A few days ago I got an email from one of the guys of JANITORS, a Toronto punk duo. He was telling me about the latest JANITORS track called “This Song is Not About Oscar Pistorius.” They apparently wrote this song shortly before the Oscar Pistorius drama became one of the most, if not the most sensational news item of this year so far. I’ll embed the song here should you be interested in hearing the song.
Despite being written before the news exploded, there are some eerie coincidences in the song, namely the noise that sounds like blades hitting the ground, much like the blades Pistorius used as a paralympic athlete.
Which reminded me that I haven’t really spoken at all about such a huge story. And while I’m sure I won’t be the first person to be contributing what I have to say, I do feel like I need to say it.
When I first heard the news, I was shocked. Somehow, hearing that a world-famous celebrity athlete allegedly committed such an awful crime is hard to process. I understand that in court Pistorius admitted that he did kill his girlfriend, but claimed that it was completely by accident.
There was an article in the Stara couple of days ago that had me start to think about this case in a whole new way. The sports columnist Cathal Kelly talked about how much he learned about South African culture while there to cover the FIFA World Cup. The first line of the article is immediately arresting. as Kelly writes:
On my first night in Johannesburg, I accidentally shut the rape door behind me, trapping myself in the bedroom.
“What’s a rape door?” You might find yourself asking. It’s a barricade, essentially, that can protect the home’s resident(s) should they experience a break-in. They will be safe within the confines of this space. There are also panic buttons, which, when pressed, will summon groups of people all heavily armed.
This sounds nightmarish to imagine here, but in South Africa it’s a different story. Interestingly, some people from South Africa commented on the article and said that it wasn’t at all representative of the country they know- at least two of the commenters have never heard of a “rape door.”
But what the article does show is that South Africa might be a place a little more plagued by fear.
In criminal law, the accused must be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And this culture of fear that permeates at least some of South Africa might very well be the reason why Pistorius gets off.
Another country’s culture is something that cannot, I don’t think, be well understood unless experienced. For all I know, South Africa is a much safer place than Cathal Kelly has made it out to be. But I won’t know unless I actually set foot in the country. And when one spends so long in one country, it can be hard to imagine how different other countries are.
For example, here in North America, finishing every last bit of a meal at a guest’s house or restaurant translates to “This was a wonderful meal!” In China, however, customs dictate that guests should always leave a bit of food left on their plate. It goes back to times when China was going through famines, and so by leaving a bit of food you’re saying “This was delicious. and it was also more than enough food for me.”
So who knows what’s going on in South Africa. I don’t think it’s up for North American or European pundits to decide how everything is going to go down. Let’s leave it to South Africa and see what happens.