Kanthan's Blog

Racist emoji

Unicode 1F595, more commonly known as the middle finger emoji.

Have you ever heard someone says something that sounded completely outrageous, and you turned around to see a smile on their face and heaved a sigh of relief?

Humans rely on a wide range of signals to communicate with each other, and most of these are non-verbal: What we say is modified by pitch and loudness of voice, body language, hand gestures, and facial expression.

Written communication has none of those signals, so letter writing was very formal and structured to avoid miscommunication:

"Dear so and so...

Yes, but is it paedophilia?

Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet depicted in this oil on canvas by Ford Madox Brown circa 1869. Juliet is 13 years old in the play.

Even after his death, there continues to be outrage — deserved, in my opinion — around Jeffrey Epstein's 36 recorded counts of sexual abuse. Some of his victims were 14 years old.

But this is 2020, and even well-meaning people commenting on the matter get taken to task, for example, this:

Some thoughts on GDP

Countries_by_GDP_(Nominal)_in_2014

World economies by GDP (nominal) in USD / Ali Zifan / CC0

I was asked a question: "Would I be right in saying GDP is not always a good indicator of an economy?"

My response: "GDP is an important piece of a larger puzzle which should never be looked at in isolation."

Here's a brief explainer:

GDP (gross domestic product) is the value of services provided and goods produced in a year.

My grandfather

A V Govender

Aranchalam Velayudam Govender

My grandfather was born 16 December 1903. Twenty four hours later, the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane.

In 1914 when he was 10 years old, World War I broke out. When it ended in 1918, he was 14. 22 million people were dead

From 1918 until the time he turned 16 in 1920, Spanish Flu broke out. 50 million people died. He started work.

Rats and dogs

African Giant Pouched Rat from Wikimedia
African Giant Pouched Rat / Laëtitia Dudous / Wikimedia Commons

Can dogs be trained to sniff out Covid-19?

Medical Detection Dogs, a UK NGO founded in 2008 on the premise that dogs can be trained to sniff out diseases, is hoping this is the case.

They are working in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University. This team recently collaborated to successfully prove that dogs can be trained to detect malaria.

Smoking killjoys

A tobacco shop sign in Italy

A tobacco shop sign in Italy / Lucarelli / Wikimedia Commons

In Italy, cigarettes and other tobacco products in that country can only be sold by designated tobacco shops called "tabacchi".

These outlets are ubiquitous and easily recognisable by very distinct blue sign with a large 'T' and the words 'sali tabacchi, valori bollati'.

The "sali" part goes back to days when salt was a government controlled monopoly. That's no longer the case for salt, but tobacco still is.

Day 6: The political game-changer

Lindiwe Sisulu with Mike Pompeo in New York, 2018
Lindiwe Sisulu, then South African Foreign Minister, meeting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York City, 2018

Many people have noticed that the Ramaphosa government has quite efficiently been rolling out water supplies to communities following the declaration of the Covid-19 State of Disaster.

Not only water supplies; provisions for emergency housing in the form of tents or other makeshift shelters as well as increased shelters for potential victims of domestic violence has also swiftly been deployed.

So many of us have been asking, if government was capable of doing this all along, why was this not done earlier?

Day 5: Beware the police state

Nurses in Welkom getting shot at by police
Nurses in Welkom getting shot at by police for protesting the lack of resources at Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom / Leeto Nthoba / Twitter

Just a brief, philosophical note today on Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778), Genevan philosopher, writer and composer.

Rousseau was famously against property rights. I quote:

Day 4: Covid-19 crisis will prove to be the death rattle of the EU

Health Checks in Italy airport
Civil Protection volunteers carrying out health checks at Italy's Guglielmo Marconi Airport / Dipartimento Protezione Civile from Italia

Italy, country of my eldest daughter's birth and home to some of my dearest friends, has borne the brunt of Covid-19 tragedies thus far.

As I write this, 812 people have died in the past 24 hours pushing the death toll to 11 591.

There will be much speculation in the years ahead as to why the virus's impact has been so devastating in that country, but put that aside for now.

Day 3: Check your privilege; seriously

South Africa GDP 2010-2020
South Africa GDP (official exchange rate) 2010-2020 / World Bank data via tradingeconomics.com

As pictures roll in from around the country of our urban masses crammed into peri-urban slums (which we sanctimoniously refer to as informal settlements), many of us have taken to sharing sentiments about how privileged we are to be relatively safe within our middle-class and upper-class dwellings.

Privileged? No. At best, we are lucky.