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The Tragic Fall Of Oscar Pistorius, A Modern-Day Icarus

The Greek tragedy featured man-made wings melting under the sun. In South Africa, the bladerunner may have gotten too close to the gods as well.

Oscar Pistorius at the 2012 London Paralympics
Oscar Pistorius at the 2012 London Paralympics
Rinny Gremaud


GENEVA - When I heard that Oscar Pistorius had murdered his girlfriend, I told myself: When you spend your life convincing yourself that there is no barrier that cannot be broken, you are headed for a mid-air explosion.

It is not surprising that a man who is famous for defying standards and rules, encouraged by those around him to believe that he is all-powerful, has no inhibitions when faced with a deadly danger.

Later, reports started spreading that Pistorius was on anabolic steroids, and that men who are hopped up on testosterone can experience uncontrollable fits of anger.

Naively, to me, this rumor seemed plausible. After all, Pistorius overcame his handicap thanks to modern technological contraptions, so why wouldn’t he use a syringe to push back the limits that nature arbitrarily imposed on him?

I’m not sure we realize how far down this man has fallen. It was heartbreaking to see Pistorius crying in court – like a child who has just realized the irreversible and definitive nature of his actions.

I remembered watching him in the London Olympic Games, thinking that this guy was a real cyborg, a fascinating kind of enhanced human. He reminded me of Steve Austin, “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

At the time, I had heard sociologists explaining on the radio that Oscar Pistorius posed a problem for sports institutions, who still believed in the obsolete myth of a healthy body and a healthy mind, defying the law of nature thanks to its inherent qualities. This myth is no longer true – all the top athletes today are the product of a technology, whatever it may be.

Oscar Pistorius, with his hybrid body, is the perfect example of this. He managed to remove the barriers between performance and pathology, normal and abnormal, natural and artificial.

From a Nike icon to a life sentence

It made me think about Icarus, of course, although the Greek myth has become irrelevant in today’s society, where defiance and disobedience are highly-regarded qualities. In 2013, Icarus would be perfect as the hero of a Nike advert.

I went on the Internet to watch the now-infamous Nike advertisement that the company is so embarrassed about. The one where Oscar Pistorius says, “I am the bullet in the chamber.” The video shows all the top South-African athletes with a voice-over saying: “My body is my weapon. This is how I fight, how I defend, deter, attack. This is my weapon. How I defeat my enemies. How I win my war. How I make victory, mine.”

Honestly, this video is worth watching again. It has everything in it, condensed in one minute: the machine-body of the elite athlete, the cult of performance and the image of sports as the catharsis of violence.

As I watch him fall, I tell myself that Oscar Pistorius will never be able to recover from what he has just done to himself. How will such a body, so remarquable and spectacular, survive a life-long imprisonment?

Nike South-Africa commercial (YouTube/a>)

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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