Cochlear implants, luddism and unnecessary suffering

If you know someone who wears a cochlear implant, you know what a difference it makes in their quality of life. Yet, research by prof. Huggy Rao of Stanford Business School shows that adoption of the technology was appallingly slow due to cultural resistance:

[…] the deaf rights movement slowed adoption of the cochlear implant—thought of by its makers as a cure for deafness because children who used it could more easily acquire language skills—by painting it as an innovation that presaged the loss of sign language and the destruction of the deaf community. In France, for example, a deaf coalition called Sourds en Colère (Deaf Anger) organized demonstrations against doctors who promoted cochlear implants […] [Deaf rights groups] used unconventional techniques—such as performing mime skits depicting French doctors performing operations on blood-covered children—to arouse public interest.

Recession, adversity, resilience

Media pundits and financial commentators debate whether we are merely in a recession or in a Depression, one of those with a capital D. The debate will go on for a while; yet, how could we ever believe our generation would never get one of the big ones, or more?

I remember oil shocks and terrorism in the 1970s, and the uncertainty and fear of the Years of Lead. Our family moved to Munich just after the Black September massacre; the kidnapping of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades is still a vivid personal memory, strongly intertwined with our family history. Before that, my father had been a child during World War II, and I cannot ever shake the belief that his savings habits and his frugality were drilled into him and his five siblings as a result of wartime restrictions. My grandparents lived through World War I; a military cemetery not far from where where we used to vacation during my childhood holds the spoils of 54,000 soldiers, most of them unidentified, from that senseless carnage.

Yet, stereotypically, I also think that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And the strongest of us will be those who have battled personal adversity in addition to economic and social crisis. America’s new likely Secretary of State did not take to the bottle after her husband’s infidelity and lies became a matter of public record. Yahoo’s new CEO didn’t stay in a hospital bed very long as she was fighting breast cancer.

Not that I wish you, my dear readers, any of those events. But should they happen (and bad things often do, so make sure you have friends to fall back on), I wish you the personal resilience to fight through them and come out a winner.

In favor of wearing whatever the hell you want, part 2

carme-chaconHere is Carme Chacón, Spanish defense minister, in a supremely elegant suit by Spanish designer Purificación García, presiding over the troops’ Pascua Militar parade on January 6th (photo: EFE). The suit had been previously vetted by officials in charge of royal protocol, yet Chacón was criticized (mostly by men, obviously) for not wearing a dress.

Women across the political spectrum defended Chacón’s untraditional choice. Esperanza Aguirre, a leading member of the opposition, said: “Como mujer que se dedica a la política, me indigna que sea motivo de discusión lo que nos ponemos, cómo nos peinamos y cómo nos cortamos el pelo, eso no pasa con los hombres.” Minister of Equality Bibiana Aído said: “No se nos ocurriría comentar la indumentaria de un hombre.”