In Search of Truth II: The Dance of Collusion
William Bergquist, Ph.D. and Kevin Weitz, Psy.D.
In our first essay in this series, we noted that experts are not always right in our 21st Century society. This is quite understandable given the abundant complexity, unpredictability, turbulence and even contradiction to be found in our contemporary world (Bergquist, 2019). It is unrealistic to expect that mistakes won’t be made in the prescription of cures and prediction of outcomes when it comes to addressing a societal crisis—such as we are now seeing with COVID-19. The big problem we identified in the first essay is that there doesn’t seem to be any correctives on the bad expert advice we are receiving. We find that many experts are inflicted with considerable hubris and that the rest of us are enamored with or threatened by the hubris of expertise.
We turned to two narratives when examining this matter of hubris. The first narrative is Don Quixote and his creation of a world that doesn’t really exist. We wrote about the mirrors in which Don Quixote saw for the first time his own true nature as an old, dying man. It is in the narcissistic perspectives held by Don Quixote that we find a parallel to the hubris of expertise in our society. Tragedy is inherent in this facing of the truth and we—as Quixotian experts or those who want to embrace the Quixotian world—are shown the mirror of reality.
A second narrative enables us to even more deeply explore the dynamics of narcissism. Specially, we turn to the myth of Narcissus itself. At one level, we can understand something about the way in which Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in the pond. This is what happens when an expert “falls in love” with his or her own knowledge and experience. What is often forgotten is that there is a second character in the myth of Narcissus. This is Echo, who sees Narcissus and is immediately enthralled. It is at this point that Echo loses his/her own voice and never speaks again in his/her life. The important lesson to be gained from this myth is not only that we can easily be enthralled with our own expertise, but that as witnesses to someone else’s expertise, we can become mute. The expertise is accepted without reservation or critique. The reflection in the pool is never disturbed and truth becomes immune to any challenge or compromise. It is at this point that we move to the topic of this second essay: the dance of collusion.