In much of today's world of technology and wealth anyone who is moderately ambitious and willing to make an effort to achieve something of value can enjoy a life of luxury and convenience only dreamed of by ancient kings. Nevertheless, most of the people who live in countries where that kind of life and prosperity are possible do not enjoy their lives. They are always in some kind of trouble and have endless problems and complaints and never realize that all their suffering is their own fault.
In every country there are some who truly enjoy the benefits of a modern culturally and technologically advanced society, but they are the exceptions. The great mass of humanity, the ordinary individual does not enjoy the kind of life that is possible.
At the outset I want to make two things clear. Ordinary does not mean average. There is no such thing as an average person. Every human being is different, and many ordinary people have exceptional attributes and do exceptional things. What makes them ordinary is that their exceptional characteristics are not accomplishments but inherited characteristics or abilities which may win them certain advantages in life; but neither their unique abilities or talents or what they gain by means of them is earned. There is nothing extraordinary about good fortune.
The second point I must make is that "ordinary" is not a derogatory term. Most people are ordinary and every society is made up of mostly ordinary individuals. Comparing the ordinary to the extraordinary does not mean one is superior or inferior to the other. The ordinary seldom appreciate the extraordinary and would not enjoy being one of them. The extraordinary could not bear to live the life of the ordinary but does not judge them as inferior, only as what they are, different from himself.
Characteristics Of The Ordinary
The Masses Of Mediocrity
It is not possible to provide a general description of the ordinary individual, because every individual is different and every individual will have some characteristics that are exceptions to any general description. With that in mind, the following are the most common characteristics of ordinary Americans.
Perhaps the most common general characteristic of the ordinary is that there is very little real happiness or success in their lives. The following are statistically common characteristics of ordinary Americans that are incompatible with happiness.
They're Suicidal. Happy successful people do not commit suicide except in very extreme cases. Surely there are not 44,000 extreme cases a year. For every suicide there are 25 attempted suicides, which means 1,100,000 individuals are dissatisfied with life enough to be willing to end it.
They're Drug Addicted. At least 20 million Americans over the age of 12 are. Happy people do not blot out reality with drugs or kill themselves attempting to escape reality. 100 people die every day from drug overdoses. The number of deaths from opioids alone was 35,000 in 2015, and that number increases every year.
They're mentally ill. At least twenty percent of them are, which means every fifth person you meet has some kind of psychological problem. That does not describe happy people. It begins in their teens. At least half of all cases of depression begin by age 14. Depression leads to substance abuse, academic failure, eating disorders, and suicide, which is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds. Why would happy people take something which ought to be a source of health and pleasure and turn it into something that torments and kills them? At least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder.
They're obsessed with sex. In this age of, "all sex all the time," it is not surprising that another human attribute that ought to be a source of meaningful and wholesome pleasure has become a curse that ruins people's lives. About 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men experience sexual dysfunction. That only means many individuals are not able to enjoy sex, but their sexual problems are much worse than that.
Sex makes them sick. There are nearly 20 million new STIs (or STDs) every year in the US, half of those among young people aged 15-24. Undiagnosed STIs cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year. In case you are unaware of the diseases recreational sex enjoys they include cancer causing HPV, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis, and HIV.
Sex is obviously a source of human pleasure and fulfillment but like any other human pleasure sought for its own sake, it will become an obsession that one is controlled by rather than a pleasure one is in control of. The psychological damage of indiscriminate sex is worse than the physical consequences.
Statistics of those for whom sex has become the controller of their minds can only be suggested by the number of those who are their victims. Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the US. That's more than 600 women every day. Of these approximately 248,000 victims, about 87,000 were victims of rape, 70,000 were victims of attempted rape, and 91,000 were victims of other sexual assaults.
They abuse children Throughout history children have always been abused and neglected in every society, but it is only in the modern culturally and technologically advanced societies that child abuse has become an indication of some fundamental flaw in individuals. What kind of people make it possible for 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys to be victims of sexual abuse?
They're not working Human success and happiness are not possible to those not engaged in productive work. In the US, 8.2% of people 16 years of age or older (12.7 million) are unemployed.
They're parasites. Those who are not supporting themselves must be supported by those who do work and produce. In 2014, 35.4%, or 109,631,000 Americans were on some form of welfare.
They're in debt. Some are unable to produce enough to cover their spending and most squander what they do earn on luxuries and pleasure. Average debt for balance-carrying American households, $16,048. Their debt consumes more than they earn with 15.1% of the households in the U.S. having a net wealth less than or equal to zero, while 14.0 percent have strictly negative wealth. They live in debt and they die in debt. With an average of $62K of Debt, 73% of consumers have outstanding debt when they die.
They hate their jobs. One's work is what one does to live and achieve the kind of life that is worth living. An individual's work is what he is, but over 70% of U.S. workers are unhappy about their job.
They're divorced or unmarried. Ten percent of Americans are divorced. There are no statistics for those who never bother to marry, but have children and break up. You can get an idea of how many from the number living together and the number of single mothers raising children.
—Number of unmarried couples living together: 5.5 million
—Total single mothers who are divorced: 3.392 million
—Total single mothers raising one child: 5.239 million.
Of course, none of these statistics are true of everyone, but the majority of Americans are described by many or most of these characteristics.
Common Characteristics Of The Ordinary
The following are other common characteristic of ordinary Americans.
They have not learned anything important since graduating school, high school, or college.
They embrace some form of superstition or religion, or as H.L. Mencken described them, they "believe passionately in the palpably not true," which he said was, "the costliest of all follies."
They believe anything called science no matter how absurd and believe their credulity makes them erudite.
They do not like taking anything too seriously (like morality) but what they do take seriously is usually trivial (like sports).
They take politics seriously, but seldom seriously enough to know anything factual about it. Personality and promises are politics for them.
They are both vindictive and vengeful but call it justice. Will beat someone up for having a wrong view or opinion, but prefer for the government to do it for them.
They are hypocritical gossips. They love scandal, love judging celebrities and politicians, but secretly envy them.
They believe other people are their responsibility which justifies their interference in others lives.
They believe what other people think or say about them matters. How others judge them is more important to them than what they actually are and much of what they do is only to impress others. The truth doesn't matter much to them.
They live for entertainment and diversion. They cannot live without TV, sports, and the latest scandalous entertainment.
They are largely ignorant of the world, have no understanding of geography, history, international trade, or international affairs.
They have no understanding of how the world of production and commerce work. They know how to grocery shop but have no idea how the food is produced or appears in the grocery store. They know about the latest products from automobiles to cell phones are but have no idea how they are made or made available.
They have almost every modern electronic device but have no idea how any of them work. They think knowing how to browse the WEB, use email, play games and use "aps" is the same as knowing how a computer works.
They do not know their own language (much less another one). They cannot properly speak or write. They know nothing about grammar or syntax. They cannot name the eight principle parts of speech. They think gerunds, infinitives, and participles are kinds of diseases. The believe rhetoric is for snobs and would not recognize a metaphor, simile, or hyperbole if they fell over them.
They don't know the meaning of any of these words: disingenuous, pusillanimous, epistemology, penultimate, egregious, disenfranchised, mercenary, gullible, credulous, nefarious,
or, the difference between sensual and sensuous;
the difference between too, two, and to;
the difference between its and it's; or
the difference between there, their, and they're;
and consistently use "she and me," "me and her," "he and me," or "me and him," as subjects.
But, they will repudiate those who do know these things as snobs, though they won't know what "repudiate" means.
They never read for pleasure or to learn.
They do not like classical music, classical literature, poetry, or any from of enjoyment that requires knowledge and effort to appreciate.
They hate "philosophy," but embrace any ideology that promises them instant virtue and wisdom.
They never have an original thought or idea. Everything they believe, think, and say only repeats what they've learned.
They never produce anything original. Even their work is repeating patterns others have developed and using machines others have designed.
They believe war is great and would not hesitate to send their children to kill and die in one; though, ironically, they believe they love their children.
Characteristics Of The Extraordinary
Extraordinary does not mean better or superior, it means different and rare. If they were not different they would not be extraordinary. If they were commonplace they would not be extraordinary.
Of course the exceptional individual prefers his life to the life of an ordinary individual, just as an ordinary individual must prefer his own life to that of an exceptional individual. We must assume this because every human being must choose how they will live their life. Exceptional individuals are not born with any special or unique characteristics not shared by ordinary individuals, and no inborn characteristic of the ordinary makes them choose to live ordinary lives.
Exceptional individuals are exceptional because that is what they choose do be. They do not choose to be, "exceptional." They would choose the kind of life they live whether it was how everyone lived their lives or if they were the only one in the whole world who lived that way.
Why Are They Exceptional
Perhaps some exceptional individuals have other reasons for choosing how they live their lives, but all those I know, or know about, came to a place in their lives when they discovered or realized the kind of life they were going to have would be determined solely by what they think, choose, and do. For some, the realization was so early in life they cannot remember ever thinking any other way. Others only come to the realization after learning from experience, often a serious difficulty or traumatic experience caused by their own bad choices, that their success or failure depended solely on themselves.
It is apparent that most people are not truly successful and happy in this world, even those who seem to have power, money, prestige, or position. Most of those held up as examples of success have not actually earned their wealth, position, or fame, but accrued them by means of fortune, charisma, talent, looks, political power, or pandering to the insatiable appetites of the ordinary for entertainment, the sensational, and, hedonistic pleasure.
It is never what one has that determines either success or happiness, it is only what one has achieved and made of themselves by their own effort that can provide that sense of personal integrity, dignity, competence, and self-worth required by one's nature for a truly fulfilled life of meaning and purpose.
What Is So Exceptional About The Extraordinary
In my article, Controllers, Meddlers and Individualists I described the most significant characteristic of the extraordinary as being "free individuals." I've adapted the following from that article replacing, "free individuals," with "extraordinary individuals."
An extraordinary individual is one who is completely confident in his own ability to live his life successfully without anyone else's advice, teaching, direction, approval, support, love, unasked for help, or agreement. An extraordinary individual neither desires or seeks anything other than what he can produce or earn by his own rationally directed effort. An extraordinary individual is never a threat to any other individual in any way.
An extraordinary individual is only concerned with knowing that whatever he has in this world he has produced or acquired by his own honest effort, that all he enjoys in this world is without guilt or regret because he earned and deserves it, and that all he is, is what he has made of himself and is the best he could possibly have accomplished. He does not care what anyone else thinks or knows about him, only what he knows about himself.
He cannot be satisfied by anything less than the best. It is not the best as defined by society or what is popular, but the best possible for a human being as determined by his nature and the nature of the world in which he lives. Not the best in terms of physical possessions, but the best in terms of his freedom and personal achievement, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
He does not steal, he does not cheat, he does not threaten others, he does not rape, he does not, "take advantage," of anyone's weaknesses or foibles, (he won't be a drug dealer, a pornographer, a pimp, a prostitute, a professional gambler, or a panderer to any other human weakness or obsession, and he won't be a politician, a policeman, a bureaucrat, a government school teacher, or any other kind of government agent).
He will not take advantage of anyone for his own gratification. He will not use women (and she will not used men) for his own pleasure and attempt to justify it on the grounds that it was, "consensual." What an evil lie one must tell oneself to use another person as though it was OK because that person agreed to being used, or perhaps even enjoyed it. The sadist is not justified in harming another just because the other is a masochist. Every drug dealer, pimp, and pornographer would be justified on those grounds. Perhaps every evil in the world is justified by the words, "I'm only giving them what they want."
Have another look at all the things the ordinary ruin their lives with. Every one is the consequence of their own choices and actions, and every choice and action was determined by some feeling, or whim, or insatiable desire, and there was always someone ready to supply them with what they wanted.
In an unpublished answer to another article which asked the question, "Does Society Have Room for Brilliant Eccentrics?" I wrote:
"The answer is no, from the point of view of the worthless riff-raff called "society," but the reason is because the extraordinary individual is too big for society. What you don't understand is that the brilliant individual has no need or use for society's opinions, approval, or 'help.'
"The truly extraordinary individual is an autodidact, a polymath, and very likely a polyglot, who will be successful without the aid or approval of society. The extraordinary have no use for society, though on an individual basis is always both charming and magnanimous. If you met her, she'd smile, politely, perhaps with a bit of irony, but would keep her opinion of you to herself."