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The Things That Politicians And Business People Say

Whether it is an eye-opener to you or whether it fills in many gaps in the flow of corruption news that has been coming at us over the last few years, ‘The President’s Keepers’ by Jacques Pauw is drawing widespread attention.

Something that you may be wondering about is the type of conversation ‘The Keepers’ have with each other. Do they specifically say what they are planning, or do they cover their true intent with political clichés? So for example, if the new management of SARS decided to block the investigations into major tax offenders as alleged by Jacques, does anyone actually say “We are going to protect these influential people, even though they are criminals”? Or do they justify it to each other with terms like ‘victims of the rogue unit’? And if anybody questions their actions, are they labelled as proponents of ‘White Monopoly Capital’ or something equally sinister?

If this is a familiar pattern to you, you might have heard or been part of similar discussions in your business organisation. For example, when someone points out that the great new sales order can’t be done because of other work that is scheduled, do we seriously investigate the concern or do we label them as ‘negative’, a ‘naysayer’ or someone who ‘rows against the rest of us’? Or do we revert to another cliché telling people to ‘think out of the box’?

If that is the case, what is the agenda behind all the clichés? Perhaps we accepted that sales order without any consultation with our production unit, but we are not going to embarrass ourselves in front of the client.

What better way is there to disguise your true agenda than speaking in clichés and buzzwords?

A favourite cliché some years ago was ‘paradigm shift’. If you wanted something to change, but weren’t sure how to explain it, it was a really convenient term to throw around; after all, to say we must ‘change’ doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. But we have an even better buzzword these days – ‘disruption’! Need I say anything more?

But let’s not malign the use of buzzwords too much. Irrespective of our work function, be it sales, production, design, finance or even if you are a union organiser, we all use jargon. Life would be uninteresting without the creative use of language.

But when you are trying to understand a problem or situation, you need to be able to see past these clichés. Once you do that, there is some ‘low-hanging fruit’ out there…