issue 245 - July 1993
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.
What are the origins of the expression ‘ethnic cleansing’?
NEVILLE CLAYTON / CAMERA PRESS
South African apartheid (based largely on Nazi racism) set the standards for ethnic cleansing. The idea of ‘cleaning out’ people of a different race is implicit in the official South African Government phrase ‘black spots must be removed’ – with the result that three-and-half million blacks were forcibly removed from their homes and dumped in apartheid’s bleak ‘homelands’. The connection with Nazism is even clearer when you consider that in 1937 Dr Verwoerd – ‘creator’ of apartheid – helped stop immigration into South Africa of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany with the words: ‘any further admission of Jews into South Africa will lead to the defiling of our white race.’
Which is more politically correct – ‘South America’ or ‘Latin America’? What should we call different parts of the old USSR? Do categories like ‘the East’ and ‘the West’ make sense any more? And what about ‘the North’ and ‘the South’?
As a student of development issues it is a constant struggle to stay up to date with what might or might not be ‘politically correct’ with respect to labelling both regions and issues which are of concern to the world.
Many of the terms that have developed over the past few decades serve the function of differentiating ‘us’ from ‘them’. By using terms such as ‘North and South’, ‘developed and underdeveloped’ or labels like ‘Third World’ we are perpetuating a detachment which is no longer appropriate to resolving the global issues of our time. We are also avoiding the important academic responsibility of accurately identifying topics of interest. To discuss the Third World or the former Soviet Union and then to use examples from only a few of the countries implied by this designation involves irresponsible over-generalization.
As my Development Studies professor has remarked: ‘if you’re talking about Kenya, then call it “Kenya” and not “the developing world”, “an underdeveloped country”, “the Third World”...’
Why are mosquitoes not on the list of transmitters of HIV?
In addition to the response in NI 243, it’s been calculated that the risk of transmission of HIV following a needlestick injury with infected blood is one in 275. The mosquito’s probiscus is much smaller than a needle so that the amount of blood transferred is going to be considerably less, as will be the risk of transmission.
The AIDS virus can only reproduce in a few mammals and even in them it has a limited repertoire of cells in which it can multiply. This means that, unlike the malaria parasite, it could not reproduce in a mosquito.
Epidemiologists studying the pattern and spread of AIDS in Africa and in other areas where mosquito populations are large tell us that if insects spread AIDS there would be a lot more infected children and old people.
Is it true that Elzeard Bouffin – ‘the man who planted trees’ in the Alps – never existed and that the story was invented to encourage replanting of the forest in that area?
Lasguite Is, Canada
I’ve recently discovered loo roll made from cotton which is so soft I find it difficult to believe that I can use it with a clear conscience. Can anyone advise me whether it’s likely to have been produced in circumstances that are environmentally friendly and politically correct.
If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).
This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7