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The virtue of being boring


AS A COUNTRY, Switzerland with its private banks and expensive wristwatches is not considered “exciting.” Sure, skiers and those with unexplained wealth want to keep the place free of crowds… and, yes, continue to be boring and expensive. Is it in anybody’s bucket list to visit Basel? Somehow, boring countries get their job done without fuss or crisis. It’s always business as usual with no interruptions.

The CEO of Apple, rich and powerful, does not get much notice except from investors and wealth watchers. Even his “coming out of the closet” was greeted with yawns. And yet he has grown his company even after the demise of his more colorful predecessor. He is even invoked as an ideal type of CEO for the biggest car company while its own leader is distracted elsewhere.

Is being boring a virtue to be embraced?

An administration that does not curse critics and malefactors on TV or send out kill orders for vagrants can get by a crisis without even personally wading through crowds and reassuring besieged victims of cancelled flights and typhoons that they will be provided with free meals.

Can drabness be a worthy goal?

It helps, of course, if one has a soft voice and naturally speaks in a monotone with long pauses, minimal facial movements (not necessarily from Botox) and an absence of hand movements. When unavailable to explain what’s going on, there are always surrogates to take the spear.

Being boring comes naturally for those born with the gift of drab, who go through life unmindful of the snoring they cause when they speak. In politics, it is charisma that is a sought-after commodity. If dullness is considered a liability, someone with a forgettable intellectual cache’ may well ask — what’s wrong with having nothing to say? The onions love it.

The quest for boredom aims to lower your profile and avoid the evil eye — whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make interesting (and featured in interviews) to create cyber enemies they haven’t even met. Developing boring skills is in the same category as the witness protection program, an effort to avoid reprisals.

Avoiding attention by putting people to sleep or causing their minds to wander is an achievable goal.

Oratorical skills must be reined in, metaphors and alliterations avoided. Humor? Don’t make me laugh. Talking is fine as long as people do not understand what you’re trying to say. It’s best to go for clichés and express incoherent thoughts in arguments. You can agree with everybody, including those with opposing views. When you offer your opinion, it should be unrelated to the topic at hand.

Better still, absence seems to elicit lethargy even from media coverage. In the selection process, it is best to avoid taking stands on anything with a debate moderator shooting questions that others can answer. Just to make the absence of the leader boring, one senator, known also for being ignored, not for his dullness but his indifference to facts and analysis, proposes that such questions on whereabouts constitute a breach of national security. Ok, that will not put you on the defensive.

What about boring businesses? Those that avoid legislative inquiry, regulatory intervention, or attracting the attention of the powerful politico-economic dynasties are worth pursuing. Even when called “agribusiness,” the growing of vegetables, poultry, or fisheries attracts little attention, except for inflation-watchers who can also be boring. Even a full-time secretary to be appointed to this portfolio has been left on the sidelines. (Yeah, right — there’s one already, rocking the night away.)

There is no interest at all, real or feigned, in anyone who does not seem to offer any benefit or harm to anybody. Do you find waiters interesting? If one does not bring the order quickly, another one passing by can be accosted to take over.

The virtue of being boring allows one to be ignored, or at least not interfered with. He can sail quietly through life and achieve his goals without attracting envy and the hostility this engenders.

The adjectives “rich, powerful, and boring” are rarely found in the same sentence. A wealthy person who is dull is merely considered shy and best left undisturbed. Being boring is a virtue that is… too often ignored.

Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda

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