In the year 2004, Barrack Obama, former President of the United States of America gave a famous speech at the democratic Convention in Massachusetts. He said, “Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers, who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well I say to them tonight, there are not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.” The politics of Anything Goes as stated by Obama is the root cause of mediocrity not just in the American politics but in the life of the Nigerian youths. The phrase “anything goes” was used by the late Austrian-American Philosopher of Science Paul Feyerband to challenge the rigid truth claims and strict Methodism of classical Positivism and Scientism. Feyerabend held that an idealized view of science, which elevates science into the level of a semi-god, will turn it into a monster and fail to serve humanity’s best interest. Instead, he offered a theoretical anarchism of anything goes. The anarchism of anything goes can be taken up as a liberating call. It can equip us with the tools with which to challenge the hegemony of absolutist ideologies. But if not watched carefully, it can descend into frivolity and irresponsibility. Amidst our contemporary world, the phrase “anything goes” is now used to define the attitude of disregarding any standards by which we do things. It refers to the acceptance of mediocrity as a standard of normalcy.
This is a malaise of the late modernity that has permeated everything from the arts, sciences, education, religion and politics. It has been presented as a necessity of life as if doing things properly is an expensive and luxurious thing. This is a world where the young do not want to demand more nor try harder and are satisfied with the minimum. This is quite degrading and dehumanizing to see man with an imprint of perfection reduce himself to a mediocre being.
THE CHARACTER OF MEDIOCRITY (PORING INTO ITS MEANING AND DESCRIPTION).
Mediocrity is often defined as the state of being mediocre, having only an average degree of quality or skills and no better than the standard. Mediocrity can also be adjectival where the person who exhibits these qualities above is addressed as a mediocrity (Plural Mediocrities). Its etymology can be traced from the Latin “Medio” (middle or average). In order to understand mediocrity’s true disposition, one must also be able to recognize its defining traits. They include; apathy, indifference, doubt, pervasiveness, insecurity, superficiality, fear, timidity, laziness. At first glance, mediocrity is calm but that calm exterior can belie panic. Mediocrity panics when placed under pressure for it know, it is being dishonest. But rather than engage with any immediate expectation of it and putting in the required work and efforts, it simply detaches. This is how it abandons responsibility and stays calm without being perturbed at its present state.
One thing is striking about mediocrity, a great many dictionaries present it as an antonym for excellence. Yet, there is a common understanding that is gaining strength which is, to be mediocre is to fall between the two worlds of excellence and failure and this is not bad for those who hold on to this. As the French Essayist, Joseph Joubert said “Mediocrity is excellent to the eyes of mediocre people”.
CAUSES OF MEDIOCRITY
- LACK OF EXPOSURE TO BIGGER AND GREAT CHALLENGES OTHER THAN WHAT ONE KNOWS ALREADY. This could be in the field of academics or sports. This usually leads to settling for less by the youths instead of aiming higher.
- LAZINESS- this is the inability to work harder and pursue excellence.
- PROCASTINATION- being slow or late about doing something that should be done. This often steals precious time from us. One who is consistent in this will find it difficult to go just beyond the average.
- FEAR OF SUCCESS- This occurs in those who persistently tell themselves that they have been marked for failure and cannot perform well in any life fields.
- FEAR OF FAILURE- This is quite the opposite and it is also dangerous because one who is afraid of failure or afraid of making mistakes cannot go further. He/she is always struck in the present and cannot go beyond it to greater heights.
- WANTING TO BE LIKE OTHERS- Each of us is unique and has his or her distinct potentialities which God has endowed us with. Inasmuch as it is not bad to aspire to great heights following the footsteps of others. But then, it becomes bad when we do this to the extent of losing our personality. When we do this, we become a Second Best. This could pose a very bad threat.
THE OCEAN OF MEDIOCRITY VIS A VIS OUR CONTEMPORARY YOUTHS.
That today’s youths are the future we hope for is certainly something that is quite undisputed. In as much as this is true, we (both young and old) must strive to ensure that the future of the youths can be something that we can be really proud of. At the root of what can hamper the smooth progress and success of today’s youths is the craze and mad rush to embrace mediocrity. It has become a social danger and a cankerworm that we all must deal with, if we must smell development. One funny thing is that the youths of today are born in a mediocre culture which makes it a little difficult though, not impossible for them to extricate themselves from this mental slavery. An instance is a country like Nigeria where mediocrity is celebrated and unrebuked underachievement seems to be the order of the day. A governor ends up building a single road during his tenure and he is revered as the next messiah. An author writes a book with no quality and form and yet, he gets sponsored to represent Nigerian Literature overseas. One with no qualities of being elected or with any credentials gets promoted faster than others. There is a serious room for ordinariness and a very near absence of professionalism and exceptionalism in our personal and public life. There is no way a nation can grow as long as it continues in this mindless celebration of mediocrity.
Our institutions of learning where future minds are trained is nothing to write home about. When was the last time we had any ground breaking or revolutionary research in any of our institutions of learning? What known innovation can we boast of? Normally, a university is supposed to foster critical and mature thinking, encourage enterprising dialogue and spur research ideas and initiatives. The best and sharpest intellects are supposed to gather at universities and influence national conversations and ideas. Not just the universities alone, all institutions of learning are supposed to seize the day and take good advantage of the youths. However the reverse seems to be the case. The quest for healthy competition in various fields is fasting eroding us even in the area of the virtues and the good life.
It is a fact that Nigeria is bedeviled with economic, political and religious problems. These problems stare us in the face daily. However, we should not be running around for solutions to these problems giving the number of graduates we produce every year in different fields. By now, insightful solutions should have been proffered to the issues that constantly stares us in the face. Going down memory lane some 600 years ago in the 15th century, doctors at universities in Timbuktu in the present day Mali were performing eye surgeons, removing cataracts. This was as far back as the 15th century. At the dawn of the 21st century, what efforts have been put in place to build and improve on the already existing foundation?
I wouldn’t know the number of youths today that form clubs and societies that encourages mediocrity and eschews independent thinking. The interest of today’s youths lies in the fascination from the internet and the entertainment sectors. Although,the internet when channeled to positive areas can be used to achieve great things in the future. It can be an avenue to develop one’s talents and potentials in the field that one so desires. Sadly today, the internet has been turned by many into an area where pornography and fraud take place.
Furthermore, even those with no opportunity to attend formal education find it difficult to fan into flame the natural gifts and potentials God has endowed them with. The quest to perfect oneself even in the artistic skills is eroding us. What we have today is the get rich quick syndrome that has pervaded the minds of the youths. There is a dare need for a change of attitude and mentality. Bob marley in his freedom somg talks about “Emancipating oneself from mental slavery”. Unless a radical change takes place where mediocrity and its attributes are shunned, then the future will certainly remain bleak for all of us.
RESISTING THE CULTURE OF MEDIOCRITY AND CHAMPIONING EXCELLENCE (PANACEAS AND CONCLUSION)
As I gradually conclude this piece, it is good to note that, mediocrity cannot be destroyed. It can only be resisted. What is necessary is one’s attitude towards it. It is one’s attitude that determines its strength and if it is to be countered, one must not neglect his attitudes. By resisting mediocrity one is invariably saying yes to excellence in any field he finds himself. Excellence is resilient. It is determined. It feeds on aspiration and hope and its strength lies in a powerful instinct which relentlessly drives it not only to compete with brilliance but to surpass it. Excellence can only survive through the aid of excellence but this is not so with mediocrity. It can survive just anywhere. This is why one has to be vigilant and focused on rooting out those things that will sprout the growth of mediocrity.
It is quite an arduous task. To make this move involves overcoming a massive inertia. It requires absolute commitment and a relentless drive to lift expectations. When we (especially the youths) begin this mind revolution, we can be rest assured that we can begin to compete favourably as world citizens with our peers outside the shores of Nigeria and of course our society will be greatly improved.
STANLEY C. IJEOMA