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Vocation for the ridiculous | Profile

Canadian Alain Deneault is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Montreal. author of Mediocracy: when the mediocre take power, Deneault proposes a recipe to achieve mediocrity. “Don’t be witty or flashy: you can come across as arrogant,” he writes. “And most importantly, avoid good ideas – a lot of them end up in the shredder. That penetrating look of his is scary: he opens his eyes wider and relaxes his lips. His reflections must not only be flimsy, they must also appear so. When you talk about yourself, make sure we understand that you’re no big deal. That will make it easier for us to put it in the appropriate drawer.” And after developing with similar irony other perspectives of mediocrity, he becomes serious and launches a frightening statement, although in light of what is lived, it is not necessarily new: “No one has taken the Bastille, he says, nor has fire at the Reichstag, the Aurora has not fired a single volley. And yet they have launched the attack and have been successful: the mediocre have taken power”.

Also the author of a controversial book that earned him some legal proceedings (Noir Canada: Plunder, corruption and criminality), Deneault maintains that up to a certain point the term mediocrity defined what is not superiority (what is above average) and not inferiority (what is below average). That is, the word was not necessarily pejorative. But the type of mediocrity that ended up imposing itself in contemporary society in the field of ideas, politics, artistic and intellectual production, social conversation, economic currents and even technological production (beyond its marketing, its lobbies and its packaging) made mediocrity cease to be an abstract reference to become a thick and heavy cloud that prevents the elevation of talents, thoughts, creations and projects capable of igniting utopias and encouraging community-improving purposes . The improvement of each task so that it is useful to an elusive group and simulates giving content to words that in practice were emptied of transcendent meaning (such as sustainability, innovation, governance, inspiration and even gender among many others) has turned Deneault thinks, into “experts” to charlatans who enunciate timely phrases with minimal portions of truth.

And things can get worse if mediocrity and stupidity are combined. Because when stupidity is naturalized and is no longer seen as such, but as “normality” in those who manifest it, and also invests itself (in addition to being invested) with the attributes of power, what the Austrian Robert Musil (1880-1942), author of The Man Without Qualities, one of the great writers of the German language in the last century: “If stupidity did not perfectly resemble progress, ingenuity, hope and improvement, no one would want to be stupid.” But today the lines of those who insist on being and proving it are long. From the mixture between mediocrity and stupidity, ridiculousness is often born.

“If you reproach a friend for his defects or his vices, you run the risk of quarreling with him; and if, in addition, his ridiculousness is made present to him, one can be sure that he will never forgive him.” This was the opinion of the French doctor and writer Edme-Pierre Beauchêne. And perhaps that explains why, once installed in the showcase of power, ridiculousness (pregnant with mediocrity and stupidity) is exhibited and repeated with an impudence that nothing stops. Perhaps because it deafens those who suffer from it and there is no way for them to listen to advice or warnings. Or perhaps because, due to fear or adulation towards power, no one close dares to make such a warning.

Whatever the reason, the truth is that those who exercise power in Argentina are usually faithful exponents of this phenomenon (Menem and the rocket to the Moon, Cristina at Harvard, De la Rúa on the television set, Macri and his unfortunate jokes soccer fans before other presidents, are a few examples), but the current level is unprecedented, amazing and provides examples every week, as if responding to a deep and inexhaustible vocation.

*Writer and journalist.

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