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Anticipation Blues

by Brandon Edmonds, image by Andy Davis / 21.05.2010

Zakumi's stretched, fake smile

Anticipation is finite. We should use it sparingly, as we do saffron, air travel, or bacon. It’s a resource always running out. Sand through fingers, evaporating water. Think of the ebbing emotional wallop of your own birthday. You once anticipated it with the fiery evangelical belief in the Second Coming as a child, now you’re only too happy to slink through it, undercover like Columbo. That looming FIFA event, like so many Somali pirates, is looting our general anticipatory store. Can anyone anticipate anything else right now?

Pity babies born in this “desert of the real”, this reality sucked of all minor anticipations. They’ll forever feel looked over, unwanted, untimely. Just as great bodies in space bend and curve light, warping gravity, so the Footie Frankenstein (FF) clods through our minds, sucking our hopes and dreams into it’s expensively gaping maw. Mixed metaphors, yes, but this is a country born of mixed metaphors, hosting an event begging for metaphors of mixing and melding, joining and linking; an event that will cash-in on our “democratic miracle” – that compelling myth of sudden friendship and forgiveness across all racial settings – turning our hard-won civic imagery into global media content: the stuff of branding, TV rights and fitfully bracing spectacle. Lucky us.

The waiting is killing me is what I’m saying. South Africans generally don’t do anticipation well. We’ve been through a “reconciliation process” (one that surely, definitively ended symbolically with the recent sordid death of the man, that bearded oaf with the scorched earth eyes, who once assaulted the very negotiations that led us wherever we are today). It has made anticipation an official condition, a way of being South African in a sense. We’re all waiting for things to improve. Anticipating the genuine fallout of liberation. Tides of well-being, upliftment and joy. We’re all a little sick of hoping against hope. Some of us so sick that we strike, we ransack counselor’s homes, we burn cars and make barricades, and get shot at, like old times, by the police. The “reconciliation process” became a kind of limbo. A waiting room with faded magazines at a dentist’s whose long since run out of gold fillings. It sucked… us dry.

This World Cup will usher in an era of undeniable contradictions, no more elite hiding behind the masses, with obvious antagonists, the moneyed and the starving, and political engagement enthralled by pressing public problems rather than endless ruling party exploitation of historical differences.

The World Cup, and the gloating overblown claim of that title speaks volumes, does a lot of emotional work on us. It fires feelings of belonging, unity and scale. A World Cup is our chance to move mentally, as South Africans, spat out the back end of a “reconciliation process”, from anticipation to action. Here is, as that achingly hip continental thinker, Alain Badiou, once put it, an Event. It is about to happen to our country, and has already happened in many ways: shifted perceptions of responsibility and power, exposed lines of social control, x-rayed faults in public accountability, physically changed landscapes and skylines, pitilessly hounded the marginalized, and so on. This event even has the power to rupture the way we see ourselves in relation to our country.

We’ll see ourselves in the eyes of others, a tide of tourists, reflected back, see ourselves being seen as representatives of a country we’re still working out ourselves, still settling into, still wondering what the hell it has to offer us, and what it wants, what it will take and what we’re willing to go on giving. The event gives us a chance to see ourselves as survivors of all that shit in the past, but more crucially, as guides to what makes that history worth overcoming, as living examples of all that was worth fighting for: we locals, who know how to dance and party, who live to talk, who love to make love, who keep on keeping on. I’m anticipating the best of us. Aren’t you?

Image © Andy Davis

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