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Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours 投桃报李

中国日报网 2023-09-15 12:28


Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: We scratched your back, and its time you scratched ours.

My comments:

Weve dome you a favor. Its time for you to return the favor.

In other words, weve done it for you. Its time you do it for us.

Sounds like a businessman or a politician negotiating for some kind of deal.

Shady deal, that is.

The full idiom is: you scratch my back, and Ill scratch yours.

This idiom, or proverb, obviously comes from the fact that our own hands and fingers cannot reach some places on our back and so we need someone else to help us ease an itch in one of those places.

Usually, people readily accept this offer because they know theyll need your help when they have the itch.

Physically speaking, its very pleasurable to have someone scratch our back. So we willingly accept this offer in the hope that our favor will be returned similarly. Thats why the practice is prevalent.

Hence, in business and politics, do a favor for me and Ill do a favor for you is also prevalent.

But not always in a good way. Doing favors for favors is one of the primary sources for corruption, as, often, these favors are done at the expense of third parties or the public in general.

One eye-catching example of this is, if you recall, former US President Donald Trump, while in office, asked the Ukrainian Government to dig dirt on political rival and current President Joe Biden in exchange for, among others, speedy delivery of aids as had been promised.

As it turned out, the Ukrainians refused to cooperate. So, in that case, mutual back scratching did not come to fruition.

All right, lets read a few media examples of you scratch my back, and Ill scratch yours, i.e. favor for favor:

1. Californias promise of opportunity for everyone has been all but eradicated by gross political mismanagement, political corruption, and watered down representation. Its time to drain the swamp in California politics.

While California voters overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, when polled, Californians show strong signs of wanting political reform in the Golden State.

They may get their wish if John Cox has anything to say.

Cox, who is running for Governor, and is the author of the Neighborhood Legislature, wants to return the California Legislature to the people by increasing representation. Because, for democracy to work, it must be representative democracy. It must be a government of, by and for the people.

There are two Californias the one we have, and the one we could have,Cox said in a statement. The California we have is in trouble, and we need to do something about it.

California has doubled in population since 1970, exploding from 20 million residents, to nearly 40 million, without an increase in the number of elected state legislators. With only 120 elected state lawmakers, the Legislature has remained static at 40 State Senators, and 80 State Assembly members for 20 million residents, and for 40 million residents.

Is there any wonder you dont know your legislator?

John Cox believes the surest way to guarantee outreach to the many different ethnic and cultural communities in California, as well as the growing population, is to increase the size of the Legislature, and do it from your neighborhood.

Cox is a conservative who favors free markets, personal responsibility, individual liberty, and the ability to create your own opportunities in life, which is what hes done.


You may recall the movement to emblazon state legislators with logos of their donors NASCAR-style. That was a 2016 initiative by John Cox, called the Name All Sponsors California Accountability Reform(which deliciously spells NASCAR).

The NASCARinitiative was a good way for Cox to bring needed attention to the huge problem of quid pro quo in California politics you scratch my back, and Ill scratch yours.

Special interests give money to politicians with the expectation of a return,Cox said in a statement in 2016. If giving $50,000 to a handful of Assemblymen buys them votes or an advocate on the inside, its worth the investment. And they dont have to look hard for politicians who are taking donations.

The NASCAR measure would have required all state legislators to wear the names or logos of their top 10 donors every time they attend an official legislative function. Cox traveled the state with his display of 120 life size cardboard cutouts of the states legislators, decorated with logos of their biggest donors.

Alas, the initiative did not get the signatures needed. However, Cox made his point.

- John Cox: Putting Citizens Back in Charge of Government, FlashReport.org, March 30, 2017

2. Have you ever wondered who Adidas athletes are? The prestigious company sponsors many famous athletes, including NBA star Stephen Curry, Tom Brady, and MLB player Bryce Harper, among others. And while some might presume that the company only sponsors athletes, that's far from it; it also sponsors supermodels like Gisele Bundchen.

In 2011, the most prominent sports brands paid famous athletes to endorse their items; of course, Adidas was no exception. Legendary players like Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and LeBron James are all Adidas affiliates. Is there something like lifetime Adidas athletes? Can Adidas athletes wear Jordans? Lets find all that out right here.

Top 10 Adidas-sponsored athletes

Like other sports apparel companies, Adidas sponsors famous athletes to carry the brand and gain a massive boost in its popularity and merchandise sales. In other words, it is more of a win-win scratch my back I scratch your back situation.

Boasting a broad horizon of endorsers, they partner with superstars across all sports, paying them up to hundreds of millions of dollars, a hefty reward meant to complement these athletes' talents, achievements, and influence among consumers.

10. Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian-born soccer player Mohamed Salah is one of the soccer players sponsored by Adidas. The Liverpool superstar and one of the sport's most decorated players is the icon of the German-based sports brand's attempt to dominate the African markets.


1. Lionel Messi

Highly regarded as one of the greatest football players in the world, his success and popularity enabled him to ink one of the most lucrative sponsorship deals in the sports world. He has been associated with Adidas since 2006, and in 2017, he penned a lifetime deal with the company.

- A list of the most influential athletes sponsored by Adidas, SportsBrief.com, December 5, 2022.

3. Leaders become wolves because those whom they lead behave like sheep.

Sheep, not in the positive aspect of being the Lamb of God full of compassion and care or as a protected follower of God, but in its derogatory aspect of being servile and unquestioning, too easily influenced or led as in the politics where party members blindly following their leaders.

You become sheep for a variety of reasons. You herd together because it is natural to do so. It is natures cornerstone with entities gravitating towards their own kind, be it plants, animals or humans.

Where there are crossovers, it is the natural consequence of interaction be it natural or social. Which helps to explain our group phenomenon here in this country with Africans, Indians, Syrians et al and the ensuing crossovers.

Groups can interact in different ways. There can be peaceful co-existence as with the elephant and hippo drinking from the same pool in the Serengeti, or as with the mahogany and the cedar in the tropical rainforest each with its own space. Or as with humans as here in this country with Africans and Indians enjoying their mix of chutney soca, pan, crab and dumpling and doubles.

But there can be conflict, violent conflict, if one animal is seen to encroach on another for water which is scarce, or trespassing on anothers territory, or between predator and prey, and even with trees when too close encroachment can stultify growth.

With humans, it is often a clash of egos, over greed etc, which are all subsets of a clash of interestsoften related to politics.

Suffice it to say that the word politics connotes divided interests, having a morality of its own, conniving and manipulative, with conventional ethics and morality having no application. It is essentially Machiavellian with the ends justifying the means.

The following quote taken from the movie The Hunt for Red October facetious as it may seem captures the essence of politics: I am a politician. I am a cheat and a liar. When I am not kissing babies, I am stealing their diapers.

Group identity, synonymous with racial identity, is often integrated into this politics of divided interests with its concomitant conflict, often of a violent nature. Like with Blacks in America, seemingly more inclined to the Democrats as against a perceived whiteconservative Republicanism, black lives matter, being a case in point.

Or the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Africa, or the indigenous peoples against the Spanish establishment in Chile, or the Muslims in Hindu-majority India, or one tribe being targeted in the Sudanese conflict, or the ethnic violence in the Manipur state in north east India.

Clash of interests, of whatever kind, is the well spring of conflict in the politics.

We are no different here in TT, but our conflict is unique.

Born out of the original, historical antipathy between the two groups newly freed African slaves being suspicious of the incoming East Indian indentures, as a threat to their bargaining power with their former masters, this conflict took root after independence in the formation of two race-based parties PNM for Africans and DLP/UNC for East Indians.

Out of this would emerge for each group, a you scratch my back and I yourssyndrome, in which leaders exploit the unquestioning loyalty of their respective tribes to sustain themselves in office, saying and doing as they please, not having to account and the tribes are only too happy to oblige for the rewards to be had.

Everywhere there is hope for political change for the better, despite the warring ethnic factions. Even with Democrats and Republicans in the US, but with our politics neatly packaged in a You scratch my back and I yours syndrome, can we hope for such change as the cries for relief resonate all over this land?

Is ours a classic case of wolves and sheep ad infinitum? As usual, the answer is up to all of us.

—When sheep turn leaders into wolves, Newsday.co.tt, June 20, 2023.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


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