Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: political (Page 1 of 21)

White Privilege and the Loaded Baggage of arrogance, patronage and patriarchy

I thought about writing a twitter thread on white privilege but then I realised that I probably had too much to say.

I have been conscious of my own white privilege for a long time, courtesy of a father who explained the difference between my suburban primary school and the ones that were in such trouble in Soweto on June 16, 1976. I was 11.

I was painfully aware of white privilege without having access to the words of it as I was grown up by another woman who was not my mother, or even a family member, Lilian Mpila. She ‘lived in’ while her own children lived somewhere else far away with other people. She fed me, dressed me, punished me (subtly, because it wasn’t her right), and because she was strong, we suffered each others’ micro-aggressions. The ones she directed at me were to teach me, painfully slowly, what it was like to have a paid slave in our house, and what that did to her psyche. The ones I directed at her should have been received by my mother.

Everything I am is because of how I grew up. The fact that my family was not rich and didn’t manage the veneer of middle class does not give me comparison rights to poorness. It is the fault of my family that it did not fare better under apartheid. It should have. It had such a massive head start and truthfully, my grandparents and parents didn’t take enough advantage of the total privilege their whiteness provided them. They were less than mediocre achievers (something I have inherited and am not critical of that at all), and would most definitely have been part of the working class who had not risen up by their bootstraps if it were not for the running head start of being white and having access.

So when white South Africans claim the poorness of immigrant parents and grandparents I want to scream, “That’s their fault! They had every single thing they needed to get out of that!” And I also want to interrogate how quickly they managed to get out of it. The journey that most dirt poor, white European refugees from war took when coming to South Africa was one that started them above at least 70% of the population of South Africa, who were not even seen, counted or considered. Every corner shop (my paternal grandfather started with a general dealer shop in Tulbagh) could only be owned by a white person. Every office job was done by a white person. Every house owned by a white person. Every teacher was white. Every sportsperson. White immigrants got bank loans and bursaries and built houses with cheap labour.

When the DA’s Natasha Mazzone claimed to have come from a poor family of immigrants who arrived here with nothing my response was, well, considering the circumstances they really should have done better. She should be embarrassed about how little they took advantage of their privilege on a platter. They had immediate access to virtual slave labour, land, commerce, cheap and good education, and all this was by law. Every single thing that black people were by law deprived of.

This same white privilege is also responsible for white ‘colour blindness’; the kind that has raised its vile and idiotic head with the Ashwin Willemse saga. Because underneath all the ‘disappointment’ speak around whatever went down and how these white men are not racist, is the complete inability to understand that although these men share a studio, the journey that brought them to it is incomparable. Ashwin’s is miraculous. A one in a million chance. A chance against every single odd. What was handed to Mallet and Botha throughout their lives, on every level, was the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly entitlement of whiteness that they do not even know how to recognise or acknowledge.

What needed to happen, even though it was too late, was a huge, heartfelt apology by Mallet and Botha, for being so unconscious that they had no idea they were causing hurt. I don’t think they meant to. That is possibly even worse. That is white privilege.

I have no idea why this white privilege, glaring and obvious at every turn, is so difficult to own. I do know that not owning it is the most dangerous thing any white person can do.

South African Jews for a Free Palestine

It was a no brainer that I would march on Tuesday with many other Capetonians who are horrified by the atrocities committed by the state of Israel and its IDF against Palestinians. I was emotional about being one of the few South African Jews who were there, but committed to holding a section of the SAJFP banner. As we traipsed across the patch of rapidly greening grass to gather in Kaizersgracht Street we walked past these people in these tents and I got hysterical about land again.

People are living in these tents on this patch of land under the shadow of the mountain. I watched as Jesse Duarte and her ANC entourage in their shiny black cars came to march. They drove past these tents. They were our government marching for the rights of Palestinians. It was hard to swallow the irony.

But, back to the march. Please indulge me here for a moment. (I am taking licence because this is my blog, about my stuff). Never before have I had that kind of connection with people, and I am an old and seasoned marcher. Men and women thanked me, hugged me, embraced me and kissed me. Women held me and whispered their gratitude for me, us, our little group. They spoke about how brave we were (I didn’t feel brave) and their eyes glistened with tears.

Before we walked people took photographs of us and the banner. While we walked people made space for us, wanted us to be seen and acknowledged. One of the organisers of our little group was clear that we were not the focus nor the forefront of the march, yet I have never felt more seen or visible.

I felt human and connected with humanity on Tuesday, and yes, I do know that it isn’t about me, wasn’t about me, but I am spurred on to do things to try and make it better for those who are victimised, demonised and brutalised by others; here and elsewhere.

About that Land thing

I eavesdropped on a casual conversation between two white Woodstock residents who were ignoring their dogs’ poo in the park. They were ‘ventilating’ the notion of social and affordable housing in Woodstock and they were kinda whinging about why Woodstock had to ‘get social housing’. ‘Why them, where they live and have recently spent a total and absolute fortune on their newly revamped old Victorians or built from scratch mixed development apartments?’ is what I think they were getting at. And I thought about the people, mainly tenants, who had had to make way for these revamps, and those who had been evicted to make way for the snazzy developments that show only white people in their artists’ impressions. What interested me more than their ignorance and short memories was that they saw absolutely no irony in the fact that Woodstock had been a social housing and affordable option up until they had moved here.

I got home in a prickle. I couldn’t get their voices out of my mind. I also kept seeing the smile on Brett Herron‘s face as he handed keys to a resident of a social house in the, to use his words, Bo-Kaap facaded, development in the arse end of the world, Fisantekraal. He was so proud. Fisantekraal. In the photo of the Bo-Kaap facaded houses Table Mountain looks tiny because it is so far away.

Brett Herron is in charge of transport and housing in the city. Brett Herron lives in Newlands. Brett Herron has explained to Reclaim the City that the only place evictees of Woodstock can be temporarily housed is Wolwerivier (not Blikkiesdorp anymore because it is even more terrible and isolated than Wolwerivier).

People in the wealthy suburbs of Cape Town have made it abundantly clear that social or affordable housing schemes are not welcome in their ‘hoods. Their main argument is that it will bring down the value of their property. Well, folks, your property became valuable because poor people were either forced out or were never allowed in. The birth of townships like Imizamo Yethu is a perfect example of poor people having nowhere to live or transport to get to work for the rich in suburbs like Hout Bay.

No apartheid campaign was as successful as the forced removal of communities, and the destruction of homes, history, livelihood, stories, culture, families, livelihoods and access. Nothing deserves our attention more than redressing this. And yet, it gets a band aid, photo opportunity, pretend solution of Fisantekraal. It also provides the worst possible excuse for those who do not want affordable housing anywhere near their unaffordable housing.

What I don’t understand even a little bit is why these rich snobs of the fancy suburbs are even allowed to voice these concerns. Why is there any delay in identifying land, and building on it right now? Why is this not happening in Maiden’s Cove, Sea Point, Constantia, Hout Bay, the CBD, Milnerton, Pinelands, Rondebosch, Claremont (where people were forcibly removed), District Six (where people live in holes in the ground), Simonstown, and on any single tiny patch of land owned by the city of Cape Town?

Every (white) one is hysterical about land expropriation without compensation in theory, but these same people are clinging to a notion that they can spout ‘property values’ and not be racist and complicit in perpetuating the radical spatial and geographic apartheid of this city. And the city of Cape Town is complicit and active in perpetuating this too.

 

 

Water Tariff Middle Finger

This is an open letter to the City of Cape Town and local government.

Dear CoCT and all involved in the design and rollout of the new water tariff hike,

I want you to know that I have just done something radical. I have had my first five minute shower since September. I did not save one drop of grey water to use elsewhere. I know it is immature, but I needed to wash the unbelievably bitter taste out of my mouth and the itchy skin crawls off my bone dry body.

See, I have taken this drought very damn seriously. Our first attempts were haphazard and experimental, but now our water saving is totally on track. Our household has been consistent in using under 50l of water per person per day pretty much from the day the last severe water restrictions were announced. Our bath is filled with grey water for flushing, our pot garden is virtually dead, our stoep is covered in building dust and highway pollution but cannot be washed, our car sees water only when it rains and we have spent a fortune on drinking water for ourselves and our animals.

I must also state up front that I was, against the tide, in support of the scuppered water price hikes that would have seen home owners pay more for water based on the size and value of their property. I was so annoyed that the rich and privileged showed their ignorant and whining voices when this came up, and that it was these voices that won.

As punishment, your new sliding scale targets two kinds of people. 1. Those of us who have taken restrictions seriously. 2. The poor. No matter how I look at it, those who use the least amount of water will pay the highest prices. High users pay less. The more you use the less you pay. Am I missing something here?

In every way you favour the rich and powerful in our city and give the middle finger to the poor. And I am gatvol. Sies. Clean up your act.

Taking Sides


I woke up nauseous this morning. At first I thought I was physically ill, but the minute I turned on my computer and went to both Facebum and twitter in two different tabs but simultaneously, I felt the bile and my temperature rise.

 

Of course I see what I follow. This morning it was, in no particular order, the Israeli defence force’s slaughter of unarmed marchers, the bombing of Syria, a racist conflict on an aeroplane, a few incomprehensible decisions by Donald Trump, the glorification and vilifying of Winnie Madikizela Mandela, the mountains of plastic polluting our oceans, the online abuse of women, nasty jokes about vegans, vegans abusing dairy farmers, and pleas to donate to gay rights, animal abuse, the Palestinian cause, making theatre, and a sick child.

No wonder it feels like end of days. The thing I hate about social media is that it is devoid of nuance. Everybody is shouting and everything is so extreme. It is like living with the volume button stuck on rage. Everything is about taking sides. And if you are on the other side of anything you are open to abuse, from the side it looks like you are against.

I started feeling a bit frantic. The feeling carried on while we walked the dogs; Linus seemed to be a bit under the weather.

And then I came home and I saw that the seeds I had sown, literally, in the tiny patch of soil in our weenie front yard, had started to spring up. Poppy seeds make the tiniest green sprouts, smaller than an ant’s head, and there are the tiniest tomato shoots growing from where tomatoes fell off the miracle tomato vine that grew by itself and yielded the most delicious and unusual pear shaped cherry tomatoes, and I think I saw some sweet pea shoots (maybe).

I am not going back to social media today. I am going to buy special dog food for Linus. I am going to water my shoots with grey water, and I am going to a live discussion and meet up about whether there should be a creative policy around BDS in support of Palestine.

I will just post this link on FB and twitter so you can read about it and take sides.

Twitler Helen Zille

I have been stewing over Helen Zille’s latest twitter debacle. This is what she had to say about the families of those who died or whose health was severely compromised in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. Zille tweeted on Tuesday: “It is good that the families of the Life Esidimeni victims have received a measure of justice and compensation. I would like an answer to this question: What did they do, before these tragic deaths, to raise the alarm about their loved ones starving + living in profound neglect?”

Now Zille is no stranger to the arrogant, ill informed, rude, racist, anti-poor tweet and has been rapped over the knuckles on more than one occasion. Her biggest tweet scandal (up until now), which she fought to justify in an embarrassingly tenacious fashion, was that not everything to do with colonialism was bad. She just could not see how that would be hurtful and offensive to every single person of colour and their allies.

This time however, she has, in a tweet, highlighted exactly how utterly out of touch she is with how unseen, unheard and helpless the poor are. She imagines a world where everyone has the same ability to shout loudly and demand to speak to the manager. She comes from that world, where she can complain about things and be heard, seen and taken notice of.

Recently I have been to both Groote Schuur and a private medical hospital and the difference is beyond glaring. I am not dissing the utter magnitude of the success of Groote Schuur and all who work there, I am merely comparing the difference money can make. Carpets, new furniture, new equipment, more staff, better equipped nurses, more space, more people to talk to, more attention, more value to life. There are very sick people at Groote Schuur, from all over the country, receiving expert treatment from exhausted, underpaid, over worked practitioners, but the queues at the clinics are long, public transport unreliable, resources scarce. I am in awe at how successful the labyrinthian maze of Groote Schuur is. And that is one, huge, subsidised public hospital.

Helen Zille’s tweet is so completely rude and vile because she has no idea what it is like to be helpless and dependent on what is available. She has no idea what it is like to not be able to keep a sick family member alive if you have no money. She has no idea what a world without insurance or a hospital plan or transport or food looks like. She literally cannot imagine it. And she is in charge of the Western Cape. It makes me sick.

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