Runners, tankers, balance beam and much, much more

On metaphors in politics

On a metaphorical level, television viewers in the Netherlands have had a lot to digest in recent months, especially during the regular press conferences on Corona. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and “Corona Minister” Hugo de Jonge go to great lengths to convince the citizens of their country of the urgency of the situation. In doing so, the end is laudable, but the means are somewhat confusing.

The wonderful cabaret duo Niels van der Laan and Jeroen Woe have very aptly summed up what we have heard and seen so far in their TV show “Even tot hier”, and this creative mix of metaphors can really make you dizzy:

Hugo: This crisis is a complicated jigsaw puzzle that we need to put together.

Hugo: This is a marathon we have to run.

Hugo: This is a marathon with many consecutive sprints.

Hugo: We are at a T-junction.

Now Mark Rutte comes into the picture:

It’s a crossroads we’re standing at now.

And: It is a balance beam on which we are now standing.

Now Hugo again: It’s like being in a car, but we steer by looking in the rear-view mirror.

Just when we have warmed to the car we all sit in together and look in the rear-view mirror, there is a radical change of perspective:

Hugo: The virus is like a tanker, and we’re sailing in the fog.

Ok, let’s forget the car – a ship and no visibility then.

Now Mark again: We are navigating under visual flight rules.

Before we can think any more about navigating under visual flight rules in the fog – and how that now relates to the rear-view mirror, we get Hugo again:

Today we are the dyke together….

Mark: … that we are on a roller coaster together.

Mark: … together we will build a protective wall around us.

Hugo: In this way we will build the toolbox together in the coming weeks.

While I’m still thinking about whether the wall or the toolbox has to be built first (and what with), we move on to determining our status.

Mark: In two weeks we’ll put the thermometer in and check where we stand.

In where? Into the butt of the situation? All those who immediately have a rectal image in their heads must now be very brave, because:

Hugo: In two weeks we’ll put the dipstick in….

Mark: The hockey stick movement we want….

Most of the Dutch population is extraordinarily appreciative of their efforts to get the situation under control – and quite rightly so, I think. But when communicating with the population, one or two people do start to look with a certain envy at our neighbouring country, where Mrs Merkel says, to paraphrase, “If you don’t pull yourselves together now, grandma might be dead next year.”

That is less pictorial, but also less exhausting than the marathon runner who gets into the car, then onto the boat, then onto the roller coaster, onto the dyke, onto the balance beam – and all equipped with a thermometer, dipstick and hockey stick. You get tired just imagining it!

Original text: BBR
English translation: BCO

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