The Center of Disease Control has been cautiously watching a threat from the viral spread of unmerited applause in American culture: most obvious on talk and game show television. Of most recent concern was the frenzy on the Rachel Ray Show, when garlic was added to a recipe, topped only by the thunderous response to the addition of chicken stock. This was followed by a standing ovation on Let's Make a Deal, when a woman dressed as roll of toilet paper chose door number three and won two-leopard skin Barcaloungers.
Also rampant is a bizarre mutation of the epidemic in which accomplishments worthy of applause are disregarded. A recent outbreak occurred at the awards dinner of New York City Jr. basketball tournament. The winning team was never acknowledged and applauded for their achievement and their trophies were not as victors, but like all the losing players, as "Participants," a great life lesson for all involved. Like it or not, winning may not be everything, but in the real world, it is still something.
Taken as isolated incidents there is no cause for alarm, but the virus seems to be spreading to the general populace, in all areas of our culture creating a false sense of accomplishment, lowered expectations, and a general disregard for achievement, as evidenced by, the "Good job pandemic," rampant in parents of three to nine when the mere act of drinking a glass of water without spilling it is worthy of the accolade.
A recent supermarket incident was noted by researchers. A young mother took up most of the narrow vestibule to the street with a double-wide SUV baby carriage, while her five-year-old, Lexi, stood blocking the doorway on a pink bicycle complete with training wheels, and Lola sporting more protective gear than Evel Knevel when he jumped the grand canyon. Lexi refused to move as her mother instructed her, "Lexi, go out the door and turn right." Lexi stood her ground through repeated requests, as the escalator from the lower level of the market was delivering a steady stream of shoppers, many with canes and walkers, to the already crowded landing, "Lexi, go out the door and turn to the right." Nothing. "Lexi, I'm counting to three, go out the door and turn to the right." By now the people coming off the escalator were stacking up like cord wood, and when the Lexis mother reached, two and three quarters, some one from the bottom of the pile barked, "Lexi, go out the damn door and turn right." Lola went out the door and turned left, followed by an enthusiastic "good job" from her mother. What was good about it? Now poor Lexi doesn't even know left from right, which is bound to come up again in her life.
Another disturbing symptom of the attack on our expectation level, is the increased use of the word "Star" to define people with no talent, achievement, class and in many case, morals. Stars are amazing and above us, something we look up at an aspire to, not to look down on. If the Kardashians, Snooki, Honey Booboo, the Housewives, the Bachelors and Bachelorettes are stars, then we have to come up with a new designation for: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Justin Timberlake, Eli Manning and the countless gifted, dedicated people who can actually do something.
The spread of applause for the mundane, and "Good job" for the ordinary are lulling us into appreciation for what is less then special and laudatory, in both our country and ourselves. Americans are number one at saying "we are number one," but we are 37th in health care; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/27/best-education-in-the-wor_n_2199795.html17th in education; second in obesity, ahead of Russia, France, Vietnam and 25 other countries with citizens living below poverty level; and one in four American children go to bed hungry. So let stop patting ourselves on the back and put our hands together for people and accomplishments that raise our standards and hold the applause for the garlic.