majority of people are irrational idiots most of
    the time.
     

    I'd make reference to other instances where he speaks with a smug sense of superiority, but then I'd have to quote nearly the entire OP. 


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