Wednesday, December 9, 2009

South Africa, Zulus and Bulls

As of 10 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, no trains had jumped the rails and no planes had skidded off runways in South Africa, but that won't stop us from giving more attention to an undeniable reality of the 2010 South Africa World Cup.

It isn't going to be your typical First World World Cup of recent vintage. (Thinking Germany, Japan, South Korea, France, the United States, Italy.) This is a different culture at a different place in its history. It may someday resemble Western Europe or North America, but right now it doesn't.

Which leads us to today's topic ... the ritual slaughter of a bull by young Zulu warriors, in South Africa. With their bare hands.

Now that's not something I think you will see in France. Though they do force-feed geese to make foie gras out of their livers.

But back to the bulls and the Zulus.

This story appeared in the New York Times. It notes that animal rights people objected to what apparently is a very old Zulu tradition ... and how that objection ticked off a lot of people in South Africa (and not just Zulus). It smacked of racism and colonialism, they said.

The story notes how the South African judiciary was asked to rule on the killing-a-bull-with-our-bare-hands thing, and decided it was OK. With the ruling judge saying something like "I don't want to be responsible if something bad happens to the Zulu king because I banned this ceremony," which doesn't quite strike me as a legal opinion that would rival something Coke or Taney would have authored, in terms of depth of analysis.

And the author of the story does his best to explain how it all went down, even though reporters were pushed some distance away from the ceremony.

The point being, again ... this will be a different World Cup than any that has come before it. And not just because it is 2010.

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