3 January 2008

Mediocracy is bad for our mental health

The growth in mediocracy over the past 20 years is taking a heavy toll on our wellbeing

By far the most significant consequence of 'mediocracy' (state interventionism, dumbing down, aggressification, ideological brainwashing, etc.) has been a startling increase in the incidence of so-called 'mental illness' in both children and adults since the 1970s.

It is notable that citizens of countries severely infected with mediocracy are twice as likely to suffer mental illness as those from countries in mainland western Europe, which are still running affairs in a relatively efficient manner, and are less tainted by anti-individualist ideology. The message could not be clearer: mediocracy is extremely bad for your mental health. But why is it so toxic?

Some commentators argue there is a link with changes in wealth distribution. However, mediocracy has increased the wealth only of a tiny minority who provide for mass consumption of such things as football and pop music, while most middle class individuals have – after allowing for above-average inflation in school fees, medical fees and so forth – effectively become poorer. While the supposed “rise in inequality” has been trumpeted by journalists and academics from all sides of the political spectrum, there has in fact been no rise at all once the effect of the super-rich is stripped out.

What actually causes the damage is a combination of a reductionist ideology preaching that everyone is essentially the same, with a pseudo-egalitarianism that is aimed at penalising the able. As some critics argued when the state first began to take over large chunks of the service economy, the ‘welfare state’ was never going to stop at the minimum safety net. A high value is now placed on every person coming out 'equal', even when everyone already has enough income to meet their fundamental needs.

Mediocracy seeks to frustrate people's aspirations and their belief that those aspirations can be fulfilled. It therefore denies people one of the most important sources of psychological benefit, namely hope. It wishes to make the middle class miserable (in mediocracy-speak, “mentally ill”) by forcing them to become anxious about being able to afford private education, private medicine or other essentials.

High levels of misery are probably necessary to mediocracy, because needy, miserable people give up on their own aspirations, and become tempted by the fake salvation which the ‘therapeutic state’, with its army of phoney ‘helpers’, seems to provide.

The mediocratic society fosters the delusion that anyone can be Alan Sugar or Bill Gates, if they are only provided with enough interference at a sufficiently early age. In the Big-Brother/It-Could-Be-You society, great swathes of the population believe it takes no special characteristics to become rich and famous, and if they themselves aren't it must be because the system is unfair. This is most damaging of all – the ideology that material affluence is not linked to hard work or ability, but simply a result of unfair advantages. If you don't succeed, there is only capitalism to blame.

There is much tearing of hair across the media, and advocacy of disgust about “fat cats” and other socio-economic winners. Sooner or later, this is bound to translate into political action. I predict we will soon get a passionate, charismatic, probably female leader who advocates more stringent penalisation of the ‘privileged’ middle class. I am told there is already one possible candidate for this role, in the United States.

Apologies to: Oliver James