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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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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