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Culture, Sport
Oscar Pistorius

Best of 2012 | Blade Running White Jesus

by Chipa Gazi / 25.12.2012

Originally published 26 march 2012

I was at a braai with my boys and we were talking about the usual, you know: Chapelle, Archer and old times – when this white guy comes up and tries to fit in. He wanted to talk about “issues” like we were a test group he could flex his ideas on. It was awkward for him. You could see by his body language the situation made him uncomfortable. Later, high on primo cheese (the good hydro at R150 a gram), I realised the white guy at the braai only wanted, harmlessly, to fit in but he was betrayed by his own body – the socially-assigned “colour” of it turned out to be a disadvantage for once. He reminded me of another white guy who just wants to fit in despite the burden of his ‘different’ body, our beloved Paralympian, number 1 on Heat’s Hot 100 celebs list, the handsome face of Thierry Mugler perfume, Oscar Pistorius.

Oscar, who was born without fibula bones and had both legs amputated below the knee as a baby, wants to compete in the ‘able-bodied’ category of athletes eligible to run the 400m at the upcoming London Olympics in July. He’s training maniacally at Pretoria University to do so. He may make over a million dollars a year in endorsements, more than enough to live well, but he’s really had to struggle to be in a position to compete with the able-bodied. He was banned from doing so by the International Athletics Federation (IAF) and got himself back in the running after contesting the ruling. A cloud still hangs over his participation. Is he cheating? Does he belong? What exactly is he, an athlete or robot? It can’t be helping the guy as he prepares for the freaking Olympics. He’s walked out of interviews over such questions. And he’s right to do so. They aren’t for him to answer. Oscar’s job is to run as fast as his signature Cheetah flex blades allow him. That’s all. Besides, he’s used to adversity. His is a life lived literally chopped off at the knees. The guy’s a marvel. A superhero. A genuine inspiration in a cynical era.

But let’s enjoy for a moment the irony of a white South African athlete having to justify their eligibility to compete simply on the basis of their embodiment, the arbitrary fact of the kind of body they have. Thanks to post-liberation race quotas in sport, a generation of black sportspeople have had to play in an atmosphere of intense suspicion over their eligibility, one that automatically demeans their talent, commitment and training. How many potential greats have crumpled under that unnecessary pressure and become accountants or shitty deejays?

This may be the cheese talking but think of Oscar as Jesus. The broken body of the Son of Man is the price of dying for our sins. The broken body of Oscar Pistorius never stops reminding whites of the wound of transformation, the price of past sins. Pistorius excels, yes, but suspiciously, in a qualified way. Victory is tainted by illegitimacy. Whites have experienced power loss in government and in most social spheres. The loss of authority, the sting of compromise, over almost two decades, continues to be played out in daily little demands of tolerance and understanding. They didn’t have to consider other races as equals before. Now the whole society is held together, after Mandela, by an ideological belief in rainbows. No wonder white complaint floods our media.

Bladerunner - Helping Hand

Oscar Pistorius is supposedly the number one celebrity in the country not only because he is a true hero and an incredible human being, but because, like whites who are held automatically accountable for the sins of Apartheid, he’s wounded by a harmful inheritance, an absence of fibula bones in his case, and one, significantly, he had no control over. White people can relate.

Perceptions beyond his control, big questions about fairness and what constitutes unenhanced human ability, threaten to disqualify Oscar’s broken body from achieving what he wants, Olympic glory. Inheriting Apartheid sin, that whole body of damning evidence, sins of compliance and silence, exclusive skilling and exploitative capital formation, and so on, disqualifies whites from the moral high ground: no matter how accurate their analysis of the failures of the ANC regime may be. Oscar’s broken body symbolises the condition of whites in this country today.

That’s why, though seeing Bladerunner run and win and compete despite life-long physical impediments is a universal joy, all humanity can identify with his fighting spirit, identifying with him is ambiguous for whites. He is not whole but he’s performing as if he is. He’s still getting results but do they count? He’s not able-bodied but he’s competing in that category. Should he be allowed to? Whites, who once ruled, are in the same boat now. What is their status in the national order? What role should they play? Do they belong here?

Inadvertently, Pistorious shares the unspoken concerns of whites, concerns that go to the heart of their uneasy presence in this country. “I really wanted to find out,” he told the New York Times, discussing why he hired a scrum of expensive lawyers to (successfully) contest the IAF’s ruling that his signature Cheetah Flex-blades give him an unfair advantage, “do I have an advantage? Because I don’t want to be competing in a sport where I feel that I’m here not on my talent and my hard work but because of a piece of equipment.”

Replace ‘piece of equipment’ with the unfair advantage of white privilege and you have the question all whites must face: Do I really have an advantage? How they answer, or even bother to ask, this question determines how comfortable they will be remaining here. It is surely the first step to ensuring they can live a good life free of guilt or whatever.

In the court case with the IAF, Pistorius’ lawyers relentlessly explored the ambiguity of the term “advantage”. What does it mean in his case? How did it apply? How do you quantify it? I imagine Pistorius sitting there listening to the legalese zinging back and forth. The future of his career hanging in the balance. I bet he felt like a lot of white people do in this country: if I’m advantaged, artificially enhanced and supplemented in an unfair way, it sure doesn’t feel like it. Let’s wrap this up with: Oscar for the win in 2012! Go Bladerunner go, you gorgeous young white Jesus you.

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RESPONSES (34)
  1. Drunken Bastardman says:

    There may have been a half-decent article knocking around inside the author’s head, but then they let the chronic write it. Shame.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    So in SA you can be an accountant or a shitty deejay, but if you with the sport option you are drenched in suspicion?
    I am not comfortable with the sentiments expressed in this article. It’s a very big stretch, and since you are blaming the cheese, I will too. I guess the fact that you mentioned what weed you smoked, and at which price, I can assume you are in high school?
    Chapelle… Archer…. The good old days… Tv program, tv program, sentimentality.

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  3. roy says:

    how do you not get an article THAT much @anonymous? well done

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Using your analogy, how would black people be represented?

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  5. Anonymous says:

    Why is it always about race with South Africans?! Why can’t it be about something deeper than skin colour…

    OP is a role model for the world because he is a record-breaking paralympic athlete, using his profile to highlight the issues other budding athletes with disabilities face. He is a brand ambassador upholding the true values of sport, not a white trying to prove a point.

    The author needs to do a bit more research… as the controversy about OP taking part in the same category as able-bodied athletes was started by the Sport Science Institute of SA in CT… and it was another fellow white who first disagreed with him taking part because his ‘legs’ gave him an unfair advantage.

    Although, judging from the author’s inability to use journalism to share actual news and break down barriers, you probably think it’s rich white versus poor white, instead of: science, sport and fairness.

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  6. Stevovo says:

    Some of these sentences make sense, but not together. Braai, fibula, Olympics, apartheid, Jesus. As DB said, perhaps there was a good article knocking about in the author’s head. We’ll never know.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    ” a generation of black sportspeople have had to play in an atmosphere of intense suspicion over their eligibility, one that automatically demeans their talent, commitment and training. How many potential greats have crumpled under that unnecessary pressure and become accountants or shitty deejays?”

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  8. noxy says:

    they may make sense at a level you’re incapable or just not willing to reach @stevovo

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  9. Zo says:

    I really think the metaphor here is a powerful one. As a proponenent of Transhumanism, OP represents far more than just the dichotomy of post-apartheid whiteys. He is all of us. The bright truth that in the end humans will be responsible for thier own evolution. Culturally, politically, philosophically and indeed Anatomically. (Race being all these things but particularly anatomical).

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  10. Malva Pudding says:

    When he has sex, does he keep those blades on? Or do they just do cowgirl?

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  11. Oliver says:

    So it’s a mistake to flex ideas with black guys because they want to talk about the usual (very progressive)? I know a whole lot of black people who flex ideas very well. So it’s not a black thing – it’s a you and your friends thing.

    What is great about this article is that you open with saying how awkward it is to test ideas with you and then you go on to demonstrate how you struggle with thinking. So all in all this article is about your disability followed by a demonstration. I suggest we replace “black people” with “Chipa and friends” because your clinging to the past and discussing the usual is not a black thing, it’s more about you.

    Then I would go further by replacing “white people” with “the rest of society”. Very competent black people struggle with BEE in the same way as Oscar struggles with his legs because despite being admirable business leaders, some people still whisper affirmative blacktion behind their backs.

    So this article is about your type not really getting anything done and hobbling along on disabled, awkward thinking while the rest of us (black, white, yellow, brown and whatever) are out there trying to move the country, the economy and each other ahead.

    Or maybe I just don’t get the progressive and modern thinking behind this piece.

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  12. blah blah says:

    What a load of crap this ‘article’ is. Firstly, you are so concerned with race superiority that you forgot to see that blacks in SA are the ones wearing the ‘blades’. If you are so brilliant then why the need for BBBEE and Affirmative action? Why the huge need for laws to protect the majority from a minority? Why the need to keep calling yourselves ‘previously disadvantaged’? Surely if one was previously disadvantaged that would make you advantaged right?

    Whites don’t take a moral high ground at all. We just want to get on with living. Your beloved ANC is still acting like a liberation movement dealing with the ‘struggle’. Why not just get on with looking after the people, and I mean ALL of them.

    You ask do white people belong here? Let me ask you, do you belong here? What makes SA any more your birthright than mine? Don’t lets get hung up on past issues all the time. Get on with life and stop being a bitchy whiney little brat.

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  13. Jen Saunders says:

    I think if Mahala gets the Facebook commenting system for their websites the comments might be slightly less horrific. The anonymity basically makes it a 4Chan comment board. Or maybe your readership is just comparable in stupidity to that of News24.

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  14. Jen Saunders says:

    *website
    Just anticipating the ad hominem comments that will inevitably follow after a typo.

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  15. Oliver says:

    @ Jen. It’s true that the comments would be less horrific but there would also be less comments in general. This anonymous board might be censorship in reverse, I think it’s worth a shot. People say things they would ordinarily not say and while most of it ends up being rubbish, you do see the odd interesting point. And that’s worth it.

    But if you don’t like horrific comments, you’ll probably not like the rest of the internet either.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    at least this article is more interesting and provocotive than the rugby drivel we’ve been fed recently. miss you brandon and roger 🙁

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  17. Niel Bekker says:

    I always read the comments before the article on Mahala, so I was wary of this piece and how it would make me feel.

    But I actually think it’s pretty damn spot on. White South Africans are pretty obsessed with the idea of the level playing field. What this article points to, and what I think should be the starting point of an adult conversation about race in SA, is that this playing field does and probably can not exist. We are running on blades and we still don’t know what that means… only that it makes life very, very complicated.

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  18. Kakkie Broek says:

    Probably the best bit of writing I have ever read read on here.No fucking chance the author is a black dude though!

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  19. Troll Hunter says:

    This article tries very hard to draw false equivalences. Some nice writing but…

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  20. noxy says:

    that’s not racist at all @kakkie

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  21. Donal Davern says:

    @Zo – race is particularly anatomical is it? What, like flat noses and differently shaped skulls? Sometimes verbosity gets in the way of making sense.

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  22. Oliver says:

    @ Neil Bekker

    I think South Africa has reached a new low if equality and fairness is being called a specific race group’s obsession. A level playing field is not just an idea, it’s a very real possibility and one that free enterprise should be built on.

    This article may well point to the fact that this playing field cannot exist but just because someone wrote an article that points to a civilization on the moon does not mean it is so. My point here is that because an amateur writer who prefers to discuss ‘the usual’ cannot conceive of a level playing field, it in no way suggests that it cannot exist.

    The field can be level because we make the rules and we can make the same rules for everyone. The field is a human construct and we can make it whatever we want. People are not equal. That is the equality that does not and cannot exist. Some people are more gifted than others and that is just the way humans are. If we are all going to be forced to be equal we’re all going to have to operate at the lowest common denominator which means the least talented individual in society. The reason for this is simply because more talented people can do all things and less talented can only do some. So if we’re all going to have to do the same thing, we’ll all have to do only what the least talented can do. This however flies in the face of absolute and comparative advantage (which builds value in society and increases wealth) as well as something as basic as evolution.

    The ideal should be a level playing field that allows for realization of individual potential. The outcome will not be equal because people aren’t equal. Equal output is different and wrong because it rewards the weak and punishes the strong. I do not understand why this is good.

    I am however still amused by the fact that the writer admits it’s awkward to flex ideas with him and his mates. How does that make them able bodied and the thinker the cripple. Have we not moved beyond this primal situation? Does being cool with your gang really still make you better than having a good thought? I know South Africa is tribal, but I assumed a more modern concept of tribe.

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  23. random says:

    well, at least a good debate was sparked.

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  24. noxy says:

    Why does your whole long-winded, empty, boring post seem like a defense of the inevitable inequalities of capitalism masquerading as an undergrad philosophy essay @Oliver?

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  25. Oliver says:

    @ Noxy

    It doesn’t.

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  26. noxy says:

    it does

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  27. Oliver says:

    @ Noxy

    There’s nothing philosophical about it. I suspect you’ve never seen or written an undergrad philosophy essay. Maybe an English essay – the strange lecturers let you get away with arguments like that. Very poetic, very obscure and in desperate need of meaning. But don’t worry, your post, unlike mine, is not entirely empty. But I’ll get to that in a second. I’d also just like to say that if a response to (what is essentially a blog) can be compared to a undergrad philosophy paper I’m not doing too bad.

    But consider your own response for a second: “long-winded, empty, boring” are all opinions which in this context makes them empty (if you don’t mind me borrowing your word). Ironically enough, empty could be the only one you could argue as it is a matter of context. Or should I say that “one” can argue as you seem to struggle with the argument bit.

    If you remove your opinion (valuable as it may be) and the irrelevant “undergrad essay” comment, your question is “Why does your whole post seem like a defense of the inevitable inequalities of capitalism”.

    In that case I’ll turn on my previous comment to say that it is and I don’t think you deserve much credit for discovering that little message. I’m a rather staunch advocate of capitalism, the free market and such. So yes, it might come across as a defense of the inevitable inequalities of capitalism. Humans aren’t equal (take for example you and I) and we should not expect the outcome of our lives to be equal. How idiotic would that be?

    I am however impressed by the fact that you’ve not once used the word ‘banal’. Mahala readers have given up on that word. They used to love it so much. Nothing’s banal anymore, now everything is long-winded, empty and boring.

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  28. noxy says:

    there you go again

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  29. Zo says:

    @Donal Davern. i’m not sure i understand your issue. Verbose, maybe, but the anatomy includes the outer shell, which in this case was meant to indicate skin and ofcourse OP’s augemented appendages. I suppose you might have read white man =small dick in what was meant to be a unifying comment.

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  30. 857 says:

    Don’t quit your day job Chipa. This article sucks!

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  31. Anonymous says:

    I’d like to live in a world without blacks, whites, gays, heteros etc. Instead I’d like to live in a world populated by black people, white people, gay people, heterosexual people etc. Words define us and the way we relate to each other. Using adjectives as nouns is a dangerous practice…

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  32. beherenow says:

    Good concept, bad execution.

    As for those who still think race is not an issue in SA, wake up fuckers. Race was and continues to be an issue. The deniers are the same deniers who deny that apartheid was a crime, that deny they – or their parents – voted NP, that continue to deny that their denial forms an integral part of the problem, FFS!

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  33. Anonymous says:

    wowe. some serious generalisations in this article. i thought the afrikaaner is specifically responsible for apartheid. not just whites in general. ie vervoed, malan et al

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  34. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what you are all thinking now?

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