Oscar Pistorius: Public interest? Really?

2014-03-02 10:00

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Here’s the ordinary story. A young man liked guns. Very much. The young man killed his girlfriend with a gun.

If committed with the requisite intent, this crime is so common it even has a name. Femicide. When men kill their intimate partners.

Young women and men come to a gruesome end every day in South Africa.

This week, Lebohang Makala (8) from Klipspruit, Soweto, died from injuries sustained at the hands of her schoolfriends. Tragedy and violence stalk us. Painfully. It is our past. It is our present.

We remain a deeply macho and patriarchal society despite a Constitution that enshrines that we are equal and envisions a society of greater harmony.

South Africans love their guns, even though one of the first things Nelson Mandela did when he was released from prison was to ask us to throw them in the ocean. We haven’t. People die unnecessary deaths from guns almost every day.

A father riding a motorbike was recently gunned down in a road rage incident. He and the man who shot him carried guns. The driver pulled his gun first. We have too many guns and are irresponsible with them.

Here’s the extraordinary story. A Paralympian who raced Cheetahs, who insisted on racing in the Olympics, who was revered as much as Usain Bolt, shot his girlfriend. On Valentine’s Day. He loved guns.

Reeva Steenkamp died a bloody death in a toilet at Oscar Pistorius’ home. The prosecution says he murdered her. Possibly in a fit of rage. The defence says his intention was to protect them both. Possibly in a fit of panic. We live in a violent and crime-prone country.

The world is gripped by this story. Heroes who fall, beautiful women who die young. Blood. Guns. Love.

Pistorius is innocent until proven guilty. We are interested, but there is only a smidgen of public interest in this story.

Let us not kid ourselves and pretend that the fight for television rights was a fight for open justice or for free expression. It is a fight for eyeballs and to feed our insatiable appetites for a story with its almost unbelievable elements.

If we are genuinely interested, then we would all do much more to tell ordinary stories with the same verve with which we tell this extraordinary one. If that is what will glue us, then we should be glued to every ordinary story.

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