On my bus journey to work, I usually try to read something. Most of the time I succeed, barring occasional distractions. I either read a book, or an article that I’ve saved on my phone. Recently, I read a few articles that made me wish my bus ride was longer, but not all of what I read was pleasant. Certain stories just require more contemplation than a 15 minute journey will afford. Here are the three that stuck in my head and continued to work my brain long after I’d read them, much like those HIIT workouts that keep burning fat even when you’re sitting on your bottom. Or so I’ve been told.
Story #1: The Good
The French postal service, La Poste, identified two modern dilemmas that needing solving – one financial, one social:
- the decreasing number of letters being sent in today’s digital world, and
- the increasing number of elderly people who live alone.
In a move that has received mixed feedback, they came up with a new service called ‘Veiller sur mes parents,’ or ‘Watch over my parents.’ This allows customers to pay for postal workers to check on their elderly relatives.
The uptake has been positive – about 6,000 elderly people (average age: 82) use the service, which includes weekly visits and a report sent to the family. There is also the option of a 24-hour helpline and alert system.
Critics say that friendly gestures of calling in on the elderly were already happening, for free, by postal workers. But La Poste claim this service is pioneering and much needed when many adult children live far away from their ageing parents. It provides human connection for the elderly and reassurance for their children.
The article made me happy and a little bit sad at the same time.
Story #2: The Bad
Business news website, Business Insider India ran a story on the joint winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics. The piece quickly spread across social media for its choice of headline:
“Indian-American MIT Prof Abhijit Banerjee and wife Esther Duflo win Nobel prize in Economics”
So the headline tells us that Abhijit Banerjee is a professor at MIT, and that he is Indian-American. But all we know of Esther Duflo is ‘wife’. I get that there are different narrative voices in journalism, but this is one perspective that needs to change.
Esther Duflo is also an MIT professor. The article, in fairness, does mention this later on, and that she is French-American, but these details are in relation to a different endeavour, from 2003 (not the Nobel Prize she has just won in 2019), and is again tagged onto her husband’s achievements. The headline also neglects to mention the third member of the winning trio – Michael Kremer, professor at Harvard.
Consider the difference:
“Nobel Economics Prize Goes to Pioneers in Reducing Poverty – Three professors, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, both of M.I.T., and Michael Kremer of Harvard, were honored.” (New York Times)
“American trio win Nobel Economics Prize for work on poverty.” (Agence France-Presse)
“3 economists share Nobel Prize” (NHK World Japan)
Esther Duflo – professor, American, economist, youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences – commented after winning the award: “Showing that it is possible for a woman to succeed and be recognised for success I hope is going to inspire many, many other women to continue working and many other men to give them the respect they deserve.”
Business Insider India – please take note because your bias is showing.
Story #3: The Ugly
Tennis pro Naomi Osaka has been subjected to media scrutiny and controversy over her ‘image’ and racial identity due to her mixed heritage. (She has a Japanese mother and a Haitian father.) The Japanese press question how ‘Japanese’ she is, and often insist she speaks in Japanese, even though she grew up in America and has stated that she prefers to speak in English. Earlier this year, a Japanese noodle company was forced to remove a commercial in which Naomi was depicted with pale skin and light brown hair (so nothing like Naomi at all).
On the day Naomi won the Pan Pacific Open, Japanese comedy duo ‘A Masso’ joked at a live comedy event that Naomi ”needed bleach” because she was “too sunburned.” The audience was not impressed with the ‘comedy’ but Naomi maintained her cool.
Then in a powerful, classy return that has been hailed as a ‘masterclass in public relations,’ Naomi took to Twitter in response to the duo’s nasty comments and plugged Shiseido, for whom she is a brand ambassador, with this winner:
“Too sunburned” lol that’s wild. Little did they know, with Shiseido anessa perfect uv sunscreen I never get sunburned.“
Game, set, match – Osaka.
©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd