Best columns: International
Fighting for the right to speak English
Daily Maverick (South Africa)
English speakers in Cameroon are being oppressed, said Liesl Louw-Vaudran. Protesters in the two Anglophone regions of the French-speaking country have been agitating for months, saying that President Paul Biya has been discriminating against them by assigning them French teachers, judges, and officials. In January, Biya cut off internet access in the two regions, all but halting their economies. Since then, some 100 protesters have been charged with sabotage, terrorism, and inciting civil war—charges “that could carry the death penalty.” The two languages are a legacy of colonialism: The German colony of Cameroon was divided between France and Britain after World War I and reunited in 1961. English speakers say peace would be restored if Biya would just respect the constitution, which is supposed to protect their language rights. Instead, Anglophones are treated “like second-class citizens” and don’t benefit from the oil extracted in their region. Their one hope? Many Francophone Cameroonians support their fellow citizens. After Cameroon won the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament last month, goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa dedicated the victory to “our brothers” who speak English. “We need a united Cameroon,” Ondoa said. Is the president listening?
New twist on a Spanish tradition
Argentina has found a relaxing way to reclaim its Spanish heritage: adopt the siesta, said Vanesa Listek. Our cultural ties to Spain and Italy already make us receptive to the “Mediterranean habit” of taking an afternoon nap “to counter the exhaustion, distraction, and irritability that peak around 2 p.m.” A few years ago, Argentine firms began installing nap centers, or siestarios, in the office and encouraging workers to doze, and now such centers are “a feature of prestigious workplaces,” such as Google’s waterfront offices in Puerto Madero and parts of the University of Buenos Aires. Ironically, just as we rediscover the pleasure, Spain itself is moving away from the siesta. The government there says the two-hour break in the middle of the day means workers get home too late to enjoy a happy family life, and it is considering enforcing a 6 p.m. quitting time that would effectively kill off the midday snooze. Maybe that’s why the Argentine siesta isn’t meant to be deep slumber. In the new siestarios, workers are expected to doze for just 20 minutes or so and then get right back to the desk. “That is enough to recover attention and consolidate memory,” says neurologist Pablo López. It’s not about quality of life, then—it’s “a way to boost the productivity of employees.”