Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: political (Page 1 of 17)

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 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.

White Night

I went to a thing last night at one of our theatres. This is not about the thing itself, but more about who these things are for. There were two shows going on; one in the big theatre and another in the small one, but they were white shows, and almost all of the audience was white too. The whole feeling in the space was one of whiteness. And the whole thing felt like there were a hundred white elephants in the room. Big, old, stinky, immovable, Surf white elephants filled the space and all the white people squeezed past them and said nothing.

Now of course it is funny that I am saying this. I am white. My date was white. And most of the people I spoke to (except for the people at the door, obviously, and the ushers, obviously, and the bar people, of course) were also white. The people I spoke to and connected with are fantastic, and enwhitenened, and aware and concerned. But we were all in a huge room together in Cape Town, South Africa, and the whiteness was blinding in the night.

This is not how we change things. Almost all white casts playing to almost all white audiences is not ok. And we will pay for these mistakes if we aren’t already paying. We need to change it right now.

Captured

The difference between a buzzword and a thing?

State Capture.

In the new days this means the Guptas, who, let’s face it, are bad at keeping their secrets.

Maybe it’s because they bought a TV station and newspapers to announce their stuff, all day, every day.

Not like the old days where people were really quiet, or silenced or killed, or locked up without trial,

And the newspapers were enemies and whole sentences, paragraphs, columns and pages were blacked out in blocks.

We had bigger, badder, more state capture then, it’s just that so far, none of those guys has said so.

None of them has said so.

The problem with a buzzword instead of a thing

Is that White Monopoly Capital can clear its name, by being a threatening sounding, anti white political campaign

When what it really is, is State Capture gone into business

Big Business. Secret business. Clearly not Black Business, but sometimes even slightly a little bit black, just to make sure that nobody tells, spills, pours out, Gupta style.

And we are all captured.

The Death of Thembisile Yende

Dear Thembisile, the news of the discovery of your body, in your office, ten days after you went missing, has spread like wildfire all over media. You were not discovered in your own office for ten days, even after police and sniffer dogs searched the premises. It was claimed you didn’t report for work, but there your body was, locked in your office. It was claimed that you didn’t report for work but your car was in the parking lot. The CCTV cameras picked up your arrival, but suddenly, were switched off immediately after that. These are the terrible, inexplicable, scandalous details of your death and how you were utterly failed, but they are nothing compared to how you were failed while you were alive.

Media will scratch out a story, and it has begun already, about how you were being bullied at work, how your body was found in a plastic bag, how your family went to find you, how Eskom have backtracked on the story, how they claimed you committed suicide.

The truth is that you were young and alive and happy and you were murdered. I cannot begin to imagine your last moments. I cannot begin to understand or manage the horror of what you went through. And we will never really know why. Another woman has been murdered and your story is only exceptional because of its strangeness. I am heartbroken for you, and the loss of you.

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