Giardiose: ma copine giardia lamblia [fr]

[en] My friend giardia lamblia has probably kept me company for a good couple of years. Two antibiotic courses later, looking at a third. If you have any kind of tropical parasitic infection, go see a specialist.

Je dis que giardia lamblia est ma copine parce que ça fait probablement deux ans ou plus qu’on traine ensemble. Oui oui, probablement chopée en Inde, mais ça existe aussi dans nos contrées (chats, chiens, et jeunes enfants).

L’histoire? Je vous la résume, si vous n’avez pas suivi le feuilleton sur Facebook. Début décembre, “gastro” qui tarde à passer. Analyse de selles. Giardiose! Premier traitement. Rechute. Deuxième traitement. Rechute. Médecin spécialiste des maladies tropicales.

Si j’ai un tuyau à vous donner: la prochaine fois que vous avez un truc tropical, allez directement voir un spécialiste.

Des mots dudit spécialiste, c’est une “belle saloperie” pour s’en débarrasser. En fait ça me rassure et me soulage infiniment d’entendre ça. Il confirme que je me balade certainement avec depuis au moins deux ans. Oui, l’intolérance passagère au lactose, c’est ça. Les douleurs, ballonnements, gaz, et diarrhées intermittentes. Moi qui croyais que j’étais un peu trop relax avec le nombre de jour que je gardais mes restes au frigo (ou le nombre d’années au congél).

Semblerait que dans nos contrées, ce sympathique protozoaire soit même responsable de “mauvaises classes” chez les enfants. Celles où ils sont fatigués, pas à leur affaire, absents…

Je n’ai aucune peine à l’imaginer. Depuis des mois voire des années (et maintenant, je me dis “depuis en tous cas octobre 2015”), je me trouve fatiguée, sans énergie, et à la digestion souvent pénible. J’en ai même parlé à mon médecin, on a fait des analyses sanguines, quelques mini-carences, mais rien de profondément anormal. Et c’en est resté là.

On est toujours plus intelligent après: en gros, ça fait probablement deux ans que j’ai une infection parasitaire qui a un impact négatif sur ma capacité à être active dans ma vie. Con, hein.

Ce qui me fait penser ça?

Après le premier traitement (3x250mg de metronidazole par jour pendant 5 jours, un peu léger en première instance semblerait-il) je me suis sentie plus en forme et pleine d’énergie que je ne l’avais été depuis “des siècles”. Digestion nickel, je dormais même pas plus que d’hab, mais j’avais la pêche. Et patatras dix jours plus tard.

J’ai vu quelque part (je ne retrouve plus où) qu’il suffit d’une dizaine de ces bestioles dans un verre d’eau pour vous faire une belle infection.

Deuxième traitement, albendazole (400mg 1x/jour pendant 5 jours, bon choix en deuxième instance selon le spécialiste). Et moins d’une semaine après la fin de ce traitement, me voilà de nouveau HS (vive les vacances de ski).

Au programme:

  • éviter les produits laitiers pendant 2 mois (intolérance passagère aux produits laitiers)
  • si dans 10 jours j’ai toujours des symptômes, commencer mon troisième traitement d’antibios (histoire de se donner une chance que les symptômes soient dus à l’intolérance passagère)
  • troisième traitement, dose de cheval: ornidazole 500 3x/jour pendant 10 jours, qui devrait liquider l’éventuel ami blastocystis aussi.
  • si dix jours après le traitement je pète pas le feu, je retourne et on relance les analyses.

Au-delà de mon propre cas et des conséquences de cette infection sur ma vie (qui est encore à mesurer, une fois que je serai guérie, et que j’aurai un point de repère pour ce qu’est “aller bien”), ce qui me fait vraiment frémir c’est l’impact des infections à large échelle sur des sociétés entières. Si giardia lamblia peut nous donner une “mauvaise classe”, on ose à peine imaginer son impact sur les populations de pays en voie de développement où 30% des gens peuvent être infectés.

Ça ne m’étonne pas d’apprendre qu’elle a été largement négligées jusqu’à il y a peu.

Cette expérience me fait penser à Unrest — de nouveau, on est à une autre échelle de gravité que ce qui m’arrive, mais il y a des parallèles: le mari de la réalisatrice explique à quel point il est délicat d’obtenir de l’aide. Si on dit trop peu, personne ne peut nous aider, et si on en dit trop, on passe vite dans la catégorie “patient psy”.

Que faire avec ces symptômes vagues ou sub-cliniques? J’ai mal au ventre, je suis fatiguée, j’ai des coups de barre digestifs… C’est vrai qu’à force de revenir à la charge avec ces choses qui objectivement ne sont “rien”, on finit aussi par se demander si on imagine des choses.

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Some Podcasts to Listen to [en]

[fr] Des podcasts à écouter.

Here are some episodes I recommend you listen to. There’s more to say, about these, other stuff, and life in general, but it’ll have to do for today.

By the way: if you use the Apple Podcasts app, like me, you probably also cursed the dreadful last update. Amongst other things, there’s no way to see what episodes are in my “play next” queue. I had high hopes when I saw there was a “recently played” list, but at least for me, it’s polluted by dozens of episodes supposedly played “yesterday”, at the top of the list. Thankfully, further down, there are the latest podcasts I’ve actually listened to. Which is something I’ve always wanted to be able to see.

So, here we go. A first batch on sexism and harassment at the workplace (you didn’t think I’d spare you that, did you?). Listen, particularly if you’re a man. Or if you think all this #metoo stuff is way overblown.

Then, about animal rights activists’ craziness. Remember the photographer sued for the “monkey selfie”? Well, listen to all the work he put in before thinking he’s benefitting from “animal labour”. (I’m leaving aside the discussion on the deeply flawed thinking – from a philosophical point of view – that underpins a lot of the antispeciesism animal rights ideology. Francophones might enjoy this piece by lawyer Maître Eolas on animals as subject vs. object of the law.)

99% Invisible is a podcast I didn’t think I’d like. But I do. It’s fascinating. Here’s a selection of stuff I’ve recently listened to, and that you should listen to too:

If you haven’t heard it yet and are up for a serial, you shouldn’t miss S-Town. And one of my favorite podcasts these days is Heavyweight — true stories, true people, going back to where things went wrong and trying to untangle things. Beautiful storytelling.

Happy listening!

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They Chose Tears [en]

[fr] Aimer un animal, c'est choisir les larmes, parce qu'on sait qu'on va le voir mourir.

7 years ago today, Bagha.
In less than two weeks, it will be a year since Tounsi’s death.
I don’t know how long Quintus has got. I hope it’s longer than I fear.

I’m not big on the whole “pet parent”, “rainbow bridge”, and “mommy” thing. My cats are my cats, even though there is a kinship of caring for children and pets. I don’t believe in anything outside of this material world, in any god or afterlife. I’m also not into lengthy quotation posts. But this tale tells a deep truth about loving a pet: it’s choosing tears.

THE LOVING ONES by Anne Kolaczyk

The little orange boy stopped. Behind him, kitties were playing, chasing each other and wrestling in the warm sunshine. It looked like so much fun, but in front of him, through the clear stillness of the pond’s water, he could see his mommy. And she was crying.

He pawed at the water, trying to get at her, and when that didn’t work, he jumped into the shallow water. All that got him was wet and Mommy’s image danced away in the ripples. “Mommy!” he cried.

“Is something wrong?”

The little orange boy turned around. A lady was standing at the edge of the pond, her eyes sad but filled with love. The little orange boy sighed and walked out of the water.

“There’s been a mistake,” he said. “I’m not supposed to be here.” He looked back at the water. It was starting to still again and his mommy’s image was coming back. “I’m just a baby. Mommy said it had to be a mistake. She said I wasn’t supposed to come here yet.”

The kind lady sighed and sat down on the grass. The little orange boy climbed into her lap. It wasn’t Mommy’s lap, but it was almost as good. When she started to pet him and scratch under his chin like he liked, he started to purr. He hadn’t wanted to, but he couldn’t help it.

“I’m afraid there is no mistake. You are supposed to be here and your mommy knows it deep down in her heart,” the lady said. The little orange boy sighed and laid his head on the lady’s leg. “But she’s so sad. It hurts me to see her cry. And daddy too.”

“But they knew right from the beginning this would happen.”

“That I was sick?” That surprised the little orange boy. No one had ever said anything and he had listened when they thought he was sleeping. All he had heard them talk about was how cute he was or how fast he was or how big he was getting.

“No, not that you were sick,” the lady said. “But you see, they chose tears.”

“No, they didn’t,” the little orange boy argued. Who would choose to cry?

The lady gently brushed the top of his head with a kiss. It made him feel safe and loved and warm – but he still worried about his mommy. “Let me tell you a story,” the lady said.

The little orange boy looked up and saw other animals gathering around. Cats – Big Boy and Snowball and Shamus and Abby and little Cleo and Robin. Merlin and Toby and Iggy and Zachary. Sweetie and Kamatte and OBie. Dogs too- Sally and Baby and Morgan and Rocky and Belle. Even a lizard named Clyde and some rats named Saffron and Becky and a hamster named Odo.

They all lay down near the kind lady and looked up at her, waiting.

She smiled at them and began:

A long long time ago, the Loving Ones went to the Angel in Charge. They were lonesome and asked the Angel to help them.

The Angel took them to a wall of windows and let them look out the first window at all sorts of things – dolls and stuffed animals and cars and toys and sporting events.

“Here are things you can love,” the Angel said. “They will keep you from being lonesome.”

“Oh, thank you,” the Loving Ones said. “These are just what we need.”

“You have chosen Pleasure,” the Angel told them.

But after a time the Loving Ones came back to the Angel in Charge. “Things are okay to love,” they said. “But they don’t care that we love them.”

The Angel in Charge led them over to the second window. It looked out at all sorts of wild animals. “Here are animals to love,” he said. “They will know you love them.”

So the Loving Ones hurried out to care for the wild animals.

“You have chosen Satisfaction,” the Angel said.

Some of the Loving Ones worked at zoos and wild animal preserves, some just had bird feeders in their yards, but after a time they all came back to the Angel in Charge.

“They know we love them,” they told the Angel. “But they don’t love us back. We want to be loved in return.”

So the Angel took them to the third window and showed them lots of people walking around, hurrying places. “Here are people for you to love,” the Angel told them.

So the Loving Ones hurried off to find other people to love.

“You have chosen Commitment,” the Angel said.

But after a time a lot of Loving Ones came back to the Angel in Charge.

“People were okay to love,” they said. “But sometimes they stopped loving us and left. They broke our hearts.”

The Angel just shook his head. “I cannot help you,” he said. “You will have to be satisfied with the choices I gave you.”

As the Loving Ones were leaving, someone saw a window off to one side and hurried to look out. Through it, they could see puppies and kittens and dogs and cats and lizards and hamsters and ferrets. The other Loving Ones hurried over.

“What about these?” they asked.

But the Angel just tried to shoo them away. “Those are Personal Empathy Trainers,” he said. “But there’s a problem with their system operations.”

“Would they know that we love them?” someone asked.

“Yes,” the Angel said.

“Would they love us back?” another asked.

“Yes,” the Angel said.

“Will they stop loving us?” someone else asked.

“No,” the Angel admitted. “They will love you forever.”

“Then these are what we want,” the Loving Ones said.

But the Angel was very upset. “You don’t understand,” he told them. “You will have to feed these animals.”

“That’s all right,” the Loving Ones said.

“You will have to clean up after them and take care of them forever.”

“We don’t care.”

The Loving Ones did not listen. They went down to where the Pets were and picked them up, seeing the love in their own hearts reflected in the animals’ eyes.

“They were not programmed right,” the Angel said.

“We can’t offer a warranty. We don’t know how durable they are. Some of their systems malfunction very quickly, others last a long time.”

But the Loving Ones did not care. They were holding the warm little bodies and finding their hearts so filled with love that they thought they would burst.

“We will take our chances,” they said.

“You do not understand.” The Angel tried one more time. “They are so dependent on you that even the most well-made of them is not designed to outlive you. You are destined to suffer their loss.”

The Loving Ones looked at the sweetness in their arms and nodded. “That is how it should be. It is a fair trade for the love they offer.”

The Angel just watched them all go, shaking his head. “You have chosen Tears,” he whispered.

“So it is,” the kind lady told the kitties. “And so each mommy and daddy knows. When they take a baby into their heart, they know that one day it will leave them and they will cry.”

The little orange boy sat up. “So why do they take us in?” he asked.

“Because even a moment of your love is worth years of pain later.”

“Oh.” The little orange boy got off the lady’s lap and went back to the edge of the pond. His mommy was still there, and still crying. “Will she ever stop crying?” he asked the kind lady.

She nodded. “You see, the Angel felt sorry for the Loving Ones, knowing how much they would suffer. He couldn’t take the tears away but he made them special.”

She dipped her hand into the pond and let the water trickle off her fingers. “He made them healing tears, formed from the special water here. Each tear holds bits of all the happy times of purring and petting and shared love. And the promise of love once again. As your mommy cries, she is healing. “It may take a long while, but the tears will help her feel better. In time she will be less sad and she will smile when she thinks of you. And then she will open her heart again to another little baby.”

“But then she will cry again one day,” the little orange boy said.

The lady just smiled at him as she got to her feet. “No, she will love again. That is all she will think about.” She picked up Big Boy and Snowball and gave them hugs, then scratched Morgan’s ear just how she liked.

“Look,” she said. “The butterflies have come. Shall we go over to play?”

The other animals all ran ahead, but the little orange boy wasn’t ready to leave his mommy. “Will I ever get to be with her again?”

The kind lady nodded. “You’ll be in the eyes of every kitty she looks at. You’ll be in the purr of every cat she pets. And late at night, when she’s fast asleep, your spirit will snuggle up close to her and you both will feel at peace. One day soon, you can even send her a rainbow to tell her you’re safe and waiting here for when it’s her turn to come.”

“I would like that,” the little orange boy said and took one long look at his mommy. He saw her smile slightly through her tears and he knew she had remembered the time he almost fell into the bathtub. “I love you, Mommy,” he whispered. “It’s okay if you cry.” He glanced over at the other pets, running and playing and laughing with the butterflies. “Uh, Mommy? I gotta go play now, okay? But I’ll be around, I promise.”

Then he turned and raced after the others.

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Le ronron du vieux chat [fr]

Dimanche 23h

Je voulais me coucher tôt, parce que demain sonnez clairons à 5h pour aller à Fribourg, après près de 10 jours de maladie.

Mais je ne dors pas, parce que sitôt la lumière éteinte avec Quintus contre moi, j’ai fondu en larmes, parce que bien sûr, si je suis en train d’apprendre tout ce sur quoi je peux mettre la main au sujet du diabète félin, de surveiller sa glycémie comme un aigle, de me demander comment je vais gérer les injections d’insuline à 6h et 18h tous les jours, c’est bien pour ne pas sentir combien je suis triste à la perspective de perdre Quintus.

L’anniversaire de la mort de Tounsi approche à grands pas, et je suis tout sauf sereine face à son absence qui s’éternise.

Aujourd’hui Quintus aurait pu faire une hypo. Il en a peut-être fait une, petite, sans signes cliniques. Hier et samedi soir j’ai veillé pour vérifier qu’il ne descendait pas trop bas, et frémi en voyant les mesures se rapprocher des valeurs préoccupantes. Je l’ai trouvé fatigué aujourd’hui. Hier aussi. Peut-être ce grand huit de la glycémie qu’il nous a fait. Il y aurait de quoi. C’est plus facile d’imaginer qu’un vieux chat va mourir quand il ne fait plus que dormir et semble n’avoir plus d’énergie.

Alors je ne dors pas. Il a fini par quitter mon lit, boire un peu, il m’a fait peine à voir, il a dû s’y reprendre à deux fois pour trouver sa gamelle, puis il est sorti direction le couloir, où est la nourriture. Je l’y ai amené, j’ai sorti l’écuelle de la gamelle à puce, parce que je commence à voir que ça le retient un peu de manger et que la pâtée un peu sèche ne le dérange nullement.

Après avoir bien mangé, il est revenu d’un pas plus assuré, a sauté sur le lit pour s’installer sur l’oreiller.
Et soudain, alors je m’occupe à ne pas dormir ni trop sentir, j’entends ce bruit régulier que j’avais cherché en vain aujourd’hui et une bonne partie d’hier: il me regarde et il ronronne.

Il n’a pas dit son dernier mot.

Vous pouvez suivre le grand huit de la glycémie en temps réel.

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The Speed of Time [en]

[fr] Réflexion sur le temps au travail et le temps à la maison, les chats malades et l'hiver.

Routine is settling in. As I have mentioned, my time seems to be shrinking. Or speeding up. It’s a good sign when time flies by, but it scares me. I look at my colleagues, some of whom have been in the same position, doing pretty much the same job, for decades — and try to imagine waking up ten years from now, getting up at the same time in the morning, going to the same place, doing the same thing with the same people. This is the life of many, but there’s something scary about it for me.

A year has passed since Tounsi started being ill. It was early November. He had his MRI early December. He died January 1st. It still feels very recent. His ashes are still in a little box in my bookcase — I haven’t felt ready to spread them in the garden yet. I think I should just do it.

Quintus hasn’t been well lately. I took him for a checkup before starting my new job. He has pancreatitis, and developed diabetes as a result. He’s on insulin now (it’s been 10 days) and we are hoping to get the pancreatits under control. He’s been improving, slowly, with a bit of back and forth. But I have to face things: he’s an old cat, going on 17, and we’re lucky he’s still around. I treasure every extra week I get with him, and hope it will be months. But there are no certainties.

And so I face another winter with the prospect of possibly losing a cat. Bagha died just before Christmas, too. I don’t believe in magic, so I’m not scared winter is “more dangerous” for my cats than any other time of the year. But it does mean that I have had some difficult winters — including the one following my mother’s death when I was a child.

My preoccupation with Quintus makes me feel my hours away from home with a particular awareness. My days at work don’t feel long, but my time at home feels short. A week is a handful of waking hours. I’ve become somebody who doesn’t want to spend any more time away from home than absolutely necessary.

My professional ambition right now is a job that allows me to come back home for lunch. That would be just wonderful.

 

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Un chat c’est CHF 2000.- par an [fr]

[en] A rough calculation based on the 20 years of cat-life in my home tell me that in Switzerland, one should budget roughly CHF 2000.- per year and per cat, food and meds included. It's an average. But knowing this might help us see less people in Facebook groups saying they won't spay their cat because it's too expensive (hey, kittens are expensive too!) or can't take their sick cat to the vet because they don't have the money.

En moyenne. Sur une vie de chat. A la louche.

Ça paraît beaucoup, hein?

En faisant ma compta 2016, je me suis amusée à extraire mes frais de vétérinaire. C’était une mauvaise année. La première pancréatite de Quintus, la maladie de Tounsi.

Un jour, au guichet après une consultation, je mentionne le chiffre à l’assistante. Elle n’est pas étonnée. Et elle m’en donne un autre: le montant que j’ai dépensé chez eux, depuis 17 ans que je suis leur cliente.

Alors j’ai fait des calculs. Sur 20 années de vie de chat en moyenne, à la louche, en rajoutant un bout pour les consultations d’urgence hors du cabinet, les spécialistes, le Tierspital. Bagha, Safran, Tounsi, Quintus, Erica, une poignée de chatons. Ça comprend les croquettes (médicalisées parfois) et les médicaments. Les vaccins, les bobos, les grosses maladies, les accidents, les mystères.

Et à la louche, un chat, ce serait sage de budgeter CHF 2000.-/an.

Certes, il y a des années qui ne coûteront pas grand-chose. Et des chats qui ne coûteront pas grand-chose. Une moyenne, c’est une moyenne. Mais je me dis que se rappeler qu’un chat c’est 2000.-/an au budget, ça éviterait les gens qui se plaignent sur Facebook du prix d’une stérilisation (les chatons ça peut coûter cher aussi, en passant), ou qui “n’ont pas les moyens” d’amener leur chat clairement malade chez le vétérinaire.

Le jour où on a un souci sérieux avec un chat, on est vite dans les grosses centaines de francs, et facilement dans les quelques milliers. Il vaut mieux y avoir pensé avant.

Pour ma part, je me dis que deux chats, c’est un nombre sage pour moi.

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Lutter vainement [fr]

[en] The fight against self-scanning systems in supermarkets is... useless.

Cet article devrait être un long article. Et je suis presque en train de ne pas l’écrire à cause de ça. Je repousse. Je suis un peu trop mal réveillée dans le train pour exposer clairement une problématique complexe avec plein de ramifications.

Alors cet article sera incomplet et imparfait et suscitera des réactions que j’aurais voulu prévenir en étant exhaustive dans mes propos. Tant pis.

L’autre jour, je vois passer un appel au boycott des scanners à la Migros. Parce qu’on voudrait pas remplacer les caissières par des machines, quand même. La discussion va bon train sur le mur de la personne tentant de lancer ce mouvement (le lien ci-dessous vous amène directement à mon premier commentaire), puis sur mon propre mur où j’ai partagé l’histoire.

Le manque de perspective historique et de pensée “systémique” dans ce genre de discussion me consterne. Durant la révolution industrielle, les luddites n’ont pas réussi à stopper l’avancée de la technologie en brisant les machines. Le plus gros employeur de Stockholm n’est plus la fabrique de glace, et nous avons l’électricité et des réfrigérateurs dans nos foyers. Les lavandières ont disparu. Le conducteurs de fiacre aussi. Nous avons tous un téléphone portable, même ceux qui ont dit “moi, jamais”.

Personne ne contrôle les avancées technologiques et les bouleversements sociétaux qui vont avec. Tout au plus pouvons-nous exercer une influence. Je prends le parti de mettre mon énergie là où sa dépense n’est pas futile.

Je reproduis ici mon commentaire initial et quelques autres extraits choisis.

Grand angle: le monde change, en permanence, et la technologie a toujours remplacé les humains (tout en ouvrant d’autres possibilités). On ne voit plus de conducteurs de fiacres, qu’on peut imaginer s’étant soulevés contre l’invasion des voitures. Il n’y a plus de fabriques de glace, avec son réseau de livraison: à Stockholm, la fabrique de glace, plus gros employeur de la ville, s’est battue pour interdire l’électricité dans les ménages privés, car cela permettait aux gens d’avoir des frigos et ça les rendait obsoletes.
Grand angle aussi: alors que certains métiers disparaissent, que fait-on (au niveau société) pour requalifier/réorienter/former les personnes qui en font les frais? C’est là qu’il fait mettre de l’énergie, plutôt que dans un boycott aussi futile qu’inutile, qui s’apparente au « clictivisme » tant décrié.
Je vais aller déterrer le reportage sur la fabrique de glace et un autre sur la prise en main (aux USA, imaginez!) des travailleurs dont le métier disparaît.
Et regarder quelqu’un qui est à la caisse en se disant « s’il n’y a plus l caisse, que va-t-elle faire? » je trouve ça d’un snobisme insupportable.
Réfléchissons et agissons là où ça a une chance d’avoir un effet, plutôt que de s’agiter vainement. L’absence de perspective historique derrière ce type d’initiative me désole.

 

La technologie a toujours remplacé l’homme. Regardez la révolution industrielle… nous ne vivons plus dans le même monde. Tous les métiers qui pourront être remplacés par des robots (machines) le seront à terme. Restera pour l’humain les tâches cognitives complexes qu’on ne peut ni modéliser ni recréer, et… le relationnel, le lien. Ce qui touche à l’humain.
C’est pour ça, en passant, qu’on fait mieux de mettre notre énergie à défendre un RBI qu’à boycotter des scanners. Les luddites n’ont pas gagné l’histoire.

Notre vision de l’histoire est myope: on regarde « notre » histoire (qu’on appelle le présent) avec beaucoup moins de distance que l’histoire « historique ». Pour les personnes de l’époque, ce qui se passait était très semblable à ce que l’on vit aujourd’hui. Notre présent n’est pas, historiquement, si exceptionnel que ça. Plus proche de nous, les téléphones portables ont rendu quasi inutiles les cabines téléphones. On ne s’est pas ému du sort des gens qui les posaient, parce qu’invisibles (au contraire de la personne à la caisse à qui on dit bonjour en la regardant dans les yeux). Mais ces gens ne posent plus de cabines téléphoniques. Toute l’industrie qui les produisait a rétréci.
Est-ce qu’on va jeter nos smartphones à la poubelle pour recréer ces postes?
Est-ce qu’on va boycotter l’e-banking et retourner faire la queue au guichet? Idem pour acheter nos billets de trains (pas d’automate, de grâce, pensez à la personne qui gagne sa vie en vendant les billets au guichet!)
Ce que nous vivons ici est complètement banal, historiquement, et l’histoire nous dit comment ça finit.

En Inde, il y a près de vingt ans, j’ai été choquée de voir des gens sous le soleil brûlant à casser des cailloux au bord de la route. Je disais “mais y’a des machines pour ça! c’est les travaux forcés, ce que font ces gens!” — et on me répondait: oh, mais si on les remplace par des machines, ils vont faire quoi comme travail, ces pauvres gens?
C’est comme ça qu’on justifie l’exploitation de son prochain…

Je doute qu’une action concertée, toute pleine de bonnes intentions soit-elle, est capable d’avoir un poids plus fort que les avantages qu’amène une innovation technologique.
Et je pense aussi que l’innovation gagne toujours et a toujours gagné, tout au cours de l’histoire. Plutôt que lutter contre le courant et l’avancée inéluctable du “progrès” (je déteste ce terme car il y a un jugement de valeur), je préfère me pencher sur comment on va “faire avec” ce nouveau monde que nous créons au fil du temps.

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On Anger, Harassment, Sadness, Forgiveness, and Outrage [en]

[fr] C'est tellement plus compliqué que "les hommes bien, les porcs sexistes". C'est tellement facile de se donner sans retenue à la colère qui rejette en bloc, de juger les autres sur le pire acte qu'ils ont commis, aveugles au fait qu'on vient de passer de l'autre côté du miroir.

My heart sank when I read Quinn’s post. I’ve known, since the outing of a string of VCs, that soon it would be not just people who were one step away, or direct connections I had scant contact with, but also people I knew and liked.

Francine expresses what I feel the best. I’m not as close to the Scoble family as she is, of course. But I like Robert. We used to bump into each other at conferences. I’ve followed his struggles these last years from afar. I’ve met Maryam a couple of times.

The second part of Quinn’s post really resonates with me. About restorative justice. About not demonising people who do bad things. I’ve written about this, obliquely. Sadly, the pile-on in online media is going to be about “yet another tech pundit sexually harassing women”.

So, here are a few thoughts.

Sexism and harassment need to be fought

Does anybody have a doubt about this? The question is how. I see three levels: culture, institutions, people. You cannot deal with one without dealing with the others.

  • Culture is the way we raise children. Movies. Billboards. What is “socially acceptable”.
  • Institutions are laws, processes, systems that promote gender inequality.
  • People are humans who make choices and behave in certain ways.

Using a broad brush here. But these are the three levels at which I see we can act.

Everybody does bad things

People are fallible. People are broken. People can be trapped in behaviours they fail to change. Being a victim sucks. Being an abuser sucks too. I’m not putting them on the same level: but there is a difference to be made between a psychopath and somebody who hurts others as a way to survive, or because they don’t know any better. (And… it isn’t even that clear-cut for psychopaths.)

Systematic lynching of all Bad People (TM) (otherwise known as Good People who do Bad Things) will get us nowhere. Yelling at people who are trying to mend their ways, imperfectly, telling them apologies are not enough when apologies are already a hugely difficult step, will get us nowhere.

I get the anger. I cannot stand behind the outrage. It’s easy to be angry and club people to death. One thing to learn, when learning about one’s anger, is that anger is often anger that cuts people out. It’s much harder to be angry and continue caring. And stick around. When anger means outright rejection, then that is all the more reason to stay silent and hidden.

We are judging people based on the worst thing they have done. Now think of the worst thing you have done. Does it define you?

(I know I’m going to be lynched here for “defending the perpetrator”. So be it.)

People’s actions have context

We don’t exist in a vacuum. Powerful men who harass women do it because the institutions and culture enable it. It doesn’t make them blameless, far from it. But just as we women have to fight against a system that puts us in a place we don’t like, so do men. And that place might very well be the place of power and abuse.

I think we are well aware of the systemic issue here. I would like to question how much going after individuals really solves the systemic issue. It’s a real question.

Nobody is a harasser 

This is something that became very clear to me I was harassed a few years ago (not sexually, counting my blessings, but it was bad enough). The main perpetrator in my story did not see his behaviour as abusive, or see himself as harassing me. He saw himself as the victim. He was an ally of women. He was defending himself against me.

Nobody is ever the Bad Guy, in their eyes.

Coming to terms with the fact one is an abuser requires a 180 flip in how one sees oneself. It is no easy feat. Just as you can’t convince an anti-vaxxer that vaccines are safe by pounding your fist on the table and telling them to open their eyes and look at the science, which will only entrench them more in their beliefs, I don’t think publicly shaming people is the final answer to getting them to recognise their bad behaviour.

This should also be a cautionary tale to us when we feel justified in our anger and outrage. Anger is useful. I often encourage people to use their anger when something bad is being done to them. Anger is what will help you slap in the face the guy who put his hand on your butt. Anger is what will give you power to stand up, walk to HR and put your fist on the table to say “this is not OK and has to stop”.

But when anger leads to outrage over situations you are not part of, when you pile on Justine Sacco because she deserves it or on a “sexist pig” because he deserves to see his life destroyed, on which side of the harassment divide are you?

Trauma doesn’t have to destroy you

The fact I feel like I have to keep on saying “this is not what I’m saying” is testimony to how trigger-ready many are on these topics. But I’ll still say it: this is not me telling victims to “just get over it already”.

But.

Trauma, in a way, is a part of life. It sucks all the more when it was wilfully inflicted upon you by another person. But it doesn’t have to destroy you. Or define you.

I have thankfully never been raped. Of course, #metoo, I’ve had to swat away unwelcome hands or back off from grinding groins (wonder why I don’t like the dancefloor? look no further). I’ve stayed speechless in the face of comments on my sex life from colleagues or “friends” – though lately, each time less speechless, as I’ve decided to strive towards a zero-tolerance policy for casual everyday sexism around me. Easier said than done, but getting there.

My mother died when I was 10. This trauma was not anybody’s fault, granted. It’s had an impact on my life. Contributed to making me who I am. More or less broken like everyone, more or less functional despite it.

Many things that happen to us in life shouldn’t happen. We must work towards preventing those we can – and lecherous men in positions of power are definitely on that list. But we must work also on not letting trauma take over our lives and reduce us to a heap of fuming outrage.

Nothing is unforgivable

I talked about apologies earlier. Forgiveness is the other side of the coin. My title is provocative: you’re all thinking of things are unforgivable.

Remember when Snape kills Dumbledore? He uses an unforgivable curse. And it is an unforgivable curse. But is what he did unforgivable?

I would like to make a distinction between something being unforgivable and something one cannot forgive.

There are things people have done to me that I cannot forgive. I have broken (a handful) of friendships because of such situations. But these are not unforgivable actions per se. They are actions that I am unable to forgive.

Apologies are important. Because an important ingredient enabling forgiveness is the recognition by the perpetrator of the harm done. Apologies may be hollow, or insufficient. But they are necessary.

I am not saying we have to forgive everything. And we are not all Hector Black. But our world needs more compassion and forgiveness, and less outrage. When I say we need compassion and forgiveness, I’m not saying we should leave anger aside. Anger is there. But we can choose how to use it.

What else?

There is more to say, and I will certainly say more. My feeling right now is largely of sadness. Sad for my friend and his family, sad for the hurt he caused, sad for all the broken people we are, sad for the broken system we are caught in, sad for the deafening outrage, drowning out the much more difficult conversations that need to be had.

If you’re going to comment: please leave your outrage at the door.

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Why I Get My Flu Shot Each Year [en]

[fr] En très résumé, les raisons pour lesquelles je me fais vacciner chaque année contre la grippe (reprise de mon article en français sur la question). Je suis à risque pour des complications (dès que je chope un rhume ça vire en bronchite), je ne tiens pas à me retrouver HS durant trois semaines à cause d'un vilain virus (je suis déjà bien assez souvent malade comme ça), et je considère que c'est ma responsabilité de citoyenne de faire ce que je peux pour enrayer la propagation du virus (il ne passera pas par moi!) et protéger les personnes "à risque" dans mon entourage.

Surtout, j'explique un peu la grippe: ce n'est pas le truc qu'on appelle d'habitude la grippe, et qui est en fait le rhume. (Confusion? y'a de quoi.) La grippe, c'est un truc qu'on chope en moyenne 2-3 fois dans sa vie. Je crois que je ne l'ai jamais eue, et pourtant, dieu sait si j'ai été malade (parfois durant des semaines).

Years ago, when we ended up with a separate vaccine for H1N1, I wrote an article in French summarizing my personal research on the topic of flu vaccinations: I’d decided I would be getting the flu shot.

Aside from the fact that I’m still amazed when I realise otherwise rational people think vaccines are a Bad Thing (listen to the great Science Vs Vaccines podcast episode for some debunking of common fears), here are some of the arguments that made me come to the conclusion that I was going to get vaccinated against influenza.

First, it’s important to understand what the flu is. It’s not this thing people routinely catch and call the “flu”. What we usually call the flu is in fact one of the many flavours of the common cold. You feel crappy, you might even be off work for a week, you get a fever, your nose is all stuffy, you might even have trouble breathing if, like me, you get bronchitis. I’ve been out of order for three weeks due to bronchitis developed over the common cold. If you’re falling ill, stay in bed two days, and then you’re over it, it wasn’t the flu. It was the common cold.

Why is this important? Well, the flu and the cold are different families of viruses. Getting vaccinated against the flu will not prevent you from catching a cold or bronchitis. Also, there are high chances you are underestimating how nasty the flu actually is.

On average, you are likely to get the flu two or three times in your life. I don’t think I’ve personally ever caught it in my adult life – though I have been ill with various colds and bronchitis (very miserable ones too) dozens and dozens of times. At one point I would fall ill every month in winter. Really. I’d get over two weeks of sniffling and coughing misery, feel on the mend for two weeks, and then start all over again. And it wasn’t the flu.

The flu is a disease that kills every year (numbers are tricky to compute because the direct cause of death is often the opportunistic bacterial infection that takes hold over an organism weakened by the virus). It’s the virus that had my mechanic, a super-healthy-never-ill strapping 45-year-old, off work for two weeks and unable to work “normally” for a month and a half. And he’s self-employed: as all independants know, we work even when we’re sick, because no work = no money. So him being off work so long is a testimony to how incapacitated he was.

Now that we’re clear about what the flu is and isn’t: should one get the shot?

Vaccination is risk management. And the human brain is super crap at risk management. You can’t really use your gut for it, because your gut is designed to keep you from getting eaten by wild beasts or falling off cliffs: present and immediate dangers. So, we’re going to have to be rational about this. Here are some guiding questions:

  • is being off work for three weeks (average time to get over the flu) a risk you’re ready to take? the answer to this will vary a lot depending on your professional situation.
  • are you at risk for complications? ie, do you have asthma, a weak immune system, a heart condition, or like me, a tendency to catch any upper respiratory tract infection that is lying around? chances are your doc has told you if you are, but it might be worth checking. If you are at risk for complications, catching the flu may have consequences more dire for you than for the average person. It may not be a risk you should be willing to take.
  • are you in contact with people who cannot get vaccinated, or who are at risk of complications? if you are, then you might want to reduce the risk of passing on the flu to them – by reducing the risk of catching it yourself.

The flu vaccine usually offers coverage around 70-90%. Less than some other vaccines, but still much more than zero.

In my case, once I thought about it, it’s a no-brainer: even though I’m not medically “at risk” enough to be provided with the shot free of cost here in Switzerland my doc has been pretty clear that in the event of me catching the flu, things were not going to be pretty. Plus, as somebody who is self-employed and already falls ill regularly, I’d rather not run the risk of being off work more than necessary. Not to mention the social responsability of contributing to herd immunity and doing my part to prevent the epidemic from spreading through me.

If you decide it makes sense to get vaccinated against the flu, then it also makes sense to get vaccinated each year. Unless your circumstances change dramatically, if catching the flu is not an acceptable risk for you this year, why would it be so next year? Bear in mind your chances of catching the flu are a handful of times in a lifetime – so only by getting the flu shot every year for a significant number of years do you get to reap the benefits. You can’t know in advance which year the nasty virus will try to crawl into your lap.

Time for me to go get that shot!

[PS: Comments refuting vaccine safety or efficiency will be deleted without pity. It’s not something I’m interesting in debating: the scientific consensus is quite clear.]

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Grand moment de solitude [fr]

Minuit moins quart. Je suis rentrée tard, mais c’est samedi soir, ça va encore.

Je suis accoudée sur mon lit, téléphone à la main, chat presque contre moi. Il est temps de me lever pour me mettre vraiment au lit. Je vais lire un peu et dormir sans trop tarder.

Seulement, quand j’essaie de changer de position, je ne peux pas. Mon bassin est un océan de douleur paralysante. Changer ne serait-ce que la répartition du poids entre mon coude et ma hanche est un calvaire. J’essaie de plier légèrement la jambe: n’y pensons pas.

Quinze longues minutes plus tard, j’ai péniblement réussi à me coucher sur le dos.

Il me faudra quinze minutes supplémentaires et pas mal de serrage de dents pour me retrouver sur mes pieds, pliée comme une petite vieille, accrochée à la table de nuit – mais « debout ». Je tremble comme une feuille: froid, peur, choc?

Je me redresse tant bien que mal. Je fais quelques pas en m’accrochant aux murs. Que faire? Prendre des médicaments? Un bain chaud? Essayer de bouger? Au contraire, surtout ne pas bouger? Me mettre au lit et prier?

Je suis raide comme un bâton, pendue à un fil. J’aimerais aller aux WC mais je n’arrive plus à m’asseoir. J’aimerais voir ce que j’ai comme médicaments mais je n’arrive pas à me pencher pour ouvrir le tiroir. A tout hasard, je sors la clé de ma serrure. On sait jamais. Je m’accroche à mon téléphone, point de contact avec le monde.

Vais-je pouvoir aller travailler lundi? Ma tête fait le tour des plans de contingence en cas de catastrophe.

Vivre seul a plein d’avantages. Je ne range que mon propre bordel. J’ai toujours mon espace vital. Je fais ce que je veux à peu près quand je le veux.

Il y a des désavantages, aussi: je paie toutes les factures. Quand je rentre du travail, les courses ne sont jamais faites, le repas n’est jamais prêt. Toutes les décisions reposent sur mes épaules.

Et les frayeurs médicales arrivent toujours au milieu de la nuit. Être mal, effrayé, et seul, c’est vraiment misérable, comme situation. Je connais bien le numéro de la centrale des médecins de garde.

J’hésite à l’appeler, mais j’ai des scrupules à deranger l’infirmière de garde parce que je n’arrive pas à m’asseoir.

Heureusement, une copine infirmière est encore debout. Un paracétamol, un ibuprofène, un patch anti-inflammatoire et une heure plus tard, je peux précautionneusement me mettre au lit avec un coussin chauffant en bas du dos. J’ai pu aller aux WC.

Je vois ma physio mercredi.

[PS pour les curieux: très certainement l’articulation sacro-iliaque, et la suite du feuilleton faisant suite à mon accident de judo d’il y a 18 mois. Je suis entre de bonnes mains.]

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