By Joseph Ssebunya
A story is told of former Tanzania President Julius Nyerere’s reaction when the Queen of England, Her Majesty wanted to shake his hands with gloves on. Legend says that when Her Majesty stretched her gloved hands out, Nyerere too stretched out his walking stick! He believed that she despised him and thought he was dirty. Her Majesty was forced to remove the gloves and they exchanged the suspicion-filled handshakes typical of politicians.
A handshake is one of the universal virtues as a sign of civility. In Kenya and Tanzania, verbal greeting is often accompanied by a handshake. A quick gesture of a handshake is the best way of greeting a person handicapped in speech and earring.
A politician is quick to offer a handshake to even despised people in the community because he knows that through this, he will be judged as civil, unprejudiced and social. If you are known for skirting handshakes, you will find it a tall order getting votes. A politician’s handshake is different from the ordinary handshake of acquaintances; a ‘dead fish’ handshake is all you receive from a politician.
It is said that members of the global Illuminati cult have their own way of greeting by which they recognize one another. That through observing their handshakes, it s very easy to tell two artists, presidents or other politicians who subscribe to this legendary and mysterious cultic group of ultra rich powerful people.
Restraint with handshakes
Some people are restrained from handshakes for different reasons. An arthritic person will often cave away from giving handshake for health reasons. In cultures where customs are very unfair to women, a person may refuse a handshake with a woman until s/he meets and shakes with a man first! In the Islamic culture, handshaking between men and women, especially after ablution is impious.
Specific careers prevent some people from freely shaking their hands; careers where the hands are the critical parts of the body they use to work. Some musicians, especially those who work with musical instruments, tend to give handshakes sparingly. The ordinary singer, though, is generous with handshakes for the same reasons as the politician; to win popularity.
A medical surgeon has his hands as the primary work tool and may not be quick to exchange handshakes. A general practitioner may not be as withdrawn as a surgeon in shaking his hands. Generally, however, doctors know that hands are one of the major media of transmitting diseases and are more cagy with handshakes than the general populace.
In our times, however, where contagious diseases are almost uncountable, civility may be the cause of your death. A president was poisoned and killed through a handshake. Communicable diseases thrive in a culture of a handshake. With the civility typical of the Swahili people, I pray they never get Ebola in Zanzibar.
Some communities in West Africa enjoy a prolonged and passionate handshake. A handshake there is almost a reflex action they have come to lose control over and the risk infection in the wake of Ebola, typhoid, cholera and similar infections is higher. That is probably one of the reasons Ebola thrived unabated for long in Sierra Leone last year.
Since principles of hygiene differ across cultures and individuals, care must be taken regarding your hands. People touch dirty things and only rub their hands against their cloths instead of washing them with soap. People visit toilets and behave outrageously there, sometimes leaving without washing their hands. Even those who wash their hands after the toilet do not ALWAYS do so with a detergent.
What to do with the handshake culture
The answer lies in consciousness to the fact that handshakes can and often transmit diseases. While we may not stop this time-honoured multinational gesture, caution needs to be guide social interaction. But never completely stop handshaking. It’s one of the few virtues the diverse humanity shares.