Armchair Expertise

It’s the most widely available in the world. And completely useless, at least in solving the issues at hand. You see armchair experts everywhere. Lounging in street cafes holding animated conversations. Or consigned to a little square on your TV screen. Waiting patiently for nearly an hour to get two minutes and answer a question posed by a breathless anchor. Who is out to ‘break’ another story or tell you exactly what is going to happen to the country next.

Armchair experts are people with lots of time on their hands. And nothing much to do, really. They have an opinion on everything – whether you ask for it or not. Sample these pearls of wisdom. Sachin has overstayed his time at the crease and should retire. Manmohan Singh is an ineffective Prime Minister. Corruption is India’s biggest problem, Then the same experts proceed to pay a few lakhs in cash to obtain admission for their non-performing child to an engineering college without skipping a step. India is one of the dirtiest countries in the world – no civic sense, they will proclaim while tossing an empty mineral water bottle out of the car window.

Every one of us if guilty of armchair expertise at different points in our lives. We cannot be experts on everything, but we come up with solutions to various issues on the spot with no understanding of what the problems are. Let’s take a general one – unauthorised parking on the streets, that narrows the space available to drive. If you were to call a meeting of residents along the road and ask for solutions, one of the first suggestions that will come up is – the government should build more parking lots. When asked where space is, they shrug. That’s not for them to determine. They have already provided a ‘solution’ and it is up to the government to implement it.

However, armchair expertise does provide an escape valve for all the frustrations that we face. It allows us to ‘solve’ the problem in our heads and console ourselves that it is the perfect solution – even if we do not have the power to implement it. On another plane, It allows the conversation to flow. Otherwise, what would we talk about, anyway? If we could not gossip about stars, or get outraged over the stolen millions by politicians, or defend the past instead of the present, what conversations would be possible? According to everyone, the best times were when they were young – the schools, the people, the movies, everything was much better then.

People come closer because they hold shared views, even if the views have nothing to do with reality! And armchair expertise is a wonderful way to tackle the big problems of the world without moving a muscle – whether it is disease, war, education or corruption. We have all the solutions at our fingertips and we discuss them with anyone who will listen. There’s no investment required, no real work needs to be done and we can all go home and sleep it off and not worry about whether the problem actually got solved. And yes, this post is written by an armchair expert – but one who has no illusions that he is helping to ‘change the world’ – what does that inane phrase mean, anyway?