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Friday, December 14 , 2018, 3:18 pm | Fair 63º


Paul Burri: ‘Quality’ Becomes Meaningless When All Things Are Equal

Praising mediocrity and rewarding incompetence might make some people feel better about themselves, but at what cost?

One of the characters in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead describes his plan for destroying any sense of quality in a society. According to him, it is really quite simple — just socialize all values so that everything is equal. “Quality” implies that one thing is superior to another, and when all things are equal, nothing is superior and the term “quality” becomes meaningless.

First, you praise mediocrity in all things, whether it is in writing, music, the arts or any other human endeavor. Leave no room for praise of excellence. Then you denigrate competition of any kind. After all, if there is competition, there will be winners and there will be losers. And while the few winners will be filled with feelings of joy and pride of accomplishment, the multitude of losers or second-bests will have their spirits hurt or broken. And we wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?

Next, you begin to reward incompetence. Again, this is to avoid crushing the spirits of those who are unable — or unwilling —to try harder, work more diligently or study longer hours. You begin by eliminating any words that have a negative, spirit-quenching effect. Immediately you ban “loser,” “failure,” “incompetent” or “handicapped” from the language. Loser will be replaced by “unwinner,” failures will become “excellent-try successes,” incompetent will become “specially competent” and “handicapped” will become “specially gifted.”

And instead of praising the A students, you elevate the C and D students for their “good try” or their remarkable attendance record or their “good texting” ability. To this effect you design trophies for “Best Attendance” or “Happiest Attitude” or “Most Cheerful Loser” (uh — Unwinner). And you make it a point to award the C and D students liberally so that no one — and I do mean no one — ever goes home without a trophy or a ribbon.*

After all, isn’t it a happy spirit the world needs rather than people who can solve problems and produce real results? Wouldn’t we rather have a world full of happy people rather than those way-too-serious engineers, scientists and doctors who design things, invent things, cure people? Who would you rather have, a happy incompetent or a glum expert?

Along these lines, you discourage any sort of improvement in any area. After all, if it was good enough for my father, it ought to be good enough for me, too — shouldn’t it? Or, if you find that some improvements are unavoidable or simply too popular to deter, modify them in such a way as to make things easier for everybody — so easy that they no longer have to give any serious thought. Let’s make communication so simple that no one has to learn to spell or think clearly. OMG, isn’t that obvious? Well LOL with that idea.

If we can successfully complete these steps — and the sooner the better, if you ask me — we will have a more peaceful, happier world.

I think.

* I recently read about a school that claimed that its average student was an A student. Huh? By definition, C is average. I guess it is saying that its C students are really A students. Or vice versa. Or whatever.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He has been a counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) for the past eight years. SCORE offers free business counseling to local businesses. He is also the membership director of the Channel City Camera Club. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.

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