The Rejection of Excellence and the Man of Mediocrity BY: Keith Plunkett

“The most prevalent of all human ills are these two: a man’s discontent with the work he does and the necessity of having to kill time. Both these ills can be, in part, cured by education.”~Mortimer Adler

Mortimer J. Adler

Mortimer Adler was an American philosopher, educator, and author of more than fifty books. Dr. Adler was Chairman of the Board of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Director of the Institute for Philosophical Research, and an Honorary Trustee of the Aspen Institute, among a long list of other distinguished associations of public service.

Adler, who passed away in 2001 a few months shy of his 99th birthday, was passionate about bringing conversations of great importance into view of a general audience. For a person with a professorial mind, his was more intently focused on the interpretation of the great ideas of history for a broader, more popular appeal than many of his contemporaries or colleagues.

Adler was passionate about making the teachings of great thinkers accessible. He advocated and supported programs that promoted and implemented guided reading and discussion of difficult literary works and philosophical treatises for the “common man”. Adler’s work belied an underlying concern for the protection of virtue against the temptations of complacency through access to knowledge.

To presume Adler would be disgusted by the state of American society today, seems an obvious conclusion.

Our society is quickly falling apart at the seams. So many measures that have historically been strong in times of national, community and social importance indicate we are indeed “Coming Apart”, also the title of Charles Murray’s groundbreaking detailed social analysis written in 2012. In fact, it seems just as likely that our society and the underlying culture that has corrupted it, is beyond a point of no return.

I devoured Murray’s book in a single weekend in late 2013. Many of the revelations have been used in numerous writings of my own since.

Much of the data, along with some of my own observations, conclusions and thoughts became the cornerstones of the policy focus by Senator Chris McDaniel in his 2014 race for the US Senate. One of the four policy focused town hall styled events during that campaign was a presentation of the conservative position on traditional values.

Over two hundred attended the McDaniel Town Hall on Healthcare in Jackson, MS.

But, all four of the themes of each policy event;

  1. Taxes, Spending and the Economy
  2. Healthcare
  3. Traditional Values
  4. Education

were interspersed with the data revealed in Murray's work.

Due to a late night of work on legislative matters for Senator McDaniel in the Mississippi Senate, the author was asked to present and lead the town hall discussion on education in Tupelo for a group of over a hundred interested voters.

The subject of social degradation and the ongoing corruption of influencing institutions that have traditionally filtered out any widespread social contamination has continued to be a focus of our years long collaboration.

Three years have passed since I first studied Murray’s research on this subject. Time has done nothing to alleviate my concerns over the pending crisis presented by oncoming drastic social changes, and especially the speed at which the changes are now occurring.

At the root of what ails the country’s political discourse, our economic woes, our inconsistent education system, and what feeds the lack of ethics and the cronyism inherent in the alliance of regulators, politicians and big business, is a lack of societal interest in personal and cultural responsibilty to excellence.

Peeling into a deeper layer of the onion shows the distraction and lack of determination by religious institutions of all shapes and sizes to remain loyal to the Truth of their mission. What happened to the centrality of faith? Do we as Christians still assert the primacy of God or have we elevated ourselves to that of His partners in this endeavor? More importantly, do our churches still teach that God sent his son who gave his life through a tortuous death because he loves you, literally loves YOU as an individual?

The church was once a strong counterbalance to government. It was a focal point of higher purpose and conscience of a community to always strive to do better and to give more. But the institution of the church at some point became more concerned with attracting attendance and building membership than in unashamedly preaching the redemptive power of the Cross.

When the heart of the churches message of faithful service began giving quarter to excuses based on “practical” concerns then the deeper networks and affiliations of the church were only a hop, skip and a jump away from this rationalized tolerance. As voices of moderation crept in so began the slide into near universal acceptance of mediocrity as a normal output for an unanchored, individualistic self-realized life.

When mediocrity becomes acceptable within an organization like the church, it no longer stands for principled belief, and therefore is no longer trusted as an institution of higher purpose.

Any church that bases it's existence on the whims of social currents or the desires of government is doomed to failure. What good is an anchor that doesn't hold against the storms of life?

There is only one line of defense after the church falters: the family unit. And unfortunately, the family came under attack long, long ago from these same forces of modernity.

Mississippi has the seventh largest rate of growth for number of parents with children under 18, but who aren't married.

Yes. It came under attack from many outside forces intent on its removal as an influential and socially corrective bond. But, let’s get real. Our own cultural denigration of loyalty and lack of commitment to the excellence of the familial bond had already put numerous chinks in the armor.

We played along with the reduction of health of the family unit, now the destruction of nearly all other social bonds has left the family more vulnerable to further decay.

Our society began accepting popular cultures weakening of the family and of marriage by way of a thousand tiny cuts. This occurred almost imperceptibly until we had compromised away our own responsibility for keeping family relationships strong and healthy. We settled instead for a more loosely defined “idea” of family.

We inherited an institution. But we denied the family the provisions that help to maintain its excellence, now we have more of a distant memory than an inheritance.

When these important inherited institutions began unraveling none of the other inherited institutions that influence and strengthen character were strong enough to lend additional support to bolster and firm up the defenses of the shared purpose of the community. Now, one by one, our local connections are weakened and residents of our towns, villages, and communities have very little common ground upon which we can come together to stand.

Is this “coming apart” an anomaly? Or is it evidence of a much more substantial shift, a resignation from our social character and an unconcerned acceptance of the need for adaptation to something we don’t yet fully comprehend? No doubt, it will be fully explained to us as it is decided by those who relentlessly push towards a man-made Social progressivism. And it will be quietly accepted by the moderate position that it’s impolite to disagree too much. Is it now “unfair” to point out a lack of strength of character and of virtue? What now happens to accepted ideas of what constitutes good leadership? And for that matter, is there going to be any such thing as “leaders” in this new paradigm?

Are we just to sit idly by and wait for a government agency to prompt citizen participation? Are we just to kill time, or should we accept quietly and tamp down our discontent over the work we have now been given by those who know best? What of creativity? What of recognition of circumstances and of opportunity? What of special talents and intuitive insight?

What of the examples given us by past generations?
What of love and devotion?

These are quite a few questions that seem to only lead to more questions. The answers are easy. You know them already. How you know the answers to these questions is a product of intuition, an immeasurable hunch. How did you get that hunch? Were you plugged into another source of power that provided that?

Whether you think of that intuition as God acting within us, or as a recollection of lessons instilled by the past directives from our parents, grandparents and other influential people in our lives; or whether you believe it originates from both of these, then at the least you have just realized that their is a higher power, a transcendent order, that confers to each of us our own unique roles of both servant and served. Humanity cannot simply ignore these directives of conscience. To do so is to reject the essence of oneself, and to ignore the purpose for being here now in this place and in this time.

Do we no longer believe in purpose?

The result of social complacency is the divestment of personal responsibility. Far too many have decided rather than educate themselves they should accept being discontent or idle. This of course leads to the extermination of any diversity in culture or reverence for history, except for that which has been decided to be politically correct and culturally acceptable.

One of the many key indicators of this monumental slide is the data on the labor market, especially as it pertains to able-bodied working class men.

Today, a smaller percentage of American males in the prime working years of 25 to 54 are working than were working near the end of the Great Depression in 1940, when the unemployment rate was above 14 percent. The work rate for adult men has plunged 13 percentage points in a half-century. Since 1948, the proportion of men 20 and older without paid work has more than doubled, to almost 32 percent. This is largely voluntary. Men who have chosen not to seek work are two-and-a-half times more numerous than men who government statistics count as unemployed because they are seeking jobs.

It stands to reason then that these men’s prospects for marriage aren’t great, which is why the proportion of never-married men was over three times higher in 2015 than 1965. This means fewer families, or worse more children with fewer two-parent homes. That, of course, brings with it a host of social problems for children. Children raised by their own married parents are significantly less likely to experience poverty, family instability, and a host of other negative outcomes. Married-biological families are also safer for children (and women) than other family forms, especially single mom and cohabiting-parent families. And kids raised by married parents are more successful in school than kids in other family forms.

Striving for excellence is spiritually and personally rewarding for the person working hard to be better, smarter, stronger, faster. But there is an obvious social benefit to this personal drive of courage towards conviction.

We all benefit as neighbors in our community when individually we commit to virtue and to engage one another by serving one another. Our children and their children benefit when we maintain and raise expectations through strong familial bonds. This begins with the rejection of political correctness and reliance on the biological and historical truths intuitively understood.

Avoiding conflicts with infantilized adults through rationalization may give each of us a sense of comfort and ease at not having to deal with gratuitous ignorance. But it only allows the open sores to fester, and the self-inflicted wounds to go untreated.

Now, more than ever is the time for men of character to stand up and reclaim their place as leaders of their family, of the church and of their community. Courage absent conviction isn’t courage at all. Conviction without discernment is only self-promotion. So, it is important to start at the beginning. Men cannot speak the Truth if they are ignorant of the Truth.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.