Punching the air

via Punching the air | The Zimbabwean 27 August 2014 by Magari Mandebvu

I have, after some effort, succeeded in persuading a number of young men to greet with a handshake, not the kind of mock fisticuffs that seem so common among their generation.

This is not a party political statement. It may say something about human equality, dignity and co-operation. It is also basic good manners, which many people in our society seem to have forgotten although they are old enough to know better. What has happened to unhu?

Opening your right hand, the one we use for tools and weapons, is a gesture of trust and welcome, without which no human society can survive very long. Grasping the other guy’s open right hand is a sign of accepting his trust. You both take the risk of making yourselves vulnerable by proving that you are not aggressive.

If the open hand expresses openness to each other, brushing knuckles is a statement of how little you want to share. You can brush knuckles that are each holding a dagger or a cosh. That gesture, at its best, expresses a kind of wary armed truce. You can’t build much on that, unless you are prepared to open up.

I would go further and say that you can’t do anything with a clenched fist but fight. Of course, punching the air is a favourite gesture in some circles, but it isn’t a friendly one. It is aggressive. It is the kind of gesture that provides most of the action in fights between male animals of most species over territory, power and females. Even the noisiest clashes, between giraffes that seem to be trying to break each other’s necks, or the resounding crash of skulls when buffaloes or rhinos charge at each other, are meant to be no more than aggressive gestures and they lead to one party deciding the other is stronger, at which point he is allowed to walk away, as long as he keeps his distance from the winner in future.

You need a pretty thick skull to survive a clash like that. I’m afraid that the humans who indulge in that kind of gesture have such thick skulls that there’s not much room for brains inside them. That’s why they are ready to fight to the death – even a rhino or a buffalo would have more sense.

Of course, the professional politician is a different kind of animal. He’s not going to risk cracking his own skull in a fight, but he’ll punch the air, which doesn’t hit back, and try to persuade you that he has a herd of buffaloes under his command who don’t mind taking that risk. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t.

Either way, there comes day when he meets another bull with a larger herd of heavier buffaloes with thicker skulls behind him. Then watch your man who punches air so bravely grovel to his more powerful rival just like a real buffalo.

Actually, you don’t need a bigger, rougher, gang than this kind of politician, nor bigger guns. You just need to have the guts to stand up to him. Let him make a lot of noise and refuse to be intimidated. I suspect that further research among buffaloes would show that it’s not always the weaker one who gives way, but the more frightened. Recognise that the guy making so much noise to scare you is really expressing his own fear and you won’t see any need to fear him. At that point you have won. He’ll back down if you stand firm.

He may choose to grovel, but if he doesn’t, don’t try to force him. Let him bluster and make all the noise he likes as long as you win your own freedom of action, or even if you only enlarge the area of that freedom a little. All the noise we hear about “illegal sanctions” is a sign that this guy is covering his own failure by blaming some bigger bully further away for his very real defeat.


  • comment-avatar

    I still prefer handshakes but a fist bump is more hygenic.

  • comment-avatar
    Angela Wigmore 8 years ago

    You can always wash your hands afterwards (carry a small bottle of hand-hygiene gel at all times).

  • comment-avatar
    avenger/revenger 8 years ago

    This is not Facebook twitter . Keep junk blogs away from news sites

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