11 August 2012 - When i can mean more than I
Sharp-eared citizens have, in droves almost, contacted me, I suppose as a linguist of sorts, and Senior Presidential Adviser to boot (pun!) to ask me what it meant when President Yoweri K. Museveni announced recently that when he found someone with the right vision and other presidential attributes, he (H.E) would retire to his farms. Some of the people, in the smugness of their tones, seemed to think they had me cornered, but no such thing! Leaders from top to bottom, say from President Obama, to, well, the uncrowned and hotly disputed King of the Basongola, often say “I”, when meaning themselves, but in conjunction with their Parties or organisations.
Strictly speaking it can seem in that case an inaccurate statement, even open to accusations of megalomania on an advanced degree: I, I, I, me, me, me! But (for example) let us say Advisers do their work by advising their Principals, who sometimes take their advice, should the Boss then say, “As advised by X, I can now tell you I’ve changed my mind and this is what shall be done”? You must be joking! Firstly, it is your job, for which you are remunerated; second, you were working in your Boss’ time which is 24/7; third: would you prefer to be replaced?! “Yours not to ask for mention, yours to glow inside”, should be the motto.
Two more points: One, the President, when talking about matters regarding presidential elections, has always made it clear as a silver bell that he will only run if his Party elects him to do so, also meaning when the voters still want him. Therefore it is not he alone who will decide whether he, or anybody else, runs. Thus “I” in this case means himself, and the Party, of which he is a fully paid-up member. No wonder leaders since the world began use the shorthand “I”, although the rest of us might be forgiven if sometimes we consider the “I” being restricted to a single “I”: the speaker! Two, at least Museveni has never used the royal “We” when referring to a single “Him”. Even British premier Thatcher once, in her pomp, referred to herself as “We”. Those in the room stared at her transfixed, for she was the only one visible in her chair. May the day never dawn when Our Own Man (OOM) Museveni refers to himself in the plural! (Could it partly be the reason “We” seldom passes his lips?)
Let me briefly introduce an educational charity founded by that famous American photographer, and my friend, from New York, Stephen Shames. Most such foundations are given on the basis of “the poorer the more they should be helped”, which has much merit! But Shames turns it on its head, and shamelessly (weak pun!) believes that the precious help should be given first to the brightest of those who have no other way to get ahead, and who will use the help more profitably to help others. The usual word for this is Elitism to which Shames doesn’t flinch an iota, neither does his Ugandan Director, Monica Nankoma. And, for what it is worth, neither do I!
L.E.A.D Uganda is the charity’s name, and the lucky kids, whom it pays for amongst the very best schools in Uganda, and a few thereafter into higher institutions overseas, have responded to an incredible degree. All of them faced completely hopeless futures. Elitism pays! Most of the help has so far come from outside Uganda, the latest from the very promising Swiss-based Barrington Educational Initiative, but I know domestically that most able Ugandans are already helping hugely to educate those less fortunate than themselves, many not from their immediate families. You bet we shall return to this!
We, and this isn’t the royal “We”, regardless of the fact that I might be entitled through descent from the earlier line of Buganda kings more than ten centuries ago! This merely refers to you and me in the usual way, rightly ending on the pulsating events of the last fortnight in London: the Olympic Games. Each person will pick a favourite slice of the multi-layered cake. I still suffer from hero-worship even in my dotage, and one of these heroes had currently been under a cloud but the sun shot through when he won the 100 metre dash (and what a dash!) in an Olympic record time., and then the 200. Usain (what ‘appened to the H!) Bolt came springing back as we had hoped. The world was at peace and God in His Heaven.
What utter travesty to know that his gold weighed, even mathematically, the same as those won by, say, synchronised swimmers! (However, the same charge could be levelled against my Bolt choice ahead of the unprecedented landing of the space craft Curiosity on Mars this week.) As one who walked out of my Cambridge O Level science exam paper 56 years ago, with only my number written on the page, and not another word, I still can’t pretend to be a scientist! But I hope very soon to comment on hero-worship over dry facts, and whether Bolt, like another of my sporting heroes, C B Fry, shouldn’t be offered the kingship of Albania!