I don’t believe anyone makes it a goal to be mediocre, but somehow it seems that so many people have accepted mediocrity as the norm. If none of us make mediocrity a goal, then how is mediocrity a norm? There are some possible answers to this somewhat rhetorical question. First, mediocrity is not the norm. Secondly, mediocrity is the norm because most people lower their expectations of themselves and then others. Lastly, we are simply defining the normal state of affairs as mediocre. I am a philosopher at heart, but I also realize that philosophical analysis (a love of mine) is not necessarily a love of others. Therefore, I will use an analogy (is this the entrance to mediocrity?) of beer to make my point.
First, perhaps mediocrity is not the norm. For most of this nation’s (USA) history, micro brewing was the norm until the likes of Adolphus Busch created Budweiser in 1876. When beer-making met with the industrial revolution, mediocre beer was born. But what is mediocre beer? If Budweiser is mediocre beer, then mediocrity is the lack of local specialty, a high level of consistency at the cost of special considerations, and a product made for a reason other than the reason for the product; this last one is interesting: Budweiser (it can be argued) is not made for the love of beer, but for the love of profit as its sell to In-Bev has proven. If this is truly the definition of mediocrity, than it is a hard argument to make that mediocrity is not the norm. All, including Sam Adams (the largest of microbreweries) microbreweries make up a whopping 5% (app.) of all beer sales. It would seem that most people are being sold a bill of goods called mediocrity.
Secondly, perhaps mediocrity is the norm but only because people have lowered the expectations they have of themselves and others. This is sad, but seems to be more often true than not. However, back to beer! Budweiser has outsold its nearest competitor by a long shot until recently. This could have two implications: that people have raised their expectations of themselves, or that mediocrity (in beer at least) is shifting from Budweiser to something else; that something else being microbreweries since they are they only growing beer-market currently. But beer snobs consistent point to all of the mediocre beer drinkers (translated as Bud, Coors etc…) as mediocre and themselves as having higher standards of beer tastes. This has serious implications for us beer snobs! This reason seems to fail as more and more micro and nano-breweries pop up across the nation. Both drinkers and brewers seem to be expecting more and more from themselves and others. However, this may not be the whole story.
Lastly, maybe we are simply defining normality in a way that lends itself to mediocrity? Budweiser was the most “normal” choice of beer drinkers for decades, and now it seems that as a nation we are beginning to define “normal” choices of beers as micro brewed concoctions. There is a caveat to this line of thinking… PBR. Pabst seems to have made a comeback with those “in the know”, but let’s face it: Pabst is not a good beer. Bland, unmistakably lacking in any special characteristic, highly consistent and certainly not brewed for the love of beer Pabst is a staple at most bars that make it their business to cater to the “in” crowd, a crowd that consistently does not deem themselves as the “norm”.
So where does this leave us? With beer? With mediocrity? Well… I don’t believe anyone makes it a goal to be mediocre, but somehow it seems that when enough people accept something as normal, that thing becomes mediocre, and those that accept it become mediocre. I think that this is the fault of those people that accept the thing as well as the fault of those people who try to fill that desire. I define “Truth” as a relationship between the idea of a thing and the thing itself (sorry for the philosophy?). In that case, perhaps mediocrity is simply a low-quality relationship or understanding? I’m sure that Budweiser didn’t start out as a mediocre, bland tasting concoction, but as Adolphus realized the riches to be had brewing his beer, his reasons for brewing Budweiser changed and with it the quality of the relationship between the idea of Budweiser and the beer itself? Maybe he gave up on his ideal of beer in order to make a buck or a billion? Maybe to be a true beer snob and not just another snob, one must truly love, study, taste and understand beer, and when we brew (or drink) for a reason other than that, we become mediocre? If that is the case, then even us mediocre home brewers are making nothing but amazing, love-filled bottles of bliss. Cheers!