Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: deeply personal (Page 1 of 90)

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?

 

The unsubtle Art of Derailing

I don’t mind a bit of trolling or name calling here, on my blog. It goes with the territory, and it means that my words are reaching an audience who don’t just agree with everything I say and think and write. I am happy for the traction and discussion and, at times, even happy for the feeling of support when others come to my defence.

What I absolutely hate, and it is a huge thing on social media, is when people highjack a post or thread or even post comments on my blog posts that totally derail the conversation.

A case in point has been my last two posts about the fires in Knysna. Most people have shared and commented and been active in the discussion. There have been those that disagreed and who took umbrage at me ‘making it about race’. Those people have been easy to engage with, even when I have been a bit harsh.

The derailers are people who go off on a complete tangent, dragging you into an invisible part of the conversation, insist that you do, or don’t do, something, call you names and accuse you of shopping at Pick ‘n Pay. Out of the blue. And I spend time with these people. I try to explain. I get all hot under the collar and my spelling and grammar go unchecked.

The worst part of this is that I am guilty of it too. Facebum and Twitter never show my ‘audience of friends and followers’ my actual mood when I do, say and write things. I have just pissed someone off so badly they told me to ‘get a life’, because I derailed their good news parking story. I pissed them off so badly they unfriended me. I am sorry. They are right. And so am I.

So, this blog post is a moan in session of its own navel gazing bullshit. And it is also an apology to Craig Freimond.

The Difference

A child is dead and her mother is badly burned, fighting for her life in hospital here in Cape Town. An appeal by the woman’s husband’s employer has been on Facebook. This husband is a good man, from Malawi, who ended up in Knysna to make a life. This man has lost his baby daughter and may lose his wife too. An unbearable loss. I know that people will open their hearts to help this man.

This man’s daughter died because his wife and child tried to outrun the fire. They were on foot. They couldn’t. There was no way. Now I know people who have lost everything they own, but they were able to escape by throwing their children and animals into their cars and outdriving the fire. In fact, there are photos of cars burned to their frames, on the side of the road, or in garages that no longer exist,  and I think it is because there were not enough drivers for all the cars. This is the difference between black and white here, in case anyone was worried that I was making it about race. This is about race. Everything is about race.

The banks are jumping in, and helping in Knysna. Of course they are. They own the houses. Those are their mortgages and bonds. ABSA and FNB did not help in Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay. Those shacks were of no interest to them. This is about race. Everything is about race.

The difference is not who lost, but how. And how they will be helped to rebuild and fix. The difference is in driving not running. The difference is in where the banks will help.

I still stand by my post of yesterday. This could be the fire that rewrites Knysna, and South Africa, in how people choose to respond to it, but I think it will take more than just me asking for it. This is about race. Everything is about race.

Imagining Knysna into a brand new World

(One of Ivo Vegter’s devastating images on Daily Maverick)

I have shared the shock, horror and sadness with the country as we watched Knysna burn. In a rare moment of equalising, the fire took from all; rich, poor, old, young, those starting out with first ever homes, those nearing the end of their lives in old age homes, those squeezed into desperate situations in wooden shacks, and tiny rich families in huge mansions on the hill.

The efforts to help people and animals have been heartwarming. We South Africans are pretty good in a crisis. Calls for food, clothes, toiletries, pet food, and money have been met with a resounding response.

So is this not the perfect opportunity to acknowledge that Knysna has a population who live in dire conditions in their everyday lives, where unemployment, poverty, a severe lack of formal housing, TB and other poverty borne illnesses are rife?

I woke up this morning with a dream like vision that every person with insurance in Knysna skimmed a tithe off their claim, and built a second house for someone with no house. Not a shitty little charity shack, but an actual house, a home. Two homes. So, instead of rebuilding exactly what you had in both instances, people with insurance made a conscious decision to make something smaller, cheaper and more modest, and then made another one, for someone else to live in.

I know this will never, ever happen. And because it won’t, the playing fields will never be levelled, and we will never be having the same conversations unless there is a massive natural disaster. And even then, it will be a conversation that happens in that tiny moment before everything goes back to what it was.

But, imagine. Imagine if the brave, heartbroken, wrecked, grateful, passionate mostly white rich people of Knysna decided in this moment to change the town, the province, the country, the world? Imagine.

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