Supreme Mediocrity and I Like Hoka-Hoka Bento

The British author and critic, Will Self coined the term "supreme mediocrity" a few months ago. I had never heard of him before and i thought he was being a prick when he did that because he used the term to describe George Orwell. Although his name sounds like a poorly-constructed sentence with pronouns missing, i find "supreme mediocrity" is actually a beautiful phrase that put my under-achieving brain cells to work.

Without dissecting deeper on what Self originally intended to highlight (to save you from hassle, i will just point out that Self was questioning Orwell’s approach to English language), i took the phrase under my foster and developed my own understanding on what a supreme mediocrity is.

I love all the fine things in the world as much as the next man, but i realise that most of the time we have to be content with mediocre stuff that meet our minimum criteria of satisfaction. After all, mediocrity walks hand in hand with our daily activities, a conjugal engagement that gives birth to what we call "routine".

Most of the things we possess are mediocre at best, even if the scale may vary, depends on your social and economic class. The mediocrity of the stuff we have is not determined by its economic value, but rather by its frequency and regularity. You remember the feeling when you got your first ever Jansport backpack or when you inaugurally have your hands on Quiksilver shirt when you we were a kid? That sheer sensation would diminish when it happened again. When you no longer feel that bomb, that’s the moment when your stuff turn mediocre. This also happen when you upgrade your preference, like for instance, from Jansport to Tumi.

Desiring things that you’ve never had is just a plain human trait, but it’s not there for infinity as it could wane when other factors added to the equation. I’d like to think that to see something mediocre is different from finding something boring. The latter occurs when its values reduced through time while the former ensues because the quality was never there at the first place - something that we didn’t think of until we have it on our hands and examine it thoroughly.

Some things were meant to be mediocre but their actual qualities skipped our eyes because we already built a construction of those things and put them higher than they’re supposed to be. Not until it became frequent that we managed to reveal their true values.

My concept of supreme mediocrity is based on my tendency to treat some things higher than they’re supposed. No matter how sub-standard and mediocre it is, i keep on coming back because mediocrity is synonymous with routine and sometimes your brain works on autopilot.

My ideal example of this concept is Hoka-Hoka Bento, the faux Japanese fast food restaurant. Like some people, i used to think that Japanese cuisine tasted like Hokben until i grew up and could afford to have a taste on Japanese food. I found out that Japanese meals actually taste nowhere near Hokben. After all, it’s a fast food restaurant. Its raison d’etre is to be mediocre.

Mediocre stuff always pales to comparison in the light of finer things. There’s no way Hokben could stand toe to toe against the more authentic Japanese cuisine in Blok M’s Little Tokyo, for instance. But it wont stop me for having Hokben because despite its mediocrity that i fully acknowledge, it is something that i hold dear. It’s my kind of mediocre. The mediocrity that i love. A supreme mediocrity that reigns victoriously in my heart.

The best thing about mediocrity is its comfort and harmless nature. It will never hurt anybody to possess something mediocre. Certainly it’s not the best available out there, but when it meets the standard requirement of yours, most people will not push the boundaries. It will cost more and take more effort with the possibilities of taking tolls in between.

However, to determine something as mediocre is more complex than it looks. As i mentioned above, other factors have significant roles in determining this. One person’s mediocrity is another person’s haute du jour. While i consider Hokben as a fringe meal, some others may see them as a five-course fine dining. That’s why mediocrity is relative. It’s subjected to personal preference and experience.

I once tried to eat the aforementioned authentic Japanese meals and i hated it. It felt like Pearl Harbour in my mouth with the strange taste catching my tongue by surprise and sinking my ships of appetite. I didnt want that. I wanted Hokben. I wanted them chicken katsu with mayo-bathed cabbage and carrot salad. Screw authenticity, sometimes mediocrity would suit me just well.