Monday, January 18, 2010
When We Champion Mediocrity and Ineptitude, the Terrorists Win
If you have seen the 1980s movie Amadeus, and you also understood it, you know what I am talking about.
Antonio Salieri, the untalented but politically astute Court Composer and Austrian contemporary of the genius Mozart, is perhaps the epitome of mediocrity. In the movie, he uses that word to describe himself. And mediocrity often gets championed because, really, most people cannot distinguish mediocre from great in every area. For me, it's wine.
I like good wine. But if you put a great wine in front of me next to a good wine, I probably could not tell you which one is better. I can only tell you which one I like better. But there are objective measures of greatness, in wine, in music, in art, in leadership, etc.
Mediocre is still better than awful or inept. As time passes, we can look back and distinguish: Abe Lincoln = great; George H.W. Bush = mediocre; George W. Bush = inept.
Likewise Mozart = great; Salieri = mediocre; General Larry Platt's "Pants On The Ground" = awful. (Yes, it's catchy. So is "The Song That Never Ends" and swine flu. Doesn't make it good. BTW, Salieri's music was called catchy too. Do you ever hear his music now? But you still hear Mozart ALL THE TIME!)
Every once in a while, "great" catches our imagination and gets the attention it deserves. But what we really champion is the "regular guy" doing something we all think we can do. "I voted for that guy cuz he's like me." You know what douchebag, you are not qualified to be President of the United States, so if he's like you, he's not qualified either!
I don't want someone like me running my country, cooking my food, making music, or solving energy problems. I want the smartest and most talented fuckers on the planet working on these things. I want them to be so smart and so talented that they just seem weird to the normal people like you and me.
If we want our civilization to thrive, we have to stop championing mediocrity (and ineptitude) and start recognizing greatness. If we can't do that, maybe we will accidentally trip over greatness once in a while and stay afloat.