Have you ever wondered what the opposite of "mediocrity" might be? Some say "excellence" ... but I don't think so. One can be excellent in a kind of mediocre situation or performance. So why is it that so much of all our dedication and adoration goes towards the sanctification of mediocrity and mediocre priorities? I am talking about what happens in education, business, arts and relationships ... I am talking about the need to reduce all outcomes to some kind of measurable and quantifiable outcome that kills off the possibility for alternative possibility or complexity that cannot be easily defined. I suggest then that a counterpoint to mediocrity is "extension". Extension into the less familiar! Extension as an idea, an aim, a focal point for working ... and then extension into the execution that is more than competent! Extension that goes beyond anything that can be standardized or measured against anything else!
And here we have conflict. The statistician is the magician of postmodernism. Measurement suggests comparison of one thing with another. There is NO excellence and only relative comparisons. Whereas extension suggests synthesis, new paradigms and challenge to existing hallmarks and affirmations of all kinds! Statisticians thrive on analysis; as do most university approaches and paradigms. Some might argue that my suggestion of mediocrity's opposite being extension is thus impossible; that if we analyze anything we find the parts are more than the some of each. And they might be right.
But does this mean that mediocrity needs to be enshrined as the aim? That only by perfecting the arrangement of known parts can there be any sense of "best practice" or quantifiable judgements? Might it not be wise to consider extending the known as an aim to be applied in all areas of endeavour? The notion of education as some kind of template that needs completing or some sort of mimesis is intellectually and culturally restrictive and provides a kind of straitjacket over the naturally growing body. Yet with the popularity of standardized tests in education and the creation of art and theatre to formulas of known "tried-n-true" approaches and techniques is testimony to the acceptance of mediocrity as an aim; as a benchmark; as a threat to all experimentation ...
To challenge this situation, teachers and artists, directors and curators need to consider the very templates devised within paradigms of acceptability that dictate the straitjackets of cultural acceptance. The militancy of mediocrity cannot be underestimated. It is powerful and dictates most of what is regarded as acceptable within all social constructions. From the left and the right of the political and social spectrums, come the daggers to bleed art and education of its rejuvenative functions. We live in dictatorships not that different to those of past times; except that the control is more subtle and not always accompanied by machinegun toting military and police ... although this is becoming a more familiar sight!
If as artists, as teachers and as influential others, we continue to foster mediocrity, then we must accept the lack of extension into creating more palpable and livable worlds. Then we accept that people can blindly follow the leaders and be lemmings accepting the lies of agendas that serve only the interests of powerful individuals and deluded cultists. There is never going to be a nirvana nor a heaven nor a utopia. There is only ever going to be the possibility for people to surmount and negotiate with nature a pathway through to the next step. ... whatever that might be ... But there is always a NEXT step!
Mediocrity is never passive! It is a militant god demanding subservience to the will of unseen and untouchable masters who shape the templates of our existence. From whatever accidental cultures they derive their formative structures for subjugating their populations, they shape the control features under the guise of seemingly necessary strictures to somehow guide the survival of gullible populations and build within these templates the means to restrict any questioning or seeing beyond the walls of imposed certainties.
Witness all religions and politics! Does anyone really think that to die a martyr one gets to fuck an eleven year old virgin in heaven? Or that Jesus as God rose from the dead and along with his mum is physically in body and soul in heaven? Metaphors are fine, but really!!!!
Such thinking is only possible in a mediocre mindset; in a restrictive template!
But unless, like the marshal-arts student, we seek to go beyond the density of the brick that must be shattered, unless we seek to go beyond the walls of our perceived templates and extend to some yet unknown area, we are prisoners; simply mediocre minds seeking to perfect the chasing of our own tails.
Only as we accept the likelihood of NO normality and no balance of nature can we ever overturn the kind of mediocrity that simply tries to reproduce the past. Theatre that simply recreates a mimesis of past nostalgia cannot ever break through cultural straitjackets of mediocrity. The school that accepts a multitude of concocted "disorders" in students to explain their behaviours can never move to a position of rejuvenating society and culture. In art and education, only by seeing beyond the supposed templates of reality can there be any advancement. Science is a model that art and education might emulate. Accept nothing!
The god of mediocrity is militant and will defend its power to control no matter what! We see it everyday in education, art and politics! Excellence is a vague and misleading term used to manipulate according to different agendas. Extension beyond is a more worthy term to combat the devastating effects of mediocre aspirations and agendas. The insidious nature of tactics and strategies to edify the charlatan and the controlling mindset can only be challenged by seeing beyond the walls of their creation.
So, teachers: offer projects that extend on open-ended possibilities ...
Theatre Producers: offer works that derive from current experience and risk death at the box office ...
Be more like science and trust nothing; test everything; then trust nothing ... seek what is beyond ...