One of the unknowables in life is what can get you thrown out of something. When I was in the hostel in university, a student was thrown out because he stayed out too late too often. Another was asked to leave for the opposite reason: for not displaying the smarts to sneak back into his room without being seen by the warden. It was an important life lesson: you just can’t win.
When a management consultancy firm in France fired an employee for not going out often with his colleagues, it meant that being boring could be a reason for the sack too, even if the company’s definition of a bore was “not like one of us”. The company didn’t understand this basic fact: life is not a tragedy, it is a bore.
It was a Frenchman, Jean Baudrillard, who said the world’s second worst crime is boredom – the first is being a bore. Flaubert, another Frenchman, understood boredom; the Madame Bovary Syndrome is named after the heroine of his novel.
So we can assume the French know about these matters better than the rest of us do, even if we suspect that if every company sacked every employee who was a bore, there would be no one left to do the work. What distinguishes us from the lower animals is our infinite capacity to bore one another.
Mr. T (the so-called bore’s name had a few more letters, though) took the matter to court which told his company in effect that being a bore is a fundamental right (they expressed it in legalese, of course). Mr. T has also asked for some four hundred thousand pounds as compensation, so he isn’t such a bore after all. Or if he is, he becomes a richer bore now.
Mr. T is in excellent company. Nietzsche thought Plato was a bore, actor Joe Pesci thought he himself was a bore, Kierkegaard thought all men were bores, Susan Sontag thought Beckett was a bore. Henry Kissinger didn’t actually confess to being a bore, but he did say that celebrities who were bores got away with it because listeners assumed it was their fault and not the celebrity’s.
The second saddest thing in life is to be a bore and not know it. The first, of course, is to be a bore and know it.
I suspect the company that sacked Mr. T probably felt that boredom is the root of all evil. Employees fighting boredom and keeping it at bay ensured more profit. You will find boredom where there is absence of a good idea.
Somehow Mr. T emerged as the symbol of this worrying truth, and his employers couldn’t afford to let it spread. Hence, I believe, the sacking. It takes great maturity not to be affected by thaasophobia – the fear of being bored or boring (to extend the definition). Mr T had that maturity, his colleagues didn’t. And now he will be laughing (or not) all the way to the bank.
(Suresh Menon is Contributing Editor, The Hindu).