Authority

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Tillerman
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Sat Nov 30, 2019 5:34 pm

This month the Ultracrepidarian authoritatively questions authority. https://tillermantea.net/2019/12/authority/
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Bok
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Sat Nov 30, 2019 8:35 pm

Nice one! Just happened to me over the last year that I put into serious question certain tea authorities, based on disparities of my own experience and then backed up by information I gathered from other sources.

Always keep an open mind and never trust the authority blindly. In tea and life. Now more acute than ever...
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Bok
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Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:11 am

Also respect @Tillerman for always thinking of new, interesting and so far mostly uncovered topics in relation to tea. So much more refreshing and informative than virtually any other still active tea blog. Thanks!
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Tillerman
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Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:35 am

Thank you for the kind words @Bok
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Baisao
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Mon Dec 02, 2019 9:54 pm

The example given is all too common.

I watched a video last year of a young woman teaching “Lu Yu’s 21 Steps for Gongfu Cha”. She prepared the tea earnestly according to these steps that had been passed on to her. Something in the way she prepared tea and spoke about it, perhaps a lack of confidence in voice and movements, suggested to me that she had not been making tea for very long.

I was filled with mixed feelings!

I remember thinking how hard it would be to advance at making tea while constrained to these steps. The steps were treated as rules and these rules did not work to her advantage such as using iambic pentameter in making a poem. These steps were fixed and allowed not even a mote of spontaneity.

Of course there’s the absurdity of these steps coming from Lu Yu but I was a little sympathetic to the young woman for being trapped by these steps at the time she produced this video to teach others.

And yet I was also a little annoyed at the hubris of the person, that someone with so little experience would teach others how to make tea as though she was an authority.

The irony of Timothy Leary’s quote was never lost on me. It’s a great quote you selected to begin the essay.
Slurp
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Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:54 am

The question that comes to my mind is "What is an authority"? We have access to far more information these days, but as Baisao relates, not all of those purporting to be experts actually are. Even more pernicious, so may "experts" are nothing more than paid shills. My background is music, and as a musician, you can't just read, you need to hear, and youtube has become a go-to place for this. But what people often don't realize that that many, possibly even most, of the well known streamers are getting paid, or at least getting free stuff from the manufacturers/dealers, amounting to payment. In such a climate, how can one expect honesty or fairness? The ethical ones disclose this conflict of interest, but even among those, how much are they influenced, even subconsciously by such payment? I'm not sure how prevalent this behavior is in the tea world, but I have heard that some of the more popular tea bloggers/streamers do get free teas to review, often high end ones that us peons will never see, or seeing, could never afford.

So, for better or worse, we seem to have managed to replace a select few trusted (whether rightly or wrongly) authorities with a cacophony of untrustworthy voices. Perhaps an updated-for-today quote would be "Think for yourself, the authorities are getting paid to mislead you".
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Bok
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Fri Dec 06, 2019 10:02 am

@Slurp at least on IG I have found a few that do indeed get teas for free, it even seems to be a strategy of some to attract businesses in order to get their teas for free.

All comes falling down when I actually met a few in real life and reality did not match the online persona... some with a lot of “authority”

So yes, definitely think for yourself and don’t trust the hype masters.

On the other hand don’t worry about the premium teas, those aren’t given away to them either :) real premium tea producers don’t need that kind of endorsements.
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Tillerman
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Fri Dec 06, 2019 12:04 pm

@Slurp, @Bok: With reference to reviewers receiving free tea samples from vendors, it is true, many do. Indeed, I offer free samples for review to a few select reviewers. A good reviewer, however, will ALWAYS reveal the source of the tea; whether it was a review sample that was received or a sample that they purchased themselves. This is really no different that a publisher offering a review copy of a book or a film critic having movie passes paid for by their publication. Are there bad apples? Certainly, but they are fairly easily spotted. For example, i will not send samples to someone whose work I do not know - especially if they ask for them.

But reviewers were not really what I had in mind when I spoke of authorities. Rather I refer to those who state "authoritatively" that things must be done in one precise way or another and to those who try to "shoehorn" their practice into given parameters so that the comply with the prescriptions of that authority, even if that may not yield the best results. Authoritatively, the third note in a bar in twelve bar blues is major - but Booker T ignored that "rule" and made his minor - with wonderful results.

I fairly clearly stated that we should question authority but just as clearly that authority is not always wrong. Now, what confers authority? That is a great sociological question.
Ethan Kurland
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Fri Dec 06, 2019 9:00 pm

Tillerman wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 12:04 pm
. Authoritatively, the third note in a bar in twelve bar blues is major - but Booker T ignored that "rule" and made his minor - with wonderful results.... Now, what confers authority? .
Decades ago I had a roommate who loved Booker T; so, I heard him very often for a year. I enjoyed the music but never noticed that a "rule" had been ignored. How old are you Tillerman? Is it the same Booker T that I heard a long time ago?

"authority" is an overused word or for me, wrongly used. An authority has power, not just influence. If a tea guru had followers that would only drink teas that he told them to drink & prepared them only as he instructed; then, he is their authority (who could banish them if he chose to do so).
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Tillerman
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Fri Dec 06, 2019 9:13 pm

Ethan Kurland wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 9:00 pm
Tillerman wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 12:04 pm
. Authoritatively, the third note in a bar in twelve bar blues is major - but Booker T ignored that "rule" and made his minor - with wonderful results.... Now, what confers authority? .
Decades ago I had a roommate who loved Booker T; so, I heard him very often for a year. I enjoyed the music but never noticed that a "rule" had been ignored. How old are you Tillerman? Is it the same Booker T that I heard a long time ago?
I fear I am on the advanced side of the age spectrum. After all, the Tillerman name comes from a Cat Stevens song from 1970. Booker T Jones (remember Booker T and the MGs) has been a favorite for many years.
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Baisao
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Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:29 pm

Slurp wrote:
Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:54 am
The question that comes to my mind is "What is an authority"? We have access to far more information these days, but as Baisao relates, not all of those purporting to be experts actually are. Even more pernicious, so may "experts" are nothing more than paid shills.
I saw a lot of this with camera and camera equipment reviewers. It’s shameless. However, I would pick up some cast away deals from them that I could never afford purchasing from a retailer, like a $1200 tripod for $500. (Another side gig of sorts for these reviewers) For music and photography, selling the dream is more profitable than selling the end products.

I am far from an expert but when I review teas, and I did it more often in the past than present, I was never given anything in return for a review. Also, if I was unimpressed with a tea or felt that a review could hurt a seller, I would not publicly post my results but share them with the seller.

In some cases a tea might otherwise be tasty but have an element that was not to my liking (such as low viscosity). I surmised that this truly was a matter of taste and kept it mostly between the seller and myself. I say “mostly” because there are some advanced tea tasters who know this isn’t necessarily a fault and can be adjusted with different waters.

My wife reviewed films for a local paper some years ago and recently mentioned how important trust is to the role of the reviewer. The public must trust that the reviewer is not a paid shill, that if the reviewer gives a glowing review of something, it is done with sincerity.

Trust has been abused in our post-truth social media world and it is right to be cynical of reviewers. I suspect there’s so little money to be made in the west with tea that we haven’t been too sullied by greed.

I think the biggest danger with tea reviews are reviewers who are overnight experts, enthusiastically propping up blogs, fooling themselves and their readers that they are experts when really they are just zealous neophytes. How many blogs/vlogs have we seen over they years started by someone with nary a year’s experience? We could do with less of those.
.m.
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Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:57 pm

I like that motto: Think for yourself. - Question authority. It is tempting to read the second part in a "post-truth" way as doubt or reject false experts, but i prefer better to read it as find somebody with a knowledge and ask them questions, because there is only so much that one can learn on their own.
faj
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Sat Dec 07, 2019 5:25 pm

.m. wrote:
Sat Dec 07, 2019 3:57 pm
I like that motto: Think for yourself. - Question authority. It is tempting to read the second part in a "post-truth" way as doubt or reject false experts, but i prefer better to read it as find somebody with a knowledge and ask them questions, because there is only so much that one can learn on their own.
There are two often repeated sayings in the context of science :
We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Science advances one funeral at a time.
Unless I am mistaken, the first one is paraphrasing a quote from Newton, the second one is attributed to Max Planck.

They convey the idea that some people know a lot or contribute a lot to the development of knowledge which benefits those who follow, but they also become obstacles to further developments because they (and their following) tend to become entrenched in a point of view that makes it hard to allow new knowledge to be discussed and accepted.

I think this applies very well here. There is much to be learned from others and you cannot expect to re-discover the whole knowledge humanity has acquired all by yourself, but you need to keep in mind that collective knowledge is always in flux, and both healthy skepticism and openness are required to usefully build your own knowledge.
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debunix
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Thu Dec 12, 2019 9:04 pm

Well said!

I needed a lot of handholding to get started with many teas, but now I'm comfortable with a lo more flexibility built on that transmitted-from-authority base.
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