Lost the ability to criticise?

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What is it with the modern era? I know personally that whenever I express genuine concern or lack of faith in something that I find to be either worthless, dubious, or simply lacking moral guidance, I find myself being shunned and “opinion barred” by both professional and personal acquaintances. What is it about criticism (constructive criticism) that this modern world is completely unable to handle? Why have we become a society that needs to constantly be praised even though it’s not due?

Everywhere I look these days, the problem exists. You might think that gentle encouragement and making somebody feel good about themselves despite an obvious lack of ability would stop at the playground years in favour of guiding true ability towards a career and professional, self-sustaining existence but it doesn’t. We pad everything in life to make us all seem like winners and to start believing the pretense that we are all top of the class when paradoxically we have all become losers by our refusal to acknowledge our failings.

Let’s look at some examples. At the moment the Irish governance is hell bent on establishing what are termed as “centres of excellence”. These centres of excellence are rolling out all over the country to the extent that it is now viewed that if you don’t have a centre of excellence then you are somehow lacking. However, by pure literary definition, if everywhere has a centre of excellence in some discipline, is it not true to conclude that excellence has lost all meaning and centres simply compete on a par with each other? Why does everywhere have to be excellent when that simply isn’t the case and will eventually extinguish itself as a mark of quality if continued?

Another example, this one is pretty current and I’m sure that everyone has heard the terms at some stage in the last few weeks; national credit ratings. There has been much talk of the downgrading of Ireland’s credit rating and in the last week we have seen the rating of Anglo Irish Bank further downgraded to I think it was a ‘B’ rating – whatever the hell that means. What the rating means is frankly irrelevant when most of the countries in the free Western world have credit ratings scored in terms of multiple ‘A’s. What the hell? When did A stop being good enough? No, these days we have a ‘AAA’ rating and a ‘AA’ rating before eventually failing to an ‘A’ rating – perish the thought! Why? Is it simply that having a ‘B’ rating (originally second best in the “normal” man’s scoring chart) was perceived as failure and even if you were second best but had an ‘A’ that would somehow be better despite still being second best? Where is the sense? Not everyone is a winner or the best, accept it and move on. ‘AAA’ come on, just how insecure is the mindset that gives rise to something like that?

In the last number of decades we have become obsessed with lying to ourselves about how good we are. We could blame self-help books, psychology quacks, or any number of things but really we just need to stand up and say, “yes, this is crazy, we can’t all be excellent at everything”. Sadly, we’re not saying that and instead we are continuing to delude ourselves further and further. Recently it was common place for people purchasing a starter 3-bed family home in Dublin to say, “yes, we can afford a EUR 500K mortgage” because that’s what everyone else here is doing and you know what (well of course you do), the banks were so eager to not criticise the credit rating of the customer who had never defaulted that they bumped them up a couple of ‘A’s and viola! a new piece of history was being written, entitled “bubble and collapse”. It didn’t matter how many lies, how many delusions, how many fallacies had to be believed, we soaked up every single one of them.

We are a nation a world obsessed with being the best at everything. This is not the natural competitive edge of genuine competition and hard work. This is the self-deluding practice of simply keeping a stiff upper lip while trying to walk on water. This is the system of life that has seen the entire planet plunged into a financial recession not seen since stock markets crashed in 1929, before all this nonsense started. We are a world of losers who still believe that we are winners. In July of this year Ireland had its credit rating “slashed” (another term that loses all meaning in this context) to a ‘AA’ rating despite having impossible government guarantees for all the national banks, some institutions on the verge of defaulting and overwhelming national debt. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure but this is really taking the piss – ‘AA’ and on the verge of bankruptcy, I’m still laughing and ironically it is all the way to the bank…

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