Bend It Like Imperialism! The World Cup 1, African Liberation Nil
by Jared A. Ball, 15 June 2010
"These stadiums are encased in a 'Ring of Steel' to protect audiences from 'unpatriotic citizens' of South Africa."
Today, June 16, marks the 34th anniversary of the South African Soweto uprising where thousands of African youth took to the streets and where hundreds would die at the hands of the South African police and military. Today, June 16, also marks the first anniversary of that uprising to take place during the first ever World Cup on the African continent. These competing, colliding commemorations and events stand in violent opposition to one another precisely because the World Cup is corporate-sponsored spectacle playing on our emotions in the hopes that we will not realize or will ignore those who try to force realization, that the causes of the Soweto uprising, indeed the very existence of a Soweto or a South Africa, remain, are even worse now than 34 years ago. So bad are these conditions today that in response to seeing so many Black American entertainers participating in the World Cup opening ceremonies one veteran activist remarked to me that "these folks are crossing the picket line."
No one at all familiar with the history of the labor movement can hear lightly this kind of condemnation. To cross any picket line, that is, to become a "scab" is to betray the struggle of your kind, of your class. And this is precisely what major events such as the World Cup demand of its participants. And everyone did. Hugh Masekela was there to briefly blow his once defiant horn, as was John Legend and the Black Eyed Peas fresh off their Obama inauguration performance where they omitted their lyrics about the CIA being terrorists. Shakira was there in her grass skirt wiggling her light/white Latin Americanness before the world and from within the "Dark Continent" no less! And, of course, there was K'Naan the talented Somali rapper who foolishly accepts invitations from white liberals to bash Black Americans as not really being that oppressed while himself selling his liberation song Wavin' Flag to Coca-Cola to be used as the World Cup theme song absent, naturally, of its lyrical references to Somali suffering. And all the while his fellow continental Africans, who he cannot dismiss as having it as easy as their American cousins, do not have their concerns addressed either.
"Since the "fall of apartheid" White income has risen 24% while that of Black Africans has actually dropped."
So no mention of the 20,000 poor removed from stadium sites into even smaller slums. No mention that these stadiums are encased in a "Ring of Steel" to protect audiences from "unpatriotic citizens" of South Africa whose presence alone, never mind any actual protest, might heighten too many contradictions. No mention either of the 22 million Africans in South Africa who live as squatters, and have no potable water. Or the 14 million who are unemployed, or that 43% live ith less than $2 a day. And no mention that Black South African men earn what equates to $320 a month while White men earn $2,600 or that Whites as 12% of the population still hold 74% of private sector jobs, control over 80% of the land and all of the military. Further, no mention can be made of the fact that since the "fall of apartheid" White income has risen 24% while that of Black Africans has actually dropped. Of course, this is aided by the embedded model of journalism where the World Cup governing body FIFA has right of refusal to any journalist accreditations should anyone be so foolish as to actually attempt to report any of this. This will also be helpful in preventing the world from becoming aware of the fact that most of the products being sold at the World Cup are Chinese or that FIFA owns all the merchandising rights which has led one writer to explain that, "This World Cup is not for the poor - it is the soccer elites of FIFA, the elites of domestic and international corporate capital and the political elites who are making billions and who will be benefiting at the expense of the poor."
And though few will see or hear of them protests are being organized and efforts to break through the televised fašade will continue. One such effort is coming from the Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) whose statement in promotion of a call to join them June 16 in South Africa to commemorate the 1976 Soweto uprising says: "Therefore, our call comes at a time when the subtle and insidious mechanism of State is used to good effect by the Capitalist Overlords to ensure the willing obedience and subservience of the working-class through a twisted vocalization of what they claim is a "universal message of equality, love and justice" wrapped up in massive sports jamborees, coupled with the subtle threat that "...if we do not believe and promote their message, then we are evil and will be dealt with in ways that we cannot begin to imagine..."
In the meantime, I like many Black onlookers, will continue to watch and root for teams along the following lines: against all teams of the West, then for the teams with the most Black players and so on down the line and ultimately only for those whose struggles continue and remain ignored.
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