Musings on Contemporary Waffle
I have a real problem with Oscar Pistorius.
This is the fellow of 27 who claims that he accidentally shot his girlfriend when he believed he was actually shooting at an intruder whom he didn’t see and whom he claims he was sure wasn’t his girlfriend.
I understand that South Africa can be a dangerous place and that guns are owned by private citizens as protection against these many dangers. I remember a fellow I worked with who was based in South Africa for a few years with his company. He recounted numerous incidents, when he came close to being robbed by people who he was sure would not have hesitated to kill him in the process. There was the time, for instance, when he was driving home from a party along a lonely stretch of road with his wife when, suddenly, the “police” appeared at the side of the road and tried to flag him to stop his car. He immediately became suspicious, since he had not broken any traffic laws that he was aware of, and police are usually not in the habit of stopping you in the middle of nowhere for no reason whatsoever. He ignored the roadblock, to his wife’s protests, and continued driving with gas pedal pushed to the floor. He explained to his wife afterwards what most locals agreed was the likely scenario, that he and his wife were probably being stopped by people impersonating policemen who would have robbed them at gunpoint at the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, and most likely have killed them, then and there.
But back to Mr. Pistorius. Within a culture where a life can have such little value and where guns are prevalent ostensibly for protection against the unexpected intruder, attacker, or ambush artist, it’s not a point of criticism against Mr. Pistorius that he owned guns and knew how to use them. I won’t comment on whether Mr. Pistorius was prone to temper tantrums or has some other psychological pre-disposition for taking up firearms and shooting into rooms through closed doors. I don’t know. But there is ample documentation about otherwise law-abiding, loving individuals who have taken a gun close at hand in a fit of rage in a complex and confusing world, who have ended up hurting someone close to them. Mr. Pistorius’s antics in the courtroom against the backdrop of what he actually did, which was to shoot his girlfriend to death with a powerful firearm, claiming that he didn’t know it was her behind the door, indicate this likely scenario, and not what, through sobs and expressions of remorse, he claims to be true.
Mr. Pistorius pukes and moans and covers his ears when evidence is given about his deadly actions and their result, as if he were as much a victim of someone else’s actions as are the family of Ms. Steenkamp. Astonishingly, he has been able to maintain this level of emotionalism for weeks and weeks in that same courtroom, seeing and hearing the same evidence over and over.
This is astonishing for a man who competed in the Olympics under intense pressure but who performed brilliantly, without a hint of the stress that he must have been under. This is a man with nerves of steel when he is in control of a situation, a man now acting the way someone does who is instead unable to deal with excessive emotion, who loses control when he is confronted with an emotional shock that he cannot avoid, as is the case every day in that courtroom.
Mr. Pistorius’s challenges in life must have been astronomical given his physical disability. Drive, determination, and an uncompromising attitude must be very great within him. But he is also a relatively young man. Enter into this picture a woman, slightly older (Ms. Steenkamp was two years older than Mr. Pistorius), who is not an athlete but who presumably had a mind and will of her own. On that night, an argument occurred. Neighbours heard it for what seemed an hour, long enough for it to escalate from nothing to a roaring scene.
These scenes between the sexes are played out all over the world every day. Men and women argue. Sometimes the emotional level becomes so high that it becomes physical. That is simply a fact.
So there is no reason to believe that such a scene could not have been occurring in that apartment that night. The fact that Mr. Pistorius and Ms. Steenkamp were otherwise a loving couple is irrelevant. The fact that Mr. Pistorius is showing deep remorse and physical sickness at the results of his impertinence is, too. Loving couples argue, and this one almost certainly did that night.
The histrionics of the courtroom do nothing to dispel the illogicality of Oscar Pistorius’s version of events that night. An intruder is heard, but only by Mr. Pistorius, who makes no effort to satisfy himself that his girlfriend is safe in another room, away from danger and not perhaps even in the bathroom with that stranger, being held captive there. If he is sure that she is not in the bathroom, he makes no effort to warn his beloved that there is danger in the house and that she should stay away from the bathroom area and maybe go to a neighbour and get help. He makes no attempt to communicate with the intruder to warn him that if he doesn’t go back out the window through which he came, he will likely be shot to death behind a closed door without further warning. It is a man with nerves of steel who would have done all of these things, if he believed there was really an intruder in the bathroom, as Mr. Pistorius claims he believed.
But Mr. Pistorius did none of these things. I submit that Mr. Pistorius acted instead as a man unable to deal with his emotions, as he is showing every day in the court room.
Ms. Steenkamp was not warned that an intruder was in their midst. Mr. Pistorius didn’t satisfy himself that his girlfriend was otherwise safe in the bedroom, before he moved into the danger zone of the bathroom area to protect the premises and its occupants. The intruder was not communicated with before shots were fired.
Something else happened that makes more sense, instead, something along these lines. An argument raged for an hour after which Ms. Steenkamp became so fearful of her livid boyfriend that she needed to get away from him, and so she locked herself in the bathroom to compose herself. Maybe she wanted to leave the apartment and he wouldn’t let her. Now alone with his thoughts for a few minutes, Mr. Pistorius’s anger overwhelmed him. All seemed to be lost and the rage of having gone down in defeat against a suddenly unsympathetic lover was too much for the star athlete to overcome. Maybe he wanted to scare her, to make a point. Maybe it was an instant when he believed there was no other way to make his point but to fire a manly warning shot through a closed door – a dramatic act, a decisive, masculine act of defiance, the action of a man who wins.
Maybe the warning shot against a closed door was accompanied by an impulse from the darkest part of his soul that signalled to him that he could make the world agree with his side of the story if worse came to worst, as he had been able to do so often in his life despite the seemingly insurmountable odds that have been against him since he was born.
But seconds later he realized what he’d done, and he was immediately regretful. His love for beautiful Reeva returned amidst waves of remorse. The effects of his rage stunned him. The blood came relentlessly and the stupidity of his actions were undeniable, even to this immature man in his late 20s who can’t hold his insides in, but who claims that he shot at an “intruder” cold-bloodedly without seeing him or even knowing if there were more than one.
For an hour his bravado and self-confidence had been pitilessly under attack. And then, “everything changed”; a phrase that was the first honest thing Mr. Pistorius seemed to utter at his trial.
Maybe I’m wrong. After all, who am I to say anything about this stranger and his actions in a far-off place where I’ve never been? Except that this awful incident is being broadcasted about unceasingly, and so I have made up my mind to come to terms with the mindshare that this court drama has already captured out of my day.
If I were in that apartment and there was so much danger about that it required the contemplation of taking a weapon to defend my space, I would have made absolutely sure that I wasn’t placing my lover in danger in the process. That includes perhaps calling out her name to make certain that I knew where she was and that it wasn’t her I was about to kill behind that door, instead of a mythical intruder who I’ve not sought to prevent from crawling into my life by closing the windows.
I would have done all of this especially if I were a man with nerves of steal.