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The Politician And His Rolex, A Timeless Morality Play

From Fidel Castro to JFK to Barack Obama, world leaders have long sported expensive watches. Does that create a distance with the people they lead?

The Politician And His Rolex, A Timeless Morality Play

Fidel Castro "watching" in 1962

Peter Heinz Junge/DPA/ZUMA Press
Mattia Feltri

-Essay-

ROME — I love the way social networks give you the real-time pulse of society. Here in Italy, for example, the plight of Afghans has apparently become boring and we've heard enough about anti-vaxxers — and so the online crowd has focused its unquenchable thirst for justice toward Roman Pastore, a young political candidate pictured wearing a Rolex watch.

It actually wasn't even a Rolex, but that doesn't matter: Rolexes have now become a political talking point for the nation. Some might have been taken aback by the sheer number of self-appointed judges sentencing a single defendant — guilty of belonging to a very solid tradition of Rolex-wearing politicians. But I was more surprised by the reasons for the conviction: how can a politician wealthy enough to wear a Rolex at a young age, the reasoning goes, understand the frustrations of the people?

That's a great question. Fidel Castro had a Rolex, and did the people think he understood their plight? Debatable. Che Guevara was also a Rolex wearer, as was John F. Kennedy. Who can say for sure if either really was in touch with the people?

The Dalai Lama owns a pair of Rolexes as part of a collection of about 15 luxury watches, and just how knowledgeable he is in terms of people is still to be ascertained. Another fancy watch aficionado is Barack Obama, though to be precise he was spotted wearing not just any Rolex, but a Cellini, priced well above $10,000. And let us not forget another great American, Martin Luther King, who seemed to understand people in his "dream" well before his times. Yes, he wore a Rolex — it was a gold Datejust, very similar to the gold Datejust of another notable icon of the 20th century: Pope John Paul II.

Perhaps the tale should be reversed, to discover which politicians do not own a Rolex. For example, the leader of Italy's far-right Lega party, Matteo Salvini, famous for shuttering ports to refugee rescue boats, is said to understand people so well he can even pick up their scent. And no, he doesn't wear any watch at all.

La Stampa
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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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