Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Alternative boy

There was a thin, pale boy in the shop today wearing a white t-shirt with a print of bloodied lungs on it. He and two friends of his were looking for an Anne Rice book, and found one they wanted and left. This is not unusual in itself except for the fact that they were in the shop buying a book when South Africa (our country that wouldn't have qualified had it not been fortheir hosting the world cup) was beating France (the country rankd seventh in the world) in the world cup.

I had - just half an hour previously - run across to the other side of the corridor (past Clicks, around the esculators) to move the palm in the shiny silver pot that was blocking our view of the television in the hairdressers. It was large and heavy and made a painful, squealing sound when I dragged it across the floor. We still had to sit flat on the floor in the doorway of the shop to see the soccer on the television opposite, but the screen was unobstructed at least. Perhaps the security guards would have stopped me ordinarily, but they were off watching the soccer themselves.

When we scored the goals, a man in his pale-blue clicks shirt careened around the esculators with his arms outsretched and the people gathered in the hairdressers jumped up and down and a little boy skipped past like he had spring-bok hind legs. We hugged and high-fived and laughed uncontrollably with happiness. I had tears in my eyes as the exhilaration seemed to explode up from my toes like a firework shooting upwards out of me. Everyone was sparking, feeling the rush and it was really as if we were all united in absolute and pure joy. All white-english-alienation I often feel was erased in an instant and all that was left was a throbbing heart of pride.

I felt like this about my country when I was a child and I thought about Nelson Madela and my school - Port Shepstone High - where people formed teams and dreamed of making a better South Africa. I have not felt like this for years as the depression at the widespread corruption and the continuing hatred and prejudice that is only passed on from one generation to another is not lessened with time and better education.

And then this boy came in with his alternative t-shirt and said how he was sick of the soccer, how he hoped we lost so that everything would return to normal. He wasn't interested in watching. My lips pulled backwards over my teeth in a not-smile, and I felt intensely angry with him and sorry for him at the same time. I was angry because he wanted to crush the raw energy of such patriotism that I thought no one would ever feel again after Mbeki, Zuma, Jub-Jub, Malema, Eugene Terreblanche and Steve Hofmeyer. And I fet sorry for him because he doesn't realise how rare this unification is. If powerful South Africans continue to suppress people and abuse their power, this may be the one of the last surges of bright, unsullied patriotic fervour for years to come. He doesn't even realise he is sleeping through the appearence of one of the rarest shooting stars: our country all cheering for and with each other.


  1. That misanthropic child is about as alternative as pork and beans.

    I agree that the fervour we've been experiencing of late is beautiful and powerful, and maybe now we can understand why America is such a powerhouse in spite of everything that's wrong with it. They all get together for July 4th, Thanksgiving and the Superbowl. As a nation, they are always united behind their flag, something we only experience every few years.

    I hope that this wonderful opportunity will get us addicted to being a nation together, instead of a nation divided. I'm proud of us, of Bafana and of our stunning flag.

  2. Even now, months later, I can remember all the feelings you were describing. I remember where I was when the first goal was scored, and how it kept going. What a great feeling! I remember also being angry with stupid naysayers who want to spoil everything for everybody. And I was so proud of us! Thank you for reminding me xxx