I have a bit of a mixed bag for you all today. Happy 2013 folks. December 2012 was quite a rough patch for me and mine. I spent a lot of December flat on my back - not nearly as much fun as you might think. My girl friend was involved in a bit of a car smash and was in hospital for a few days with spinal injuries, which appear to be healing slowly. After a month with almost no sign of improvement, she is regaining some sensation in her right leg, with full use of her left. Remarkably, even though she can't feel anything in her right leg, she can still move it, and can therefore drive, and in a fashion, walk. She has a new car, her 2011 Polo having been written off by the insurance, and not a word from the other party, life goes on.
I started feeling ill around the 2nd, but as is usual practice, I ignored it. I do this out of habit because I almost never get sick, aside from the occasional bout of seasonal allergies, and even then, hardly ever take off sick. This year was a bit of a duzi in that department. On a Thursday night, I had been bitten in the neck by what I assumed was a mosquito, I still remember feeling it, but never saw what it was as it was during my bi-weekly jujitsu class, and I was distracted. The others in class were swatting away at the little buggers, and it was a hot evening and all the windows were open in the dojo. The bite itched like mad, turned red and inflamed, and by Sunday a gland in my neck swelled up to the size of an egg.
By Monday it had subsided, and the other side of my neck had swollen up, a LOT. At that point, I decided to consult a doctor. This was the start of a roller coaster ride that lasted for the next 6 weeks, and still isn't quite over.
On the Monday I went to see my GP and I was booked off work for three days. The very same afternoon, my girlfriend had her accident. Despite being ill and booked off from work, I still made an effort to visit her while in hospital. After a number of days, I went back with no improvement, I was given a further week of bed rest. I went through 4 courses of different antibiotics, 5 sets of blood tests, including a blood culture test taken when I spent 2 nights in hospital. Even a sample of the puss from an absys in one gland which was sent for analysis returned only confusing results.
I spent most of the time in bed with pain in my joints (hips especially) so bad I could barely get out of bed and walk to the loo. My appetite was zero. My neck was so swollen on one side I could barely move my head, and my skin was red and blotchy because of my allergy to paracetamol in the meds I take for pain and fever. I had fever and shivering sessions through the day as the fever control meds wore off, with the shivering getting so bad it was like convulsions, during which I could not breathe normally and my hands cramped up, the nails and my lips turning blue.
I made numerous visits to the clinic in the next few weeks, in point of fact, I am surprised my health insurance still haven't written me off with all the doctor's visits I used up. In one week alone, they took blood samples and I pee'd in a bottle twice. Fun. You always know it's serious when a doctor rushes around to get you sorted at the nurse's station, instead of getting someone else to do it. Results came in slow, and my GP called me personally with these each time. I could hear him scratching his chin over the phone while reading the lab sheets. It seems I have... *drumroll please*... tick bite fever... Not. Glandular fever? Um... No, not that either. Glandular TB? Nope.
The test results as I mentioned were confusing. It's not tick bite fever after all apparently - the doctor doesn't know what it is yet, aside from "a mysterious underlying infection, most likely the result of an insect bite or sting". I suppose it's not easy when people expect answers and they can't give them. Anyways, it's interesting to get reports like: "It's frightening how normal your results are..." Normal? I didn't feel normal! Anyway, since when have I ever been that? That's almost insulting! The way I felt, I was half expecting to turn green, glow in the dark, start climbing things upside down, or get the urge to wear lycra and spandex in odd-color combinations. If this happens (and goodness knows, it still may) I will need suggestions for a good name for a crime fighter (or evil genius) and fashion advice on choosing nice underwear to wear outside my clothes.
I thought this seemed a lot like malaria, as I know I was bitten twice by a mosquito (once on the neck, and once on my right leg, although the leg never showed any reaction other than a nasty itch) even though this area is not known for malaria. Perhaps as Mom suggested, it was a mosquito with a passport. When the specialist discharged me from hospital, he told me "we may never know what this is", not exactly comforting, but what is, is getting better anyway. Trust me to get something exotic, instead of the mundane, ordinary, run-of-the-mill tummy bug/STD/flu/dread virus. At any rate, I started feeling progressively better during last week, and started work today. There is nothing like the usual daily routine to make you feel appreciated, back in place, normal and well again.
Special thanks to my dear friend Morne who took time out of his hectic schedule to make a special trip one day to bring me some ice tea and Snapple while I was languishing at home with the fever. It's greatly appreciated. Also, to Capt Pheiffer and her hubby for dropping by, also bearing ice tea!
Moving on, Penton Pagan Media was voted the best religious or spirituality blog based in South Africa. Score one for the underdog! The site provides a broad and educational look at Pagan and spiritual issues - as well as some of the common threats we South Africans face here from the "establishment". Congratulations to Damon Leff and the other contributors of Penton Pagan Media, one of the sites that reposts my articles!
"Much to the jubilation of the winners and the scorn of critics. On the last day of 2012 the winners of the 2012 South African Blog Awards were announced; an announcement much anticipated by the South African Pagan community who had local blog, Penton Independent Pagan Media, entered into the ‘Best Religious or Spiritual’ category. And there, in black and white, were the results: “winner- http://www.penton.co.za/”. In a country that is estimated to be 73% Christian, a Pagan blog won as the best religious/spiritual blog."
According to Damon Leff, "the figure is provided by STATS SA's 2001 stats. Most who participated in the census were certainly nominally Christian or simply Christian by virtue of having grown up in a Christian home or community, yes. Traditional African religionists have argued that since the vast majority of these are also practising traditional religions, they cannot be said to be 'Christian'."
2001 statistics are also 11 years out of date. A lot has changed since then - including the way many South Africans view religion and spirituality, or to which they affiliate. For example, back in 2001 I also identified as a Christian. By 2008 this was no longer the case, as I was by then an agnostic. By 2010 I already identified fully as a Dark Pagan/Wiccan and a practising Witch.
Back in 2001 I still took electric power for granted, not realizing that one day soon, rolling blackouts caused by gross incompetence on the part of the parastatal power company, ESKOM (euphemistically referred to as EISHKOM) would unpredictably plunge parts of the country into occasional darkness and re-runs of the Middle Ages.
Further afield, dig the Poep's latest move. No, that is not a typo. Those who live in SA or understand Afrikaans will appreciate the anagrammatical irony. Why does anyone still take this disgusting Nazi relic seriously?
This man has just, by this move, shown clear evidence that he hates Gay and Transgender people to the point of extermination and genocide. If Catholics were Christians and I still called myself a Christian, I would be deeply embarrassed indeed. Could some well-meaning country that actually means what its Constitution says about honoring human rights just round up all these lunatics in Uganda's Parliament and churches (and their sponsors and "ex-gay" masterminds in the USA - INCLUDING Mr. Lively) and just drop them into a deep dark hole full of caustic gooey green toxic waste please? Thanks. Nice move Poep - Hitler would be proud. Stalin was a real saint compared to the likes of you and your predecessors.
Christians - at least the ones I know, believe that "God" is a loving father figure, not a spreader of hate and a rewarder of hatred and violence - so who then is this homophobic man in a white dress claiming to be "God on Earth" - other than an imposter? Let's see him walk on water? I doubt he would do more than make high-water marks on low buildings.
To each their own. Honestly, I've been treated with more dignity and respect by Pagan, Jewish and Muslim strangers than by some of my Christian friends and family in the past. Some people lose touch with reality and stop seeing us as people in the face of their religious obsessions, and more as obstacles to their agenda for world domination.
Know what I think? I think the RCC leadership needs to be hauled kicking and screaming before the International Court of Human Justice to face charges of crimes against humanity. Of course, with half the world's leaders being in their pocket, and half the world's sheep being their obedient servants, this isn't likely. Instead, the Church of England (aka the Anglican Church elsewhere) is still entertaining the notion of rejoining with the RCC and kissing the Poep's butt instead of the British Monarch's. Or has that happened yet? Oh wait, last I heard most churches in the UK were almost empty, so who would really care?
Speaking of the UK, in an article in the Daily Mail that really got my goat this morning, a Christian minister authoritatively claims that Wales is being "threatened" by the growing presence of witches. Threatened? As opposed to Wales being claimed by the Christian church? Yes, I know, the loonies are always in a flap, pointing at witches hiding in the shrubbery and "Satanists" lurking in their soup. Ridiculous. As usual, the article (and presumably the book written by the clergyman in focus, features what is by now typical hysterical misinformation in the form of rumors of witches living in small towns in large numbers, holding "sinister" covert meetings (doubtless to avoid the unwelcome curiosity of nosy parkers like the minister in question), molesting children (as if clergy are above that sort of thing), abducting and killing animals, dancing in the buff, and probably plotting the overthrow of the almighty Christian Church and perhaps even the magickal assassination of the Poep.
Funny, with all the mass murders attributed to Christianity over the last two millennia, one would think witches and anyone belonging to a religion which has been aggrieved by Christian authority in the past, would have actually done something threatening, dastardly, occult and/or magickal about it to even the score. Amazing that these geniuses still haven't cottoned on to the built in flaw in their imagined "threats". Amazing that people don't realize the truth - that these so-called "threats" are IMAGINED.
All this article is, is paper-thin propaganda from a hysterical and ignorant representative of one religion who fears losing its monopoly to a re-emerging and far older religion or spirituality. As a Pagan and a Witch it is clear to me that this man doesn't know what he is talking about, rather that he is simply spouting prejudice against what he views as a competing religion, spreading tales of abuse and wrong doing among those fearful, ignorant and stupid enough to believe him, in turn running through the streets, waving their arms and crying hysterically that "the witches are coming, the witches are coming!". Pshaw.
People who claim to be "occult experts" should have to have some kind of qualification in the things they claim to be experts in, not raving lunatics who know as little about the subject as those they stir up into a blind panic. Perhaps this good reverend should get hold of Kobus Jonker. Perhaps they will swap recipes for a better world, where all people look the same, sound the same and believe the same thing. Wouldn't that be nice? Not.
Back home, we have the TV news and media raving about the wonderful improvements in Matric pass rates for 2012. I can't say I'm terribly impressed by the Matric pass results, not this last year, or for any of the past ten or fifteen years. Why? The ANC government has been steadily dropping standards just so that the pass rates look better because it's easier to not actually fail. I think our education system is a disgrace, with many modern school leavers incapable of reading, writing and basic arithmetic Do they still actually learn important things like history? What about grammar? I heard one kid on TV news just after the release of the results (having just presumably passed Matric English) proudly tell the interviewer they were "very much happy" about passing. Yeah right. English as she is spoke. Eish.
For instance, how much effort is made by our education system to produce informed free-thinking young adults capable of becoming educated discerning voters with a sense of civic responsibility? Or people who know enough about the past to understand that history repeats itself so frequently these days that it's obvious we are surrounded by morons who haven't a clue that the idiotic schemes being piloted by "guv-ah-ment" are eerily reminiscent of Stalin's five year plans and other assorted asshattery from the annals of history. But of course, the government won't want smart free-thinking school leavers - because they most likely wouldn't vote for THEM next time.
The present trend that school leavers are ignorant, uneducated and of a far lower quality than in previous years - is of course through no fault of the students themselves - but due to the calamity that is the Dept of Education. Imagine a province-worth of schools that for MOST OF THE YEAR did not receive ANY text books? How the hell are the kids supposed to learn anything? What about the towns where PARENTS were protesting lack of government service delivery outside a school, resulting in closure of the school for several months? I'm sorry? How the hell does depriving your OWN children of an education fix another problem? Idiots, the bloody lot of them.
I think that by its track record since 1994, the ANC has proved that just winning an election and making election promises and goals is not enough. What happens AFTER the success of the election win? You need to live up to your promises, stick to your mandate and the party principles you won the election on. You need to not only govern well as an opposition party governing on behalf of the ruling party (ie the DA in the Western Cape), you need to show the smarts to be able to say "these laws made in the past were stupid laws, or a frivolous exercise resulting in a waste of public money, and should be revised or scrapped altogether". You need to see the injustices of the past for what they were for ALL those who suffered under them, not just through the tinted lenses of one particular grouping, even be it the majority - and you need to find a workable compromise to suit ALL people. Further, you need to keep your promises and be of good character as a leader, and not sit back and say by your actions "don't do what we do, do what we tell you to do!" Look at the promise the ANC showed at the start when it won that first election in 1994 - and look how miserably it has and continues to fail.
The SABC is another pet gripe I have - a pensioner supposedly pays half price for their TV license - UNLESS they have anyone else who is a non-pensioner living with them - EVEN if it is their own home and TV, and even if the person doesn't watch SABC programming! What does having someone else living with them have to do with it? It's just a loophole used to rip off and disadvantage old people.
If the SABC can't survive on the massive revenue it generates from advertising, then it doesn't deserve to survive at all - especially with the pathetic line-up of garbage they charge everyone for... even if you never watch anything on their horrible channels and opt purely for DVD or DSTV.
I think if the government really cared for the Aged (as they claim to), realizing that most of them battle to survive on small pensions and live on the bread line, they should exempt them from paying license fees completely, freeing up more of their meagre resources for essentials like rent and groceries or medical care. As usual, government doesn't put its money where its mouth is. Having its propaganda machine funded by everyone - regardless of whether or not they make use of it, appears to be a higher priority.
They call themselves "the public broadcaster", but at the same time they are entrenched by law as THE main industry standard in this country. They receive support from the government who control them via the ANC placed board members, they receive the forced financial support of every person who buys a TV/PVR/video device and has to pay an annual license. This is something other private stations do without - AND the SABC also receives funding from advertising - which is crammed into programming in over-abundance. I think this is something which should be challenged in court under the unfair business practices section, and also the section which deals with a monopoly. Why should the SABC - a government run media agency, be allowed to act as enforcers of the TV media industry in this country? Surely this draconian nonsense went out with the old South Africa? Without fully competitive and equality based practices, the TV media industry is not reflective of a free market system, but smacks of socialism. Big Brother, anyone?
Lastly, the new trend of health insurance in this country "writing off" and disadvantaging people in their late 70's - 80's is simply disgusting! What are they supposed to do at 80 with failing health and a need for chronic medication? Just be left to die? Is their money not good enough anymore? As someone who cares what happens to my aged mother, this new development just makes me crazy.
In closing, I will leave you with this thought: People will always judge others. Being free means not letting being judged bother you - freedom means being strong enough as a person to see people who judge you for what they are: weak, ignorant, underdeveloped and afraid. That's when you get the chance to show them what you are: above making their mistakes and perpetuating their character flaws. It is by this principle that you realize what was said by Ghandi when he said "Be the change you want to see in the world".