An epidemic of shoe-throwing has broken out in India. It seems that a politician need only open his mouth in public to get a shower of sandals raining down on his head. The authorities are trying to stop it by forcing the masses to go barefoot to political rallies, but it’s likely to be a futile precaution. Deprive people of their shoes and they’ll find other things to throw. The mayor of Estepona thought he’d be safe on a nudist beach, but the bathers pelted him with marbles they’d hidden inside their body cavities.
My jungle experience tells me that when a craze like this develops you’ve got to ride with the punches and wait for the mob to tire of their antics. When the baboons started throwing onions at us, we ducked for cover and made onion soup rather than trying to confiscate their onions. My advice to India’s politicians is to wear crash helmets when giving speeches and instruct their flunkies to harvest the shoes for sale on the black market. Make the smelly-toed rabble repurchase their footwear at inflated prices.
Public disorder can be provoked by the most unlikely incidents in that part of the world. Ranjit Ram, the Indian knife-thrower, once told me about a riot that broke out during a cricket match in his country. It started when an Australian fast bowler kissed an umpire on the cheek during a drinks interval, which infuriated the crowd for some reason. Perhaps they thought it was an attempt at bribery, although I’d be surprised if even an umpire would sell his loyalty that cheaply. It took a squadron of police to restore order by swishing their lathis with gay abandon. The application of the cane to the buttocks is one of the enduring legacies of the British Raj.
Perhaps the crowd would have been less agitated if they’d known that Australian men will smooch anything when they're in the right mood. A farmer from Down Under has recently announced his intention to kiss his pigs on a regular basis, claiming it would prove they were not infected with swine flu. Who is he trying to fool? If a man fancies his pigs, he ought to come clean about it rather than concocting flimsy excuses to snog them. I’m sure the pigs would prefer to be wooed by an honest suitor rather than a sly hog fiend who molests them on a bogus medical pretext.
Yet it would be wrong to denigrate Australian men, whose ranks include august statesmen such as John Howard (“The Sheriff”) and Paul Keating (“The Larrikin”). I sympathise greatly with humans who have the thankless task of governing in a democracy. To get elected they have to flatter the voters, telling them they’re good citizens entitled to nothing but the best, when in reality most of them are impudent rascals who deserve a good whipping. Then, when they’re trying to do their jobs, they get pestered by swarms of angry yahoos who bombard them with projectiles. What these ungrateful ruffians really need is a merciless despot to teach them some manners. Humans never appreciate how lucky they are unless they are periodically reminded of how bad things can get.
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