Pigskins for the Ancestors
Despite constructing sprawling monasteries dedicated to positivist empiricism, imperatives of magical thinking are strictly enforced here even in what are ostensibly the most leisurely of cultural practices.
Take the popular sport of American football, an anomalous mix of tableau vivant–wherein players pose together in different combinations looking up at a scoreboard while pulling on their uncomfortable costumes–and an explosive brutality that, in the course of carrying a pig bladder toward an opponent’s distal zone, leaves even the strongest participants bloodied, broken-boned, concussed, and, repeated studies show, brain damaged. Dementia is a lucrative trade here.
On the first day of the year 2015, the local team of “student-athletes,” an untranslatable term of earnest irony, was roundly crushed by a more highly ranked and skilled team from another apartheid state, Missouri. And yet in a periodical widely distributed across the region before the game, every one of five indigenous commentators predicted the local contingent would win.
The pressures of in-group affirmation appear ritualized even among specialists paid with community surpluses to exercise critical judgment.
The rites of prestidigitation, here a representativeness heuristic violating Bayes’ Theorem, extend to other domains of being and becoming. These include attempts at mutual wish fulfillment, presenting, for instance, racial redlining and reverse reparations as mindful liberalism.