On Mediocrity

by  Sam C. Chan

First Published:  December 28, 2005
Revised & Expanded:  July 5, 2007

Q: Why is it that America is mostly of mediocre minds?
And, why is it actually a good thing?
A: The exact same reasons why the UK (or China, or Mars and everywhere else for that matter) is mostly of mediocre minds.

By definition, with any given populace, you'll find that majority of them have neither brilliant nor particularly dull minds. The average person has neither the means, justifications nor slightest desire to pursue real enlightenment, as it doesn't immediately pertain to what they aspire to in life.

It'd be wrong to assume that mediocre minds are not competent in making money. Mediocrity is in no way detrimental to financial success. In fact, it's an essential facilitator. A great mind, on the other hand, is a hindrance: It creates concerns, reluctance, hesitation and distractions. After all, mediocrity is not-at-all mutually incompatible with shrewdness. In fact, they are in my judgmentsymbiotically complementary.

Mediocrity has no particular implications on morality either. They are just unwilling to go against the grain, and are known to be easily influenced and manipulated. Thus, they would inevitably end up being unwitting accomplices of those with malevolent intents.

As for why is it actually a good thing?  With mediocre minds come inertia and status quo. Such predictability leads to stability and momentum, as opposed to volatility and cyclic stagnation. And that is a good thing, especially for economic development and wealth re-distribution (shuffling as opposed to actual creation). There is a lot of truth in:

"The certainty of misery is better than the misery of uncertainty."

Ignorance and indifference breed content and harmony (hence bliss). Knowledge and intellect leads to frustrations, worries and stress (hence a curse). Optimal prosperity and advancement demands the productivity and efficiency afforded by an ample supply of rudimentary work force to form the prerequisite pyramid structure. The military is not the only establishment where unconditionally obedient soldiers are needed.

Too much of a good thing? As useful as mediocrity is, I would caution that too much shifting to the low end creates a complete vacuum in accountability from the grass root level. It tends to promote overly predatory (and unsustainable) maneuvers by ruthless opportunists, blind-sighted by short-term greed, driven to actions that are harmful even to their very own being. The result is a society with rampant fraud, violence and general lawlessness. This will eventually escalate to catastrophic collapses.

Too much of a shift to the high end, on the other hand, tends to create chaos and volatility. Society would be forced to deal with such undesirable annoyances as: uncertainty, competition, clashes, questioning of "faith," various investigations of motives and truth, determination of fairness. Consensus become increasingly unattainable. Resources are squandered on endless debates, and frequent impasse becomes the norm. With knowledge come desire, demands and dissatisfaction. Possibility of mass suicide looms, as miseries become commonplace.

So, what should we do?

Human behavior is for the most part, as predictable as days following nights, summer following spring. A crucial ingredient of optimal economic prosperity is relatively low intelligence for the bulk of the populace, and all governments of the world (in "partnership" with the wealthy) are actively ensuring that to some extend. It is imperative to maintain a healthy and sustainable equilibrium.

Utopia of pure benevolent rulers (in any form) is but an elusive dream. It would be more productive to assume a pragmatic posture. From my own Chankardian maxim #56:

Politicians and the populace are humans. One plagued by greed & corruptions, and the other by greed & ignorance. Thus politics and governance is forever reduced to:
At bestharnessing the evil in the former & tricking the latter toward goodness.
At worstreciprocal back rubbing, and perpetual grand deceptions.     -scc

Frequent incremental interventions are far less painful than occasional grand onespresumably in the form of revolution. Such bite-size corrections require ever vigilance, and a bare minimal level of education for the populace. Not surprisingly, the lack of an informed public leads to the crumbling of the foundation of democracy we're witnessing. The situation is dire and immediate drastic measures are in order.

As night-fall does not come at once, neither does oppression... It is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air―however slight―lest we become victims of the darkness.
William Orville Douglas, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice

The goals (and duties) of voices of dissent are not to exhaustively expose every nefarious act, or foolishly endeavor to eliminate them.* Rather, the primary objective is containmentto enact & enforce a tolerance threshold.  Ideally, merely the potent presence of dissent early on should accomplish such goals.

Scenario #1: An ambulance driver was negligent by taking a known congested street and the avoidable delay cost a patient his life. Refrain from sensational, knee-jerk reactions and make a federal case out of it. Just let the system take its course.

Scenario #2: In his rush to the hospital, he actually plowed thru a crowded marketplace and mowed down numerous people; then severe punishment is in order, as a deterrent. Let's expose his feeble "I was just trying to save a life..." as hollow "justification."

Scenario #3: When it's revealed that... despite the blaring siren & flashing lights, there's no patient inside! He's simply in a hurry to buy a beer! Oh, it's not even the first time. Once during a showoff joyride for a girlfriend while on duty. And, in sheer arrogance and impenitent, laughed about "dumb [donkeys] dropping like bowling pins" and boasted privately...

What shall we do to such a [waste-of-space] chronic offender?

The mediocre-minded would fault me for citing such "irrelevant" and ridiculously unrealistic scenarios. Ironically, reality is far stranger than fiction, at least for those in the know. As a response to those critics, I freshly prepared this food for thoughthenceforth known as my Chankardian quote #86, and I invite you to take a whiff (if you dare):

The balm of foul is smeared just above your upper lip, and you smell nothing? You must be either breathing through your mouth, or lying through your teeth.   In other words: willfully ignorant, naturally inept, or just plain deceitful.     -scc

Mediocrity is all we have. Live with it. Thrive with it.


* Sorry to disappoint, but we simply don't have time for catching every petty thief. We have much bigger lobsters to steam! So what? if we drop a couple shrimps here and there!