I recently read The Island of the Colour-Blind and Cycad Island by neurologist and writer Dr Oliver Sacks. It is an account of the neurologist’s travels to Pacific Islands to understand medical conditions that have become endemic in these islands and why and how they came to be so. The book is also an exploration of how a multitude of events (often unrelated) and the resulting circumstances affect isolated populations, and the continued impacts on several generations of these communities.
In Australia there is a strong and vitriolic reaction by the media, politicians and public to asylum seekers arriving by boat. These asylum seekers are often described as ‘economic migrants’ and not believed to be ‘genuine refugees’ because they have not come through the official channels. This is despite the fact that official channels for seeking asylum are often inaccessible to people caught in conflict or in fear of persecution, or even non-existent in many of these places.
Human made structures such as the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, the Colosseum, the Great Pyramid, and many others around the world that have lasted through the ages, inspire awe because of their scale, purpose, design, and history. These feats of human imagination and ambition also elicit another kind of awe – of the human cost in building them.
A recent blog post about the killing of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin Was A Floozie provides an insightful analysis of the parallels between the way racism and sexism are perpetuated and cease to be understood as prejudices within society and institutions. The post focuses on some of the arguments surrounding the controversial case in the US and specifically looks at how violence is justified, comparing common defences used in the murder of African-Americans and the rape of women. There are other articles and commentaries such as What should Trayvon Martin have done? that also point out similarities in the treatment of African-American and women victims of violence.
This week I watched the film Cloud Atlas, which is based on the David Mitchell novel of the same name. I recently read the novel and really liked it, so, I wasn’t keen to watch the movie. After all, film versions of much-loved novels rarely live up to expectations.
I was somewhat reluctant to watch it for another reason: I had read that in scenes set in a futuristic dystopian Korea, characters who are supposed to be Korean are played by Caucasian actors made up to look Korean. Why in this day and age would you use Caucasian actors for non-Caucasian characters? In a time when communication and travel between countries and continents is the easiest it has ever been, why couldn’t the film-makers hire actors with the right heritage or ‘look’ for the role?
What are the parallels between the loss of languages and the loss of biodiversity?
In We Haven’t Spoken For All Languages, Claire Bowern discusses the loss of languages around the world and the efforts to catalogue and ‘save’ these dying languages. The loss of languages is a concern as languages are the repository of so much more than just words, grammar and speech. As Bowern eloquently explains: