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Meandering into Mediocrity

In 1996 US Court of Appeals Judge Robert H. Bork wrote a non-fiction book entitled Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. “Bork’s thesis in the book is that American and more generally Western culture is in a state of decline and that the cause of this decline is modern liberalism and the rise of the New Left. Specifically, he attacks modern liberalism for what he describes as its dual emphases on radical egalitarianism and radical individualism. The title of the book is a play on the last couplet of W.B. Yeats’s poem ‘The Second Coming’: ‘And the rough beast, its hour come round at last/ Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?’ Bork contends that the “rough beast of decadence…now sends us slouching towards our new home, not Bethlehem but Gomorrah.” – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You may or may not recall Sodom and Gomorrah where cities mentioned in the book of Genesis, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament as well as the Qur’an. These two cities were destroyed by God and completely consumed by fire and brimstone. Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of divine retribution.[7][8][ — From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bork attacks a variety of social, cultural, and political experiences as evidence of American cultural decline and degeneracy. Among these are affirmative action, increased violence in and sexualization of mass media, the legalization of abortion, pressure to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia, feminism and the decline of religion.” — Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I here propose, if we are not Slouching Towards Gomorrah, we are most certainly Meandering into Mediocrity, or Sauntering into Somnolence.

For those of us who might not know the meaning of the word egalitarianism used above, it refers to classlessness, equality, impartiality, parity, social equality.

First of all, I think it important to establish we are not all alike; not physically, sexually, emotionally, ethically, philosophically, culturally and in any number of other ways. I really don’t believe I have to argue too strongly on this point. I’m satisfied most all agree. We are not all alike. I would also hope, that most of us agree, this a good thing!

In order to proceed in making my point of our “Meandering into Mediocrity” I must give background on my main source of reference “The Screwtape Proposes a Toast” by C.S. Lewis. For those of you who may not be familiar with C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters, I offer the following:

The Screwtape Letters comprises 31 letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood (named after a star in Revelation), a younger and less experienced demon, charged with guiding a man (called “the patient”) toward “Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) from “the Enemy” (God). Wikipedia

After the second letter, the Patient converts to Christianity, and Wormwood is chastised for allowing this. A striking contrast is formed between Wormwood and Screwtape during the rest of the book, wherein Wormwood is depicted through Screwtape’s letters as anxious to tempt his patient into extravagantly wicked and deplorable sins, and often reckless, while Screwtape takes a more subtle stance, as in Letter XII wherein he remarks: “… the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”. Wikipedia [bold lettering is mine –bpb]

The Screwtape Proposes a Toast takes the form of an after-dinner speech given by Screwtape at the Tempters’ Training College for young demons. The Screwtape Proposes a Toast is Lewis’ criticism of leveling and featherbedding trends in public education; Screwtape and other demons are portrayed as consciously using the subversion of education and intellectual thought in the West to bring about its overthrow by the enemy (being God) from without and within. — Wikipedia

It is the featherbedding and leveling currently going on in our educational system and society that I feel supports my contention that we are Meanderng into Mediocrity.

In The Screwtape Proposes a Toast, Screwtape advises the young tempters to use Democracy and the word democracy to subvert the target’s thinking. Democracy is connected to the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make the stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal.”

The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you.

“There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal.” – Friedrich Hayek

This next section is critical to my argument, and follows immediately after the sentence above.

The first and most obvious advantage is that you thus induce him to enthrone at the center of his life a good, solid resounding lie. I don’t mean merely that his statement is false in fact, that he is no more equal to anyone he meets in kindness, honesty, and good sense than in height or waist-measurement. I mean that he does not believe it himself. No man who says I’m as good a you, believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others, denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference in being a claim to superiority. They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.

Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labor more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level.

I am credibly informed that young humans now sometimes suppress the incipient taste for classical music or good literature because it might prevent their Being like Folks, that people who would really wish to be – and are offered the Grace which would enable them to be – honest, chaste, or temperate, refuse it. To accept might make them Different, might offend again the Way of Life, take them out of Togetherness, impair their Integration with the Group. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals.

All is summed up in the prayer which a young female human is said to have uttered recently: ‘Oh God, make me a normal twenty-first century girl!” Thanks to our labors, this will mean increasingly, ‘Make me a minx, a moron, and a parasite’.

As a result we now have an intelligentsia which is very useful to the cause of Hell. (bold emphasis my own – Burton)

The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be ‘undemocratic’. These differences between the pupil — for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised.

Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase — ‘parity of esteem’.

…we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers—or should I say, nurses?—will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching.

Penal taxes, designed for the purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifice in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education is, fortunately, and inevitable the effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators.

For the ‘democratic spirit’ (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of sub literates, morally flaccid from lack of discipline in youth, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and soft from lifelong pampering. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be.

What a delicious specimen of human blindness! If the whole tendency of their society is opposed to every sort of excellence, why should they expect their scientists to excel?

[All the italicized type above is my shameful paraphrasing of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Proposes a Toast.]

Does any of this sound familiar? Is any of this going on today?

Are we not currently bemoaning the demise of the Middle Class?

We’re giving “Participation Trophies” to all the contestants in competitive events for fear that the loser’s self-esteem might be irreparably damaged.

Where is the concern for the team that won? What message do we send to them? You can work harder, you can train harder, you can practice harder, but you’re going to get the same reward as those that didn’t.

Apparently, not all parents feel this way. Pittsburg Steelers linebacker James Harrison says, “I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best…cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better…not cry and whine until somebody give you something to shut you up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues”

Have we not dumbed down our education? Aren’t teachers now more nurse than educator? We’ve certainly taken away all their right & responsibility to discipline.

Are we so concerned for a child’s “self-esteem” that we’ve failed to teach him right from wrong? We have failed to teach children how to behave in the presence of others.

Is it wrong to teach a child that he is responsible for his decisions and must live with the consequences of his decisions, even if they are painful?

Do we really believe a child has a right, “not to be offended”? I’m satisfied some do, because they themselves think they have a right to not be offended.

Have we forgotten that life is not fair? It is all not sweetness and light!

The most common trait among ultra-successful individuals is that they failed many times before achieving their first and maybe ultimate success.

In baseball, our National Past Time, Ted Williams, dead now since 2002, was the last big league hitter to bat .400. When did he do it? It was September, 1941! A ‘400’ hitter gets 4 hits in every 10 times a bat. That means he fails 6 times out of 10. Yet, to hit .400 is the Gold Standard, an exceptional feat.

We are not all alike. We may have been created equal, maybe we should be treated equally, but that does not translate into us all being equal. Some of us are bigger. Some of us are stronger. Some of us are smarter. Some of us are ambitious, some of us are not. Some of us can sing. Some of us can paint and sculpt. Some of us have been born into strong, loving intact families, with a father and a mother. Some of us aren’t so lucky. Where is the negative in facing these facts? If I’m not as good as you, maybe I’ll try harder. If I can’t excel in the area you excel, perhaps I can reach even greater heights in another area of endeavor, but give me that chance to excel, to succeed or to fail.

I’m reminded of a story of a boy who finds himself in the field with an angry bull. The bull starts to chase the boy. The boy is running as fast as he can to stay out in front of the bull. But it is obvious to the boy and the bull that the bull is gaining. Just then the boy approaches a tree with a limb that looks high enough for him to escape the charging bull, but low enough for him to leap and grab. Out of breath and exhausted, with the last ounce of strength he has, he leaps for the limb………….and missed it……………..but he caught it coming down!

Keep the standards high. Don’t lower the standards just because some can’t reach them.

Do we really want a society peopled by the lowest common achiever?

One of the banes of growing old, is you hear yourself sounding like your father.   When my contemporaries speak, I hear the old men of my youth echoing in my ears.  We see our society and our way of life going to hell in a handbasket. We see the future generation meandering into mediocrity and we feel helpless to do anything about it, helpless to stop it, much less reverse it.   So we resign ourselves to writing feeble protests, such as this.

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  1. John John


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