Names that loom large in history do not always betoken exceptional intelligence or character. To mention Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, for example, is to invoke three murderous mediocrities–for not one of them was a person ever noted for marked intelligence. Their characters are of course shrouded in the funereal history of their many victims, but otherwise they exhibited only the hallmarks of the carnival barker and corporate bureaucrat. A gift for cronyism, putting your people into positions of influence in an organization you control, requires talents not hard to find among anyone in middle-level management; the famous oratorical talents of Hitler were by all accounts a product primarily of his extraordinary voice, one that often required no acoustical enhancement.
Today’s world is similarly laden with the garnish of mediocrity at the top. Three who immediately come to mind are France’s Macron, the UK’s Johnson, and of course Donald Trump. They exhibit a range of personal refinement ranging from stylish to buffoonish to menacing, but not one evidences any outstanding intellectual gifts. Lest you think this a screed against the West, let me simply note that China’s Xi and Russia’s Putin are no better nor particularly different from those ruling the official democracies.
What this suggests is that rule does not call for any particular insight or thoughtful consideration beyond how to organize a “hit” on some foreign target that annoys business interests or how best to market a domestic policy that rewards your supporters. The times do not call for greatness–and that is our peril. We have understandably become inured to this, especially in the three nations mentioned above: France, the UK, and the US have had a long succession of mediocrities administering the destruction of the planet, pursuit of spurious–but profitable–wars, and financing the lifestyles of the already wealthy. Nothing is new, nothing works for us, what else do you expect.
Now the world is being visibly dismembered, and the same apparatchiks and purveyors of clichés who are fit for unremarkable transactions at the bank teller’s window are confronted with events entirely beyond their capacity to understand. The immediacy, scope, and velocity of destruction now upon us, entirely elude them. In their minds, uttering some statements that use words like ‘urgency’ and ‘change’ address real events; in the bubble world of the mediocre, a posture and gesture are as gold to the gilded; after all, it works in the rarified halls of power, so why not on what is simply another stage?
Besides the inadequacy of these persons to effectively engage in the foremost crisis of our time–indeed, of all time on our planet–there is a secondary danger, that of our own looking to leaders to “do it for us.” Even if we were ruled by genuine intelligence and discernment, the danger there is that we remain passive, waiting for a Good King to dispense justice, heal wrongs, and put the cart aright. There’s no finessing this point–to wait for even good leadership, is to wait; that that is our downfall.
There is inertia in the drip-drip of daily news, the passing of time that leads us to pass more time…but as we do, the vortex that the sorcerer has conjured does not correspondingly take a time out. In fact, day by day, the routine operations of business and corporate depredation of the earth’s environment, are making matters worse. Now. Today.
Thus, it has to be said: the only way we are going to save ourselves is to rise up en masse, in all locales on all continents, making it impossible for the rule of mediocrity to continue; for it is our intelligence, the intelligence of those who do not live in the artificial atmosphere of gilded bubbles and gated information, that can and will arrest the suicidal slide to planetary extinction. We cannot wait for vote/election/legislation/change…because by then it will be truly too late. Even now, the question is not whether we will be hammered–millions dying at a stroke, even in the soft-skinned world of the white West–but whether humanity can survive on this world. Most of the nonhuman species extant now will likely soon be extinct, but that is an unavoidable follow-on effect of our negative stewardship of the green gift that is Gaia. What mediocrity has brought us is the terminal inability to cope with the very firestorm that stupidity and venality have created, in the form of business as usual.
If we are to survive, we must stop them from continuing as before. This does not mean isolated “heroic acts” of terror and assassination–which mimic their own techniques of rule and which would fail–but of a way that has real promise: massive, locally organized, more or less spontaneous, resolute action that prevents work, school and government from continuing its normal course. Our hope is upheaval, and we must speak openly to each other of this now. Governments have made lists of person to be arrested without charges, even for writing words like these. In the USA, it is NDAA–the National Defense Authorization Act; no doubt, other nations have their own corollary provisions for dealing with “subversives” and troublemakers. The rule of law, due process, and ornaments of electoral democracy are as nothing to those whose only rule is the Golden Rule: those with the gold rule. All else is to be swept along and swept away, according to perceived need. The mind of the mediocre sees no further than this, nor the necessity of anything more than another camp for confinement, guards to watch, and media to play along.
This is our true situation. I wish I thought I were exaggerating. Greta Thunberg sees the real scope of our predicament, and knows the urgency it requires. Do you?