Outraged, proactive or comatose?

February 20, 2007

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This is a piece about cultures, about nations, about values and happiness. It is about pride, jingoism and justice, whatever that may be. It is also about South Africa, my miracle country, about 50% too long and it might be preachy as all hell- or it might be insightful. I imagine I will only be able to tell myself when I re-read it some months from now. In other words: you have been warned.[on re-read it is too long and needs to lose the last 2 paragraphs to be a decent piece]

For many years I was, in many ways, a typical white South African woeful of the backward nature of my nation stuck out on the tip of Africa. Seeing massive potential but also seeing it squandered by ignorance, squandered by self interest, suqandered by bickering and distrust.

politics_bush_cheney.jpgThe more I see of our turning world outside this country’s borders the more I laud my home and it’s achievements. I look at the USA and messrs. Cheney and Bush and wonder at the lack of criminal investigation into their dealings. The idea of a government contract foregoing the tender process and being simply handed to a company the “Hander Outer” (right hand man of “The Decider”) used to be a Chief Executive of and still holds shares in is ludicrous and alien to me in darkest Africa.

I do not say that dodgy politicians in South Africa may not try to undermine the tender process: they do. I do not say that when they are caught they do not see some favour and cronyism when it comes to how their sentence is dealt with: they do. But they are investigated, tried and, if found guilty, sentenced by one of the most independent and least corrupt judiciaries in the world. We, after all, are a country with a special division of police simply for investigating corruption, specifically government corruption. The only one I know of.

In the USA I do not even hear talk of an investigation by the FBI into Cheney and Bush. In the UK Tony Blair is interviewed but “not a suspect” in the cash-for-honours scandal. How can the leader of the party that gave away knighthoods for cash not be a suspect? Are they insane? Does he not have a clue how his party is funded? When they get given hundreds of thousands of pounds does he assume “what lovely chaps” and move on? Does he not ask why their names are also on the honours list put forward to the Queen? Not a suspect? What toadying, sycophantic rubbish.

politics_yengeni_boesak.jpgWe, as a country, in recent years, have fired our vice president, put out to pasture dangerously unstable politicians like Winnie Mandela and slammed into jail (if briefly) a number of our politicians (Yengeni, Boesak) for dodgy dealings. When was the last time a UK politician went to jail? Archer had to be hounded by a national newspaper into a jail cell.

In the USA, who was the last senator in office put behind bars? Last congressman? The only person brought up on any sort of charges in recent years was their former president- and this over trying to get some under the table nookie from a fat, unattractive intern who doesn’t clean her clothes often enough. Don’t tell me it was about “whether he lied under oath,” that is rubbish. It was no-one’s business in the first place whether the man was getting laid occasionally and when the question was asked any decent judge would have told a prosecutor to stuff it.

Yet, the same skepticism of South Africans of all colours toward their government and lack of belief in how great we are is part of what will keep us honest. The UK has the same skepticism toward their leaders but their attention has wavered from their government’s activities as the population is distracted by the most capitalist of enterprises: building wealth.

A country which lauds their leadership and believes their own propoganda of how great they are is doomed to be steamrollered by the powerful with just a small squeak as liberty disappears. The USA has been, to outsiders, a police state at least since the 80’s and now starts to look fascist in it’s approach and attitudes. If anyone reads Orwell’s 1984 and then reads the speeches of Bush and Cheney can be in no doubt to the direction in which they are heading, with the UK not too far behind.

big_brother.jpg“FREEDOM IS SLAVERY”: every American must give up some civil liberties to protect freedom.

“WAR IS PEACE”: the war on terror must be fought with troops for the world to achieve peace.

“IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”: the media must not report what the government don’t want them to as it ’emboldens’ the enemy.

I could go on but considering the comparisons to 1984 are currently being made by every first-year university student in the world this piece is already dangerously fatuous in it’s outpourings.

My confusion comes wherein I believe national pride (not to be confused with jingoism) is a positive force, not a negative one. Jingoism is where you laud the greatness of your country regardless of it’s actual behaviour. National pride is when you laud it for achievements you, personally, believe worthwhile. The safest, most easily gauged and most beneficial source of national pride must be sport as it is also the most easily engaging and widely watched of human achievements. Much more so than science, academia or art- which is why so much money is available to it.

So, if it is this influential it is something we should pay attention to, a great deal of attention. It influences countries behaviours and attitudes. Things like fair play, honour or a win- at- all- cost attitude will filter to the populace. Our South African rugby team winning the world cup after isolation from international rugby for close to 20 years- and the sight of aour first black president, our universally loved Madiba, standing next to the winning Captain wearing a rugby shirt (Rugby being traditionally a whites sport- soccer a black sport in Apartheid South Africa) did a great deal for unifying the country. But since those days of amateur sport over professional sport I have seen my favourites start do display that win- at- all- costs- mentality, seen them cheat with impugnity, and ne’er an eye is batted. Where is the outrage at cheating? Where is the desire for a fair society?

The last time I saw a player do something I was proud of was in cricket and the player was in later years to become a self-confessed cheat- taking bookmaker’s money to adjust player scores (but not to throw games). His moment came in a game against Australia, our traditional chief rivals, in a World Cup game (I seem to remember). Australia were 9 wickets down (the game in it’s dying embers, 2 balls left with 4 runs to get and the game decided if a man goes out- a real Hollywood ending if Hollywood knew anything about cricket) when Shane Warne (Aus), in an effort to avoid being out when taking a quick run, illegally hit the ball a second time- away from the fielder.

South Africa appealed (umpires cannot intervene in cricket unless appealed to- cricket was once a game of gentleman who admitted when they were out and simply walked off the field of play) and the umpires were about to send him from the field with South Africa winning the game by default and Shane Warne in shame. Hansie Cronje approached the umpires and withdrew the appeal. There was now one ball left, four runs needed from it (ball hit to the boundary) and South Africa won by bowling Shane Warne, the cheat, out. Like I said, Hollywood stuff. We showed great sportsmanship and win or lose I was proud of the way our team had conducted themselves, I was proud to be a South African that day.

The last time I saw a sports association do something I could be proud of was that previously mentioned scandal over betting and cheating. Every national team in the world, bar none, was involved. Bar none- I kid you not. South Africa was the only country to ban players: Hansie Cronje, a national hero, was not even allowed to coach at school level, commentate on crcket games or have any official involvement with any cricket team ever again. All the other world associations protected the cheats, hid evidence and generally thwarted the investigators. The only South African involved to escape punishment was Herschelle Gibbs who admitted he happily took the money from the bookmakers and then completely failed to do what they asked. I was proud that we exposed the cheats and banned them, no matter how much I wished Hansie, a much loved captain for what he did for us, had not been involved.

These are things where national pride affects a country. Affects the way it does business and the social behaviour of it’s citizens. I have seen the behaviour of these teams and those in football, the sport I have always enjoyed the most, deteriorate. I think, without doubt, that it affects the psyche of the countries involved. The youth, above all others, are convinced that cheating is endemic in every sphere of society and the odds on their success in life are stacked against them. The sad thing is that they are not wrong.

In America, for instance, the middle class is dwindling as real wages have decreased and time at work increased since the 1960s. Everything we are brought up to believe valuable- property, posessions, family have become less affordable yet company profits- the ones who have allowed wages to decrease, continue to rise. Where is the outrage?

Countries with democracies are having them corrupted by rich people with unregulated donations the politicians could not achieve power without. Where is our outrage?

We are having less time to ourselves, to see our friends, to build families, to expand our minds and enjoy our lives. Where is your outrage?

We are told how many husbands or wives we can have as if it is some universal truth, whether we can sample some drugs and not others, whether we can get treatment for illness based on our income. Should I not be outraged?

We allow the phrase “it is just business,” the coldest most hateful phrase in the human lexicon, into general usage to justify all means of behaviour destructive to our societies, our neighbours, our friends and ourselves.

Outrage is not enough. Do something. Write a letter to a senator, a congressman, any politician, a company that uses child labour, a television station, a sports association. join a union to fight for a better wage- it’s not just for blue collar workers. Whatever part of your life is most affected.

[should have ended here]

The internet gives us all a powerful medium to effect change. Five days ago I started my contribution. I have decided not to be outraged but proactive. I have decided to do my bit for a change. I put up a website called sportscheat.org where players are shamed for cheating, where visitors are encouraged to sign a petition, write letters to television, sponsors of cheats and sports sportscheat_nas_01.pngassociations. In the first 4 hours it had 350 visitors and 70 signatories. I have committed myself to an hour or two a day to try and make a difference in the world.

What will your contribution be?



Did you enjoy this piece?

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One Response to “Outraged, proactive or comatose?”

  1. Pit Silas Says:

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