Voices of authority

There are many things for which we should have no patience. But we do. One of these is people who speak with great authority on subjects of which they have absolutely no knowledge.



They have this incredible capacity to intimidate the rest of us and we never call their bluff. For some reason that defies logic we listen to them even though we are aware they are talking nonsense.

Basing their data on half baked reports, rumours and blatant conjectures they form this profound fount of know how which they use to style themselves as experts.

On immigration laws. On the latest in the textile market. Visit visas. Medical rules. On visa cancellations. On fines. On traffic laws. On the deadline for ID cards. Property. Finance. Investments. You name it and they can tell you the latest on what happens if and when something happens.....especially when you cross those worrying milestones of expatriate lifestyle.

You’d think they would know better and shut up seeing how frequently their fount of knowledge is a little squirt but no way does that happen. Instead you get this concrete opinion as if it was gospel and it is said with so much conviction that you are carried away with it.

The crazy part is that many of us not only listen but actually follow this advice. Suddenly this is the person whose assessment is the only valid one. Why do we do this? Is it because he says his piece ringed with guarantee or do we seek refuge when we are upset and vulnerable in anyone who will provide us a sliver of comfort.

Don’t pretend you are different. You do much the same. Amateurs fling legal advice, medical advice, corporate advice, educational advice and so many of us suck it all in.

Perhaps it has something to do with ignorance on our part and the need to hear want we want to hear. Although we live many years in expat regions we are generally abysmally out of synch with rules and regulations. Few of us bone up on the laws as they apply to us and keep abreast of additional rules and conditions. We are therefore prone to take advice from amateurs and act on it and get into deeper messes.

What is even more perplexing is how such people not only cause so much damage they also earn the reputation of being experts. Over a period of time you discover their ‘fame’ has spread and they are now cheerfully and exuberantly leading everyone off the cliff and no one is saying, hello, there, one moment, this guy has no idea what he is talking about, don’t listen to him.

Not only do they style themselves so they are even invited to dinner and buttonholed for their knowledge.

We have no idea how the chemistry works but all of us have had the experience of meeting people like this and what beats us is that even after they have been proven completely wrong they still retain their credibility.

All too often we then become carriers of the misinformation and pass it on to others and before you know it there are a dozen versions of the ‘truth’ ricocheting around like billiard balls gone berserk.

The odd thing is that not everyone can play this role so well. Most others, we shut them up even before they open their mouths. But members of this tribe have a certain conviction in their body language, some sort of credibility factor that makes us submit.

If one of them said it, it must be true.

And even if we meet a person further down the line who is in the business we want to know about we hear ourselves saying, yes, but so and so said otherwise.

How much more foolish can one be?


More news from OPINION