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Well if I had a rand for every time a politician claimed that their comments were taken out of context, I’d probably have a Dollar by now. Maybe two, depending on how they stuff up the exchange rate.
You’d think that by now at least, after so many instances of being “taken out of context”, our political players would at least be aware of the risk. That’s important to be aware of because when we know there’s risk, we can take steps to mitigate against that risk and prevent harm to ourselves and those around us.
Driving cars poses risks of accidents, so we developed the schlep of seatbelts. Construction jobs pose risks of debris falling on one’s head, so we developed the schlep of hardhats.
I don’t understand why the people we’re asked to trust with the running of our country can’t see the risk of being taken out of context and guard against it.
Goodness gracious! Are those tasked with keeping the lights on and the water running not even savvy enough to keep their own heads above water? Forget about being called tone deaf. This is a matter of minimal expectation for the pursuit of one’s career.
One doesn’t become a national boxer without knowing how to throw a punch. Why then should we tolerate politicians who don’t know how to guard their speech? I mean surely, as a nation, we deserve better.
Surely, at the very least, we can expect of our political leaders to know of and avoid the pitfalls that turn our political discourse into a social circus.
Indeed, one should accommodate for errors here and there, but our political and social discourse has been flooded with the “out of context” excuse for years.
Remember Angie Motshekga’s “… an educated man won’t rape” gaffe, or perhaps Lwazi Lushaba’s “Hitler committed no crime”?
Granted he’s not a politician but just to illustrate how widespread the situation is. What about Human Rights Commission then acting head of legal Buang Jones and his comment that Springbok lock, Eben Etzebeth, “got away with murder”?
Oh, and how could we forget that Jacob Zuma vs Derek Hanekom debacle? Y’know, the one with Zuma’s allegation that Hanekom was a “known enemy agent”?
All of these were later quoted as being taken out of context in one way or another. So, when we get to September of 2021, by now, surely, a savvy politician should be aware of the risks and cater to being taken out of context.
It’s not that difficult to apply context while you’re saying something controversial. Perhaps in the same way we expect lawyers to know how to argue, accountants to know how to count, shouldn’t we expect our politicians to know how to speak?
Enter JP Smith’s “I’m not even going to try that surname, dude”. Sigh.
Now I can show some empathy, because a number of surnames are tough for me and I’ve stuffed up names in the past. It sometimes works both ways.
During my first TV news appearance, I was converted from Lebanese descent to Xhosa, when the anchor introduced me as Richard X’maly.
Sure, feelings differ and, ironically, context matters. I get that names can be tough and one may need a little time to learn them and soundboard. But hell, at the very least, learn the name of the MC of an event you’re speaking at.
If they insist on making the joke, make it past tense and say something tongue in cheek like how they didn’t think they would be able to pronounce so many vowels in a name but I sat down with X-person and practised and got Nzelenzele down. It still might bomb, but at least you’ve shown some effort.
You’d think that his party at least, would warn their people of the Eusebius McKaiser threat, ready to tweet at any given opportunity and to give classes to avoid granting such an opportunity for no value, but hey…
Perhaps I’m expecting too much from our political class but it’s not asking too much of us underlings to say, even if it’s taken out of context, enough lessons have been learned so that you should have done better.
If “out of context” is going to remain an excuse, we should at least be able to demand that the excuse is seen, in context.