Home' Ausmarine : October 2009 Contents As most of you who read my comments will be aware, I am a
trifle short on academic accreditation.
I have noticed, among those similarly deprived, a certain wariness,
even the occasional silent awe, when faced with the need to argue a
point with those in possession of a few letters after their name. It
comes, therefore, as a disappointing awakening when the assumption
of a degree conferring ability and professional objectivity is given a
shake. I once sat next to a suit-and-tie graduate on a committee
discussing a budget. It became clear, after a while, that he couldn't
read a balance sheet. Either that or his ideas regarding our income
and expenditure were subject to some other agenda.
What has got my knickers in a knot is the beaming media
appearance of the same personalities, called upon time and again
to deliver expert short media-length opinions on an amazing
diversity of subjects. The black art of economics seems to harbour
more of these opinionatively endowed, media-available experts,
than other disciplines.
Being academically qualified to comment, (with 20/20
hindsight) on the global financial crisis, apparently equips some
economists to render opinion and analysis on demographics,
climate change, marketing, media, defence, agriculture, forestry,
mining, and of course, fishing. Personally, when I am being talked
at about fish, I want it to come from someone who has seen one
before it was dished up to them on a dinner plate -- let's say a
marine biologist, ichthyologist, or (Heavens to Betsy!) a fisherman.
It never happens though, does it? Not unless it's a shark attack.
Even then, there is likely to be a follow-up comment from an
economist on the demographic of beach attendance and the
statistical likelihood of further attacks.
I suspect the reason these same people keep popping up on our
TV screens, radios and in newspapers, is because media producers,
journalists and seminar organisers, have them on speed dial and
know their hourly (or word) rate for a media grab. What is a bit
suspect about these all-talking, all-knowing gurus of economics, is
that none of them warned my family (and probably yours as well)
about the big hit the family superannuation was about to cop.
Perilous economic times had not shown up on their radars, they
were all too busy talking at seminars about subjects they probably
knew even less about.
Recently I was privy to a talk where it was suggested the world
oceans were no longer able to recover from our gross
exploitation. And, with the looming nine billion plus population
bomb, the only salvation for my grand children was for the
family to stock up on sardines and canned tomatoes and to start
building a bunker.
Not long afterwards, a demographer (who I think is a type of
economics chap), alluded to the falling population of wealthy,
fully-developed nations and their reliance on immigrant
labour. He went on to tell us of the depletion of rural
populations from the wealth "trickle down effect" in the rapidly
developing economies of China and India. It was drawing
the rural young to cities and apartment living, resulting in
smaller families and a stabilising world population, he said. I
presume this means instead of investing in sardines, etcetera, I
should put our dwindling superannuation into property in New
Delhi or Shanghai.
Of course, the popular, politically correct view will favour the
disaster scenario. It always does. The media-friendly gurus are
simply the latest manifestation of the old pulpit doomsayers and
blokes with sandwich boards saying "the end is nigh". It is more
about being noticed than being right.
"It ain't the things you don't know that get you into
trouble; it's the things you know for sure which ain't so."
-- Josh Billings
Asking questions is a dead certainty to make you disliked by
people who quote and rely on popular facts. The latest "fact"
doing the rounds is that only ten percent of the oceans' large
species of fish remain. It seemed like a pretty big claim to me.
Especially since our long liners and game fishermen were having a
bumper season on the New South Wales coast. I was unable to
find out just when there was 100 percent population or who did
It is, I am informed, a generally accepted "fact", arrived at
collaboratively, derived and confirmed by extensive computer
modelling. I hope it's not the computer modeller who mixed up
the economic consequences of World War II with war in
the year eleven and got some very strange projections. But,
maybe it's decimalisation that's responsible for the claimed 90
percent loss of big fish. When I first got into this game, and
asked our skipper what he had on board; "seven-eighths
of bugger-all" was often the reply. It was never as much as
"nine-tenths of bugger-all".
The "custom" curtain
It is the final fallback position for perpetrators of oppression,
theft and cruelty. When no justification can be offered by a group,
sect or community for an abhorrent practice or act, the morally
bankrupt claim of "custom" or "culture" gets trotted out. Paying
homage to custom is again often the cop-out of the politically
correct activist prepared to put their high profile morality behind
the "culture" curtain when faced with indigenous issues -- all the
time waving the flag of a feel-good green organisation.
Greenpeace recently had a vessel in Cairns. While there, they
were made aware of worrying claims from industry. Those claims
alleged that dugongs and turtles were being wantonly butchered
by some local indigenous groups. Now, there is no argument about
the rights of the local communities to celebrate their culture in the
traditional way. But the allegation was that there was a commercial
imperative, and that carcasses were left on beaches to rot. Perhaps
the allegations are wrong. If not, it could be that the local
indigenous community leaders were not aware. Whatever the truth
or otherwise of the allegation, nobody, including the
oh-so-vociferous Greenpeace, was prepared to take a look.
Every dodgy group from the thuggees to the Taliban has used
custom/culture/tradition to mitigate shameful behaviour. And
every politically weak administration down the ages has hidden
behind the culture curtain when it was frightened to speak out
against anything with even a sniff of customary practice about it.
The all-seeing, all-knowing
media friendly academic
A personal comment from Ulladulla's very own
Barry McRoberts on Management Matters.
October 2009 AUSMARINE
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