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SOUNDS CAN BITE?

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In last week’s article, I exposed myself as being behind the times.

Not, of course, the one down Sheffield Road, Mbabane! But I had greeted my friend Bridget with ‘Hi Brid’, when, in popular style, ‘hi’ was replaced some years ago with the word ‘hey’; certainly in America. That’s an interesting transition to a term that, for centuries, was a summoning call; often extended to the more threatening version; ‘hey you’! Rest assured, this article is not dedicated to plays on words. Nevertheless, many English words are hybrids – the word television is a mixture of Greek (tele) and Latin (visionem) – while the word hybrid is one word, descending from hibrido – the Latin for mixture.

Until recently, the word was rarely used outside the science laboratory and textbooks. It related mainly to plants; hybrid vigour being the enhanced outcome from a mixture of plant species. Also the animal kingdom, though I doubt the horse and donkey would agree it happens with their progeny – the mule. Now we have the hybrid vehicle that runs on petrol or electricity. But why did they have to create the hybrid golf club, with a broader base to the club head, plus different material, just to make hitting a ball easier? The great golfers of yesteryear must be howling in their graves.

The word hybrid can be used in almost every sentence, because it is relevant to so much. It might even depose, from the top rank, terms such as ‘going forward’, which are the sound bites of many individuals when at the microphone. And that’s interesting – sound can deafen but how does it manage to bite as well (lol)? The sound bite is very popular with politicians; often more than the politicians themselves. We should judge politicians on what they do, not what they say they’ll do. Though even what they do may not be the right thing. Donald Trump led the way and now Nancy Pelosi. Why did she need to make such a heavily publicised official visit to Taiwan, the latter’s claim to independence being just about the most cage-rattling issue for Mainland China? Where was President Biden in that? Perhaps just ‘bidin’ his time before they escort him into retirement.

Upset

With Nancy perhaps ‘bidin’ her own time for the big day, pulling in lots of Republicans on the way? But, let’s face it, with the USA being one of the two biggest boys on the block, it makes no sense to upset the other one unless absolutely necessary. Without surrender, the two need to get along; talking constantly, reminding each other that one needs the financial investment and plastic toys, while the other depends on a peaceful, functioning world across which to spread its neo-colonialism (lol). Miss Nancy should also remember that China is only across the channel to the people of the Wild West of America.

The strategic blunder by our dear American friends – I mean it, they are our big mates – is now endorsed by a follow-up visit by a group from the US Congress. Otherwise dear Nancy could have reserved a place for herself in the political dustbin next to Boris Johnson; he of the short, immaculate hairstyle. Soon to be followed perhaps by French President Macro-n, steadily turning into Micro-n. That guy must watch his back; and front. Either way, it’s down his neck that extreme right winger Marine le Pen is breathing. Not literally, of course; she’s quite well behaved. But Pens are not important today, except for autographs; though we still await the paperless office that was proclaimed ‘imminent’, way back in the early 1990s.

Admiring

No, the only right-winger we should be admiring is Kylian Mbappé of Paris Saint- Germain and, going back many years, include Stanley Matthews, the football hero of the 1950s. I pulled up alongside Sir Stanley, in the 1980s, at some traffic lights in Johannesburg. Somewhat over-excited at this amazing coincidence, I waved. He waved back. In modern times, the star would have shot off in the opposite direction, his security team battering the bodywork of my car for making threatening gestures at their boss. The trouble with many politicians is that they don’t have the right experience for leadership, nor even the right motivation.

Most of the leaders of today have never developed the people-management skills necessary for such a challenging occupation. Talking their way into promises, then out of the failures, is the only skill they seem to have. Yet Jimmy Carter, winning the vote for US President in 1976, mainly because of his management skills, was one of the least successful American leaders of the last century. But quality did shine through later, and he is now one of the most successful past-presidents. Talking of motivation, special among the genuine do-gooders of the world today are the teachers and nurses. They pursue a selfless career, dedicated to human development and the saving of life respectively, with relatively little by way of public acclaim and financial reward.

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