Engineers Make Me Jealous

Disclaimer: I wrote this angry rant after the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris in early January 2015.

When I was in high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation. Most of my friends were preparing to be engineers of some sorts: Mechanical Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Software Engineer, etc. I said to myself, “Why not?” and jumped on the engineering bandwagon with my other South Asian peers.

I did absolutely no research about engineering before I made the decision to pursue it. All my friends told me was that I had to be good in science. And I was. I pictured my life: A beautiful wife, two kids and a 9am-5pm engineering job (whatever that was) - living like some suburban White man as if I were a character in Mad Men. I watched a lot of TV back then and almost became a doctor because of House and Grey’s Anatomy.

It was during tenth grade, when my parents told me we were moving back to the United States once I finished the GCSEs(11th grade). I assumed we were moving to California since that’s where we lived before and got extremely excited. We ended up moving to South Florida, and I’d rather not talk about that any further.

While in tenth grade, my older cohort of friends were beginning to graduate from high school. They started college while I was in my last year before moving away. It became a great opportunity to get a glimpse of what my studies in college were going to be like in the next few years. I scanned through their curriculum and glanced through their textbooks with the ugliest of expressions. “This is boring! Uninspiring, and no different from the mundane lectures in high school.”

My friends were confused. What was I expecting? For science to get magical after high school? I wasn’t expecting it to get easy. I’m not dumb. I realized that the boring science classes in high school weren’t the only prerequisites I had to go through in order to reach eternal happiness (read: some engineering job I knew nothing about). It was going to be another long experience of mundane classes except in college without puberty. “If it’s this depressing to get there, is it worth it?” I thought to myself. It seemed peculiar to expect as compared to the values taught to me by my South Asian dominated school.

In the middle of eleventh grade while preparing for my GCSEs (Just Google it!), I took some time off studying for a while and began randomly surfing the Internet. 2011 was ending soon, which meant presidential elections were next year in the United States. I was going to be in the United States next year, and would legally be allowed to vote. My view of politics was extremely negative coming from a Pakistani background, where engaging in politics was like shooting one’s foot. Like most people, I thought I knew everything there was to know about politics. The Arab Spring and later the Occupy movement had begun and the young people involved in these wide border-less movements inspired me as they would anyone my age. I’m aware they later failed and was even pessimistic about them back then being an “emo” teenager and all, but they were the first major political events of my life. I was too young to remember 9/11 or the invasion of Iraq.

After that event and then a series of major life experiences up until my graduation in Miami, which led to the formation of my inconsistent political views, I had made the decision to study political science and economics. I wanted to be a Political Risk Consultant. I enjoyed talking about politics and wanted to be paid for it — paid for something I enjoyed doing rather than be depressed for “eternal happiness.” I realized I didn’t know anything about politics, and wanted to become an expert. Going to college and studying wasn’t enough. I needed to read books and journals on my own about political topics and areas that interested me. I doubt I would I have ever read a book on engineering on my spare time.

However, I am jealous of engineers. It is because everyone doesn’t think they’re an engineer. Everyone, does however, think they’re a political scientist, an economist, a philosopher and a theologian. Who needs experts when everyone thinks they’re an expert? It becomes difficult and degrading working hard and studying all these theories and books when all you have to do is read a meme or some loudmouth’s Facebook status to become an expert. Or worse — have an opinion and expect some sort of prize or recognition for it.

I have friends who are engineers that think they “know economics” but haven’t ever read a book about it. Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, claims to be an expert on Islam but hasn’t even read the Quran. It’s funny because there have been a few times when scientists have complained about laymen thinking they’re experts: On evolution, climate change, nuclear energy, vaccinations and GMOs. When things get politicized, anyone can become an expert.

It’s insulting when there are people who haven’t even studied or read less than half of the things you did, but claim to be as knowledgeable about it as you. Right now my Facebook news feed and Twitter feed is filled with people giving their “insight” on the terrorist attacks in Paris. Believe it or not most of my friends are not experts on French politics or even French history. Some might be experts on French films though. However, they will get into political arguments with other people and be shocked when someone on the Internet doesn’t agree with their “expert” opinion.

Some activists both leftwing and rightwing take advantage of these events to promote their agenda. ISIS, the perpetrators of the attacks, are hoping this will cause a crackdown on French Muslims similar to the way the United States reacted to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump want less gun control because of these attacks, whereas Ted Cruz wants more military intervention in the Middle East.

People should be allowed to have an opinion but not expect to be taken seriously every time for it. It’s not like all experts are monolithic. They argue and they disagree using each of their selections of facts. Most people get their opinions from experts that follow the same ideology as them, but often use their views out of context approvingly. Experts often sound arrogant, and their followers often mimic them, but unlike them, experts have earned that right to sound arrogant. It’s similar to when a doctor starts to sound narcissistic when you tell him you diagnosed yourself. They are allowed to do that, and that’s why engineers make me jealous.