I’ve ventured beyond the local supermarket, pharmacy and supermarkets once since isolation started. Last week, though, the time came when things had to be done, so I planned where I had to go, loaded up with sanitiser and prepared to social distance my way through town.
And, sure enough, that person I would be happy to never see again walked past me in two different places that I had to visit.
I saw them, but pretended I didn’t. All those years of experience as an actor paid off yet again. They looked at me, and I looked right through them like they weren’t there.
The first time I thought it was a fluke. The second time, I wondered.
My skin crawling and my stomach roiling, all the while reassuring myself that it was just coincidence and doubting that at the same time, I completed the rest of my essential errands looking over my shoulder, and then got out of dodge as soon as I could.
I would like to think it won’t always be that way, but I guess there are some things you can’t sanitise. Trauma will do that.
Staying out of town definitely has an upside.
I am safe at home, in more ways than one. I don’t have to watch my back, and I don’t have to worry about who is going to walk around the corner or show up in the supermarket aisle.
I know that I won’t have that luxury forever but, while I can, I’m staying home.
The Upside of Isolation #isolation #IsolationLife #IsolationStories #StayingSafe #StayHome #SaferAtHome
The most ironic thing I’ve seen recently is people moaning on Facebook about endangering their privacy by downloading the Australian Government CovidSafe app.
The app is designed to make it easier to track and contact people who may have been exposed to the virus through community transfer. I’m good with that. If someone I’ve spent more than fifteen minutes with tests positive, I’d like to know.
Do these people honestly not realise that by signing up for Facebook, they’ve already signed away those kinds of privacy about their data? And if they haven’t adjusted their permissions and settings, half the apps on their phones, including Facebook, already tracks them everywhere they go?
I downloaded the app on Sunday night, when it became available. So far, the only data it could possibly report about me is that I’ve been at home the entire time. Today I might pop out to the shops to pick up something for dinner and a few supplies we need. After that, I’ll just be at home again.
Seriously, anyone who has nothing better to do than spend their valuable time snooping in the data about where I go these days is welcome to it. They’re in for a very boring read.
The irony of #Australians complaining about their privacy on Facebook. #COVIDSafe #Australia #coronavirusaustralia #opinion #blogpost
Yesterday one of my students called another a ‘Philistine’. I know he meant to suggest that his friend was uncultured and ignorant, and that is what many understand the word to mean.
So, being the time-and-knowledge-generous history nerd that I am, I took a break from our study of World War I and explained to my class that what he meant to suggest is not what the Philistines were at all.
The Philistines were a cultured and wealthy civilisation that lived in Canaan between the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and the biblical kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They lived in and between five cities: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. The same region bears the name ‘Palestine’ today – a name derived from the Philistine civilisation. The ancient Philistines enjoyed enough military prowess to hold their own against Lebanon, Syria and Egypt at different times, fighting with spears, straight swords and shields. When not fighting wars, they lived in elaborate buildings and made their own pottery.
It doesn’t really seem consistent with the idea of ignorance, does it?
Sadly, this is not the only case of such name-calling being so ironic.
Barbarian is another term which is used quite wrongly. It’s used to suggest that someone is wild or uncivilised. Historically, the Barbarians were any number of Germanic tribes that moved throughout Europe in what many refer to as ‘The Dark Ages’, even though they weren’t so dark at all.
Really, if you look at them, they don’t look so incredibly different from one another, nor from the folk our history books tell us were our own ancestors. It may surprise you to know that the Barbarian tribes included the Angles, Saxons and Picts who set up shop in Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire and eventually became some of the most devotedly civilised people on earth. The Gauls became the French, the Geats became the Swedes, and the Danes went on to give us Hamlet, pastries and an Australian princess. (Disclaimer: I don’t know if the part about the pastries is true, but they must be called danishes for a reason… right?)
The Vandals, for example, may have left a trail of destruction in Gaul and Iberia, but they only made a bit of a mess of Carthage before taking it as their capital and making extensive renovations. As a military power, they had skill and knowledge – you’ve actually got to hand it to anyone who could not only withstand the power of the Roman Empire, but also hold their own in so many battles over such a long period. And when they weren’t busy fighting the Romans, they were highly cultured, enjoying music and poetry. They conducted a lot of industry and trade in their North African kingdom. It really was not about breaking or ruining stuff at all.
The Goths, oddly enough, did not sit around in dark clothes wearing black makeup. The name “Goth” was derived from ‘Geats’, the tribe famous for its honour and pride in the Anglo-Saxon legend of Beowulf, as told in the oldest English poem in existence.
Map Prepared by Louis Henwood for ‘The History of English’ podcast, episode 42
They actually had sophisticated architecture and beautiful mosaic art. They made and wore intricate gold jewellery. They were farmers, weavers, potters, blacksmiths. They followed intricate burial rites, making sure that the graves always pointed north.
Related to the Goths were the Visigoths, meaning “Goths of the west” who ruled Spain for a couple of centuries. They built churches that still stand today, decorated their buildings with intricate filigree art and stone arches. They were skillful metalworkers and jewellers.
It seems to me that we do history a disservice by misusing these terms in such a way. Connotations are not always the easiest things to track through history, but these seem quite unfair. I suspect that such practice grew out of the fear of anything or anyone different, foreign and/or pagan – a concept with which Western society is still painfully familiar.
By the end of all that, the kids’ eyes had glazed over a bit, and there was a fair bit of smiling and nodding going on. I don’t think they will be calling each other Philistines again, though. So… mission accomplished.
If you’d like to know more about Beowfulf and the Geats, you could listen to a fabulous episode from ‘The History of English’ podcast. It’s a great podcast, and if you’re interested in the development and history of the English language, or the relationships between language, people, and places, you should consider subscribing.
Today I’ve been given a Year 8 Maths class to cover for a teacher who is away.
I struggled with Year 8 Maths when I was in Year 8. I have no hope of appearing to master it now, no matter how good an actress or improviser I may be.
So I advised the class: “I expect you to work quietly and stay focused on your work. If you need help, I strongly advise asking one of your classmates, because I am not going to be of any help to you.”
One boy raised his hand and asked incredulously, “Are you saying you can’t do Year 8 Maths?”
“What I’m saying,” I replied, “Is that my career as a teacher should be an encouragement to anyone who struggles in one area or another. You can be successful, even if something like Maths defies you.”
The strugglers in the class smiled, and everyone settled down to their work. They seem to know what they’re doing.