Certifications: A Signal of Knowledge Or A Paper Tiger

During WWII the Melanesian islands in the South Pacific became an important and strategic piece of real estate. What was observed from the front porch of the indigenous people of the island was not only one of the largest wars ever fought, but an introduction to a new technological world that would influence their actions for years to come.

What the local Melanesian’s witnessed first by the Japanese and then by the Allied forces was the flow and life blood of any war, supplies.

Manufactured goods, clothes, candy bars, weapons, and medicine were introduced to the local people and not in small incremental doses, but in large swaths that were airdropped or landed on the makeshift airstrips. Although these goods were for use by the fighting soldiers, some of these goods naturally made it into the hands of the locals by the good natured men and woman of the Allied forces.

When the war eventually ended, the military left their strategic positions in the Pacific along with an indelible mark on the people of Melanesia. In fact, the mark it left was so great that in an attempt to recreate the air drops and air landings the locals began to imitate what they had seen happen before when cargo was coming into the islands.

blindedwithscienceCertain island populations started to mimic the practices that they witnessed from the allied forces. Headphones, goggles, and antenna’s were hand crafted out of local materials and the island inhabitants sat in fabricated flight towers on makeshift flight lines.

Life size replicas of airplanes built and newly cut runways could not bring the goods back that they had once known. As physicist Richard Feynman said of these individuals, “they were doing all the right thing”, but they were not getting the results.

cargocult1They had planes, equipment, runways, uniforms, but what they were missing was the experience and knowledge it took to understand the complexities of the equipment they mimicked. What the Melanesian islanders were learning is that looking the part and knowing the part are two distinct things.

Now dressing up in technical certifications or any other certifications may, or may not, be an external manifestation of a much deeper knowledge. But let us be clear, the appearance of knowledge is not in itself, knowledge.

Are we learning to gain insight and knowledge and add a layer of depth and increase to ourselves, or do we seek after the appearance of things?

Let us remember that after we build our planes and cut our runway in a hopes of new cargo, one might just come in for a closer look.

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