Who do you think you are?

Foot-in-mouth disease is not a prerogative of politicians; however, as a group, they are particularity prone to it.

The latest gaffe comes from American Vice President Joe Biden, who forgot the cardinal rule of broadcasting, and by association, press confererences… Treat every microphone as live and every camera as taking you. The latter issue is best supported by the recently-uploaded clip of President Bush appearing to wipe his hands on President Clinton’s sleeve.

As most people know by now, Joe Biden dropped the F-bomb on live television when he congratulated President Obama on passage of health care reform. This time, he surpassed himself.

It was, perhaps, to be expected from a person who had had to explain what “clean” meant (“Ask Obama what I thought. He knows what I meant by that. My mother has an expression, clean as a whistle and sharp a as tack. That is the context.”), and who had challenged the mental stability of a gun owner who had referred to his Bushmaster AR-15 as his “baby”.

Biden’s remarks encapsulate the arrogance and hubris of those – not merely politicians – who think they know it all and then some. Alas, there exist people who assume they have the divine right to tell us how to behave, live, and react to statements from On High (i.e., themselves).

This attitude is colloquially known as “teachers’ mentality” – but of course it is not only educators who are affected by it.

It is definitely not only politicians and teachers who need ‘speech therapy’, however. I have met conceit and intransigency in people of other professions, too.

There’s the hairdresser who all but shaved my daughter’s hair off when she was a youngster, simply because I asked him to “remove the headphones at the sides”. He then proceeded to dye my friend’s hair dark red rather than the hazel she had asked for “because it suits her better”.

There is the officious person in charge of the queue at the Water Services Corporation office in Valletta. Despite the fact that there are a couple of rows of chairs inside the building, he is content to leave most of them empty while the line outside grows longer – thereby effectively discouraging people from joining it.

I had to laugh when an item in the news bulletin said that there just might be undercover negotiations between the two major political parties to let all libel cases cancel one another out. This show the extents to which people are likely to swallow false information planted by others, and regurgitate it as fact, thereby instigating the “need” for a libel case “to set the record straight”.

Politicians and other public personalities are sometimes unwise enough to allow themselves to be riled by journalists. This gives results… and sometimes, causes the worm to turn.

This mentality also obtains in people who have an inordinate amount of power for their abilities. They wield it as if it were some sort of scythe, hacking off opposition because “they know best”. When push, inevitably, comes to shove, they seek a Judas Goat and expect their subordinates to take the rap.

When their expectations are not met, some low-life types are even ready to prime gossips with tittle-tattle because the latter have a wider audience. This they do even when there is no pecuniary gain involved, and despite the fact that they, too, have dirty laundry it would not do to wash in public.

Given the propensity of some people’s credulity, I can understand why some places of so-called entertainment do a brisk business, and why some topics are more followed than others. This is creating vicious circles – by which I mean that each circle is trying to be more vicious than the next one.

Our ancestors did not make up thousands of pithy, wise, adages and proverbs just so that they would be compiled into books to be studied for Matsec examinations. Dare I say that he who first indicated that everyone’s armpits smell put it more picturesquely than the biblical quote about seeing the mote in someone else’s eye but not seeing the log in your own?

How dare we think it is entertaining to poke fun at others? Who gave us the right to – as it is apparently fashionable to translate Maltese idioms on the assumption that they belong in English too – lift the lids off the pots of others?


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