27 July 2011

Celebrating mediocrity

One of the most powerful lines I've come across comes from, ironically, a kid's film. In The Incredibles, Mr Incredible tells his wife that they shouldn't be restricting their kids from showing off their superpowers and joining society in 'celebrating mediocrity'. That sentence struck me pretty powerfully, and has remained with me since.

It seems that mediocrity has been ingrained in me since young, through both peer and parental pressure. Good grades, good schools, good job -- and when they were achieved, all I felt after the initial euphoria was a feeling that I was celebrating mediocrity. Why are we so content to play the game instead of changing it? Why do we blindly accept the rules instead of challenging them, and in so doing elevate ourselves to the level of those who make them?

Looking at the bigger picture, why are we not working towards solving the big problems? Child mortality, human trafficking, absolute poverty and other evils remain the niche domain of activists and development economists, while the best minds are preoccupied with playing a complicated game of numbers to the benefit of the people who least need it, and to the detriment of those already in trouble.

Maybe it's because mediocrity is so selfishly alluring -- a bigger screen on the latest phone, a higher pay that allows for a bigger mortgage -- while greatness demands so much sacrifice. And so we continue on like sheep, allowing ourselves to be led by the few shepherds and sheepdogs, all the while knowing that if we all acted together we could bring them to their knees, and all the while doing nothing about it.

A thousand mile journey begins with a single step.

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