IS THE NEW CULTURE ONE OF MEDIOCRITY?

Is "Good Enough" Any Good?

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By Jaylin Paschal

Annoyed and petty, I once tweeted “These titles y’all put in your bios — ‘icon,’ ‘influencer,’ ‘mogul.’ Says who? Does your résumé confirm that?”

Simply put — it wasn’t well received.

The general response was “If someone wants to claim that for themselves, what’s wrong with that?” A fair question. And as someone who truly believes in manifestation and stating your goals, I considered the point seriously. I decided, ultimately, that I was bothered by these bios for one simple reason: Aspirations don’t count as credentials. 

If we start acting like they do — as if what we aspire to be and what we are is equivalent — we will undoubtedly be stuck in a culture of mediocrity.

Because, think about it, if everyone treats your shitty work as if it’s excellent; and you treat your shitty work as if it’s excellent — what motivates you to get any better? If we can “blow up” by being just good enough, why would we push for more? And furthermore, how can we entice others to push for more? (How do you convince young female rappers to keep pushing the pen when the “Catch Me Outside” girl has a record deal and a XXL nod? It’s tough.)

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We all know that annoying guy that has a really bad clothing line with a really bad logo ironed on to really basic designs made of really cheap fabric. That guy who makes you think “Maybe it’s me?” because everyone else seems to love him; everyone wears his really bad tees. Is it as confusing, and sometimes even disorienting, for you as it is for me?

Anyways — my favorite people are the people who send me screenshots of typos, emails with (constructive) criticism, tweets with counterpoints. These people are the ones who don’t settle for “good enough.” Not for me, and, I imagine, not for themselves. It’s a culture of accountability, and one that is being taken for granted and traded for a culture of baseless applause. I don’t want you to clap for me if the work is not good. Support me by editing me; by challenging me to do more, or to do better.

All of this can be done without being a “hater,” or without spreading negative energy or “bad vibes.” Providing honest criticism is not the same as bringing someone down. Our responses to work have more range than “this is trash” and “this is fire.” Once when I was in high school, someone I had never met messaged me like — “I see where you were going but I think your point got lost. I’d reorganize.” Fair, honest critique like this makes us all better. And this type of criticism is not mandatory — one can choose to apply or ignore it. The point is, external challenges make for internal growth.

And I’m not saying we should all start tearing each other’s cultural contributions to shreds. We should encourage and support one another, especially artists of color. All I’m saying is, encouragement comes in more forms than complicity or settlement.

I think the most effective way to be supportive without promoting mediocrity is to acknowledge effort, if not outcome. The way I try to be clear on my position without being rude is by celebrating the work ethic instead of the work itself. Someone asks for my opinion on a mix they just dropped — my first comment, before any praise or critique, is always “I see you working. / How long did it take you to do this? / Your transitions are so much smoother.” Acknowledge someone’s growth. What means more to me than “You’re a great writer,” is “Your writing has gotten so much better.” Not only is this a compliment, but it’s a motivator. I think it’s these sort of multilayered comments which will help our generation rise out of a culture of mediocrity.

Jaylin PaschalComment