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Monday, 2 November 2009

What I think


I have a question to ask the world in general, if you know what I am harping on about, and South Africa in particular.


Do you think that South Africa winning the rugby World Cup in 1995 united our new nation?

If you are wondering why I am asking this, keep an eye on your local cinema and watch out for a movie with a Latin name. I watched the trailer of this movie and so I know I will not be watching the whole thing. I truly believe that if you don't have anything nice to say, you should say nothing at all. So these lips are sealed, mpppgh mmmffggggh mmmmmmmghghgg.

Here is what I think. Please tell me what you think in the comments, and I shall pretend to agree with your wise words ;)

I think us winning the World Cup in 1995 united the rugby fans in South Africa of all creeds and colours into a state of joy and pride. I reckon it also united their non-fan spouses and children, because that kind of atmosphere is contagious. I also reckon it united a few other people because we were the hosts, we had not long been back in international sports, and it was pretty exciting.

Lets say that number of people was about 20% of the country in 1995. 30% if you want.

I pulled that number from the sky, but I feel that it is way overgenerous. What is your estimate? My real estimate is 15% but I really have no clue.

I believe that people who had no TV's, people who hated rugby, people who saw it as an oppressor's sport, people who just did not care, these people felt nothing at that time.

I believe that the local and international media hijacked the blatantly cliched symbol of a black and white man embracing on a field (unity through sport) and used it as a symbol for the new rainbow nation.

I believe many white people, myself included, bought into that, because we were unsure and nervous of the future and wanted to believe in this new, miraculously healed nation. I believe many people still believe in this convenient myth. I believe this it a very dangerous and damaging myth. Forgiveness, healing, moving forward, these things do not suddenly appear with the scoring of any try.

That is what I believe. The film I am referring to will perpetuate this myth overseas and in South Africa, and actually reshapes it to make it more ridiculous and yet more persistant.

I was SO happy the day we won the World Cup in 1995. I was one of the fans. I will remember it always. But leave it as it was, as a wonderful day for a minority of people who love a minority sport. Not some kind of action hero movie where a Rugby team saves the nation.

That is all.

Update: I am not the only person who thinks this way about the movie, check out Africa is a Country: "Invictus, That's not rugby" for another view, one written before mine.

32 comments:

Tara said...

Meh. I was one of the kids who couldn't be bollocksed at the time quite honestly.

"Oh. Rugby. Yay?"

I think you have a point though - the perpetuating the myth thing and it really doesn't help us. That's why I don't dig most of the films that come out of this place...

Also...the name is just so pretentious.

LadyFi said...

I have no idea...

Although I do think that rugby is a good way to lose teeth! If that helps... ;-)

Anonymous said...

heh I agree with Tara, it wasn't a big deal to me as I don't follow rugby and it's just a game, I dont think it united people, it was a moment in time and then it was over. And its just a sports game...

I dont know why you said white people were unsure and nervous of the future, unless you never had black friends growing up or your parents were nervous???, I went to mixed race schools from 1985 and always had more non white friends than white ones so to me it was like no change. But I remember my next door neighbour telling me in 1994 that the first black kids were starting at her school, I was like huh thats sooo weird coz I was with kids of every race since grade one. So I dont get why people would be nervous of the future, what did you think was going to happen???

Ches said...

Nelson Mandela united the country. And he used the world cup 1995 to show that...Rugby being a pre-dominantly white sport then, he blended a nation of sepratism by saying...I fought for a cause, and I'm showing the result I wanted. The Springboks didn't win, we, who observed that moment, won...whether you like rugby or not.

Poski, as for the movie. A friend of mine worked on the set...so I have my own view and I won't being seeing it.

I saw it live in '95! :)

Champagne Heathen said...

Well, I now want to know what went on on the set... Speak up Ches... let out what you know... even mild hinting!

Every community/ culture needs it myths. I can't think why right now...its in some psych textbook somewhere. Examples: Braveheart. That (cigarette)guy that ran through some American town warning everyone the Brits were coming... Rothman? Halloween. Christmas!

That's all I've got. I need dinner. I'll watch it if they make it really really cheap in Oz...or even allow it into Oz! Ha ha.

po said...

Tara: yeah, that's my point, most South Africans don't eve like rugby!

And this is a totally Americanised movie, I don't know what happened to Clint Eastwood, he made some great movies with local actors before.

Ladyfi: and teeth are very important things

Anon: Actually I was 14 in 1995, and was not unsure about the future at all because I didn't have any awareness of that whole "uniting the nation" thing, My schools had been mixed for a few years too. I was completely oblivoius to politics in general back then. I think I bought into the myth in retrospect, like people tell me we should have been worried in 1994 and all that... so I started to believe that the rugby match was important. Maybe at age 18.

Later I realised it is mostly only important to white people, and sadly we and the international interpretation have allowed it to dominate, which as far as I can see is another case of the Western viewpoint rewriting history. That is not my interpretation, but how I think many people in SA could see it, and that is why I think it is dangerous.

I think we are allowed to be happy and proud and enjoy the moment, but should not make it more than it was.

Ches: ok, not gonna argue, cos you know my view and I know yours, and we are both entitled to have them :)

Champs: I agree, and I think SA does have some good and constructive myths, but the reason I object to this one is that it is not a myth the majority believes in or could use. The beliefs of a small majority have been allowed to dominate, and also to blind them to the truth, which is that they actually need to make huge changes in their lives for the new SA to work, they actually need to start accomodating other cultures, but instead they hang onto this rainbow nation fallacy and do not change, and the country becomes more angry and divided and resentful.

po said...

Anon: I'm not sure what people thought would happen, apparently white people thought there might be a civil war or something? Like I say, I was completely in a bubble back then,all I cared about was school and gymnastics, but when you read accounts of 1994 elections, there was a lot of nervousness around. Maybe someone can tell us?

Gillian said...

We were all elated that day, that month, that year but I think the hype has worn off like anything else over time, the memory and the feelings fade and you start focusing on new and updated things. Looking towards the future instead of harping on about the past.

Paula said...

Well. I was just overjoyed at PJ Powers rendition of that song at the time.

I don't remember the game; except that there was a lot of excitement and I couldn't watch cartoon network that day. I was SO mad.

And to be more honest (and reveal my youth) I was never affected by Apartheid so there was no "unifying" moment. Yes, there are undercurrents of what used to happen through the way teachers interacted with us brown skinned folk but I have always been open and have lots of multi-coloured friends. In fact my friends never had a colour but their parents did... its weird how that works for me. I think its the influence of THEM noticing my skin colour.

But for me the real unifying moment was when I slept over at white peoples homes. I mean to say that the rugby was unifying would be too much of a hyperbole.

Plus that rugby game was fixed, thats why they're making movies out of it... kwa kwa kwa... just kidding.

Champagne Heathen said...

Aaaah! Now I get what you mean! Sorry, hot today, taking me awhile to use my brain. Good point.

Perhaps people make a big deal about it because it was one of the first non-political emotionally-charged happy moments. I remember that it wasn't just that game, but it was a few weeks of incredible vibes across the country.

Everywhere you went, there was some celebration or some hype.

And I am willing to bank on the majority of people being caught up in this vibe, not just the rugby-supporters. TVs were not needed.

It was a time when the world gave us positive attention for something that was not political. We had been closed off to the world for so many years, and suddenly they loved us & we saw our potential.

I think the 'secret' o your questioning might lie in the non-political aspect of that weeks'-long event.

The people who are going to hold onto it as being a demonstration that everything has changed & they can relax will find anything to then hold onto as such a "sign".

What this tournament was, was an initial glimpse to potential. Not the culmination.

po said...

Champs: ah, thank you, that is an arguement I can work with!

You see, my memory of the time includes my family and friends being happy, but I remember no countrywide celebrations that included the whole country. I was hoping someone would include different memories of the time to correct me pulling numbers out of the dark.

I am still not convinced the majority of the country cared about the World Cup, but I think it would be impossible to prove unless we did some kind of poll!

Gillian I like your attitude. However I am one of those people who loooooooves tha past, and will always look to it with fondness, even the bad parts have a rosy glow!

po said...

Paula: wow that is an unusual perspective, from someone who was already way over the stuff that some people were only beginning to get their heads around! I would be interested to know what your parents thought of the game!

EEbEE said...

From a South African Indians point of view:

i was 9 and had never really bothered or cared about rugby till the world cup in '95. My family were largely the same.

It was pretty strange that we all suddenly threw our support behind the springboks back then. There was def something infectious and unifying about seeing your home team truimph over the world i agree...

I think it's fair to say that ANY winning team can unite its nation. Would things have turned out any different had we lost that world cup? I really don't think so... it was just a game at the end of the day.

po said...

EEbEE: thank you for another unique perspective, I am loving hearing everyone's view actually, who knows, maybe I am way WAY off base. I still stick to my view now, because I feel it quite strongly, but we shall see if I change my mind. I'm still not going to see the movie though, for many many reasons.

Helen said...

I remember it being very exciting, and kind of bizarre that we watched it (my family watches cricket. and the comrades) and it ws exciting to win, but I don't know if I remember it as such a defining moment.

I was 10 though and had been in mixed schools from the age of 5, so I guess I was just waiting for the rest of the world to stop being silly!

I remember the pre-election terror with everyone buying baked beans and candles though!

po said...

Helen: seiaas? Baked beans and candles? See I was totally oblivious to all that. I was really the most self-absorbed teenager on the planet. Now that I think about it they gave us a week off school during the election. I thought it was just because of it being a momentous occasion, but it was probably nervousness as well. I think I lived in a bubble.

Champagne Heathen said...

@Helen - Ha ha! I remember that as well. I was terrified cause my folks weren't buying any provisions...not that I had the 1st clue WHY we should be buying provisions... school mates had just told me it was the thing to do. I reckon my folks eventually explained to me what nonsense & hysteria it was.

At our school, we used to even have "terrorist bells" & had to duck under our desks. A few times they were used properly, not just for training. But within a few hours afterwards, we knew it was just hysteria from our teachers.

Only private schools & Model-C schools would have been mixed before 1994. And only if a black kid's parents/ family/ friends could afford it. Or if they had a sponsor. My best mate, when I was about 10, left my school cause her sponsor pulled out. Now try getting your parents to explain THAT one to you, or why I was never allowed to have a playdate at her house, in Soweto!

Also... does anyone remember Peace Day. THAT had a massive impact on me. I think that was in about 1992. When the whole country was buying white doves & bumper stickers & we had a moment of silence, the country round. Very powerful for a young kid then.

At some stage before '94, my brothers' black school mates from Soweto & Alex had to come to school in overalls & only change at school, cause tensions were so hectic, that if they were seen to be attending a rich private "white" school they would have been attacked by certain groups. And I recall my brothers being so confused by this.

Can you imagine being a parent having to explain all the horrific nonsense that was Apartheid to a kid.

I could go on... But I have definitely gotten off topic & am taking over your comments section.

Po - I was thinking about this... at least this movie, even though it seems no South African wants to watch it!, already has us talking. And reflecting on whether we have really progressed since 1995. Have we realised the potential we saw then, and if not, what do we need to do.

6000 said...

"a wonderful day for a minority of people who love a minority sport."

Nail on the head, love.

Luke said...

I agree with you to a certain degree. Rugby certainly has been denoted as a 'white-man's sport' but I believe that that image is changing. Certainly, with the inclusion of players like Brian Habanna onto our national side, it's becoming increasingly popular with peoples of all colours. Whether this was true of the game back then...I don't know.

I remember the day so clearly. But whether it united a nation, or just the fans, I cannot say. I was 11 years old at the time...

Tamara said...

Please note that it's taken a bunch of Americans to come to SA and make a film about the '95 World Cup for this argument to even see the light of day. Why is is ok for the Yanks to rush into other countries and decide what happened around an event and how it impacted anything?

Surely it should be the South Africans thrashing these things out? Or are we all so busy trying to be politically correct that we're too scared to try?

I just think it's bizarre that we have to "learn" about South African "history" from Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood. I would never presume to understand the full story around the American Civil War, the Nixon drama or even the facts behind the Bush elections.

po said...

Champs: please feel free to take over my comments section, I want other people's perspectives on that time, all I have is my own and they are... bubblified. I was at a model C, so we had a creeping integration from 1991. But I guess older people were not afraid of that, they were afraid of retaliation ato Apartheid, especially when the ANC won power. That is why the beans etc I guess. The funny thing is my parents never said a word about this to me. So I had no opinion on the matter. I do remember we had different drills at school, the bomb drills and the terrorist drills where we had to hide under our desks, frik that was hysterical, some of our larger, older teachers had a real hard time squeezing under their desks, whahaha.

We did have few bomb scares, usually dodgy girls getting their boyfriends to call in.

6000: well, according to some people here not so, but I feel that is still up for debate!

Luke: I think it is a whole other story now, but back then I wonder how many people really cared about rugby?

Tamara: it's funny you say that it takes the Americans to bring this matter to our attentions. As I said, I never thught about it much in my bubble, but when I was going through a phase of r4eading Thoughleader last year, this kind of topic came up and I realised that some of the black people there were incredulous that it was supposed to be some kind of special time when it was just a rugby game. But this was not the only attitiude by any means, there was the full range from the enthusiastic fan to the temporary 1995 fan. I think the debate around this subject has been around, but for some reason a bunch of Americans saw the need to make it into an action movie that in some ways rewrites history. Well for some South Africans, that WAS history, but I believe there is more than one history, there are as many histories as there are perspectives, I wonder if the movie takes them all into account? Unfortunately I am not that driven to find out that I will sit through the movie.

po said...

P.S Tamara that Thoughtleader blog is probably the most un-politically correct place ever, but I can't read it too much any more there is too little debate going on there and too much anger and bad reasoning and just general spite and hate. IT makes me too depressed!

GlobetrotterSA said...

Champagne Heathen, you hit the nail on the head! What you described is exactly how I experienced it.

I attended most of the matches during that tournament in Cape Town, flew up to Durbs for the Springboks vs France semi-final and then down to CT the next day to see New Zealand absolutely demolish England with Jonah Lomu beating them on his own; and then attended the famous Final in Johannesburg.

I remember it as if it was yesterday, yet I don't remember the more recent 2007 Rugby World Cup victory in the same way simply because it truly was just another sporting event for rugby fans. The extraordinary vibe in '95 was influenced by a lot of factors; Madiba magic, a hunger to win a sporting tournament after a long absence of competing internationally and it was held at a time after tremendous political change.

For the duration of the tournament and for some time thereafter, there was this absolutely great vibe that existed throughout the country. I experienced this all over. It truly felt like the country came to a halt on the day of the Final since a lot of non-rugby supporters did get caught up in the hype and shared in the celebrations. Taxi drivers in Johburg's streets with flags waving throughout the night, it was brilliant. Positive attitude everywhere.

Sure, cheesy to those who couldn't care less but still quite a turnaround from the turmoil that preceded that tournament a few years earlier.

I was 25 at the time. I truly mean no disrespect to some of the other people who left comments here but the fact that some of you mentioned that you were small children at the time obviously means you cannot possibly have an informed opinion about the effects the event had on a national scale (even if only temporary).

As for the movie itself, I'm looking forward to it, simply because Freeman and Damon are great actors but I doubt that the movie will encapsulate the actual vibe that was experienced at the time (but will gladly be proved wrong) and the idea that it changed the nation *forever* is obviously short-sighted. I'm just glad that it puts the focus on South Africa with a positive spin for a change.

If you're a rugby fan, you'll probably cringe at the thought of a small 5'11" Damon playing a 6'5" Pienaar who comfortably weighs 40kg more but hey, that's what camera angles are for. ;) Then there's the possible failed attempt at getting SA accents right that hopefully won't irritate me too much.

I don't think anyone truly believes that a sporting event changes the minds of people permanently, but a positive story amidst all the seemingly negative turmoil that surrounds the country is welcomed.

Sorry for the long post. :)

Damaria Senne said...

I lived near the stadium at the time, though I didn't attend the game/didn't watch it on TV. But I was rather interested in the happy crowd of people who attended. They celebrated, hooted and basically cheered the players, each other and everyone they met. And their enthusiasm was infectious. So, for one moment there, there was a party going on and everyone was invited. I personally don't think it was the game as such that created that moment. It was just happy people who managed to get over themselves long enough to party together. And in my little universe, that unification lasted for that moment/evening etc. It wa not a lifetime thing. That was the myth that was created by the media.
As for the movie, I have no strong feelings about it because the situation it portrays is a myth to me. I might see it because it's entertainment/purpots to portray our history. But having seen South Africa represented in a strange way (I once read a novel where the language of the aliens seemed to be based on Setswana, my home language, and one of the characters was called Palesa:-), if this movie is a gross misrepresentation, I'll probably bruh that off as one more instance in a long line.
One thing though: I don't think it's questionable that the Americans would tell the story. They didn't hijack it. However misrepresented the event may be, they saw an opportunity ( to tell a story, make money etc) and they took it. If we liked the story/thought it had potential, then our own creatives should have developed it then. But they didn't. So we have to swallow that that a portion of our history which took place that day i being told by other people, in a way that suits them.

Damaria Senne said...

eh, excuse my missing letters. Having problems with the S key in the comment above.

po said...

Globetrotter: thank you for your persepctive. Again I don't remember the time that way, but I don't think it was an age thing, because my sister was only about 10 and she put forward a similar argument to you. I wish I had the memories you had, mine are more narrow and confined to my family and close friends.

I do think Matt looks like the tiniest rugby player ever though, heehee!

Damaria: thanks again for another completely different perspective. I must admit, I am so glad I wrote this post, I have been hit with the most awesome answers, far more than I expected! You raise many good points. Yes, the Americans saw a good "story" and seized upon it. One reason for that I think is that if you look at Clint Eastwood's movies, he has made racial reconciliation his mission. Unfortunately I thought Gran Tourino for all its laudable themes, was a big miss, cliched and clunky. IT is all very well to want to portray a noble idea, but as I always say, a good film is art and you cannot sacrifice art for your message. I feel this movie is continuing in his theme.

Another reason I think South Africans did not seize upon this moment is because I feel we just don't think like that, that gross simplification of history into a plot "president and rugby captain scheme to unite nation". IT is way too reductive. I feel that if we who lived that experience were to capture it on film it would be documentary style, rather than a romping film?

I think it is a good thing that we do not blindly accept movie narratives, because they do have a way of rewriting history.

I think a good argument should be backed up by evidence, so in theory I should watch the film and allow my (already biased) opinion to form after watching. But I just can't . I am extremely fussy about the movies I watch, and I know without doubt that I will not enjoy Invictus, so I would be watching it for research purposes only. And I aint that noble!!!

Any volunteers to watch it and report back?

Tamara said...

"I believe there is more than one history, there are as many histories as there are perspectives".

True that.

I'm all for exploring the perspectives, I'm just not for Hollywood history.

po said...

Tamara: we shall have to accept it as the "Hollywood" view of history, and remember that there are many others ;)

po said...

I thought I would add what my sister's view of the World cup is, just to give a perspective that is different to mine, one that comes from the same houselhold as me. She was what, 8 or 9 at the time?

(PS she does not really believe in punctuation. It's against her religion. So this has been edited slightly).

"I agree with Globetrotter, that we younguns cant really see properly what it meant at the time, cos we lived in a little suburb that wouldn't exactly have dancing in the street. So it's hard to gauge and you don't remember news reports from back then. But in lots of the country I think it really did affect a large portion and diverse part of the population. I agree with the thing of mainly more rugby fans and people that get swept up with the rugby fans and obviously mainly whites.

But I think there was an element of curiosity that stretched across all races and at the start of something new and uncertain and at the end of something ugly and bad that it was a moment of forgetting everything that had happened for a little moment. For whites a desperate cling at hoping things will be ok from now on in the new world and for the blacks a moment to unite with whites. Even if bitterness or resentment followed. And for others just disinterest. And for others cynicism and criticism. But i think even in the rural areas they would have heard about it and a lot of people would have had hope.Also however much you delve and analyse, the thing is Mandela had people following him and if he was happy about it then others followed. I think maybe just briefly it did unite a lot of ppl. For so many reasons for each person but besides the critics and the bitter ones and the indifferent ones it affected more than you think ,maybe not forever."

SonnyVsDan said...

don't know about this movie that yopu are talking about. but did you see Remember the Titans? when the US was going through some massive changes in the 60's? I don't think it would have worked like it did in the movie. But it's a movie. and a damn good one.

po said...

sonnyvsdan: I have watched the Titans movie, but I can't comment because I have no idea how well that story relates to reality. I think it made a good story but if it is not related to reality then I think it is doing the truth a disservice because what Hollywood portrays becomes reality for people like me who don't know any better.

Sabstance said...

United is such a word used losely. If this country was united we would give it a name as the Africans have intended(Azania) and we would remove all colonial names that make us the subjects of Britain Musgrave, Natal etc and even the Dutch hooligans who saw us as animals.


So really unity is such a rich word to use. We atre in a dangerous time right now the politicians know we are easy to manipulatebecause we are not united. We can share spaces but we don't share the same dreams, goals or even pride in this country. The racism shocks me, am in Germany right now and am humbled about how the gERMANY TALK ABOUT THEIR HISTORY am humbled at how honest they are in comparison to white South Africa (I never voted for apartheid...then who did?)

Black people have extended a hand that has been continuously spat on by white South Africa. Now unity will have to be initiated by white South Africans if it is to work.
I advise you to visit Germany and rid yourself off the inner guilt that embarrasses you when we try to speak about apartheid. There can be no Unity if the inner wounds arenot healed, and this can be done by speaking honestly and starting to see each otheras human beings and not just 'poor africans' or 'victims of apartheid'
White South Africa needs to bust their own bubles, learn at least one African language, make friends accross color meet people in townships and treat them ashuman being and basicly, shatter their own myth that they are threatened by 'black people' because honestly we never fought color but we fought a system that put a certain colour over us.