Mark has been quietly amused today as we visited his parents in Wiltshire. Yesterday he won a battle of scientific rivalries, and the way he won it leaves him feeling the irony of it all. He was not selected because of his skill and abilities. They selected him because he knew a guy who knows a guy who put in a good word.
We found out yesterday after having agreed to go over to Wiltshire to help his parents empty a big garage full of stuff. Now that my father has agreed to buy our house, his parents have agreed with their landlord to buy theirs. And that means that the first order of business is to empty out the old storage spaces of junk.
Instead of waiting for the owners to come around to do it, Mark’s parents offered to empty it out for a consideration on the price of the house. It knocks a thousand pounds or so off the price if they do it. And since they have children and son-in-law, they drafted us. So, by eight Mark and I stood outside the house dressed in gloves and work-clothes, ready to do battle with old sofas and tables and lamps.
During this, I caught my dear husband smirking to himself over the offer to become secretary of a science association of students and faculty at his end of the university. There were two candidates, Mark and another guy. The other guy is brilliant and dedicated, but his reputation is somewhat negative. He is shouty and arrogant and think lesser people are beneath him. In other words he is demanding, thorny and aloof. He never participates in social things.
Mark who has never been comfortable with big groups of people have gritted his teeth, and have participated in such things as the formal last week, and in meetings and other social functions. And while the other fellow is, according to all, brilliant and intelligent, it was Mark who they asked to stand for the post. Simply because he showed up to listen to their stupid jokes and anecdotes at the formals and the functions.
I think there is a lesson in that, somewhere. One can be as brilliant and able as possible, but if one lacks the capacity for small talk with the mobs of mediocrity that keep things running, one does not get anywhere. Like, one does not get to be the general if the lazy corporals and sergeants does not like you. In a class based society such as ours, it is often assumed that one is born to greatness, and that those on high determine who wins. I think our class based society is much more like Sir Humphrey Appleby and the Minister in that those on high do what they are allowed to do.