A tiny mistake, and its effect

I’ve kind of hinted at this anecdote before, but I figure it was time I elaborated on it in a little bit more detail, as it is starting to resonate with me increasingly. I wanna go into a little story about ‘Imposter Syndrome’, as it occurred to me a couple of times.

Back when I was in grad school, a friend and flatmate brought the character of Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide while doing a presentation on something or the other. Everyone in the fucking class nodded their head as if knowing who the fuck Pangloss was. I only sat there wondering what the fuck he was talking about. After the class, I went home and googled the name, and learned about Voltaire’s novel. That weekend I tracked down, purchased, and read a copy of Candide. After finishing it, I went to tell the flatmate who had given that presentation about my reading it.
“Oh, how is it?” he asked about the novella, “I’ve never read it.”
I promptly had a fucking Aneurysm. As the school year went by, I learned that not only had almost no one in that class, including the professor, not read Candide, but almost none of them got the point the presenter was trying to make.

Shame I was the only one who knew it, as I truly loved the book.

There is probably some kind of a lesson here. Something along the lines of ‘more people are faking it than you think’. And with that, another anecdote.

I once had a lot of respect for the journalist Chris Hedges. I read him pretty damn voraciously in the mid 00’s, and he likely informed a lot of my political sensibilities. What I admired most about him was how absolutely well read he appeared to be. So you can imagine my disappoint when, wanting to take a swipe at Steven Pinker for his optimism, Hedges referred to him as ‘Candide’. This was a weird mistake. If you want to call someone a blind optimist, you call them a ‘Pangloss’. Does this zero out Hedges credibility? No, not at all. But it does lend itself to a small amount of doubt. This individual too, whom I once prized for who well read they were, may be faking a little of it.

You never know.

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