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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 11, 2012/ 21 Sivan, 5772

The Age of Mediocrity

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | "The characteristic note of our time is the dire truth that the mediocre soul, the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be mediocre, has the gall to assert its right to mediocrity, and goes on to impose itself where it can."

--José Ortega y Gasset

The Revolt of the Masses

Chapter 1, The Crowd Phenomenon

. . .

Future historians will surely call ours the Age of Mediocrity. That is, if they can recognize what mediocrity is by then, having been immersed in it so long they take it for excellence. Watching the president of the United States present this year's Medals of Freedom -- does anyone remember last year's, let alone any from the years before? -- the only striking aspect of the ceremony was the absence of anything striking.

Everything about the presentation of the-nation's-highest-civilian-honor, as the news coverage inevitably called it, seemed ordinary, nothing special, poor-to-middlin', commonplace but showy. In a word, mediocre. Not indecent, certainly, just familiar. As in familiarity breeds . . .

It was like watching one of the many unmemorable sitcoms on the tube. Something to fill a room with background noise lest we risk thinking. This year's show had been dunked in the same patina of ordinary vulgarity that covers the rest of American life in our time, made all the more so by the obligatory pomp-and-circumstance that came with the presentation of the medals, like french fries.

Ours is an age of fast food, fast honors and fast commentary on same. Then it can all be fast forgotten. If only this year's ceremony had been truly awful, not just part of the awfulness we accept daily, it would have been memorable. Instead it was eminently forgettable. Indeed, it is already forgotten.

For the most part, this year's medalists were the usual, conventional choices. But here and there on the list were some shining exceptions to the mediocre rule. Let that much be said, it should be said, from the outset. Let us now praise, no, not famous men but a few of this year's honorees who should be famous:

There was Jan Karski, the Polish patriot and resistance fighter who became an eloquent teacher in his long exile from his native land. His nobility shone through a life of both action and thought. Gallant and elegant to the end, his grand contempt for both great totalitarianisms, Nazism and Communism, that rolled over his country and the world in his time was evident in every word of his lectures at Georgetown. It fit right in with his own tragic sense of life that he would receive this honor only posthumously.

John Doar was a lawyer for the Justice Department who actually sought justice. And the peace only justice can bring. The martyrs of the civil-rights movement of the last century are regularly invoked; the country should also remember the massacres that were prevented by the likes of John Doar, assistant attorney general for civil rights and profile in courage.

And then there was the incomparable Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee's already legendary women's basketball coach, the Iron Lady of college sport.

However bright an exception here and there, in general this year's honorees were the usual pack of politic choices. It was as if a statistician had been assigned to come up with a random sample of politically correct heroes. One pop artist, one faux poet, one retired jurist still bent on arguing the cases he'd lost, one high public official whose chief distinction was length of time served ... in short, at least one mediocrity to please everybody's taste. Or at least our taste when we were young.

The Hon. Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, mastered these ceremonies. A president's schedule must be crammed with such events from early morning till late at night; it goes with being head of state, or at least head of a mass democracy.

Our president set the tone of this year's event, or maybe its absence of tone, when he described the overflow crowd that had been drawn to the East Room to applaud the medalists as "a testament to how cool this group is. Everybody wanted to check 'em out."

The president's other remarks were in much the same (clotted) vein. Embarrassing, perhaps, but par for presidential remarks in an age of mediocrity.

At one point, the president said he had learned to write by reading one of this year's honorees. (Drum roll, please.) Namely, that romance novelist of current American intellectuals, the one and only (let us hope) Toni Morrison. Which explains a lot about the president's literary style. And the style of the age. Sentiment was replaced by sentimentality some time ago.

With almost Clintonian gusto, the president made it clear that the real importance of those being honored was the part they had played in shaping, informing and inspiring his own great life. On such occasions, Mr. Obama seems to release his inner Joe Biden. He really ought to keep it caged.

This year's honorees could have been scientifically chosen by some expert statistician to represent the collective taste. And why not? These are times when we no longer deplore the conventional wisdom but celebrate it, as in "The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations" (2004).

Pity poor, always out-of-step H.L. Mencken, that holdover from the 1920s and the Jazz Age, who regularly deplored the taste of the great American public. Clearly he was wrong. At least by our lights in 2012. Our dim lights.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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