This started out being a comment in a post on Facebook, but I decided it was both too long and it was taking a different direction than the original post, so here it is…
Background: A post in the Parks on the Air (POTA) Facebook group started out with the usual POTA is the greatest thing to come along since sliced bread theme.
But some comments turned to how it was good that POTA was training people for quick deployment of radios in case of an Emergency. This turned into a debate over whether Ham Radio was really still relevant as an EMCOMM service.
This was my response:

We are given use of a public resource, the airwaves, and the possibility of providing emergency communications was one of (but not the only) reasons for it’s justification. Using that resource as a hobby – recreation – is also a valid reason and we should not feel any shame in using it that way, or feel pressure to earn the right to use that resource by providing some nebulous outdated public service.

Other public resources are apportioned to our use in a similar way. Water: we can own a boat and use it recreationally without the need to justify it by providing some service. Land: Vast amounts of public land is available for our use, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, etc. without any quid pro quo. Airspace: You can fly a private plane, a kite, a model rocket or balloon, within the rules, without being told you have to provide some service.

So why do we let the ARRL pressure us into proving our relevance through playing cops and firemen with our fluorescent vests and handie-talkies at the ready? Providing token, irrelevant health and welfare communications that no one else can be bothered with? Do it if you want, when the situation warrants, but it’s over-emphasized.

The most useful, valuable, resource that a Ham Radio operator could provide in any sort of an emergency is their smarts. Having a go-kit, or a generator, or your quick-to-set-up compromised antenna, isn’t important. Those are things and things get destroyed in emergencies. What you can provide is knowledge of how to fix a communications gap using what is available at hand. Hams used to be good at that. They were like McGuyyver for radio. Today’s hams can’t function without the internet to ask someone else how to make their own radio work, much less an unfamiliar one in some shelter.

If they wanted to justify Ham Radio’s existence, technical experimentation would be a better place to put the emphasis, instead of dumbing-down things to the point where people with Extra class licenses can’t solder a dipole together without asking how to do it on the internet…

I read a number of technical groups on FB related to Ham Radio. One of them is about End-Fed Half-Wave Antennas. EFHWs. It seems like every day, someone ask a question like “How long should I make my antenna?” Uh, a half-wave. Get your calculator out and use that formula that you memorized so you could recognize it in the multiple-choice exam you took to get your license. Put in the frequency for the lowest band you want the antenna to work on. That’s your length. I like the ones that ask “What length should I make a random length end fed antenna. First of all, the name of the group is not Random-Wire Antennas, so you’re asking in the wrong place. Secondly, what about “random” don’t you understand? Yeah, some lengths work better than others, but it’s not exact. Go out there and try it.

And it’s the same in every other topic. Not just Ham Radio either, but you’d expect better there.

But if you say something to these geniuses, they get all offended and attack you. You’re supposed to drop everything and take time out of your schedule to educate them about something they should have learned already in order to get their license. If they even knew enough to form a properly phrased question, they could be helped, but usually, they don’t even know enough to be able to ask it. And I’m not even talking about grammar and spelling.

These are the people that want to be invited to show up at a disaster scene with their Baofengs and fluorescent vests and will get offended when they are sent packing when they are in the way. They will do more harm to the reputation of Ham Radio than any good they could provide.