I have been reading a book on style recently. I enjoyed it immensely. If Gustav Flaubert said, 'Style is a man,' the author of this book Mr. JM Williams has all the right to say, 'Style is a necessity.' Here's a perfectly correct but unreadable statement as example from that book:
- Once upon a time as a walk through the woods was taking place on the part of Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf's jump out from behind a tree occurred causing her fright.
Loved every moment of reading that. It reminds me of the numerous speeches by our stylish GOP warriors. If the absence of style can be considered a style in itself GOP and Tea-Party, Rush, Glenn, Sarah and Calamity Michelle- they all seemed to have mastered that one with impunity. I suspect the reason is simple: books on style are not that popular nowadays; style does not seem to pay dividends.
We do not belong to them, though. In our world of reasonable people (the shrinking one) we still value clarity and honesty. That is if you have chosen the road less taken and associate your destiny with the progressive cause, for instance, a clear explanation of the reasons to do so as well as of the expectations is paramount; we prefer the people who know what and why they are doing. And, of course, it should be done in style.
A friend of mine, also an engineer is much more social than me. He has a lot of people around him and frequents parties. He comes from those parties with our fellow- immigrants totally exhausted.
- They are all vehement Republicans, - he laments, "They hate Obama.'
There is quite an interesting psychological twist here. And historical too. I am an engineer and through the years in the US I got used to the fact that engineers are quite conservative here. They usually vote Republican. I think it comes from the times of Reagan when voting for GOP meant two crucial things: high- tech jobs and steady rise of the prices of the houses. Both were built on the sand as we now know but a lot of professionals did very well at that time and, let's face it- Democrats never offered technical people steady income and perspectives. Engineering is a tough profession to master; those who made it would politically support the politicians who promised them a good life and could deliver on the promise.
All of that ended somewhere in 1990s and that end culminated now. Engineering profession had become a nuisance. When Cold War ended so did the effort to solve tough problems. The problems remained and even multiplied but they were of a different kind. It was not enough to make a weapon bigger and more powerful. In fact, weapons stopped being a good investment ( as if they were before). New problems were in fact the old ones: the problems of cheap and abundant energy, the problems of water supply, of environmental design, etc. All of them could be united under the specification of the problems of responsible citizenship. Turned out many of us were not prepared for such an undertaking. Turned out our good technology companies were the same as all others- they started to cut costs, lay off employees and turn to all those new financial tools. There became more and more managers, less and less technical people in charge. MBA had become a mantra. Business administration schools mushroomed everywhere. Bonuses overcame the salaries. An average college graduate from the engineering school could choose between the stagnant salary in some cubicle among other similar miserable souls and a visibly glamorous employment with a financial institution, 6- figure salary+ bonuses and excellent medical while being called a financial analyst. Our world crumbled and even the sacred code of white men in suites and ties was no more. Many in my profession felt then and still feel nostalgic for the old times. For a while GW seemed a savior of theirs; he waged as many wars as he could handle. Turned out though that he was a darling of the oil companies; they grabbed a buck. He did not change supply and demand. On the contrary, under GW another dangerous tendency developed and spread- the outsourcing. The transfer of the formerly high-paid jobs to the cheap suppliers overseas inevitably eroded the whole concept of high qualification. I have been watching the process of job advertisement, interviewing and hiring since 1991. Gradually but surely it became more and more abstract, less and less a personal search. It became especially clear when the Internet took over. "Don't call us, we will call you,' had become a rule. A person applies anonymously and gets a rejection the same way. Usually the job ad is not about a problem to solve or a technical discipline to excel. It is about handling the tool. You can recall John Henry from the song by Johnny Cash- a man who was hired by aa railroad because he was very good with the hammer. Now instead of a hammer it can be ANSYS or FlLUENT or RASCAL or something else. Skills are hired, not brains. That was originally the concept of the outsourcing- to dump out all the routine work and leave the real challenges here. Turned out that unless formulated real challenges do not exist. And who will formulate them? Nobody. As a result we have more and more small jobs, we dissect the big projects into an infinite number of the small ones and ship them overseas piece-by --piece. Nobody there asks any questions and the profit comes not from the product but from the cheapness of labor. Sort of like English plantations in the West Indies in the 18th Century.