Skip to main content

Tsotsis in DC

Yglesias has a run-in with the dregs of humanity:
But then lo and behold right by Catania Bakery a couple of dudes ran up from behind, punched me in the head, then kicked me a couple of times before running off. Once, years ago, in Amsterdam a guy threatened me with a knife and took my money. These guys took nothing, and just inflicted a bit of pain. All things considered the threaten/rob model of crime seems a lot more beneficial to both parties than the punch-and-run model. But I guess it takes all kinds.
This dude's wry inner economist is one tough SOB. My worst encounter with tsotsis left me pissed and jumpy for weeks afterwards. He continues:
To offer a policy observation, higher density helps reduce street crime in an urban environment in two ways. One is that in a higher density city, any given street is less likely to be empty of passersby at any given time. The other is that if a given patch of land has more citizens, that means it can also support a larger base of police officers. And for policing efficacy both the ratio of cops to citzens and of cops to land matters. Therefore, all else being equal a denser city will be a better policed city.
The thing about police is undoubtedly true, but I think to have the extra passersby thing work one needs a public culture with a critical mass of people that will help others getting mugged or beat up. I've had three encounters with tsotsis here in Kuruman and every one of them was in broad daylight, within fifty yards of the biggest supermarket in town, on a sidewalk literally surrounded by people. Here tsotsis seem to like to attack in crowds because a) you can't run away as easily and b) they know no one will do a damn thing

On a side note, though I haven't had an attack in more than a year, I've become seriously jumpy as a pedestrian.  The other day I was walking around Vryburg and a mischievous friend decided to sneak up behind me and grab my backpack.  I wasn't paying much attention at the time, but I spun around super fast, going from spacing out to dukes-up, bring-it-motherfucker in about a femtosecond.  Crime does bad things to you.


  1. Same here, Ryan. I am very jumpy and super alert while walking the streets, no matter where in South Africa, eventhough it has been a year or more since I was mugged. Gentle surprises by people I know scare the heck out of me and it takes a while to regain control/calm again. I wonder if we will take this affliction back to the USA with us. I hope not. B

  2. I think cities will probably always do it; I remember being pretty paranoid in NYC before Peace Corps. But I am looking forward to hanging out with my folks where you don't even have to lock the doors.

  3. I think cities do it too. Having lived in Chicago for the past 2 years, I'm now considerably jumpier than I was in college or back home near Seattle. Unfortunately, some part of me feels that this jumpiness was (and still is) justified, since a good friend of mine got mugged 3 blocks from my house.

    Or maybe I'm just another hick who grumbles about how the cityfolk don't got no manners.
    -Steele E. Dan


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

The Basic Instinct of Socialism

This year I finally decided to stop beating around the bush and start calling myself a democratic socialist. I think the reason for the long hesitation is the very long record of horrifying atrocities carried out by self-described socialist countries. Of course, there is no social system that doesn't have a long, bloody rap sheet, capitalism very much included . But I've never described myself as a capitalist either, and the whole point of socialism is that it's supposed to be better than that. So of course I cannot be a tankie — Stalin and Mao were evil, terrible butchers, some of the worst people who ever lived. There are two basic lessons to be learned from the failures of Soviet and Chinese Communism, I think. One is that Marxism-Leninism is not a just or workable system. One cannot simply skip over capitalist development, and any socialist project must be democratic and preserve basic liberal freedoms. The second, perhaps more profound lesson, is that there is no s

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves that