Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: December 2015

To Enzo and Kai

My darling nephews; my accidental and most precious family, my heart boys, my kop geraas, my naughtiness, my bad joke comrades, my heroes with great dress sense, my clumsy and spoilt, my talented and heroic, my polite and compassionate, my sensitive and rude, my TV watchers and game players, sweet eaters and ice lolly chewers, fussy foodies, and messy tea drinkers.

You bring out my love, my strictness, my philosopher, my drawer, my swimming side, my golf cart driver, my tense shopping experience, my nagging self, my critical voice, my memory bank, my tender side, my negotiating deal maker, my threatening voice, my nagging self.

You make me laugh, you fill my heart, you make me proud, you irritate, negotiate, you run away, you come back for hugs, you grow too fast, you laugh out loud, you speak in riddles, you hide your tears, you cry in sobs, you buy bad shock pens, you love your grans, you drive your mom crazy, you break your promises, you swear on pinkies, you surprise me and make me cry.

I am so sad for your loss, so proud of your achievements, so tender about your growing up. I want to protect you, and I know that I can’t. I want to be here for you, always, and I hope that you know.

Thank you for loving me and challenging me. Thank you for listening and not listening, for letting me kiss you and sometimes for kissing me back. Every squeeze counts. Please throw those hideous shock pens and key rings away.

 

A few last words on the subject

Why is everyone with a different opinion from mine so hectic? Why can we not engage robustly instead of it spiralling into name calling and blame? I have never had my mind changed by being screamed at, literally or figuratively. And it also does’t make me hear or understand your point of view better. Why do I end up feeling like I am putting myself out there and must therefore expect a certain level of abuse? I know that that is how things work on the internet, and that what has happened to me is mild and silly, in comparison to threats, and trolling and violence, but still. Come on guys, surely you realise that your vitriol and self righteous anger sounds alarmingly defensive? It also sounds like the thing you keep telling everyone you find so repulsive and unnecessary; white guilt.

I am very sad that black people saw absolutely no reason to engage with me around what I wrote about the #ZumaMustFailMarch, but I totally understand. It was a shouting match of white people. Unless you share my opinion, or were moved, by something I wrote, into seeing things differently (yes there were those too) you were all quite cross with me and what I had to say. And I am afraid that reminds me more of apartheid than is comfortable.

I don’t have many practical answers, but I do know that awareness and vigilant calling out of white privilege will be something I will be making a daily effort to do. And I can’t imagine what will happen if others don’t.

And thank you Rod Suskin for your passionate engagement on Twitter. That’s constructive and engaging,and has kept me thinking all day.

Refections on the racism inherent in ‘reasonable’ folk

Nothing could have prepared me for the backlash I received from my last deeply personal post, my account of how had experienced the #ZumaMustFallMarch. For those of you who haven’t seen it and want to, it is the one before this post. Yes, I put it on Facebook and Twitter, and even on Reddit (my worst mistake of them all, since I was testing out that small, white and it turns out, conservative tech community). Nothing could have prepared me for the ‘reasonable argument’ from white people I call my friends.

It is important to spell out here, before I go any further, that I took none of the vitriol, rage, self righteous justification, excuses and rhetoric personally. I did take some of the name calling a little bit personally, but, who wouldn’t cringe, with a certain amount of self acknowledgement, at ‘whining bitch’ and ‘those tears were too much’.

But, after reading time and time again how I must get over my white guilt, and how it wasn’t the white people’s fault that black people didn’t take up the cause, and that it made no difference what colour the marchers were (what? what?) , suddenly I am in very, very deep water, with only a handful of likeminded white allies and white people who understand white privilege and how it differs from white guilt. And, to be perfectly honest, I am shocked. I am shocked to my core, and I am only now beginning to understand the trouble we are in. It is far, far worse than I could have imagined.

See, I understand for the very first time that most white people, even some of my friends and family, not understand at all what apartheid was, what it did, and what the consequences of it were, and are. For the first time I am beginning to see what black people see when they look at whites in general, and it is not a pretty picture at all. I am beginning to understand how it has gone beyond black people trying to explain, and that is probably why they don’t even try. Certainly, when they do there is a backlash as well. I take Siya Khumalo’s fantastic, simple and well penned article How Mainstream Media Unknowingly Helps The #ANC Use #Zuma As Its Racial Jesus as an example. White people got upset, angry and full of words, instead of hearing the article. It seems to me that #ZumaMustFall has given closet racists (remember, you only need to be a teeny, weeny little bit racist, deep in your little soul to be a racist) a wonderful opportunity to regurgitate the “I’m not racist but..” slogan, alongside the “why do you have to bring race into it?” whine. I am done with those apologists, now and forever.

I have no idea what my next step is. I have no idea how to take myself to a place where I can do good, be true and properly helpful. I am naive when I wake up deeply grateful for what I have and how I got it, and at what expense. I am as afraid of losing what little I have as the next person, but I know how relative that ‘little I have’ is. A great example is how much I happily spend on my second loves, my animals. And let me double explain, while you breathe in for the outrage, I am not for a moment suggesting I shouldn’t, I am just giving it all a bit of perspective.

I am nervous. I am panicking about how much listening I am going to have to do (I am much better at talking, and shouting) and how much extra work I am going to have to do to prove I really mean what I say. It is vitally important that the few black people I know and love can trust me. I am going to be gathering like minded people like precious jewels since I am discovering how few there are.

PS. I suddenly realised I wasn’t completely done with this post. I hope you don’t mind this post script. And it is aimed directly at white people. What have you done since the end of apartheid to make things right? What have you actually done?

The #ZumaMustFallMarch Fail

I am going to try and write my feelings out about my experience at, and around yesterday’s #ZumaMustFallMarch even though they are mixed, and confusing and emotional and probably even unfair to some extent. I am going to try and write them out and then think of a course of action for myself. I am desperate for a political path, voice and action.

Yesterday I woke up in a state of terrified paralysis. I had felt the creeping approach of the terror in the days preceding, ever since Facebook had publicised the event; the gathering, a picnic here in Cape Town, to protest against Zuma and his firing of Nhlanhla Nene. My first thoughts about that had been, people will laugh at us. We will be the laughing stock. Then there was going to be another march, an actual march, not a picnic. People asked, on Facebook and twitter, was this the real march? Was this instead of the picnic? Was this in place of the gathering to honour the Arch, Tutu? And every time I looked I noticed that the conversation here, in Cape Town, was very, particularly white. I should have known. I should have known, since I had marched with about 250 others against corruption, and, regardless of what anyone says, that had been a dismal failure. However, I had been intense and jealous about the magnificent, organic, dangerous student protests that I so badly wanted to be part of. Those student protests had given me hope, energy, a new commitment, and a view of the potential change we could engender. Maybe?

Here is an excerpt from an email I wrote to my best friend overseas yesterday.

I have woken up totally scared today. I am frozen with indecision. Do I march knowing that I do so alongside white racists who know not their own bullshit selves? Do I stay at home on this pseudo day of reconciliation and drink a healthy dose of denial with my tea? I feel like anything I do, or don’t do, has the potential to fuel a rage and hate and support an otherness. We live in a time of maximum suspicion and cynicism. We live in a time of separation and bitterness.

See, I did know. I knew. We walked the dogs and on the way I spoke to Big Friendly about my total indecision. Good people were going to be marching; people I care about, but all of them were white, and this made no sense. I believed in the cause of the march, of that there was no doubt, but I did doubt the efficacy of a march, particularly one on a public holiday, that meant that most people would have more of an issue getting into town, and it would be an added expense, and most people longed for a public holiday to be with their families. A march isn’t a jolly family outing on a public holiday, like a parade, or carnival.

Big Friendly said some amazing things, when I finally let him speak. He reminded me that it was just a march. He said it was part of the process, not an event. He was pretty clear that he was not going to attend. I wish I had had that same clarity.

I came home in a state. As the time of the gathering drew nearer I started panicking. Would I forgive myself if I didn’t make an effort and go? I spoke to my brother who was on his way to the march in Jozi. We had always been marching buddies in the 80s. I longed to be in Jozi. I decided to go.

And here is where it gets interesting. Stop reading if you don’t want to hear my own,  possibly self indulgent, navel gazing agony. I confess. I took an Uber into town. I knew that I wouldn’t find parking, because the people attending this march would be arriving in their vehicles, and not by public transport. I got out of the car outside parliament, already having shared my misgivings with the Zimbabwean Uber driver. It was clear. Everyone arriving and jostling for parking in their 4x4s was white. (I need to segue here and make it very clear, and double explain. Of course whites need to and must march, protest and be visible in their discontent, and of course, I am part of that. I am in fact white. But there is a deep and dangerous problem if it is only, or at least 95% white.)

I started walking up the road, and because I was on my own I picked up bits and pieces of conversation, and my pulse increased. “Did you speak to David? Did he say where we should meet?” Then,  “Ja, bru, dis amazing, dis ongelooflik, maar dis fokken warm, kom ons gaan koop ‘n paar Redbulls.” Then, “Hey move out the way, I wanna take a selfie here, outside the National Gallery.” Then, “I made a booking for lunch at 1245, do you think we’ll be done by then?” I saw a man on a designer bicycle with an expensive shower head taped to his forehead. I saw another man carrying one. His wife was trying to take a picture of him but he didn’t know where to hold it. It was obvious he had never seen the cartoons. I heard, “This is what South Africa should be like.” I thought, 97% white? I tweeted it. It got retweeted 50 times by black twitter. White twitter was enraged and critical, calling me negative. Why did I have to make it about race?

I approached the crowd gathered in front of the Natural History Museum, searching for black faces. A group behind me started chanting “hamba Zuma hamba.” It was shrill. Women tried to find shade. I saw a black woman comforting her little girl who was crying. As I passed I heard her speak in a foreign accent. They were tourists, who had come to the company gardens on the wrong day. I couldn’t. I moved to the outskirts of the group as the speakers began. Some white guy, the organiser I presume, started warming up the crowd. The content of his speech was, enough is enough, and how amazing it was to see so many people from all walks of life. The cynic in me was, these people do not walk. I saw a couple I knew, and their baby. They were scurrying away. They had felt as uncomfortable as I was. We were embarrassed to be there.

I moved even further away and started crying. I was now back outside the gallery. I saw two more people I knew and burst into harder tears. They were just arriving. They had no idea what was happening to me. I decided to leave. I made my way back, moving in the opposite direction of the late comers still arriving. I was almost knocked over by a couple on their Vespa.

I bought water at a shop in Plein Street and sat outside and started tweeting. Young people were also already leaving the ‘march’. Their concentration for something like this was done. “I started the chant, did you hear?” said one girl in designer jeans to her mate who was scratching in her handbag for her phone. Two bearded boy hipsters came past on their skateboards. They were wearing matching black printed #ZumaMustFall t-shirts.

I waited outside the Kimberly Hotel for my Uber home. Morning drinkers mingled with ‘marchers’ at wooden tables on the pavement. Much more like the usual Cape Town CBD I know.

So, on reflection, what was my problem? Mainly, it was this. So many (not all, but a lot) of the white people I saw yesterday were gatvol and were marching for the first time ever. This was the march they chose to march. Not in solidarity with the poor, not against corruption, not for the environment, not for housing, or health or against poverty. Not ever before. And they were happy that there were so many white people there. They felt safe, and self righteous, and proud. And the amount of coloured and black people present (6% coloured and 0.5% black?) was very comfortable for all whites involved. And there was no understanding of the irony. I was told on twitter and Facebook that I should get over myself, and stop being negative, and that it was not about race, by white people. So, clearly, it is actually, 100% totally about race. And denying it is 100% the problem.

I have woken up in a different paralysis today. My instincts tell me to go into town and sign up and pay to become a legitimate and card carrying member of the ANC. Can change happen from within? Can I then justify my criticism of msholozi? Am I being naive and desperate, wanting to do anything to change my whining, complaining self into someone who acts? Am I ready to commit to this course of action and then suffer the shame of a party going to every length to justify even the most blatantly self serving and corrupt actions of number 1? Is this all about me? How can I better serve my beliefs and the people of this country?

What I do know is that this paralysis is terrible and terrifying and I need to shit or get off the pot. I am desperate for advice, engagement, discussion and action.

 

Things I love about…

There is a great thing about reaching saturation point in the news, especially at this time of year when every advert can drive me right up the wall, and the American holiday fairness obsession places Chanukah on an equal opportunity for airtime with the appalling consumerism of Christmasspend.

I do actually switch off, and allow myself to be utterly amazed by the small things. Abundant roses in my courtyard, an entirely sprinkler-wet dog and the deliciousness of a healthy breakfast. I allow myself to delight in pre-show nerves before going on stage, the watching of late night reality TV as the performance adrenalin subsides, the fantasising of the upcoming holiday with family and the slow editing of my screenplay.

I love the silence of predawn but already hot early mornings. I love the long bodies of the dogs who sleep in the heat. I love the lightness of clothes and the brightness of days and the stickiness and sweat.

I love my home when the holiday traffic gets too bad, and the beach before the holidaymakers get there, early in the morning. I love the basil leaves growing and the glass of wine after dinner that helps me write. I love the languidness of chats with friends, and the FaceTime with my niece. I love fresh ginger and lemon in my soda water.

Tomorrow I will have a list of things I hate, but today there is a list of things I love about…

A list of Domestic fails

  • Leaving the brand new Peaceful Sleep in the kitchen and not bringing it to the bedroom.
  • Dropping the new toilet roll and it landing in the only puddle in the bathroom.
  • Sharing the bed with dogs and cats.
  • Tupperware lids.
  • Forgetting the StaSoft when washing towels.
  • Using a blunt knife to cut cheese.
  • Throwing egg shells into a relatively empty bin bag and having the smell every time you open it.
  • Kicking the (full) dog bowl along the floor.
  • Using the remote with sticky hands.
  • Leaving the washing on the line overnight and waking up to the gentle sound of rain.

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