Friends & Friction: Restraint: Just do it

2014-07-17 06:00

“Let’s do it.” Those were the last words Gary Gilmore said before four bullets shattered his heart. The doctor went forward and pronounced: “He’s still alive.”

Everyone was shocked. The lawyers, the family, the witnesses and executioners. They stared at ­Gilmore, strapped to his chair, blood flowing to the floor. His right hand lifted as if he wanted to wave or say something.

According to the US Supreme Court, Gilmore’s punishment is neither cruel nor unusual. Yes, you can still die by firing squad in the US.

No one knew what to do next, because no one had anticipated it. In Gilmore’s eyes, his victory was in his execution for the two murders he had ­committed. He was asked to appeal his ­conviction but ­refused.

Although he wasn’t black, the National ­Association for the Advancement of Colored ­People weighed in and tried to appeal on his ­behalf. The reason was familiar – his father was an abusive alcoholic, but Gilmore would have none of that. He wanted to die.

Now there was an impasse. The bullets had been fired but he was still alive. What were they to do? His mother, Bessie, was trying to hold on to a glimmer of hope. She had been told her son had ­received a stay of ­execution.

When she turned on the TV, the conundrum had been solved. Gary Gilmore was finally dead.

It took 20 seconds – the longest 20?seconds for the government officials. Then the process of ­immortalisation began.

Norman Mailer wrote a book called The Executioner’s Song and won a Pulitzer Prize for it. A film followed, and one of the most brilliant advertising ­campaigns of our time was born. Dan Wieden, the adman who invented the Nike slogan “Just do it”, admitted he was inspired by

Gilmore’s last words. He substituted the word ‘let’s’ for ‘just’.

This week, we saw a video showing Oscar ­Pistorius re-enacting how he killed Reeva Steenkamp. He was wearing a Nike vest with a big Swoosh.

Four bullets, they said. Obviously, this is not an image Nike wanted to portray, but it happens. Pistorius is not the first athlete to kill, and he probably won’t be the last.

Years before Pistorius, Rae Carruth, a ­professional footballer, had an argument with his girlfriend. He wanted her to have an abortion. When she refused, Carruth hired Van Brett ­Watkins to kill her. “Four bullets,” Watkins told the court. “Bam, bam, bam, bam,” he ­dramatised.

Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to ­murder, and then the pictures of him wearing his uniform with a Nike logo beamed across a disgusted world.

Ironically, at this World Cup, Nike seems to have walked away from their “Just do it” slogan. ­Instead, they are saying “Risk Everything”. ­Perhaps this is an opportunity to teach our young that in civilised society, it is not okay to just do it.

There are restraints, and self-restraint is the most valued of all. Self-restraint is our most ­valued weapon in the fight against corruption. Zibambe is what parents teach – “restrain yourself”.

When people refrain from doing what is wrong, they ease the burden on the justice ­system because less crime is committed. They ease the burden on the health system as less people are injured.

I wonder what inspired “Risk Everything”. Hopefully it inspires us to be better.

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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