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The Big Read: Pres on a bike would polish his image - and ease traffic

03 December 2015 - 02:05 By Aspasia Karras

When the presidential cavalcade came down the Rivonia hill like the wolf on the fold, I had mixed feelings. Envy for one. The advance party on motorbikes was vehemently waving the traffic aside and, indeed, the traffic was parted and so the president moved unhindered into the north.Bewilderment. What is this noise and fury, is somebody dying?And, when I finally saw one or two or three possible vehicles and decoy vehicles bearing the presidential seal, an overwhelming desire to flip him the finger.Julius Malema might be right about the president's laughter. He recently told an interviewer in London that he speculated the laughter was a response to personal hurt because the president was really hated by the people. Malema says we simply witness a nervous self-protection mechanism every time the man bursts into laughter.Surely I cannot be the only one who has these sudden uncontrollable urges involving the middle finger. If mine is a common response to a random sighting of our leader no wonder the man has developed his giggling affliction.And I can see why tinted glass on your cavalcade windows is more than a gangster affectation - under the circumstances, it becomes a real self-protecting necessity.Is his super-sized cavalcade just the reflection of his very understandable insecurities? The bigger and flashier the cavalcade the safer he feels?I hate to say it but our president is no longer a spring chicken. He is not as far gone as the president to the north, another friend of the flashy cavalcade, but he is not young. Insecurity about performance is a classic male-of-a-certain age problem. And it is typically resolved by the introduction of ever larger, flashier vehicles and younger models. Just saying.Consider the potted history of the cavalcade for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon.The Romans in their empire-building days loved a triumphal procession. Back then it was a slow-moving march of chariots, slaves and piles of loot topped by a triumphant general or emperor returning from the wars. One of these processions took five days to traverse the traditional 4km from start to finish - such was the quantity of booty plundered from some victim state.The contemporary cavalcade has speeded things up nicely. Who has five days to admire and internalise the symbolic power of the victor? But the outcome is still the same. Shock and awe. Otherwise why all the flashing lights and drama?Surely the best way to protect the president is anonymity. Unmarked vehicles quietly taking the back roads draw far fewer looks and fingers.Google the word cavalcade and JFK assassination conspiracy theories abound. So open-top is obviously a no-no.The dinky Fiat is the popemobile of choice these days.But subtle is not a lesson President Barack Obama has internalised either - his cavalcades sometimes stretch for miles and boast snipers peering out of popped trunks and other really startling tactics. Islamic State and al-Qaeda are taking notes.Should our president consider a bicycle like the Danish and Dutch royals have been known to do?The former Dutch Queen Beatrix, despite being listed by Forbes as the 14th-richest royal in the world, frequently pops up on two wheels all over the show.It's a family tradition. During World War II the Dutch royals used their bicycle riding as a very popular demonstration of their objection to the Nazi occupation. The fascists had confiscated the people's bicycles and that is absolute anathema to the Dutch. (Never mind the contrast to the fascist propensity for a really good cavalcade.)Still, what a brilliant PR coup Zuma on a bike would be. God knows he needs some positive publicity. He would be laughing and rolling all the way to the bank...

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