Facts that we have learnt from the Oscar Pistorius case

2014-04-23 00:00

AS the deadline for my new book Love in the Time of Contempt: consolations for parents of teenagers hammers down on me, I’ve been derailed.

It’s not that I don’t know my own frailties. If I watch the first episode of that ridiculous reality show, The Bachelor, I will waste precious hours of my life to see who didn’t get a rose, hating myself a little more with each episode. So I have tried my best to stay away from the Oscar Pistorius trial. I didn’t want to get hooked. Also, who doesn’t admire the guy? He’s the dude who said in an interview when we all knew him as the “bladerunner”: “I never saw a difference between ability and disability.” I did not want to watch him fall and crumble.

But then an image of June, Reeva Steenkamp’s mother, on my Twitter feed, her face pinched in agony, got to me and the next thing I knew I found myself obsessed with the live streaming of the trial.

Oh, Oscar. I wish I could believe his version. I have stretched the limits of my own incredulity to try to accommodate the possibility that he made a terrible mistake. But his story is nonsense. How do I know? Because if anyone came to me with his version as a plot, I’d say: “It doesn’t work, rethink it. No one’s actually going to believe that.”

Despite this, I find myself aching for this fallen hero. How can we not be humbled by the tragedy of it all? Not just the needless death of Steenkamp; the shattering of lives all around; but by watching someone spin a web of lies that is slowly suffocating him? We will probably never know what happened that night, but here are some things we can all know for sure.

• Guns kill

If you own a gun, at some point you’re going to think “this is a good time to use it”. Chances are, if you use it, it will kill someone.

• Valentine’s Day isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

Valentine’s Day is so over-hyped. It puts huge pressure on any relationship. There’s the expectations, the disappointment, the need to love and be loved as we cling to the romantic fantasy of intimacy and are left feeling empty.

• South Africa has a high crime rate and some people are paranoid about their safety

When I lived in South Africa, I was as hyper vigilant as Pistorius is. Six people I know have been murdered, and countless others have been raped, hijacked and robbed. I don’t find it bizarre that Pistorius was paranoid about an intruder, or even that he might have shot through a closed door at a perceived intruder. But the fact that Steenkamp was locked in the toilet and didn’t shout that it was her behind the door while he was screaming at the alleged intruder, makes it impossible to believe he made this mistake.

• If you’re scared of the person you’re in a relationship with, listen to that intuition

Steenkamp’s earlier message to Pistorius that sometimes she was scared of him haunts me. He’s prone to outbursts and temper tantrums. These are the warning signs of an abusive relationship.

I can’t help feeling that perhaps Steenkamp told Pistorius she was going to leave him that night. It would explain why he lost it with her. In feminist terms, this is what we call “separation assault”. It is usually fatal.

• Cross-examination works

If you’re not telling the truth in court, your story will get pecked to pieces by the opposing legal team.

• You can’t cry your way out of an inconsistency

Emotions are messy. Facts less so. A court knows the difference between them.

• People who tell the truth don’t need to have a good memory

Gerrie Nel has shown that if you’re going to make up a version, you need to remember everything you’ve said previously. No wonder Pistorius is so exhausted.

• Celebrities are not superhuman, much as we want them to be

They are flawed, often spoilt, narcissistic, attention-seeking people who imagine they’re exempt from the laws of gravity, murder and karma. But they aren’t. Being a celebrity just means that your trial becomes other people’s reality TV and everyone gets to watch you vomit.

• Getting others to take the blame for our actions comes at a price

When Pistorius got his friend to take the blame when he fired a pistol in a restaurant it was because “it won’t look good for me”. When this evidence was led in court, it looked even worse.

• Our dignity may not hang on what we do — we all make terrible mistakes — but in owning up to our actions

All I’ve wanted is for Pistorius to accept responsibility for what he’s done. To show us his greatness of character; the same character that has taken him so far as a sportsman.

I feel contaminated by the whole wretched business, and am desperate to find some redemption in the brokenness. As we all wait to see what will happen, I find myself hoping Pistorius might just come clean.

I look at pictures of Pistorius with Nelson Mandela, and imagine that if Madiba were alive right now, he’d put his hand on Pistorius’s shoulder and say to him: “Ozzie, just tell the truth. It will set you free inside.”

It is terrible to watch someone suffer, emotionally and physically. Pistorius is shattered inside — between what he knows to be true and the story he is trying so hard to hold onto, because he somehow believes that he’s “fighting for his life”.

His life as he knows it, is over. It is time to be a different kind of man.

 — Biznews.

• Joanne Fedler is a South African author who lives in Australia.

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