Image: © Miljan Mickakovic
Author: Miljan Micakovic
The other day, I went to a job interview. The lady greeted me kindly, and the usual tell-me-what-you-can-do/why-do-want-to-work-with-us dancing happened, and I was glad to be on the dance floor. My answers were more than satisfying. I thought I would leave the place light-hearted and confident. And then she remarked that I haven’t worked for a long time (which means I have no work experience). And the judgement fell: Thou shall not work, for thou art unqualified. I smiled and left.
What is all of this? What is it about? The word I am looking for is competence: and not only competence, but also the verb to compete. What the fine lady suggested is that I am not able to compete with the other candidates. This is where we’re going now.
I was schooled at a simple school, nothing fancy. I had more than average grades. At high school everything went more than fine. University was a joke too. Yet, I realize now that competence never was the purpose of my journey at all. (The lady was right), but who is, then, competent?
Each step in education proves that no one is master of a single subject. You want to study arts? Fine, don’t forget your Latin and Greek grammar. You want to study Latin or Greek? Fine, don’t forget to bring your History books, and so forth. As long as one wants to master a subject, a job, a particular skill, he has to exploit other capacities that build his ideal mastery. The path to competence is nothing but a path of revealing one’s incompetence. As much as you want to master art, science, etc., you see that you no longer can master one, and only one, subject.
Brace yourselves, the race of knowledge begins. The kid’s vanity of I-know-more-than-you never vanishes. But, what it builds is only the image of oneself as incompetent, as never achieving one’s desire of mastery. As much as you fragment your ideal mastery, you create an infinite horde of fields of incompetence. How is one to compete with others, where none share a common package of subjects? Or, how can I prove that I am less incompetent in what I do than what the other does within what he does? Let me rephrase it: brace yourselves, incompetence is coming.
You can only know how incompetent you are; always calculating, conceiving what your knowledge lacks, without really knowing what it is, this knowledge you think you possess. However, the dance continues and grades are playing the music while you try to move your feet on the dance floor. I left the interview still dancing! Discovering (and thus knowing at least) that I did not have a passing grade – fine.
Incompetence is not the inability to compete but the opposite: it is the source of competition; ever-lasting competition between incompetences, etc., etc.
That day, I went back home with the pleasure of feeling my incompetence. I sat at the table, opened a book by Readrid Quajes, and closed it right after, knowing I wouldn’t find any answers.