PROFESSIONALISM: a condition in which costume and status is often confused with occupational competence

Pared of its more pretentious aspirations, professionalism is the demonstrated ability to undertake... for financial reward... the preparation, coordination and planning of resources thru to the eventual satisfactory delivery of a complex outcome. It is the possession of a comprehensive knowledge base, the comfortable manifestation of training, and the skilful and competent utilization of equipment and resources that characterizes the behaviour of the individual providing the goods or services. When remuneration is commensurate with the professional abilities, it should not be necessary to begrudge the rewards.

For occupations such as arboriculture, fire-fighting and the military, the clothing and equipment are essential elements in the preparation and performance of an undertaking which is often life-threatening. Mistakes in planning, or even in how the clothing and equipment is worn, can be unambiguously fatal. Falling thirty meters from a tree that is being topped... because the climbing harness was incorrectly put on... is a rather unprofessional way to die.

Many costumes are signals for a subservience which the level of professional competence exhibited does not justify. The deference expected by individuals who are bedizened in legal wigs, caps and capes is an absurd exercise in self-aggrandizement. Esteem is conferred for acute and balanced legal behaviour, not because of the wearing of elements of a bizarre wardrobe. Religious priests decorate themselves with signs, symbols and vestments that are gilded attempts at demanding fawning obeisance to themselves as self-appointed representatives of a virtual chief executive. Their profession is founded on theatre, ritual and hypocrisy. As well as the special costumes like the ones just mentioned, uniforms in general possess an ambivalence of subservience and coercion. It is a very small step to shift from a uniformed police officer being a helpful servant of the community, to being the intimidating and lethal manipulator of social situations.

All activities undertaken by humans could be performed professionally if certain key pragmatic considerations are implemented. Firstly, the content of the training necessary must be relevant to the particular profession concerned and enable the adequate performance of the role. Secondly, continued competence and practical experience of the individual must be ensured by means of a program of retesting and up-grading and re-training. Thirdly, the acquisition of a fluency in the use of the extensive and arcane language specific to the profession must be encouraged, to ensure that those who are 'outside' never get to know what's really happening on the 'inside'.

Only current, practising, certified professionals can continue to claim their professionalism. This will be very inconvenient to many who have got used to bathing in the adulation that accompanies certain roles. An astronaut whose licences and endorsements have expired is not an astronaut. A de-registered lawyer is not a lawyer. A scientist no longer doing active research is not a scientist. A retired gardener is not a gardener. Far too much status and esteem is conferred upon former professionals, as if they were still current and active in their previous field of occupation.

Certain self-appointed professionals, amongst whom would be numbered a variety of generic managers, economists, financial consultants, board directors, and spiritual mediums, present themselves as expert on the basis of hypothetical experience and a track record of duping the gullible. Remuneration pathways and methods for such quasi-imposture could be much more pragmatic. For instance, rather than allow managerial professionals to attach themselves intravenously to an organization's cash-flow, it might be more appropriate for them to be on the same reward structure that prostitute professionals are subject to. They would be forced to take at least some interest in actual clients and indulge in some form of fucking on a regular basis like everyone else. Such a bringing down to earth of all costumed and pretentious occupations might have the more general benefit of deflating the fantasy that the attribute of being professional somehow also implies honour or prestige or superiority.