The politics of fear and loathing

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KP_Surrey Reuters Kevin Pietersen was raised in South Africa before moving to England in a bid to crack their national team - which he did.

Shortly before midnight on Friday, a lady of disputable repute if indisputable lack of sobriety, made her angry way along a road outside my girlfriend’s block of flats.

She was shouting, arguing with someone who wasn’t there but may have been, about a bottle or two before. Perhaps she was just speaking to the rest of the world or her inner demons.

She was using that delightful, lilting dialect usually heard in the Cape, in which she asked, reasonably we thought, “do you think I’m f***ing stupid? I’m not f***ing stupid. You’re f***ing stupid”, before finishing her statement with the ancient Cape Town insult that involves one’s mother and a word beginning with “P” that Eve Ensler left out of the original Vagina Monologues.

She faded into the night, but just before 6am on Saturday morning, she made the return journey, her argument on a continual loop and better than any alarm clock.

“Do you think I’m f***ing stupid? I’m not f***ing stupid. You’re f***ing stupid. Jou ma se p***. F*** of.”

I felt her pain, for surely she was just another gentle soul pushed over the edge by the performance of Rod Tucker as the third umpire in the third and final Test between South Africa and England.

Tucker, though, is a sideshow to the main story of Kevin Pietersen and his SMSes to the South African players.

There has been a xenophobic reaction from some sectors of the English media to the Pietersen saga, with some turning it into an anti-South African rant.

Mike Atherton, who has a level head on his shoulders when he’s not digging in his pockets for dirt with which to change the nature of a cricket ball, suggested that it was the dastardly South Africans who leaked the text messages to the media in order to throw England off their stride and thus win the competition for No 1 in the world. Graeme Smith answered that suggestion by calling it nonsense.

In a column for the Daily Telegraph, Peter Oborne, an author and political commentator, suggested Pietersen, and all the other South Africans who have played for England (Tony Greig, Allan Lamb, et al) should be treated with “suspicion”.

This is because “ultimately, Pietersen has not much idea of what it means to be British. Playing cricket for England demands a sensibility that he seems to lack: a sense of restraint, decency and fair play”.

Oborne’s sense of restraint, decency and fair play was evident in September last year when he called Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio, an EU Commission spokesman, an idiot three times during a BBC Newsnight show.

Altafaj-Tardio was trying to explain why the EU wanted to bail out Greece from their debt crisis. Altafaj-Tardio took off his microphone and walked off the show. Oborne then proceeded to punt his new book on television.

One must assume that Oborne will think that Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff was showing a sense of restraint when he fell off that pedalo in the West Indies in 2007. Oborne wrote an excellent book on Basil D’Oliveira, in which he did not criticise D’Oliveira who chose to represent England instead of opting for a quiet life of county cricket after apartheid meant he would not play for the land of his birth.

Oborne continued: “The conduct of Greig, Pietersen and (to a less egregious extent) Lamb raises an urgent question: is it possible to be born and brought up as a South African and give your full loyalty to England? I believe not.”

What would Oborne have made of Mo Farah, the double gold medallist born in Somalia?

Would he have agreed with the campaign by some British newspapers, with the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, for whom Oborne has written, who took great delight in pointing out the 61 “Plastic Brits” in the British Olympic team?

Would he have celebrated Farah’s gold or would he have repeated his line from a Sky documentary on South Africans representing England: “I’d rather have an Englishman play badly for England, than a South African play well for England.”

South Africans will continue to represent other countries, England if they can and must, and that is no reason for shame or condemnation. Some may leave for political reasons, some for the money and others just because the country produces more international quality players than it knows what to do with. It is something to be proud of, actually. South Africa should celebrate it, not do a Clive Rice and drone on about quotas.

At 6am yesterday morning, the lady who argued with the world, was again in fine voice as she repeated her journey down the road for the second time this weekend. “Do you think I’m f***ing stupid? I’m not f***ing stupid. You’re f***ing stupid.”

She could have been speaking to Oborne. – The Star


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