It’s Good Friday, and I have been thinking about heroes.

We pick strange heroes.

How many films about the 2nd World War have you seen? I’ve seen a bunch. I loved Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks and that other sniper-guy who quotes from the imprecatory psalms while he’s lining up a target. Almost universally, the ‘heroes’ are British or American privates, and yet all the stats show that it was the Soviets who contributed the dead. More than half of all the Allied dead and more than twice all the Axis deaths. But they are not our heroes… because they were Soviets.

Ulysses S. Grant, celebrated general of the industrial north in their war against the pro-slavery south and later American president, once said that “within two hundred years, when America [sic] has gotten out of protectionism all that it can offer, we too will adopt free trade”. That should be the year 2075. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the US will follow this schedule, but either way, it must be acknowledged that my hero, Mr Grant was not so much anti-slavery as he was pro-outsourcing.

I live in a little town called Piet Retief, in the Gert Sibande District of Mpumalanga. Up until yesterday I had no idea who Gert Sibande was. I think that very few white people my age do. He was known as the ‘Lion of the East’ and was instrumental in mobilizing awareness and action against the exploitation of farm workers (working essentially as slaves) living around Bethal in the 1950s. He was tried for treason in 1956 and testified passionately on behalf of the workers. Eventually he had to flee to Swaziland. I live in a district named in his honour and I didn’t even know who he was.

But I knew about President Grant – the outsourcing emancipator. We pick strange heroes.

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