The usefulness of the spineless

Johann Gottfried von Herder, a German philosopher of the 18th century, wondered whether «useful men» were far more valuable than geniuses. «They require gifts and skills… a certain mediocrity which neither rises to the level of genius or intellectual creativity, nor sinks into stupidity.» For some time now we have been witnessing a peculiar pre-election climate that peaked on the August 15 holiday. Not that we are unaccustomed to such phenomena, but the way that the public relations agenda of politicians expanded was truly impressive. The sheer variety of «happenings» in which they participated left even the most experienced voters speechless. Ceremonies to mark the third anniversary of the elevator on the Acropolis, appearances at local festivals, at parades of holy icons, displays of piety, calls to prayer, as the occasion demanded, speeches, handshakes, hugs, patting the heads of children, expressions of sorrow and reflection at the sight of burned forests. One cannot but wonder whether such forced displays eventually make politicians lose their ability to express themselves naturally. Continuous self-advertisement is no doubt a painful obligation and overexposure always leads to humiliation. Thus, one month before the elections, the traveling players in the game of politics are already exhausted and bereft of the last vestiges of thought. What will be left? The smiling posters with bland expressions and voter-friendly poses. For years now we have been wondering whether these methods really work. Is there any sane voter who casts his or her ballot on the basis of a candidate’s last appearance at the parading of an icon of the Virgin, or a casual visit to a «sardine festival»? If so, then we should not even be pondering the «usefulness of the mediocre,» for we shall have to live with the awful familiarity of the «flexible,» or rather the «spineless.»