ENGL 100: Intro to Espionage - THE CATASTROPHIZER
 
I have always found it incredibly easy to imagine failing at things. I imagine failing at small things, like managing section breaks in Word or developing an effective skin-care regimen, and large things, like various kinds of surgery.

For this reason (and probably also because of my lack of talent and inclination), I never became a lawyer or medical doctor. I could so vividly envision losing a vital case and ruining someone's life, or making a mistake during an operation and ending someone's life. Because it was easy to see myself being given responsibility and messing things up, it was easier simply not to accept many responsibilities. 

Then I read the following in a New York Times article about the CIA, Iraq, and Iran: 

"After the misjudgments on Iraq, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies imposed new checks and balances, including a requirement that analytical work be subjected to 'red teaming.' That means a group of analysts would challenge the conclusions of their colleagues, looking for weaknesses or errors. The intelligence community also now requires that analysts be told much more about the sources of the information they receive from the United States’ human and technological spies. Analysts were left in the dark on such basic issues in the past, which helps explain why bogus information from fabricators was included in some prewar intelligence reports on Iraq. And, when they write their reports, they must include better attribution and sourcing for each major assertion." (I include the bold type because you might be lazy and I am most definitely emphatic.)

Now I might not have become a medical doctor, but I did receive a Ph.D. in English (which is basically the same thing in terms of pay and prestige and the likelihood of being asked to attend to an in-flight emergency). I thought that was a good way of avoiding most real-world responsibilities (the fact that I did not view teaching undergraduates all about books as a serious and precious responsibility was one of the reasons I stopped teaching undergraduates all about books). Pretty much all I taught young people was that a) you shouldn't write an essay without first questioning your own conclusions, and b) you should always cite your sources. I thought these were basic, unglamorous, possibly redundant things to teach people. Now I realize that, while I was perhaps right not to trust myself to open up someone else's body with a scalpel, I did myself an injustice: I, and sessionals the world over, might turn out to be pretty good at running the CIA.


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4/4/2012 19:33:50

Let's just both send this post in to the CIA as our formal application for employment with them. I bet they'll make us kings of the CIA immediately!

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Great blog, enjoyed browsing through the site

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