Category Archives: Society

Imagine

Imagine being China.

Imagine being able to celebrate a new year with more fireworks than Pearl Harbor whilst not having to worry about scaring any pet dogs.

Imagine being able to have internet policies so opposite to the mantra of ‘Do No Evil’ that Google refuses to do business in your country.

Imagine being able to side with fascists in Iran, North Korea, Myanmar (Burma) and Sudan with absolute impunity.

Imagine being able to use child labour because iPhone users and LED Television viewers are prepared to ignore this fact as long as they have fancy consumer electronics.

Imagine being able to recolonise Africa by bribing high ranking government officials so that when all is said and done you own the majority of the world’s mineral resources.

Imagine being able to execute more people yearly than all other nations combined, especially the pesky political opposition to your regime.

Imagine if this New Year China resolved to be a better country. They won’t, but it’s nice to imagine.

My Personality Begs to Differ

I’m no Orthopaedic Surgeon but I have a bone to pick with Ndumiso Ngcobo. This past Sunday the teacher turned blogger turned Times columnist focused his attention on some of his best friends, doctors.

In essence Ngcobo asserts that doctors have no personality. That we are as bland as rice cakes or the people who write Sunday columns for the slow dying print media. Some colleagues have assured me that Ndumiso is merely being tongue in cheek, call it professional disagreement but my diagnosis is head up arse.

In his article, which you can find here, Ngcobo descbribes how his mother would have liked him to become a medical practitioner, a feat prevented only by his own laziness. Then again life can pass you by while in a comfy armchair from which you criticize the world.  Failing to discover a medical career Ndumiso is now forced to suffer being surrounded by several doctors clamouring for his attention whilst making bad jokes and worse dinner conversation.

Mr Ngcobo’s assertion is that “one can either choose to have a charming personality or get a medical degree. Not both”. He goes on to say that we can’t be funny and aren’t good looking. Someone please let Riaad Moosa and Michael Mol know of this revelation. I will concede that when doctors get together the conversation is often medical. Just like whenever there’s a doctor at the table everyone without medical training forgets their boundaries and thinks it’s acceptable to ask about their genital discharge.

Then again I really shouldn’t be offended. Not only is Ndumiso Ngcobo’s theory as flawed as the plot in a Twilight film, but his best work from this past week will be in a bin by Tuesday. My best work, and that of my colleagues, gets to celebrate another birthday.

iPerspective

Pancreatic Cancer is the 8th leading cause of Cancer death in the world. This past week the media reported on two men who died from the disease. Barring alien abduction there is very little chance anyone reading this does not know about one of the men who succumbed to the disease. Of course I am referring to Steve Jobs, but you knew that already.

Since word of his death first broke news and social networks have been packed with nothing else. At the peak of the postings an estimated 10 000 tweets were being sent per second. This breaks the previous record set by the earth shatteringly important announcement of Beyoncé’s pregnancy. At last count more than 2.8 million tweets had been sent relating to the death of the digital mogul with up to 5.9% of all tweets sent on Thursday containing the word ‘Apple’.

Since there are already an estimated 500 000 articles eulogising Mr. Jobs I’ll refrain from telling you all about the man who made it possible to keep an entire music library in your pocket, or to study ornithology by launching birds at three little pigs. Indeed Steve was many of the wonderful things people are saying about him. He was a visionary. He was a pioneer. He was the leader of the most profitable computer company in history.

It is true that the iPod, iPhone and iPad have had a massive impact on the way we use electronic devices and how we interact with the world on a daily basis. Some have said that Jobs changed the world, as if we wouldn’t have digital music players, smart phones and tablet computers without him. Perhaps the form of certain gadgets would be different but there is little doubt that most of the technology which exists today would still have been invented, with or without one man.

Regardless of whether you believe that Steve Jobs succeeded at Apple solely to make you happy in your skinny jeans or simply to make shareholders very rich, there is something very wrong with the way in which society has reacted to his death compared to that of the other man who died of Pancreatic Cancer.

Ralph Steinman, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine, passed away largely unnoticed mere days before being awarded the honour. Steinman discovered and named ‘dendritic cells’ which form part of the innate immune system and are integral in identifying antigens. Effectively these cells recognise markers of a foreign substance in the body, from bacteria to viruses to poisons, and act as a biological trumpeter ensuring mobilisation of a cellular military force.

Much of the research Professor Steinman conducted aimed to understand and even manipulate the way the body’s immune system attacked foreign invaders. He researched HIV/AIDS this way and even treated his own Cancer ultimately prolonging his life. His discoveries will be instrumental for centuries and perhaps millennia because they form a building block on which the fight and cure of any disease is based.

In times past society made heroes out of people who stepped on the moon, transplanted hearts and surmised theories on relativity. Today our heroes are pregnant singers and Forbes Billionaires. The untimely death of Jobs and Steinman should give us one final gift from two talented people – perspective.

We Are The Bigger Person

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or were so mesmerized by living next to one largely resembling a piece of dining room furniture, Thursday the 8th of September was a big day for South African news. Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa released crime statistics, some of which were improved, some of which were worse, and none of which took into account the FIFA Soccer World Cup and its associated Police presence. In addition President Zuma confirmed Mogoeng Mogoeng as the Chief Justice despite an outcry from many different corners of our society, including shower manufacturers who feel that you just can’t wash off the guilt of raping our constitution.

However, in amongst all of these issues which influence life in South Africa on a daily basis and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future, the biggest story of the day must have been Darren Scott. At least that’s how it seemed amongst the Twitterati, whom despite being called mere “shrill” voices by the Sunday Times are seemingly more and more influential in the level of exposure any particular news story will receive.

It was with much interest that I watched as the story slowly leaked yesterday and then exploded this morning with the strength of a Die Hard film trying to upstage Transformers. If you aren’t aware of the background essentially the now former Jacaranda radio DJ called a colleague the “k word” at a team building event. There are other details to the story but these are irrelevant because any argument based on prejudice is ridiculous before it even begins. There is no justification to Scott’s actions. It is as simple as that.

The response from the public was swift, with a massive wave of criticism and only a few silly individuals attempting to defend the vocabulary of Scott. Scott himself almost immediately apologised and confirmed that he had resigned from his position at Jacaranda. It would appear that both of these actions are sincere acts of contrition even though there have been attempts by commentators to say otherwise. Indeed it is remarkable that in our country with all of its challenges, not least of which are crime and a poor Chief Justice, just one pseudo celebrity can embolden so many to suddenly become such voracious blood thirsty creatures.

My opinion on the racial slur is clear but more important is my opinion on South Africa. We live in a country full of complexities. A country of different races, religions, cultures, sexual orientations, languages and so much more. There is however one common thread amongst us and that is our ability to forgive. In this example we have someone who made a terrible mistake. He has apologised and had also lost his job, a large portion of his income and undoubtedly his status in society. You don’t have to like Darren Scott, admittedly he has lost a fan in me, but a true South African forgives because as a nation built on this notion we more than most know that to err is human but to forgive is divine.