Big boys do cry. But we’d rather they wept at the things that touch the rest of us, says Vivian Attwood.
Durban - They are as notorious for their pumped-up pecs as they are for the wilting women draped over them at every public appearance. The cameras love them almost as much as they love themselves and they seem to ride the crest of wealth, fame and fortune as though it were their birthright.
These are the men beloved of the tabloids; who seem to epitomise what it means to be “masculine” and leave all the 98-pound weaklings eating their dust. They whip off their shirts at any opportunity to boast testosterone-charged physiques and drive fast cars in black or red (anything else is for middle-of-the-road sissies) that cost six figures and consume enough fuel each month to power a small third-world country.
They strut, smirk, and are generally insufferable, but the more badly they behave (assaulting strangers in nightclubs, having sex with strangers, brandishing weapons in public and cheating on their tax returns) the more the public loves them.
These are the badass boys every mother warned her daughter about. But such is their allure they rake in millions, boost the sales of every rag whose cover they adorn, and win the hearts of the loveliest women. Only to break them, and sometimes destroy or snuff out the lives of those they have never regarded as anything but decorative accessories to enhance their own sense of omnipotence.
But the tide turns; the wheel of justice comes round to exact payment from these pleasure-loving players, and when the last chip is down and they’re stripped of their expensive toys and sponsorship deals, these men crumble and become shambling, pathetic creatures who appeal to those they formerly treated with disdain, for clemency.
Who could forget the fall from grace of superhero sportsman Joost van der Westhuizen? His piercing blue eyes made every red-blooded woman weak at the knees. He was feted, handsomely rewarded and revered as an exemplar of South African machismo. The rumours were always there, despite his marriage to a comely songstress and the birth of picture-perfect children. But we excused his increasingly public peccadillos, saying “men will be men”, with a nudge and a wink.
Until finally there was the lurid photo spread, taken in a seedy hotel room with a woman … and the white powder that looked suspiciously like you-know-what. His wife hung on for dear life as sordid revelations were aired, until finally even she could go no further. Joost knew the game was up.
He wept, gnashed his teeth and abased himself. When he was diagnosed with a dread disease, the old supporters nudged one another again, and suggested it might be divine retribution.
And then came our local bad boy, Rajiv Narandas; pumped up with steroids and ready to pick a fight with whoever was first in line. He had the super-cars, the gorgeous girls, a doting mother. But she couldn’t stop the axe falling and he faces the outcome of a trial in which he is charged with killing a man.
Rajiv has faced serious assault charges before, and walked out of court a free man. But when it came to a little ball of fluff called Pookie – a miniature lapdog – we saw the little boy inside the man.
He railed and begged the court recently to return the pint-sized beast to him, alleging his mother’s business associate had alienated the dog’s affections and was holding it against its will.
Another local man-about-town fell a lot further when his rampant ego and God complex got the better of him. Mathew Naidoo, who sneered and lied his way through a sensational double murder trial for his role in the brutal slayings of Westville couple Riekie and Johan Lotter, is serving a life sentence for the crimes.
On trial in the Durban High Court for manipulating his lover, Nicolette Lotter, and her brother Hardus, into thinking he was “the Third Son of God” Naidoo was finally reduced to a quivering jelly when the State prosecutor showed him pictures of his victims in the autopsy room. His “collapse” on the stand might have been feigned, but his terror at realising the game was finally up was real.
Now we have Shrien Dewani, the Brit born to the good life; scion of a wealthy family, who wed the beautiful Anni Hindocha, who would soon be dead in a taxi in Gugulethu.
Dewani has spent three years allegedly suffering a range of mental illnesses designed to keep him out of a South African dock.
In court in Cape Town this week, there was grey in his hair and none of the jaunty demeanour.
And Oscar, oh Oscar. The man we elevated to an impossible lofty pedestal. Champion of the handicapped, with his chiselled cheekbones and sad family history, his triumph in destroying prejudice against the less than able-bodied in the world sporting arena.
His lovely life of mansions and fast cars and beautiful women, laid waste by a terrible shooting “accident” on the day of love, St Valentine’s.
We didn’t want to believe he might have killed Reeva knowingly, deliberately.
We clung to our illusions, and we are holding their tatters still.
But this week’s unrelenting cross-examination, and Oscar’s pathetic, and finally annoying histrionics – his vomiting and sobbing, and sobbing some more – have turned the tide of public opinion.
Big boys do cry.
But we’d rather they wept at the things that touch the rest of us… injustice; cruelty to dumb animals; poverty and the effects of war.
When their tears are wrung because they have been the architects of their own arrogance and supercilious disdain for others, they leave us cold. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Lady Justice has the last word.