Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 21 February 2013

How to Rescue Oscar Pistorius

On Monday I wrote a blog called the Oscar Pistorius Defence. In it I was trying to suggest that an old, white, patriarchal society would do whatever it could to protect one of its young, white heroes, one of its role models. I did it in a tone that was somewhat deadpan, and I wondered, from the comments, whether my approach was entirely successful.

To be fair, that didn’t matter an awful lot to me. I put my thoughts out there for my readers to ponder and respond to, and, if it’s right for them, any interpretation is entirely appropriate. Clarity is, obviously, my problem, and not theres.

Anyway, that post garnered a much bigger readership than my average post. The effect of calling a post ‘The Oscar Pistorius Defence’ or, I suppose, of having the killer’s name in the title at all (and, yes, I am comfortable calling him a killer) grossly inflated my readership in a way that I was naive not to anticipate. I just didn’t expect my blog to hold any extra interest for anybody just because I had written about what might have happened at a house in Pretoria on Thursday morning. I knew that the news media would be busy, but I’m just a nobody writing a blog. Who cares about what I have to say?

That idea blossomed into my next blog about those numbers, about how uncomfortable it made me to have any impact whatsoever on what people read or why, about how careful I intended to be about my blog titles in the future. People seem to be so easily led by titles and keywords and labels. It is too easy to find things on the web using only those most basic of criteria, and, in doing so, the cynical blogger can draw in readers, who won’t read past the first few sentences and will quickly become disillusioned by the obvious trick. Readers don’t want to be made to feel like fools. If readers think they’re being duped into reading a blog, they aren’t going to trust the blogger or believe that he is representing himself honestly. That’s not how a blogger builds up a rapport with his readership. I really didn’t want to be that person.

It is Thursday today and a huge amount has come to light in the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing. Some of this stuff is mind-blowing, not least the idea that the lead officer in the investigation, Hilton Botha is to stand trial in May for the attempted murder of 7 people. It says a lot about the state of a nation when it fails to suspend from active duty a police officer accused of so serious an offence, and allows him to lead high profile murder investigations, while himself awaiting trial.

I hadn’t planned to put Oscar Pistorius’s name at the top of another of my blogs, but, since I obviously didn’t make myself clear the first time, when I wrote on this subject on Monday, I’d like to clarify my position with regard to this appalling incident. So, to hell with it. More than the average number of people will probably come to this blog, and many of them won’t read past the first few sentences, but those who do will certainly learn what I think.

There is no doubt that South Africa is a dangerous and troubled nation. There is no doubt in my mind that violence begets violence. There is no doubt in my mind that a history of institutionalised bigotry is a very difficult stain to expunge from a nation’s psyche, and I believe that where any form of bigotry exists it leaves a door open for other forms of bigotry to walk in, take a seat and make themselves comfortable. It is not hard to see how a history of institutionalised racism could easily leave the door open in a white, patriarchial society for misogyny and homophobia to take root.

Reeva Steenkamp was only the latest victim of violence and misogyny at the hands of a white man raised in a society where powerful, old, white men protect their natural successors, the young white men, who are the role models and heroes they want to promote to perpetuate their deeply unpleasant politics. No wonder, then, that it looks increasingly, to me, as if those same men sought to conspire, from the very beginning, to sabotage Oscar Pistorius’s prosecution. I wonder what hope there is left that they will fail, and that Reeva Steenkamp and her family will see some measure of justice done.

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