Monthly Archives: May 2016

Justifications of Colonialism

I did an obscure English module on African literature. One of the books was Heart of Darkness, which was not really ‘African’ but boring as hell and written from a white patriarchal viewpoint. This was followed by Things Fall Apart which I preferred but also detested as the other extreme.

It reinforced how I generally have issues with books written about the ‘dark continent’, especially if the literature moves southwards to places and people I may recognise.

I’m just finishing Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. I sent an interview she did to a friend of mine who hilariously pointed out how the American interviewer kept referring to her time in ‘Africa’ and she kept going ‘no, just Malawi, Zim and Zaire’. Because, of course, to many abroad, Africa is just one very large country, treating it like the old Soviet Union or China, no discrimination placed on the different tribes and cultures within the large landmass.

The book pulled at my heartstrings because she, like me, will always associate herself with Africa, no matter how long she is away. Ironically so does her father although he only moved there after meeting her mother there on a gap year. This is what the continent does to you.

Near the end of the book is the description of the Zimbabwe I heard about in my childhood, the one where people condescendingly said the country would fall apart as land was repossessed, displacing farmers and their staff, many who had been on the land for decades and knew nowhere else.

It was like Gone with the Wind all over again. The stories of how farm clinics, schools, stores were all shut as the whites had to pull out and fend for themselves leaving behind those in need they had always protected. The argument being freedom has been granted, all men are equal now. The reality that the unequal system also offered protection to those least educated, least able to support themselves. Just as you took care of your property, you took care of the assets on it.

Of course in the long run this is unfair. But so is a blanket land repossession that just displaces everyone there before and offers no protection to the weak.

I’m not sure what the solution is. How does a government manage a slow transition turning farms into cooperatives where people aren’t scared off the places they have lived for years ? How do you educate and be educated in how to manage a large farm rather than a series of sharecropping plots, where people all benefit from the prosperity of good land management and a more equal society?

Oh, there are token examples spread about but these are the exceptions not the rule. In many cases these farmlands were better sustained under their previous owners who’d had decades to learn how to manage large properties.

I worry that my country, my beloved country, could undergo a similar renaissance. And it’s not that I don’t want every man, woman, child, to have equal right to water, housing, education, a place to call home. I just don’t know how you do that fairly.

And how you explain to those receiving that it also means this gift comes with the caveat that ownership also means sacrifice. That when something truly is yours you have to be willing to suffer through the bad times too, there is no government, no baas, no guarantees to social assistance.

Because this is Africa. And these are not first world issues but tangled third world ones with generations of hate, history, oppression only slowly dissipating away.

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Filed under balance, book review, equality, Housing, learning

Secrets to Getting Ahead

I think I’ve said before I suck at office politics. I was reading a really interesting article by another blogger on Google interview questions though. And I went to this strange management thing where they discussed recruitment and how you test people for suitability in a group interview process. (I don’t know what I was doing there as I’m not ‘management’, I’m just the disruptive odd cog in the clockwork.) Which got me to thinking about how people advance their careers.

So my advice in moving ahead, not that I follow it, as it goes against most my principles, morals, patience and ethics not withstanding:

  • I think I’ve mentioned this before on a post. Say back in slightly different words after a ten minute interval what the big boss just said. For some reason bosses don’t seem to realise you just mimicked them and often think you are very clever for coming up with THEIR idea. Either way, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they seem to fall for this easier than one would expect
  • If it is a person of the opposite sex (or even the same sex if they are that way inclined), flirt. Subtly. But never go for drinks or anything with the person concerned. Just drop a lot of hints in meetings and around photocopiers about your abilities
  • Create a posse. Gather everyone on your level and below and make them feel good about themselves. Have them reporting back to you as your eyes and ears to all possible developments you can abuse. Also, they are handy at covering for you when you are late/hung over/bad at your job.
  • Bring food into the office. People really are that shallow. You have to be tactical in that you ‘just love baking’ or ‘was just passing the store at lunch and thought we could all do with a little lift’ but some people do really mistake a few biscuits for generosity and your being a team player even while you are busy stabbing daggers into a coworkers back
  • Don’t come in late but it doesn’t really pay to come in early. Rather hover around and try outstay your boss by a couple of minutes a few times a week then rush out the door when they have left. It makes them think you are a superhard worker.
  • Run don’t walk to meetings, this also deludes the boss you are really busy and packing your hours in.
  • Volunteer for whatever after hours activity suggested, no matter how stupid, whether a team sport or babysitting the boss’s kid
  • Ask people a lot of questions about themselves and nod in deep interest and agreement. Never sound like you know the answer to what they are saying but imply they are vastly superior in knowledge and experience, no matter how stupid or novice they are. (This flatters senior management AND the posse you are collecting)
  • Always look eager to please.
  • Dress as if every day you are going for a job interview.
  • Cultivate an interest in whatever sports/teams/hobbies your boss and colleagues partake/follow so you can make general silly small talk with them at any point.
  • Kiss a lot of ass. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but sadly it does…

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Filed under modern living, motivation, Uncategorized, work

My Flatpack are Like My Lists

So I mentioned how I have been instructed to make a weekly to do list. To be honest, I have not done it for a fortnight. Once because I forgot and yesterday because I was depressed by the fact that I foresaw already I’m not going to achieve half of what goes on the list.

Because the damned lists go wonky in my life.

Like flatpack.

We bought a load of flatpack furniture at a certain very large store that specialises in such things. This concept does NOT exist in Africa. Where you expect furniture to be solid and arrive preassembled and carried in by three or four strong men, not you, trying to hire a van and stumbling around with a wheeled trolley thing, matching a jumbled series of item codes to random cardboard shapes in a warehouse that are miraculously meant to ‘grow’ into furniture. (Just add labour.)

We had to go to the store on a weekday to try minimise the number of rugrats. This was sort of negated because a certain demographic appeared to be using the store as free childcare while they went shopping across the car park at the supermarket. There was a serious lack of boxes but a lot of pram being pushed around the entrance areas by these people.

The flatpack has made plus one very happy in some ways. There is no space in the flat, it’s like tetris – you have to move a series of boxes to assemble and then move that item out the way to stack the next one. But he feels very male and empowered and the worst part for him and me is that occasionally he does require me to stand there and hold something up so he can drill it into place.

I think I’d be more excited by this if I was the one actually doing the assembly as I do like a good jigsaw puzzle. But he’s put off by the fact that I didn’t read the instructions on how to put the shelf support in and stuck the little metal foot in upside down. (No big deal, you just SWIVEL it the other way before inserting shelf.) He is convinced I show equally little focus when following lists or making them in order to tell him what I’m doing for the week.

Probably.

I just know the flatpack went as wonky as my lists.

Or rather the wall did. I have my suspicion the flat pack is keeping the same dimensions. Unfortunately, plus one only measured the middle of the wall. Then drilled the shelving into the return of a corner where it is now fixed for life. When we tried to fit the very top unit above this, we have found it doesn’t fit into the corner. It’s too wide. Somehow the wall narrows when you get to the top of it. So although the units may line up on the one side, they don’t on the other.

Like life.

Nothing is perfectly symmetrical.

And it doesn’t follow to plan.

 

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Filed under anecdote, balance, Housing, modern living, motivation

Just like high school

I hated high school.

Actually ‘hate’ is too strong a word. I did not like high school. I never felt ‘cool’ enough or ‘pretty’ enough along with the usual multitude of teenage insecurities. Graduating was actually a relief. Being able to admit being a little bit geeky meant that I was bright enough to advance the rest of my life. The ‘cool’ kids who studied further all now claim to have been awesome in their high schools. But that’s easy to do when noone who was at school with you followed you any further because the ‘cool’ ones are now in blue collar jobs or popping babies and the others went elsewhere to do other things. Noone knows you, the now awesome ‘cool’ kid is just the least geeky in a bunch of geeks and your hair did NOT look like that when you were younger. And that you were not the uber whatever you claimed to be.

So I thought when ‘real life’ began I’d be beyond the reach of high school politics and influences. How wrong I was.

Even at an age when I should be well beyond peer pressure, my headphones are picked, not just off customer reviews, but off the fact that a certain Scandinavian brand was THE brand used by most of my colleagues where I used to work, coming in in a range of colours and limited styles.

It still hurts when a large group go to lunch and they don’t ask me even if I already brought lunch and would have turned them down, I wanted to have that option.

I still have to report to home -how late I think I will stay out and with who, even though it’s to Plus One rather than the ‘rents.

I still detest the teachers pet brown noser types.

I’m still trying to work out how to wear high heels all day.

I still get white heads. And I still try squeeze them, even though I know better. Only sometimes they are near wrinkles which is inconvenient.

I suppose I should be glad I am not so old yet that these things all still matter. But how annoying they DO still matter. I’d hoping to be zen-like above them all by this stage.

 

 

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Organisation

I have a to do list for the week.

As per a recommendation by a professional who runs management courses and life coaching and stuff it is categorised into the various ‘roles’ I play in my life. As a working pleb, as a much absent plus one, as a seriously deficient housekeeper etc etc… you get the gist.

The idea is that making these lists once a week on a Sunday will focus your goals for the week, so you can achieve short term and thereby medium to long term targets.

Unfortunately in my case I might as well photocopy the damned thing out and just put a new date on it weekly. Because about 80% of the list tends to just carry over onto the next week. Especially the ones listed with helpful items like ‘vacuum’ (plus one has complained he doesn’t think I understand what this is) and ‘do admin’ (because I hate HATE things like filing, in electronic or hard copy format, I don’t want to do it). And the things I cross of tend to be because they are actually at a critical mark so I would have had to address them regardless of The List. Like the invoice I was ignoring that I had to get a friend to pay eventually as I’d locked myself out my bank account. (Still haven’t worked out how to resolve that one, list or no list.)

The thing is, my to do items are not really that difficult – I’m just ineffective about them. I have no idea how hard it must be to suffer something like depression where ‘get out of bed and out of pjs’ is probably a major achievement. I am not dissing this either. I’m sure someone like Winston Churchill who probably wrote ‘beat those Krauts’ under ‘work’ would find my note to ‘finish work assignment and ask for leave’ pitiable.  But an achievement is an achievement. Being able to cross something out, especially with a fat black marker, should still give one a sense of completion.

I’m just good at creating tasks that do not really have an end point. Like ‘try make sure all my socks have friends’. (In our house, friendless socks are the ones that went into the wash together but plus one always manages to separate so they are lost and lonely and floating annoyingly in a muddled drawer with pantihose tangled around the underwear. I keep meaning to tidy this drawer but I mess it up equally frequently when I rummage frantically for two of the same. A really annoying factor in my life because in the days before plus one meddled, I had holey socks but they were always matched with a  mate.)

One day… one day I will win against the list.

Or just toss it and go on holiday. (Although I need to get through the packing list which needs to be created – oops something to put onto the weekly goals list)

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