Some Assembly Required

Sears Home Kit Ad

Once upon a time you could buy a home and have it shipped to you.

Some assembly required.

Sears Roebuck and Company, the Amazon of it’s time, sold everything. At first they sold everything via their catalog, everything shipped via the US Mail and the Wells Fargo Wagon. Later they opened those stores so many of us will forever associate with the smell of fresh popcorn, an aroma artfully aimed to draw in passersby who might otherwise wander into the Montgomery Wards.

They didn’t call Richard Sears a marketing genius for nothing.

After years of selling all the stuff to stuff into a house, Sears decided well why not just sell them the house as well? At the height of their popularity, Sears offered almost 400 different styles of homes all ready to assemble. All you had to do was select the model, send in the money, then wait for the railcar to appear down by the train depot and start hauling out the precut, fully numbered, ready to assemble components along with the building instructions. With no skills at all you could have your new home ready to occupy in as little as 90 days.

And you complain about putting a bookcase from Ikea together. Wimp.

In one of the first of the 75 pages or so of the instruction manual was a warning to follow the directions given to the letter. Don’t succumb to the professional carpenter who happens to wander past your home site and sniff “That ain’t the way I’d do it”. No, why should you listen to a professional who has spent his entire life building homes when you have an instruction manual that details how to build THIS house.

And you were wondering where all of this was headed.

This notion that anyone can do anything a professional can do and obtain the same, if not better, results has been around since the dawn of time. But the internet has made it even more pervasive. It’s moved beyond putting your own house together to being your own information gatherer, transportation specialist, accommodations guru, and even research scientist and/or medical professional. I mean why should you employ a travel agent who spends her day researching all options for your only two weeks of vacation in the year when you can spend all day trying to navigate Kayak just to find the worst hotel in all of Hilo (“but it’s such a bargain!”). And by the way, you don’t pay the travel agent, the best hotel at the best price in Hilo would pay her.

Travel is the least of the problem.

The worst of the problem isn’t even the yahoos who spend a couple of hours reading online forum posts about how “COVID isn’t real” or “Trump won the 2020 election” or “Biden was secretly replaced with a lizard alien shape shifter” and then yell and scream about it so much that you, me, all of us have to spend time shouting him down. I got news for you, COVID is real, Trump lost, and Biden was replaced with Jim Carrey not a lizard alien. OK, that last one isn’t true. Maybe.

The worst of the problem is how the internet has degraded the idea of professionalism. It has negated the importance of perseverance and dedication to one’s craft, regardless of what that craft might be. So many now believe there is no job so important or so much in need of certified expertise that it can’t be replaced by a few hours spent online at the University of Google “researching” the specific topic of interest.

I suppose that is true, if you want to get it wrong and end up worse off than you started.

If you want to get it right, employ professionals. And by employ, I don’t necessarily mean hand someone money to do a job. I mean use the expertise someone who has spent a great deal of time learning in order to make informed, well thought out decisions. Yes sometimes you pay for that expertise, like when you go to an appliance store and get a new dishwasher from someone who sells more dishwashers in a day than you will buy in a lifetime instead of just clicking a button on a website. And sometimes you don’t have to pay for it, like when Anthony Fauci gets on television and tells you to mask up or social distance or get the fucking vaccine because he’s spent his life studying infectious diseases. Those who buy the dishwasher online are just riding a wave of hope they made the right decision and won’t regret having not paid the extra couple of bucks. Those who don’t listen to the infectious disease expert about a deadly infectious disease when he’s giving you the answer for free deserve all the pain and suffering they can get.

Sometimes you think you’re getting a deal by bypassing expertise in favor of what you read on the internet, but it turns out all you end up with is a house in severe need of repair or a society so ripped apart by political discord brought on by your vote for Donald Trump.

And now you need a real expert in politics to fix it. So when Joe Biden says we need to rebuild our economy post pandemic and says let us all make an investment in our future by spending money today, LISTEN TO HIM. Not because he’s the president, but because he’s an expert.

Laugh, and you will, at Buster Keaton putting a kit home together. But realize this could be a documentary on the subject.

Shapiro Out


2 thoughts on “Some Assembly Required

  1. Actually my reading of history puts the american distrust of “professionals” etc goes back to Andrew Jackson’s populist appeal.
    Most disturbingly this infected the medical profession where the idea of professional and educational standard for Doctors was a relatively late arrival among the “civilized” nations.

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