Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vuvuzela in Hand, the Fun in South Africa is Starting

Let's break kayfabe for once. Normally, everything written at this site comes in the form of being crafted in the guise of SBPDL.

Stepping away from that moniker for a second, I want to address something: we live in a time of unprecedented outpourings of truth that are so ubiquitous that containment of these stories has become virtually impossible.

I started writing about the World Cup in South Africa about five months ago, because I gathered that during the games a giant magnifying glass would be held over that nation for one month, which would reveal the unpleasant reality of life in Mandela's Rainbow Nation.

We Americans don't care about soccer. Black people care even less about soccer, a sport that uncoordinated white kids and illegal immigrants participate in with great enthusiasm. In most major cities, hordes of illegal aliens can be found playing soccer on poorly maintained fields with even poorer equipment masquerading as goals, and suburban white kids can be found strolling about aimlessly on manicured lawns oblivious to the game they play.

It would be easy to cast off soccer as a sport for the rest of the world, another example of American Exceptionalism, but this would be foolish. I have read numerous tomes on soccer that have helped plant seeds of appreciation for the sport in my mind that will undoubtedly sprout over the next month.

Now, reflecting on the volumes of articles that I have read warning about the horrors of South Africa and the impending collapse of that nation, one can safely surmise that nation has already collapsed. The legacy of the 2010 World Cup will be that the sporting event showcased that collapse to the world through the medium of live television.

Really, all you can do is laugh at the stories that one reads everyday (and that are discussed at this website). But one story caught my eye like few others, as The Star out of Toronto published a story so incredible in its veracity that it must be reproduced here:

The first thing she wanted to know was whether or not I planned to drive in South Africa and, more specifically, Johannesburg.

Sure, I said.

“Make sure you keep your windows down just a bit,” she said, showing about an inch of space between her thumb and forefinger.

This is exactly the opposite of what they tell you in the guide books – roll up the windows, keep the doors locked at all times. But she is a native Jo’burger. She lives in Toronto now — illegally. She’s determined to never go home.

Why the inch?

“Because when they come for you, they will come with a spark plug to smash the window,” she said, showing me an imaginary spark plug in her palm and swinging down hard. “If the windows are down, there isn’t enough pressure. They won’t shatter.”

Welcome to the World Cup of crime. In past tournaments, hooliganism and terrorism have been the threats keeping organizers up at night and causing tourists to think twice.

In South Africa, alarming murder and carjacking statistics have been front and centre since the tournament was awarded a decade ago.

Fifty killings a day — 18,000 a year — makes this country the murder capital of the world, excepting Colombia. Most point out that Colombia is involved in an undeclared civil war.

When projected tourist numbers plummeted from optimistic highs of 1.5 million to a disappointing reality of 250,000 World Cup visitors, local politicians blamed the economic downturn. On the plane over, none of the Dutch fans on-board a KLM flight was talking about finances.

Each of them was searching out someone who looked like a native to ask about crime – is it really that bad?

One tour group of doctor and lawyer-types dressed in gaudy orange was accompanied by a half-dozen enormous guys in crew cuts and black t-shirts — bodyguards whose only job was to ferry them safely to their accommodations.

Apparently, it’s not that bad. At least, not as bad as it was even five years ago. Murder rates have dropped nearly 50 per cent since the mid-90s, when riots roiled this city daily. The donut hole in the centre of Johannesburg is being slowly refilled by gentrifying entrepreneurs.

But the downtown is still the preserve of those who have no choice or an adventurous few who do. People with money live and play in the northern suburbs.

Homes there are built like forts. Long lines of 10-foot high concrete walls and steel security doors face the street. Atop the walls, electrified fences are standard, surrounding the houses on all sides.

Interiors are subdivided by iron gates, to thwart invaders who’ve breached the walls. On my first night in our rented house, I swung one shut and locked myself into a bedroom.

Our hosts — a young professional couple — tried not to laugh when I called to ask them to come and let me out. They couldn’t manage it. I did get through the night without tripping over the bedside panic button.

However, like their leaders, they are at pains to point out that crime isn’t commonplace in the suburbs. They’ve never been robbed. Nor have their neighbours. A 24-hour guardhouse dedicated to this street keeps an eye out. Most of the violence plagues the townships, like Alexandra, less than five minutes drive from this leafy refuge.

In fact, the ride over is more likely to kill you. Another 18,000 South Africans die each year in car accidents. On the way in from the airport, we passed a scooter lying crumpled on the roadside. The cops stood around with their hands on their hips, looking bored. A body lay under plastic sheeting.

“Another is dead,” the cab driver sighed. Nobody slowed to look.

South Africa has put 44,000 extra officers into the streets specifically to police the World Cup. An estimated 350,000 private security guards – some earning $600 a day as personal protection for visitors – are fully booked.

The government is understandably touchy on the issue, and has preemptively asked international reporters to go easy.

“We appeal to you as media practitioners … not to exaggerate normal policing … and associate each crime committed and each arrest made elsewhere to the safety of the World Cup,” national police commissioner Bheki Cele said last week.

Let’s hope that’s the case. Despite the urban bunkers and the razor wire, the strongest first impression is not of menace. It’s of kindness.

Standing outside a shop on Wednesday debating how to get to a distant mall, a passing customer stopped, listened for a moment and then said, “I’ll take you.”

We declined. She insisted. We piled into her car. She introduced herself as Zuzu. On the drive over, she told us a visiting Portuguese photographer had been robbed at gunpoint in a nearby hotel the night before. The news cycle was already churning with the World Cup’s first crime narrative.

“That is the problem with Africa,” Zuzu said. “But we want you to know, half of us are good.”

Wow is all I can say. Americans don't give a damn about soccer, a sport they find boring, dull to watch and lacking in the excitement our sports provide.

Demographically speaking, this view will change thanks the fecundity of non-whites in this nation (if trends continue unabated).

However, I have my Vuvuzela in hand and am prepared to blow upon it with great enthusiasm during this World Cup as the fun begins in South Africa. No, the main story coming out of that nation isn't about the exploits upon the soccer fields by the 32-teams battling for eternal glory, but the blatantly obvious descent of a 1st World power into a nation beset with the same troubles that plague American cities, like Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore and Birmingham.

Stuff Black People Don't Like was started as a joke (and don't worry, I have five actual posts that correspond to the growing list of SBPDL to put up over the next three days), but the reality of the 2010 South African World Cup is quickly entering into ominous territory.

The Christian Science Monitor devotes its print publication this week entirely to the new South Africa. The image painted isn't pretty, as the nation that emerged from the rubble of Apartheid is one that looks surprisingly like the old nation but in horrifying reverse.

Young people around the western world see this, and they realize what is coming for them when the same Demographic Sword of Damocles falls in America and Western Europe.

So prepare to enjoy that animal slaughter as only Africans can provide. Sit back and listen to the sweet sounds coming from the Vuvuzela, the musical device of choice that South Africans blow into with profound gusto and enthusiasm to the auditory displeasure of the masses:

South Africa 2010 might just possibly be the first World Cup that most armchair fans prefer to watch with the volume turned down.

Viewers should expect a riot of colourful hats, exuberant dancing and exotic clichés but the first star of the tournament is likely to be a raucous plastic horn.

For years the metre-long vuvuzela has been blown by South African supporters with as much gusto as Louis Armstrong – but rather less melody.

The collective sound has been compared to a herd of blaring elephants or hive of angry bees. Initially many will find this a charming local custom but once the novelty wears off there may be more than a few complaints of earache both inside stadiums and from TV audiences.

There was a taste of things to come at last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa. Some players grumbled they could not hear each other or the referee. "I find these vuvuzelas annoying," moaned Xabi Alonso, the Spain midfielder. "They don't contribute to the atmosphere in the stadium. They should put a ban on them."

European broadcasters also raised objections that the vuvuzelas drowned out their match commentators, a scenario that could be repeated when South Africans are urged to make a big noise in support of the hosts against Mexico in the opening game on 11 June.

Researchers even claim to have found evidence that vuvuzelas can lead to permanent hearing damage. A study by academics from Pretoria and Florida universities tested the hearing of 11 spectators before and after they attended a South African Premier League match.

The researchers said the average sound exposure during the near two hours was 100.5 decibels and peaked at 144.2 decibels. National standards for occupational noise require hearing protection for workers exposed to 85 decibels and above.

But Fifa has rejected calls for a ban on the vuvuzela, insisting it is an essential part of South Africa's footballing culture. Certainly anyone who has been to the country's most famous club game, the Soweto derby between Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, would be hard pushed to disagree.

A ban is also unlikely because manufacturers and retailers are hoping to cash in from vuvuzela sales to thousands of visiting supporters. So one South African company is already marketing foam earplugs specially designed for the World Cup. Viewers at home at least have the option of the remote control.

Excellent coverage of South Africa and the World Cup can be found here. Bloomberg Businessweek claims that South Africa bypassed Plan B (the moving of the soccer tournament) and is prepared to host a smashing sporting success beginning tomorrow.

I disagree, based on the insurance taken out on the games and the amount of extreme security measures put in place for a 30-day event.

So, in closing: hang in there if you find the World Cup coverage here at SBPDL boring, as the same commentary that caused you to find this website worth frequenting will be resuming shortly.

It's just that the World Cup is capturing the world's attention and so, I felt compelled to be enraptured as well (for much different reasons).

And no, don't expect to stop South African fans from blowing their Vuvuzela's - you'd have better luck shushing a Black person in a movie theater.

One question: will the massive new stadiums built in South Africa go for even $500,000 as the Pontiac Silverdome did recently in Detroit?


Anonymous said...

Fine post however one element leaves me disappointed...No comparison to District 9. You are the master and the originator of this concept. It is vital that you continue this new tradition in each and every post as some day (and it will catch on) South Africa and all enclaves with predominate negro population may be known as "District 9"

Stuff Black People Don't Like said...

I actually believe all minority majority counties should be labeled "District 9's" in America as well.


South Africa provides the future blueprint for whites.

Steve said...

"I actually believe all minority majority counties should be labeled "District 9's" in America as well".

ahhh my friend at one point you said I was being over reactive to segregation. I see we are now on the same sheet of music. I too love your District 9 references, I'm very surprised of the lack of "black lash" from the negro community regarding that film.

Anonymous said...

"Young people around the western world see this, and they realize what is coming for them when the same Demographic Sword of Damocles falls in America and Western Europe."

Detroit, Newark, East LA, Malmo, the growing no-go zones in London, and the banlieues hasn't made them realize what's coming, it's unlikely that the World Cup will.