Dilution of Superlatives
Remember the times when it used to mean something to be the best, to be at the peak, reach the zenith, be unparalleled in a certain thing, skill, line of work, or for that matter – just be someone’s absolute favourite, without exceptions, without conditions. That position meant the world, whether momentarily or eternally, but established a level of superiority, position of power, special place of compassion and distinction from all the rest, making it something worth fighting for, worth giving your all for in utmost honesty!
Transcending the walls of time and space, coming to the present day, wherein the sheer misuse, unchecked over-use and sometimes even downright abuse of the superlatives have tarnished and completely finished the value of the superlatives that were once so aspirational, triggered a drive, an ambition and fuelled a fire to keep going. Words like – great, best, favourite, star, superstar, legend and more. While we did a fabulous job of coming up with other terms, slangs and lingo that we feel sound cool, it has nothing but taken away the glitz and glory that being crowned by those traditional titles once gave. I mean come on, would you really want to be called a noob when an amateur at something new or be referred to like a grazing animal after achieving insurmountable success, breaking records, winning hearts and in the end be called a G.O.A.T (greatest of all time)? Would you want to be known for living well and adding value to people around you, make a difference and be an agent for good, change, positivity, kindness or want to be just another witty, snobbish, jerky, wannabe icon for lesser people around you and momentarily live what we love calling - the “thug life.”
It baffles me how so many well-established things have changed dimensions. There’s no longer One BEST friend, but a long list of “besties”, there is no specific or particular favourite but a plethora of favourites for each person in each category, across many categories, every other alternative or person very easily becomes a great choice, without realising that these are superlative terms being assigned, that there can be only one BEST or GREATEST or FAVOURITE, the rest are good or better, nicer or more preferred, superior or inferior, but not all in sight or in mind can be an extremity on either end of the spectrum, but must lie in the abyss between the singular best and the singular worst.
The ascent to ‘greatness’, has never been faster than it is now and having said that nor has the fall from grace been this rapid ever before. Whether the overnight success stories that we hear every now and then because of the viral sensations that we claim to discover every other day, or the sudden knocking off the perch once we have had enough of someone or have found a new eye candy, this has become the new norm of putting on and removing people from a pedestal, with zero stability, peace of mind or assurance of the future and making every moment nervy and edgy. While we fondly and quite remarkably remember, people from all walks of life, be it a ruler, a musician, a painter, a scientist, or any other - from centuries ago, we falter in remembering an actor, an acquaintance or a public figure from just a couple of years ago. While this may not seem alarming, it really is, as it only goes to show the fact that we have been rapidly reducing our attention and memory spans, or maybe on the flip side, making so many people, events, moments blow out of proportion, that barely few of them become noteworthy or worth remembering, as so many new ones get added by the time we get to recollecting them! Something that I observed with fruits and veggies in my childhood is what I observe with people in the present times we live in – being a flavour of the season. Nothing more, nothing less. The shelf life of a living person, has been cut short to a couple of decades at best, few years at an average and in some cases not more than a few months, weeks, or days before either they vanish into thin air themselves, or we drive them into oblivion.
Coupled with the reducing attention spans, increasing options, easy rise and fall from great heights, is the growing and borderline insane ambition to be the best or be number one, no matter what the circumstances, howsoever big or small the playing field or how skewed the perceptions to achieve that. What we used to say as an absolution has all become relative now, what we easily demarcated as black and white, is all just an ocean of grey now! E.L. James quite conservatively restricted it to 50 shades of grey, but looking at the scenario now, it is all just an endless stream of greys till your eyes can see!
The clearly obvious ones like say Apple as the most valuable company, cheetah, the fastest land mammal or the blue whale as the largest one, stay put as clear winners, however, in every other field and with a drastic fall in authenticity, people have resorted to carving a niche for themselves that comfortably puts them on top based on their self-controlled narrative. Something on the lines of - “Best Boutique Consulting Firm under 50 employees in North ______ in ____ line of work”, making the sample size so small & thereby making it sound like such a big deal, aiming to charm and outwit the most unassuming and uninformed people and make a quick buck out of them! The general template being, “We ____, are the best in the XYZ Category of the ABC segment, under MNO boundaries operating in the JKL period”, practically making the niche so small that they’re the only player in it! Friendly advice - If you ever come across such a positioning, just steer clear!
Every now and then we get these new lists crowning the richest, sexiest, strongest, smartest people on the planet. Not only are these lists far too many and only keep increasing year after year, but even in the same time period do not select a clear winner! While I do buy into the fact that there can be multiple aspects for these selections, but how convenient has it become to anoint one person as the best on one list and have the same nowhere close to winning on another! There are enough debates on awards being bought and sold and I refrain from adding to it, but where does it leave us then, whom do we believe, what credibility does anything have left, if so called positions of power bestow honours without being true to the spirit behind it. Anywhere you look, you come across banners, TV ads, digital ads craftily positioned on practically any app you use, just trying to feed you that a certain person or company is the best in what they do. Ironically, the next ad names another company as the best in that same line of work. If everyone is the ‘best’, ‘the most efficient’, the – fastest, safest, cheapest, strongest, softest, loudest or whatever ‘est’ that fits, what are they even competing against or who even lies in behind them? Hottest food for thought! Ahh crap, I fell for it too!
Due to this absurdity that we find ourselves in, the process/journey from bottom to the top has been made less satisfying or worthwhile – be it due the lack of patience or simply the pace of life in the new order of the world. Good is just not good enough anymore, everyone wants to be known as THE best, even if not actually strive towards and actually do what it takes to be that or serve their time getting there! The only thing it fosters is lack of self-awareness, greater chances of depression, even greater of frustration and uncontrollable chaos to this already mayhem like rat race, with no real contentment, just a race for content!