The Fetish of Greatness

We’re told all the time to “strive for greatness”, to appreciate “genius”, to worship the best and the brightest, and rarely use to consider, what’s so great about greatness? I’ve begun to think that “greatness” is a sort of relic from the pre-global era, from when people and their communities were more isolated and did not have the kind of instant access to the works of others from all over the planet. I know that today I can easily find really good art and music and writing and videos and comedy (and so on) from everywhere. There’s no shortage of quality work. On the contrary, there’s abundance, a glut, and you can find it on Tumblr or Soundcloud or Instagram or Wattpad or Smashwords or Google Plus or any number of aggregators and websites where people put and promote their pieces. A lot of them are trying to make money, of course, and the so-called professionals are often whining about how the mere amateurs are ruining it for them, but greatness is not a requirement anymore. You don’t have to fight it out to land the handful of slots made available by the money men, the royalty, the fat cats, the corporations. You can do it yourself and more and more people are, thanks to the new global digital possibilities. I know my rant is a bit self-serving, since I’m not “great” at anything and I’m happy and proud to be an amateur writer and digital artist and music producer, and I believe in the ethic of “good enough”. It’s perfectly all right to be good enough, to do good enough work. You don’t have to strive to be “great”. You really don’t. I mean, of course you can if you want to. Nobody’s going to stop you. In fact they’re far more likely to encourage you Follow their dreams, they’ll say. Be the best that you can be. Go for the gold. Never give up! Never lose hope!

What’s even funnier is that the money doesn’t flow towards the great. In fact, it flows directly towards the mediocre, the mass market, the least common denominator, and then people assign the term “greatness” to whatever shit gets financial backing, whether it’s yet another Batman movie or the same identical Country-Western song as last week’s hit, because rather than greatness being defined by some instrinsic worth, in reality it derives its value from the money attached to it. Much of the time you see people striving to be “great”, they’re mainly striving to be rich. It’s a circular arrangement. You might say it doesn’t really matter how you get rich, just do that and you will automatically achieve greatness, sort of as a by-product, like a “buy one get one free” proposition.

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One thought on “The Fetish of Greatness

  1. A pretty sound observation here Tom. Our online world has revealed that creative talent isn’t as rare as we thought, and that we shouldn’t confuse those who are great at it with those who got rich by it. I follow some artists on Flikr and I’d be in awe of their work if it was hanging in a fancy gallery. Good enough for me anyway 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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