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By Joe Badalamenti 

The US isn’t doing so well right now. In a time of increasing inflation, political violence, and looming prospects of a major war, it’s clear that we’re not in the best of times. This raises the question: how do we get back to the best of times. While there are many different approaches to this task, any feasible approach should require some form of action, but who will lead this action? Undoubtedly, it will be led by great people; those who excel at their profession or hobby to the point of excellence. Thus, to ensure that better times are reached, these great people must develop a pure moral character.

I would say that there are three levels of greatness that one can achieve. While this is a flexible and very informal system of classification, I’m sticking to it for simplicity’s sake. This system is also specific to certain activities: athletics, academics, hobbies, etc. Someone who is an elite hockey player, for instance, may be only average at chess. 

The first level of greatness is that of the role model. The role model is someone who—as the name suggests—models good behavior in their role or hobby. By definition, this person is good at what they do by a significant margin, compared to the average person. As a result, others are inclined to look up to them, either for guidance or advice on how to improve. While the role model may have a heavy personal influence on others, their influence on society tends to be little to none. A great example of role models are parents: mothers and fathers. Parents are one of the most able role models to help their children grow into adolescents and adults. While role models may not be the most exciting, they are nevertheless important.

The next level is that of the leader. Leader is a very generic term, but I feel it best describes the function of this role. A leader is one who leads a group or institution composed of like minded people. This is an important role as institutions serve a critical role in civil society in forming the populace into proper citizens. The scope of leaders can vary from president of a small college club to the CEO of a large corporation. As people with a large amount of power, leaders also have an equally large amount of responsibility. Having a significant amount of influence in their institution, leaders must care not only for the people within their community, but also for the stability and persistence of the institution itself. If an institution is successful but abandons its own members, then what good is it as a community? Likewise, If the establishment becomes corrupted and abandons its own values, then it is inevitable that it will abandon the people who resonate the most with its original purpose. This leads to a decline in the strength of the community as it becomes gradually abandoned unless changes are made. Thus, it may be said that an institution is as strong as its leaders. If a leader can maintain the values of its institution while also carrying out its mission, then the community will persist.

We now move on to the final tier: the elite. Those who transcend others in terms of skill and passion for the particular hobby. The elite generally occupy a prime space in the headlines of cultural news articles and celebrity gossip. These people may be so popular that average people will develop unhealthy relationships with them. It goes without saying that these elite individuals have an enormous impact on society. If one were to view society as a giant decentralized community, then the elite individuals would be the leaders of the collective. Additionally, the previous paragraph regarding the qualities of leaders would apply here as well.

Throughout this entire article I’ve written in abstract terms, thus, I would like to use a relevant example of this theory in action, that being the musician Ye. The man formerly known as Kanye West needs no introduction, but I’ll give one for those living under the proverbial rock. Rapper, producer, artist, entrepreneur, fashion icon, actor, social media shitposter, and much more have allowed Ye to amass more wealth than most families will see in several lifetimes. However with great wealth comes great controversy, and, to Ye, controversy is like a second wife. I could discuss these controversies at length, but I would like to illustrate some of Ye’s positive qualities. He has produced/recorded several platinum albums, he has maintained a connection to his faith while being surrounded by a materialist and decadent culture, he has used his fame to give a spotlight to up and coming musicians, most famously Kid Cudi. He has done all of this while in the eye of controversy for the past 14 years. Of course Ye is not perfect, however, perfection is an ideal, one that all elites clearly share. While Ye has had more than his fair share of controversy, not all of them demonstrate bad character. Two of Ye’s most recent controversies include attempting to maintain his marriage with Kim Kardiashian for the sake of his children, and releasing his latest album exclusively on his $200 stem player device. While many may see these actions as controversial, there is deeper meaning behind these actions if you look beyond the chatter. The move to release the album on his own platform was designed as a move against big labels and streaming platforms. Even if other artists don’t directly benefit from the move, this move shows that it’s possible for musicians to be creative while still earning an income with creative marketing enough of an entrepreneurial approach. As for the drama with Kim, Ye is someone who takes his Christian faith seriously, so it makes sense that he would stick to the lifelong contract that is marriage. Some may see these repeated controversies as bad on face value. This view is naive, as all great people are controversial. I write this not to excuse any of the objectively bad actions that Ye has committed, but to illustrate how an elite would behave, and what the reaction towards this behavior would encompass.   

A great society requires great people with exceptional character. Developing such a character is not easy; it is not something that can be conferred with a certificate or earned after accomplishing an arbitrary goal. Like a plant, character is something which must be constantly nurtured overtime so that one day it will bloom. 

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