Nicola Simonetti, our Culture Editor, shares his thoughts on his very own idea of culture, and the damage that our X Factor society is causing to the not-enough-talent minds. 

Many people would argue that there could hardly be a better way of taking a break from your daily routine than sunbathing in the Tuscany countryside, but switching off our phones has become such a hard thing to do that sometimes we cannot help but always be up-to-date with what is happening around us. And that is exactly how I came across a shocking, yet not so surprising, information about our generation.

Wondering about which topic might be the best one to start off this new semester with a bang, I have considered sharing my thoughts about my very own idea of “culture”, and how our X Factor generation —as Matthew Syed calls it— does not appreciate the importance of resilience in everyday success. On Tuesday 29 December, the Guardian reported of a psychologist’s experiment to measure the grit of recruits at West Point, an academy for army officers. Such an experiment not only showed that the new questionnaire was more accurate than the traditional test scoring the candidates’s physical and mental prowess, but it also highlighted the role that grit plays in everyday life.

The natural ability to overcome failure should not be threatened by the environment in which we are to spend the rest of our lives. As the journalist puts it “the problem is that we live in an X Factor culture”. Living in a pretty much similar scenario to the one that we can see on the screen, those kids who are not considered talented enough are crossed out and must leave the spotlight to the more talented ones.

On a neurological level, a failure originates two signals in our cortex: an involuntary one and the so-called Error Positivity signal, which helps us grow an awareness of our mistakes. In other words, people who are used to failing more often show to be more likely to learn from their failures and to be less discouraged by them. By creating a society of super-talented people, we are destroying the chance of those who are more willing to learn to be a part of it. I could not agree more with Syed when he says that “resilience, then, is not just about having an appetite for struggle but also about the self-understanding that leads to growth and enlightenment”.


As a consequence, culture is going down a dark path where people are not trying as hard as before because they no longer feel encouraged to do better. Instead of promoting equanimity, today’s society is suggesting that not everybody is fit enough to be on the front line. As a matter of fact, a revolution in the way we approach culture and failure is necessary. Whether you have the X factor or not should not be the core question, as long as you are willing to compensate for your weaknesses. The idea that everybody is different from one another entails that it is wrong to even try to impose an objective parameter to calculate one’s intelligence. Instead of looking for the X factor, today’s society should rather look for resilient people.

Another study has indeed proven the weaknesses of such a elitist society. Our generation, too dependent on the internet and without the need to capture information any longer, seems to be doomed to become the first one in Western Europe to have a net loss of knowledge. Paradoxically, the super-talented ones are not numerous enough to provide for a high-quality society. Cutting out those who are considered to be too average is bringing our society to a new low. Sebastian Faulks warns us and goes as far as to define such a phenomenon a catastrophe.

The conclusion is quite pessimistic: culture is being threatened. The Tribe, however, and the Culture section in particular, have been trying to promote a sense of equality and community as stated in our manifesto. Our goal is to break down walls and support a change. Our writers may or may not have the X factor, nonetheless they are publicised for their very own ideas (which are sometimes shared and sometimes opposed). In the upcoming semester we will keep feeding you with opinions, criticisms, reviews and hopefully some juicy interviews.

For now, I would like to say a massive thank you to all our readers, and remember to ALWAYS STAY FOOLISH.



Nicola Simonetti