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November 21st, 2014

08:22 pm - Mother Russia vs the Magic Kingdom.
I keep comparing the KSA, mostly unfavourably, to Russia. This is I think natural, I lived there for 3 years and I liked it, I do not like KSA. My job is absurd at best and I am counting down the 6 months till I can get the hell out of here.

But it has to be said they are not unalike in many ways.

1)Extreme weather. Extremes of heat and cold respectively.

2)A complete and utter inability to plan. In the Saudi instance, their history as desert people, nomads who did not know what one day would bring to the next. Their reliance was on the mercy of God. Even when I ask their students to bring their homework in it is always 'Inshallah'. Never definitely. Most of my colleagues interpret it as laziness. I feel it is a legacy of that time where who knew what the next day would bring. Unfortunately in a modern country which has developing infrastructure the ad hoc jigsaw approach isn't conducive to getting anything done. The whole country is being made up as it goes along as no one has ever before seen the need to think ahead.
For the Russians, living on hard land, they were at the mercy of God, the land owners, the Tsar or the state. poverty, and the despair of finding anything good in this life is etched deep in the Russian mentality. There is a veneer of prosperity but I think the events of this year will wipe it out. Why therefore plan and save? While this causes something I love about the Russians - a devil may care contempt for thinking about tomorrow, again this is not what we expect of a modern country. And I think it in part accounts for the mess they find themselves in atm.

3) A certain passivity, combined with a total lack of responsibility. This is related to the above point, taking charge of your own destiny? Playing an active role in the running of the country? Naaaah. let the wife/foreigner/Philippina maid/King/president deal with the crap.

4)A general contempt for the greater part of the population. Saudi society is deeply, deeply, deeply tribal. The saying is 'I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against the world'. If someone does something wrong their their tribe is impugned or even out and out insulted. Most people will marry their cousins, in the past it was a means of preserving resources. Now it's about honour. And woe betide anyone who offends honour! For the Russians, again the weight of history. No one has ever been quite sure who they would be able to trust, either in the village or round the table in a tiny Moscow kitchen. Liberals are justifiably rather terrified of their co nationals. And the government has always been very good at promoting divide and rule.

5)A difficulty dealing with obscene wealth. the Saudis have something of an edge over the Russians, of 40 years or so. The country has externally modernised but people really have more money than they know what to do with. Saudis get paid 2500 rial a month for just being Saudi. Women can fly their hairdresser over from Paris for an hour and think nothing of it. The wealth of course does breed insensitivity. In Russia (or rather Moscow) there is wealth a plenty. If you can afford a flat in the centre of Moscow you are either a gangster or an ex one. But because of point 4 above, there is not much charity or kindness exhibited by the rich of either country. But then rich people are generally dicks anyway.

6)'I hate my country, even so it is the best in the world and you can't say anything against it. Foreigners are less important, are ignorant and not worth anything if they have brown skin'.
Saudis will criticise their country, because of the lack of freedom, because of the lack of things to do. But they are Muslims and are proud of the fiercely Muslim laws of the country. Their land contains Mecca and Medina and God rewarded them with oil and wealth. They are arrogant, they ostensibly hold to values of charity and mercy yet the mass ranks of foreign workers are treated like something that came from the back end of a dog.
Russians love Russia. they will attack it and wonder why you live there and are all trying to emigrate, but they will defend rodina to the death. Their religion bares more resemblance to romantic nationalism than to Christianity. Dare to offer a critique of Russia and you are automatically anti Russian (and God I got into some rows with people over my last year there!). It seems you cannot be anti Putin but pro Russian. And that is one reason I felt I had to leave.
I was also really put out by the rudeness of a young Russian woman on the platform of Colombo fort station. We were waiting for a train and a Sri Lankan chap began chatting. the Russian girl kept complaining about the train and at one point interrupted the (extremely nice) man with an idiotic remark about how under Stalin the person in charge of a late train would have been shot. I don't know if she thought about it but I did not dignify her with a reply and for the first time saw why people hate Russians - and I am always the person to defend them.

These are the main things. Others of course, both very patriarchal (though Russian women are allowed to exist independently, yet they are complicit in being kept down which makes it worse). The women of both nations live to be approved of by men. Both obsessed with sex (openly or covertly). Both chaotic nations (though in the light of Saudi Russia is like Switzerland).
There are more differences than similarities (the main one I miss is the Russian students actually have some respect for teachers and a genuine reverence for learning. and there is an anarchic streak to Russian culture which I miss) but it's funny how some of the fundamentals are the same between such different cultures.

(1 croak | ribbit)

September 5th, 2014

02:34 pm - Not my happe time
I must own I have been feeling a bit down this week. I don't know what I;m doing, nor do the students. I feel very restless and unsettled and I haven't really bonded with anyone. A lot of disperate personalities thrown together, last night there was an argument over semantics and that got uncomfortable quickly. I hate the restrictions on movement that I have and i haven't got used to it yet. I cannot say that I like this country. This half life.

And today, horrible news, my cat has been hit by a car and killed. No one's fault, the stupid cat never had much road sense but all of a sudden everything has come to the surface. I don't know what I was thinking coming to this stupid country (actually yes, money!). I feel lost and floating in a strange and vaguely hostile void. Actually, not hostile just profoundly indifferent and in its indifference, threatening. I don't know the language or the rules or have the influence to make them not matter. I still don't quite know whom I can trust here.Half of me thinks it has to get better, the other half just wants to do something stupid and deliberately get fired as a fuck you to the whole sodding place.

What now?


August 26th, 2014

03:30 pm - In land o' sand
Yesterday was a long, long day.
After the usual fitful and meloncholy last night I was dropped on the bus to London where I was sat with a group of youngsters who were full of plans for the bank holiday in London and discussing Richard Attenborough and coconut milk among other related topics.

Enjoyed a last cider at both Victoria and Heathrow (always best to be slightly drunk before a flight I feel) and set off via Lebanon.
Judging from my short stay at the airport I think I would like Lebanon. The pastries at the duty free looked ravishing and generally the area has a rich history of culture and elegance. And the airport bookshop sold both Richard Dawkins and a volume about the future of Zionism which considering the region astonished me.

The flight to Riyadh was mercifully boring considering we were flying over Syria. The airport was gracious with fountains and elegant windows resembling Islamic latticework. The bloke at the passport counter asked why I had bothered covering my hair at that stage! Then a long surreal journey along the motorway past petrol stations and half built Mosques with DESERT stretching out. Finally got to bed at 4 am!


August 22nd, 2014

12:37 pm
In a very few days, a new adventure awaits me. Saudi Arabia. i applied for a job on spec and I got it, and as the pay is good and it's only for 9 months and I got so sick of all the flap doodle applying for a job in Korea involved I took it.

To say I don't know what to expect is an understatement. I will not be able to go out and do as I please, I won't be able to get a drink where and when I want it (though realistically it's not going to do me an iota of harm!). Interacting with strangers will be even stranger than usual, I will be in the expat bubble and as ex pats are frequently a rather odd bunch (I speak from experience here...) this will I suspect be a mixed blessing.

As always, I am intensely amused by concerned friends and family urging me to be careful. Of what? I am not going to import porn, booze or pork, I always keep a low profile when away and while the middle east is mad, in Riyadh the only concern I have is all consuming boredom.
I will bring books and notebooks and films (I hope they don't want to look at all the hard drives!). I want to get on with some painting and writing. I trust there will be internet and vpns. I can call upon my own resources and I hope this will make up for the lack of physical freedom.

On the whole I don't have a bad feeling about it. I am actually looking forward to going to a country where few are allowed to venture and i hope and pray i will be able to explore the desert and see the stars. It'll be fascinating to be away from home and experience a ways of life so ostentatiously not on the pattern of the west. I am a little nervous but i do feel it's the right move at the moment. Let's see.

(2 croaks | ribbit)

July 5th, 2014

11:17 pm - Summer 2014 part 2
On my travels by bus and train, I generally wish I could alight at the pleasant and nondescript small towns and villages through which I pass. The small city of Osweicim in western Poland is one such place I would have liked to visit. It has many points of interest: a castle, many old churches, what looks to be a very attractive market place and a new shopping centre. I wanted to go because I did not want to go to the century old army barracks on the edge of town. Engaged as I am in the agreeable task of uploading my holiday snaps onto facebook, yet I wanted to write more of a commentary on Auschwitz for it is not a place of pretty pictures. I could have taken many more than I did yet I felt I simply couldn't bring myself to perform my usual touristic voyeurism. Weeks after going it haunts me. I would not have gone but my parents, with whom I was meeting in Krakow, suggested it so I agreed out of interest rather than desire. So we (my parents and I along with a Polish American family) drove in a comfy tour bus with our guide, a nice man who chatted with me about his upcoming trip to Scotland, watching a video about the place. The entrance was reassuringly bland, a car park, a visitor's centre with a few snack machines and even the gate to hell didn't look too threatening, my mother remarked how small it was in the flesh.The world's sickest joke?Collapse ) The interior of the barracks was actually quite warm because of course they had been built to house soldiers, though certainly the bunks were narrow and the canvas sacking bedding looking none too comfy. In all the rooms the usual pictures of the descrimination against the Jews, the rounding up of the Roma, and a quite horrifying map showing how far the ghastly cattle trucks travelled.Painful geographyCollapse ) In this room was an urn of ashes, all that was preserved of 1.1 million souls. A man with a yarmulke was rapt, he caressed it, touched with with his forehead, gazed longingly at it, he would have climbed in if he could. A whole room of mugshots, the earliest prisoners. The mother of the American family saw a photograph of a woman who shared a surname with her mother. For a moment I wondered if her ghost walked by. Upstairs were personal effects. Hundreds of suitcases, glasses, fashionable ladies' shoes. I found it almost unbearably poignant that someone had thought to pack a cheese grater. Most awful of all were the broken dolls and other toys, the sight of which caused me almost physical anguish and which make me shudder just thinking of it. Read more...Collapse ) In another room, a whole wall full of women's hair, all braided in the manner I usually do my own. The hair was sold for 50 pfennigs a kilo. 50 pfennigs for however many murders make up a kilo of hair. 50 Pfennigs. The hair was used to make cloth. Analysis of said cloth shows traces of Zyklon B. a Kapo's roomCollapse ) We moved on to block 11. This was where torture and executions were carried out. It felt chilly in there, the decor remains unchanged from the 40s. I was glad that the place was so full we couldn't linger. Next door, block 10, was Mengele's lair. The windows are blocked off completely. It is closed to all, for which I am glad. Nothing would induce me to go in there. Nothing. Read more...Collapse ) And so we made our way round, I began feeling more ghosts at my back. Perhaps it was my fancy, I am unconvinced at the existence of the supernatural but I am certain that suffering permeates the ground and bricks. I could hear lorries driving by and began to want to run back outside. Read more...Collapse ) Our last stop was the one remaining gas chamber - converted to be a bomb shelter just before liberation. Hoess was hanged right by it. As we walked in I allowed myself to pause and think of the gloomy atmosphere, and then in the chamber itself I looked up and felt a wave of utter, utter terror, a kind of sympathetic revelation of what the souls must have realised when they became aware that it wasn't water coming from the shower heads. I literally couldn't stay in there and I ran outside sobbing. Later at Birkenau I found I couldn't stand too close to the demolished crematoria there.what remains of the crematoriaCollapse ) mother meanwhile found it difficult to walk down the railway line the last thing many epople would ever have seenCollapse ) My parents both have difficulty walking. Throughout the whole tour I had a vision of us arriving. Mum, Dad, sister and my 2 nieces would have been taken immediately for the 'shower', if my brother and I had been 'lucky' we would have been put to work, but probably only to die more slowly. Dad didn't join mum and me at Birkenau as he had found the walking too much and I wished with my heart I could have joined him. Birkenau is an evil place. The chimney stacks make it seem doubly frightening Read more...Collapse ) And the interior of each barrack was oppressive the excuse for a dwelling place. Beds and toilet blockCollapse ) And so the tour ended. Dad was exchanging some pleasantries with the guide, who shed his serious face and became quite genial and we drove back to merciful normality. The following day we went home. in the evening I went for a walk and realised something. In the fields close to home there were some wild flowers and lots of bees, Birkenau is covered with clover, vetch and other tempting bee food yet I did not see or hear a single insect. Mother noted there were no birds nesting in the long grass.

(2 croaks | ribbit)

April 16th, 2014

09:01 pm - Fractions
Today, I received horrible confirmation of what I have suspected for several weeks but had been hoping was just the light in the bathroom. Near my forehead, peeping out admit what I thought was an unbroken sheen of brown, were several grey hairs.
Ok it's not the end of the world and you can't really see them unless you are a) me or b) looking very closely but it is making me feel old.
Some weeks ago, I had to have passport photos taken for a visa. The last time these were done my face was full and lineless. This time, having lost quite a bit of weight and being some years older, lines were more clearly visible. I looked even worse than one generally does in these pictures.
I will be a third of a century old this year. It seems somehow more significant than 30, a rather meaningless fraction. A full third.
I will have been menstruating (therefore biologically adult) for 23 years. I will have been a wearer of glasses for 20. It will have been 15 years since leaving school. 15 years of being a legal adult, being able to vote, have a bank account, do what the hell I please. Half of my adult life has been spent lived outside the UK – soon probably to be more than that as I plan to teach in Korea for a year to earn muchos money before going back to Uni, that's the plan anyway. Though my plans never quite go where I want them to. Hell I have even lived in Russia for 3 years and it's a shock to realise that things I did in Edinburgh are almost a decade ago when it only seem like yesterday.

And what have I done with my life? I compare myself to people I know from my past lives (which seem so divorced from my current reality) and people whom I admire and what have I got to show? I don't have a home of my own. I have never been in love. I have fancied people and been very fond of some sure (and even had sex with 2 of them) but feeling as though I wanted to be with someone forever? No. I still don't quite know what I want to do with the rest of my life, everything I do seems to be a stepping stone for something else, and I do so want a final destination.
But then I have been craving that for a long time already. Even before I began to be old.
When I was 9, I began middle school in Bury. One Sunday, I went to the playground in my village which is near the primary school in Ixworth and even though I had only been at my new school for a week or two I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. I knew even then there were people whom I would in all likelihood only see a few times again, if ever at all. I had the sense of leaving my old life behind and being set on course for something rather uncontrollable, a little frightening but also utterly inexorable. Ok as a 9 year old I would not have thought of it even remotely in those terms but I do remember thinking vividly 'is this the world I left behind?'
Sometimes on the metro in the mornings when I am trapped at interesting angles between people I remember there will come a time when all this is as unreal as primary school, as the endless grey days of middle school (where I can never remember the sun shining), as university, as all of my past lives. And then I feel a pang for the endless metro rides even as I am on them, I suppose fundamentally I am nostalgic in temperament.
I don't know if I will ever stop, it is the age we live in where there are no certainties. Countless people are in no better a position than I so I am not such a freak as I would have been in my parents' day And for every day I wish I could be still I know full well there would be an equivalent day that, were I not moving, I would resent it bitterly.
At least I am growing old. I am in pretty good health. For the first time in my adult life I am solvent so I have a few options. And we live in an age of hair dye if those naughty hairs decide to change colour again.
On second thoughts it would be rather brilliant if my hair matched my silver jewellery...

(4 croaks | ribbit)

March 13th, 2014

10:58 pm - On loving something despite your better judgement
Doubtless all my readers will have been awaiting with baited breath my commentary on the situation in Russia. Well hardly but I am going to write something anyway.

I was surprised when Putin went into the Crimea, perhaps foolishly because he has in the past called it effectively a Micky Mouse state but I thought the proximity to the EU would frighten him off. I was wrong.

2 weeks ago on Sunday 2nd March I went to the centre of Moscow. Why? Because there was a demonstration against the invasion. As my flatmate and I approached the square it was empty and we wondered if it had been called off. There were a few other folk but certainly no more than usual - but then I noticed the police vans and a woman with a Ukrainian flag in her coat. More people came in. I have been to a couple of demonstrations in Russia before but here there were no parties under a banner. Mostly the opposition in Russia is organised on party lines and people tend to stay with their tribe, chanting their own mantras during these things but here was a disperate mass of people who had only one simple thing to say 'no war'.
And for this people were arrested. I witnessed no violence, no behaviour among the peaceful protesters which would have outraged no one in calmer times. the police were swift and while not brutal, certainly not friendly.
There were light moments. At one point the police tried to arrest an elderly lady and NTV tried to record this but the crowd pushed them down.
About an hour in the crowd had grown so large that different groups started yelling and confounding the police who were going for people who were yelling  - but then they started targeting randoms instead. I had already been told once to go but when the cops grabbed a man who was just standing there not one metre away from me I got scared and left.

The Russian government has been selling the tale that they are there to protect the oppressed ethnic Russians of Ukraine and Crimea and the oppressed Russians of Russia have been buying the line. The Kremlin has been using the half truths in the way it does so well to justify its actions by emphasising the fact that many in the new cabinet are fascists (and certainly I am no fan of the new government and am convinced only of their determination to fuck up Ukraine without the Kremlin's help) and that the EU and US have been funding the opposition for years (no doubt true but what about Putin and Yanakovitch???.

Putin's actions have won him great popularity - not that he needed it riding high on the tide of the olympics. And yet, and yet the senseless arrests that I saw do not fit in with this. The arrests to me indicate the actions of a state desperate to cower people. Putin has long been a master of divide and rule - that there is no viable opposition in this country is testament to that. In this country fear has always been the means by which power is maintained.
But Russians must admit their role. Yesterday i was talking with a Russian friend and I said that in my opinion Russians were profoundly individualistic. For the most part they don't feel as though the rules don't apply to them and that there is always the sense that 'it is someone else's problem - I will not take responsibility' and she agreed. I know some people who honestly believe in the restoration of the monarchy. One of the things I love about Moscow - the devil may care sense that the world will end tomorrow so let's all have some fun - is not really the healthiest way to go.
Democracy, the social contract, relies on the willingness of the citizen to deal with rules and engage with the issues and I don't think most Russians are. Perhaps it's a defence mechanism, perhaps it is the national fatalism.
Perhaps it's simply due to the fact the country is too damn big. If a small country like mine can be divided into 2 nations then what about this one? Historically the Russian peasantry didn't really relate to Rodina but to their local community and the only unifying factor was the Tsar so perhaps it remains true. When it is completely unaffordable for many outside the capital to travel to the cities, when Muscovites would rather go on holiday to Turkey than Sochi because it's cheaper, is it any wonder there is a profound national dissonance? Is the KGB tsar the only thing to unify the people?

I am frightened about the current situation. I am worried about my savings and my status as a semi legal migrant worker. I am worried about a new cold war. But my strongest feeling is actually one of pain. Despite everything I love this country. I love the madness, the disorder, the stillness when the snow falls, the old women selling flowers at the metro, the cheeky guys in improvised lada taxis, the drunken abandon, my friends, (some of) my students, my colleagues, the chatty woman at the fruit stall who is convinced that despite all the evidence I know Russian. I love them, I love this.
And it hurts me to think people are having the truth distorted. It hurts me to think that the world is going to tar all Russians with the same brush - the exasperating but deeply lovable people I live among. It pains me to reflect that these are the ones who will bear the brunt of sanctions and boycotts rather than the rich fuckers who will get away with murder as ever. They deserve better.

I hope this is the beginning of the end for Putin. I wonder if he is going to overreach himself and if people will begin to question him, especially if sanctions bite. But being a pessimist i doubt it, so all I have to do is mourn for my beloved Russia which has been so good to me.


December 31st, 2013

01:28 pm - Obligatory meme
1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?
Took a train from Tallinn to Moscow, Flown with an animal, Went freelance. Visited a bunch of places, it hasn't been that kind of year really

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Well, I worked hard and saved! But I failed to make any headway with Russian.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
A few friends

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
Russia (if that counts), the UK (if that counts!) France, Finland, Estonia

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
More money, calm, a boyfriend

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
May holidays, going to Kostroma, June, flying with the cat the the UK

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Saving! Losing quite a lot of weight

9. What was your biggest failure?
Losing students, Spending too much, eating too mush over xmas

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A cold, Banging my toe so badly the other day that it literally turned purple (it's ok now!)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Books and train tickets and JEWELS!!!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My chums :)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

14. Where did most of your money go?
books, travel, jewels

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Sergei Koshkovich Imbirov :D (the cat), TRAVEL!

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
Bloodflowers, (for then I was feeling really depressed in October), MeNaiset the Bride's Weeping for the clear and beautiful days in February

17. Compared to this time last year, are you happier/sadder; fatter/thinner; richer/poorer?
a) I don't knw if I am happier or sadder. I feel discontent but not really sad.
b) Thinner :)
c) Richer :)

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Improving my mind, writing

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I went to church, sang carols and spent the day with my family

21. Did you fall in love in 2013?

22. How many one-night stands?

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Science club, Doctor who

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

25. What was the best book you read?
North of the DMZ, The the mountains echoed, Comrade Pavlik, The lion sleeps tonight, My Traitor's Heart

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Rediscovering the Cure, Menaiset

27. What did you want and get?

28. What did you want and not get?

29. What was your favourite film of this year?
Nothing really stands out. 12 years a slave was very good.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
32, I ate fish and chips at Dunwich with my parents and then drank cider. Same as ever.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Love, calmness.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
The usual but more boring.

33. What kept you sane?
Reading, the internet, my cat and my friends.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Not saying.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The continued rape of the poor by the Tories. The massive discrimination of Caucasians based in Moscow. NSA

36. Who did you miss?
The family.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Tim, Katya, The people I met in Bristol were all awesome.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
Keep on moving.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
I've been working like a dog.

It hasn't been a bad year for me, though I know it has for a lot of my dear ones. I've felt stressed. I am slightly dreading next year as I must actually do something about the future, I really want to get out of ESL in the next 4-5 years but I'm scared to think about retraining and/or writing.
I'd like more time for study and improvement. But I have to earn and that must be my priority for now. It's like I can see a light at the end but it's a long way ahead. I have also felt lonely this autumn, this Christmas being with my family has been driving me mad and while I love them it's clear I can best stand them at a distance. I want my own family and since losing weight I have had more admiration but nothing much has come of it. I've been daydreaming about unattainable figures but not real people. I honestly don't know how people do it. I should give off less independent vibes! I suspect this year is also going to be a lonely one. Let's see, I can do nothing more.


December 6th, 2013

11:52 pm - Madiba
Let me say first and foremost that I have the utmost admiration for Mandela. He fought bravely throughout his life,was a model of clemency upon victory and left the world a better place than he found it. Who among us will be able to boast as much upon our demise?
Nonetheless I am bracing myself for a lot of sentimental guff in the next few days and goodness only know what is going to happen in South Africa. The ANC has not exactly distinguished itself in recent years, with Jacob Zuma proving corrupt and Julius Malema's own racism threatening to undo all the good and trust that has been achieved. It has been eroding its moral capital for some time now but as the party of Mandela and the struggle it continues to have a hold over many South Africans. It could be argued that it is time for a period in opposition. But symbolism is a dangerous thing, facts can be forgotten and the ANC will legitimately use Mandela in its future campaigns.
Mandela showed great mercy and this must never be forgotten. Nonetheless he is relentlessly sentimentalised as a kind of secular Jesus/Gandhi/Angel hybrid however he was a man and like most me, well, pretty flawed actually. By all accounts he was a beast to his first wife, I am told would have got rid of a lot of the (white) civil service after his election but for agreements he made with FW De Klerk (which, to be fair, he kept to) and advocated the use of violence and terrorism in the apartheid struggle. This is a difficult one, for while I think I can comprehend the frustration and agony black South Africans had to go through (though as a middle class white Brit I would never presume 100% that I could) on principle I don't think violence is a good idea. It was bourne of desperation but in the end I think it merely hardened the attitude of many in power who might (though not definitely, definitely not definitely) might just have had a little sympathy, for apartheid was a doctrine of utter putrid folly and repugnance which anyone with half a brain cell or fragment of compassion should have repelled and rejected. On the whole terrorism merely plays into the hands of the people in power, enabling them to claim that 'x is evil because s/he uses violence. Therefore we are justified in oppressing them' (as can be seen among out glorious leaders vs Islamists today alas). And violence merely breeds violence. South Africa is an incredibly violent country, I believe the violence to be a result of poverty, fear and a lack of mobility but also due to the expectation of hostility which creates a defensive terror, a nation of cornered rats. The campaign of the 60s was symptomatic of this latter point but also I would argue helped to perpetuate it, continuing the bloody cycle which began when the Dutch landed and continues to this day.
What brought about the end of apartheid was the power of thought. The campaigns of the oppressed (and their friends) had an effect. They changed minds. De Klerk deserves credit for though he was reluctant to negotiate with the ANC he did it and did the right thing calling for free elections. I would argue it was Robbin Island that really made Mandela. It turned him into the symbol of oppression and earned the world's sympathy. It prepared him for his role and let's face it, who could have played it better? The fact that Mandela had imperfect humanity isn't noteworthy. What is is that, despite the awful conditions of prison, he kept it. I don't know how far I could keep my humanity if I were hated because of the amount of melanin in my skin, let alone make friends with my gaolors.
Today is a sad day. But what is sad is not the death of Madeba but that South Africa s still a mess. I hope attention will be paid to building on his legact rather than empty tribute.

(2 croaks | ribbit)

November 20th, 2013

06:56 pm - Life
I keep wondering if I am a bad daughter and sister.

A big part of me wonders if I should go home and help with my sister's childcare. I am always exasperated with my sister and yet sympathise with her present plight and yet feel angry when she takes her anger out on our mother.

I really do not want to go back to the UK right now and I would hate not having regular work or income and it would drive me mad to be in the family circle all the time. But I know they are so stressed right now I almost feel it's my duty. I feel guilty about being the favoured child when I am far away and not there physically. Am I being selfish to put my own life first? Am I wrong for favouring my mother over my sister when in my head I know I simply cannot look at it objectively and there aren't really any sides to chose? Was I a bad kid for relishing my place as favourite child and hurting my siblings?
I know I am not responsible for their relationship, at least I keep telling myself that. I also keep telling myself that I mustn't waste my 30s as I did my 20s. But sometimes it really doesn't sink in.

(1 croak | ribbit)

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