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Is Mediocre the New Normal?

by Ken Whitman

There's a sarcastic saying, "When all else fails, lower your standards." Remember grading on a curve in school? This practice takes the highest score and makes it the "A." Let's say you had a 10-question test. The best student in the class only answered 5 out of 10 questions correctly. That student is assigned an A and the rest of the grades are distributed relative to that "high" score.

Are we grading on a curve in our society? Have we lost sight of factual high standards to such a degree that we are now accepting mediocrity as normal?

What happens, for example, when we shop for produce? What's our expectation? If a fruit or vegetable looks good, do we accept the item as normal?

Dan Kittredge, a second-generation organic farmer and head of the Bionutrient Food Association, advises us to trust our sense of smell and sense of taste. Nutrients come from the soil environment, and if they are present in quantity in fruits and vegetables, you can smell and taste them. A tomato worth buying, Kittredge says, will smell and taste like a real tomato. Your nose and your tongue are excellent nutrient detectors. If produce is sweet (not sugar sweet, but not bitter) and flavorful, the produce is high in what Dan calls "bionutrients." We know these as minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and other nutritious plant components that (if they are there in quantity) make fruits and vegetables such a valuable food source. Have we accepted tasteless or bitter (and low-nutrient) produce
as normal?

I recently returned from Italy, where the Slow Food movement originated. Italians have a great respect for food, and eating is a visceral part of the joy of living. They understand fresh, quality ingredients with real taste. Even their airport food is far superior to what we have come
to accept.

Average Americans consume 54 gallons of soda each year and the average child's diet includes 34 teaspoons of sugar daily! Is that normal? Is it normal to eat a diet laden with fat, sugar and salt and look forward to senior years fraught with aches and pains, bone loss and a daily cocktail of "meds"?

In order to improve things, it's necessary to conceive of an ideal and then honestly appraise the situation in which we find ourselves. If we've ceased envisioning ideals and simply'albeit reluctantly'accept dreary as normal, aren't we shortchanging ourselves?

What do you think?

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Ken Whitman
Ken Whitman is president of Natural Vitality, a purpose-driven nutritional products company. Natural Vitality publishes Calmful Living as a public service as part of its Calm the Earth Project.