Mbabane, Swaziland | 3 December 2014
There are a lot of slogans these days. And the Slogan, as we all know, is a close cousin of Jargon.
If I see another corporate or political slogan that says ‘Moving Forward’, I might lose my temper.
In two hollow words, management consultants and other such charlatans have sucked billions of dollars from unassuming businesses, politicians, and NGOs.
In fact, with Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations at their disposal, these cunning moneymakers (or ‘brand advisors’) cleverly prey on our reverence for big words and snappy slogans.
In that haven of democracy next-door, South African government departments last year spent an “eye-watering” R12 billion on consultants.
Sunday newspaper City Press reported that much of this money was actually spent in the hope of reducing further expenditure.
If that sounds odd, it’s because it is.
Beyond the wasteful spending, though, it is us who gives the snappy slogan legitimacy, not those who concocted it.
To cite an example close to my heart, Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard, who served from 2010-2013 before she was ousted by a group of power-hungry men, used ‘Moving Forward’ during one of her slapdash campaigns.
Now before the ‘gender experts’ get their knickers in the twist, allow me to state that I only choose Julia as an example in the spirit of gender equity.
Not only was Ms Gillard parroting one of the most overused and useless slogans of modern times, but I suspect she truly thought it was original.
I dare say she’s not the first to fall into that trap.
When she proudly claimed that if we voted for her she would ‘Move Australia Forward’, I often wondered whether she planned to drive us towards New Zealand.
According to the clock, of course, New Zealand is a few hours ahead of Australia.
But this column is not about Moving Forward in the sense I have outlined above. It is about safety on the roads. It is about driving. It is about moving forward on the roads in a safe and respectful manner. It is about moving forward at a speed and control that will reduce the number of people needlessly dying.
Hardly a day goes by when you don’t hear of a nasty car crash.
‘5 KILLED’, screamed the Times of Swaziland on Monday.
‘Car spins on the road, crashes into another and lands on tree stump.’
‘Four children die on spot, female driver trapped in wreckage.’
It goes on: ‘While in another accident, woman burnt to death after car hits tree.’
Adults are killed. Kids are killed. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, all killed. How many deaths are needed before driving habits begin to change? 10,000? 20,000? (I would suggest one of the many solutions begins in primary school with good, practical lessons on road and pedestrian safety.)
If it weren’t for a seat belt, I would not be writing this column right now. If I was not wearing a seat belt, I would be dead. Or if not dead, I would be a certified vegetable.
A car crashed into me last week and smashed the rear end. Without the seat belt, my head would have slammed into the front window and my neck would have snapped. Lights out.
With the seat belt on, all I have to worry about is a sore back from the whiplash (and a smashed car).
I have heard the argument, particularly when it comes to kombis, that people don’t wear seat belts because in the event of an accident it’s more difficult to escape from the vehicle (if the seat belt is on).
I would suggest that this is an understandable but shortsighted way of looking at things. Putting aside the thought that I feel safer on a small plane than I do on a kombi, I dare say seat belts are not the only challenge when it comes to public transport.
But if we’re talking cars, for God’s sake, wear your bloody seat belt.
A slogan might even help. #SeatBeltsSaveLives
This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 3 December 2014