Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: deeply personal (Page 1 of 91)

A last word on the ‘comments’

One of the niggling things that has been bouncing around in my mind is a picture of  the kind of white South African who has tons of opinion about the how and why of protest.

In the comments there is the voice of outrage about how these people burn stuff, and destroy stuff, as if they should somehow know better. In the comments, people judge from a position of superiority, as if the commentator is somehow above this savagery. Their tone is, if only these people were more civilised in their protest we would have more sympathy for them, but, how can they expect our sympathy if they burn/stone/destroy what little they have?

If I were to visualise this person I would see this man that I once saw at the Gardens Centre. He was shouting at the man who was putting change into the parking ticket machine. This first man was in his late forties, and he was fat, with his boep hanging over his belt. He had food stains on his shirt, and crumbs on the wiggling hairs of his moustache. His voice was whiny and breathy. His car keys jostled in his hand and his overflowing bags of Woolies groceries lay at his feet. He was terribly inconvenienced, this man, who wasn’t able to use this particular machine at this particular time to pay for his parking. And he was bullying a man who would never, in all his whole life own a car, let alone park one, or drive one. This man, who was shouting felt entirely superior and worth more.

As I turned away in disgust I thought about how deeply unjust this country was, that allowed this man, in all his mediocre failing, to be more than, worth more than anyone of colour. All he was was born into it. He hadn’t earned a single fragment of the privilege he tossed about. He hadn’t even made good on his huge and outrageous starting advantage. He was a giant blob who in any other circumstance would have swept the car park, or moved the trolleys. And yet here he was, and he was an alarm bell, a flashing neon light, an advert for how even the most miserable and mediocre among us are better off than the black majority who won’t be let out of the starting blocks.

So when that ‘civilised’ voice makes its ugly appearance in the comments section, I see that man. And I imagine the protesters seeing that man drive past them, or watch from his balcony. And, to be honest, it makes even me want to go and burn shit.

 

A reply to the ‘comments’

These are people you are talking about.

These are not dogs you keep out of the lounge for shitting on your carpet.

These are human beings,

Forced to live on a sports field, in the middle of winter.

These people, who must follow the rules and not light fires for fuck sake

because they are a safety risk, are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

These people, who work amongst you, go home to a sports field in the middle of winter.

A sports field is their temporary home for an undetermined time.

From their sports field where they live worse than the dogs that snuggle at your fires, your heaters, your stoves, your electric blankets, your carpets, your underfloor heating, and bark at your curtains made from imported fabric and sewn to fit just right in your double glazed windows,

They see the gentle smoke from your double chimney.

They see your electric gates open and close to swallow and then regurgitate your 4x4s.

They see you fall out of your cars and slam, slam dash indoors.

They see you with armloads of shopping, dressed in bundles of clothing.

These people who live on a sports field in the middle of winter.

And you want to know why they are angry, desperate and uncontained?

You can’t believe how they could burn what they have?

You don’t understand why they aren’t lying down quietly under that second hand blanket you gave them for charity when the fires happened in March?

Maybe its because they are living on a sports field in the middle of winter.

NT Live, and theatrical thoughts

I hope you have noticed that I have been writing reviews for Weekend Special, Cape Town’s newest and most comprehensive online arts and lifestyle magazine, started and curated by Karen Rutter and Jane Mayne, two vital and veteran arts journos, contributors, editors and theatre and music lovers. It has been an honour writing for the website that has made an enormous impression on the arts in Cape Town since it started up in December.

I have written about plays, movies, series and even a restaurant, and it has been such fun. One of the best parts has been that I have gone to preview screenings of the NT Live productions. I was absolutely transformed by St Joan, and Hedda Gabler, was awe struck by Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and have a few on my list that I am so excited about (tomorrow I will see Emelda Staunton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

What has been such an eye opener has been that even the famous, experienced and visionary theatre makers in the UK don’t always get it right. Last week I saw Obsession, directed by the amazing Ivo van Hove, with Jude Law, and it was truly horrible. It was agonisingly horrible. And without sounding like I am gloating, there is something so comforting in knowing that even the masters get it wrong.

Of course, the lesson is that we can all fail when trying to make theatre (or any art actually), but it is the trying that is so important. Here, at home the rules of engagement are so different, and so much of the theatre (and film) we make is terribly, boringly safe. Safety can be in what is expected of us, or it can be in having a proper, paying job, or it can be doing the same thing over and over again. Safety is low risk, low challenge, low stakes theatre, to get by. Low risk theatre is easy to make, needs short rehearsal times, and short cuts on everything including the massive commitment needed to make a show. And then, add meek critics to this; those that would rather not say if something is bad because they don’t want what tiny audience there is to stay away, and theatre is dead in the water. Nobody wants to see stuff that hardly blows air up your skirt.

Now, before everyone gets hysterical, I am totally generalising, because it is a miracle that so much great theatre IS made here, in spite of how ball achingly hard it is, and how we have none of the support, money, sponsorship, subsidy, history and culture of theatre attendance and theatre vocabulary that the UK has. I know. But there is something so extraordinary about a spectacular failure, as opposed to a whimper. And I just don’t see that here.

 

Winter Solstice

I often wonder whether there are things in the world that we all feel exactly the same about. I know it couldn’t possibly be true that everyone had the same response to things, especially since our lived experience all over the planet is so diverse, but I have these poetic notions that there are things that bind all humans; even if it is simply that we share in the wonder of new life, the sadness of sudden or even lingering death, and an innate aversion to suffering. I don’t let myself think about that too hard, because of the holes; those that I know do not share these things, or at least act like they do not feel them, or have unlearned the feelings.

But I have this feeling once a year, on our winter solstice (based on absolutely no fact, or reason) that we are all a bit crazy on winter solstice and that we connect to something dark and old, a bit dangerous, a bit unstable, and very natural. It is both an unsettling feeling and a comforting one; that we share this short day and dark night with each other, and that, symbolically, we start moving towards the light now, even in tiny increments.

This year I hope it has to do with our whole country, I am able to visualise our country being in this nadir of dark unsettledness, and now crawling towards something lighter, easier, healthier.

I guess this is simply a visualisation exercise, but how cool if we shared it.

(PS. I was on set yesterday, acting and having the best time of my life, so maybe that is why I am all blissed out and full of thoughts for positive change.)

The Rat

I should have known the particular “Megan!” that Big Friendly shouted, early yesterday morning, before the sun was even up. I should have recognised the tone, but I was still half asleep, so I wasn’t fast enough when he shouted “close the door!” and I jumped up, too late and a thing crawled in and under the spare bedroom door.

Thus began the stand off between us, the thing, the cats and terrified dogs, that is a rat/mouse in the house. The last time it happened, Chassie had caught a mouse and it was screaming for help as he squeezed it in his jaws. It was a Saturday night and it took Big Friendly two hours to catch it after forcing Chassie to release it, then building a fort, blockages and various other obstacles. I was pretty useless. I was used as look-out and pet body guard. The tension between Big Friendly and useless me was big.

Yesterday’s drama was a bit of a repeat. Big Friendly had to create barriers, and take out most of the stuff that was moveable in the spare room. I took the terrified dogs for a long walk. When we came back the rat/mouse/thing was stuck under the small, but very heavy old cupboard in the spare room. There was no way we were going to manage this operation on our own.

Enter Facebum and our fabulous Woodstock group. I searched for pest control and was immediately reminded of Sebastian Seelig from Pest Free SA. I buy GR5 from him, a strong, environmentally friendly, multi-purpose household cleaner. I saw on Facebum that he also does ‘extermination’ and pests. I called him, desperate.

Sebastian came, and the first thing he asked was, “do you want …?” And we knew exactly what he meant. We said, “please do the other thing, release it somewhere.” and he said “sure.”

And between him and Big Friendly they caught the small rat/giant mouse and got it into a cardboard box, and Sebastian drove it away, and we all saw on Facebum later that he released it at Paarden Island. I don’t know if these guys are territorial. I hope we haven’t started a rodent gang war.

Some of the chat on my thread on Facebum was the best. Apparently rodents don’t like damp cotton balls covered in cinnamon or peppermint. Apparently this makes them run away. We didn’t try that, but I’ll bear it in mind.

But Big Friendly and I have spoken, and we want to save our relationship. These rodent encounters are too stressful. And we have 2 and a half cats (Jonesie the part time cat is actually probably a rodent exterminator specialist, since many a front door mat has had to be thrown away with blood and guts soaked fur or feathered dead thing mashed into it). I mean what are they there for, these cats of ours? We need to let them sing (or kill) for their supper. They eat enough Royal Canin Feline Senior Consult Stage 1 anyway.

There is a construction site down the road, that has basically been a dump since we have lived here. All the feral cats, various rodent life and any other scavenging, desperate thing are being moved out. Some are going to find their way here. And next time we are taking the dogs for a very long walk and leaving the thing to the cats. We will deal with the bloodbath after the war.

Virtue Signalling

A couple of months ago my friend K introduced me to the concept of virtue signalling while we were chatting about politics. It was a new one to add to our growing lexicon of complicated ideas, but it is one that I was particularly drawn to.

Virtue signalling is when you announce the goodness in you loudly; like a white ally, crying white tears and making the issue about your identifying pain. I have been totally guilty of virtue signalling. It is part of the process of acknowledging white privilege and the systemic racism we are part of.

When I think back to the huge deal I made about starting to learn isiXhosa I recognise that I was doing a lot of virtue signalling. I had to be called on it (before there was a definition for it). It was a hard lesson. My virtue signalling goes back a long, long way to my varsity days during the crazy early 80s and the mad and dangerous state of emergency, violence, and real revolution that was starting to play out. Going to Crossroads or Lavender Hill for a UDF meeting was not living in Crossroads or Lavender Hill. Protesting along Rhodes Drive with almost 90% white UCT students was not quite the same as #feesmustfall. My history of (privileged) activism cannot be used as retrospective virtue signalling to gain cred, or political points. I am still learning what virtue signalling is, and what means to be a true ally, and what calling out bullshit in others is. I don’t always get it right. I keep trying.

Virtue signalling is at its worst on social media, where it is easy to have knee jerk responses to things, to have solidarity to half truths and fake news, and where you can signal your ‘virtue’ by ‘liking’ or ‘hearting’ or ‘cry-face-ing’ a thing, with no further action needed. It is also so easy to offend people on Facebook and Twitter (I sure have had a week of it), and I am still trying to decide whether it is useful to offend people, or not.

One of the most ugly and opportunistic and reprehensible spin offs of virtue signalling is crisis advertising, where companies advertise how they are helping in a crisis situation. Take the Knysna fires, for example. Banks and supermarkets and restaurant chains (I am certain with the best Capitalist intentions) seem to have taken advantage of the chance to put their names on the helping hand basket for pure PR purposes. Of course their help is desperately needed, but I do gulp when I hear about this help in paid for ads on the radio. Do you see the irony there? We have to work hard to tell the difference here, but it leaves a really bitter taste in my mouth.

I want to work hard to recognise my own virtue signalling. It is a dangerous distraction from the real work that needs to happen. Who is with me? What do you think? Is this post virtue signalling?

 

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