New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 97

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] THE DISABLED[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Cures for the few
The mind will remain a maze as long as people assume that psychological disorders are caused by bio-chemical imbalances in the brain and therefore can only be treated with drugs. It was upsetting to read in the Disabled Persons issue (NI No 95) that the New Internation-alist has fallen into the same trap as the majority of the medical profession - seeking causes in the patient rather than in society.

To talk about pre-senile dementia (where a skull X-ray shows the brain atrophying) in the same breath as schizophrenia (where, like cancer, new research is always 'discovering' new `causes') is downright irresponsible. The implication was that all mentally disturbed people are just as incurable as the person with pre-senile dementia - David John offered the others little hope.

How different was this from the other articles in your magazine - `The desert shall bloom' in last month's issue, for example. Here the `experts' assumed that irrigation schemes failed because peasants were stupid and lazy. In fact it was shown that the peasants by refusing to participate were using the only power they had. But perhaps Mr. John would have prescribed amphetamines to the `lazy' peasants to perk them up, rather than offering better returns for their labour?

Nowhere do `experts' do more damage than in the field of mental health. Disabilities are caused by those who label a child `autistic', or an adult `schizophrenic'. The label can stay with them for life.

If ours is indeed a `Disabling World' lets be clear about who is doing the disabling.

Dr. D. C. Jones, Bromley, Kent, U.K.

The author replies:
I stand by my remarks on schizophrenia. I consider true schizophrenia to be as crippling as cancer - or any major physical illness. It can be controlled but nor cured. Hospitals are full of schizophrenics who will stay in them for the foreseeable future or live in sheltered accommodation for the rest of their lives. And the relapse rate among schizophrenics is very high.

I would love to believe that society is to blame for all the causes of mental illness, but although we all live in the same society not all of us breakdown. Some people do have a disposition to a particular illness whether it be heart disease or schizophrenia.

But if Dr. Jones concluded that I believe all mentally disturbed people to be incurable then she was wrong. I deliberately included areas of illness which hold good prospects for recovery and the story of Barbara, who made a complete and most likely permanent recovery, illustrated this.

David John

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Shock tactics
I feel very critical of your article `The hidden 40 million' (NI No. 95) which advocates the export of western medical practice to developing countries. Health is not produced simply by eliminating symptoms, and western methods for the treatment of mental symptoms fail even more dismally than their physical counterparts. Many drugs used to suppress mental symptoms have side effects so severe that they are seen as new medical conditions and treated with new drugs.

Their aim is to adjust the individual to fit a sick society. Mental hospitals are society's rubbish bins - where people with relatively minor symptoms become institutionalised and find it increasingly difficult to leave.

Last year I spend several months in a very undeveloped tribal area in India. A huge area was to be flooded to provide electricity for industrial development 200-300 miles away. When reading your article my vision was of ECT salesmen promoting their product as an advantage of the advances electrification will bring. The villagers will certainly need something to cope with the shock of losing their valley to the hydro project, their forest to the contractors and their ancient culture to the invasion of 20th century capitalism.

Judy Pereles, Bishopthorpe York

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The real handicap
Your issue on the Disabled (NI No. 95) made a deep impression on me. I read it with some misgivings, expecting a litany of do-gooding and guilt. What a relief it was to find Peter Adamson's honest account of his meeting with Frank Bowe, voicing all the discomfort and un-easiness that I feel when I meet someone with a disability.

But by the end of the magazine my attitudes had signally altered as it dawned on me that I am the one with with the real handicap - unable to cope with other peoples' disability.

The NI's emphasis on family-centred care was welcome too. Only when we able-bodied people are not isolated from the disabled will we become `whole'.

Penny Hilton
Stockport Lancs

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[image, unknown] THE CARIBBEAN[image, unknown]

Jamaica revelation
Joseph Owen's article (NI No. 94) about the Rastafarians rang a spiritual bell with me in pointing out that here was a people who could not accept Westernised Christianity, and yet who had an understanding (somewhat distorted) of the neglected truths of the Book of Revelation.

The Rastafarians have a grasp of truth in their belief, that `Babylon' symbolises `the whole white Western Christian civilisation... which is now ready to come tumbling down'. But they will suffer a rude awakening if they hope for a return to their `Zion' in Africa because the whole world, not just Western civilisation, comes within the scope of the prophecies of the Revelation.

Nevertheless, it was a thrill to read that the Rastafarians `offer a radically different message' from that of the established church, which has never extricated itself from the rut of tradition - and never will, being hidebound in the distorted tracks of that tradition.

T S Siddle Bradford Yorks

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[image, unknown] IRAN[image, unknown]

Who is lowest?
I'm dismayed to read in your September editorial on Iran (NI No. 91) a reference to `the devout, but un-educated lower classes'. It is unacceptable to describe and rank people according to a social hierarchy created by the ruling class of capitalist society.

Let's be realists. There is a fairly large co-opted dominant class in capitalist society and a vast, numberless mass of people in the oppressed class.

I'm honoured to be described as a product of the British working class. I'm damned if anyone is going to refer to me as being of the lower class. And, if they had time from their daily struggle to consider the matter, I suspect the peasants and workers of Iran would share that feeling.

But, nevertheless, NI does a fine job!

Peter Davies
Toronto Canada

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[image, unknown] WOMEN[image, unknown]

Medium or message
It is a typically sexist red herring to avoid the issues involved in the sexual revolution and discuss the looks of the women involved in the women's movements. To take an example from a male dominated field, I would suggest to Mr. Clow that it would be disastrous for the Christian church if its message were judged on the appearance of the clergy.

Fiona Johnston
Auckland / New Zealand

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Pile on the paint
Perhaps we should have cosmetics for men? Something to cover up the five o'clock shadow, say, or to disguise their puffy, lifeless, hung-over eyes. Then we'd see a pleasant change in the appearance of the average scruffily-dressed, messy, un-attractive male, and the aesthetic quality of our lives would be much improved. I like my men to be attractively masculine.

Thanks for your letter, Denis (NI Letters December). It brought a smile to my grim-faced, humourless, feminist features.

Jill Hayes
Selly Oak, Birmingham

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[image, unknown] THE RICH,THE POOR AND THE PREGNANT[image, unknown]

Chinese priority
I realise that you have endeavoured to re-assess yourposition since the World Population Conference. But I would suggest that your attitudes to population growth are still overly coloured by an anti-Western bias. This bias makes it difficult for the New Internationalist to admit that population growth restraint must be developed along with those social and economic changes that lead to a more egalitarian society.

It is well to remember that China did not wait for the population problem to `take care of itself' as the result of social and economic changes. Family planning has been as high a priority in China as any other objective.

Larry Miller
New Britain PA USA

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Chinese prejudice?
I like the section `Update' recently introduced in your magazine and I find your latest number very interesting, particularly because it is fairly free from certain phrases that ring with gong-like monotony through most of the others, chilling my sympathies. The magic words are elitism, capitalism, racism, multinationals and the USA. Abolish these (somehow) and all will be well with the Third World. But what about communism? Why, when you refer to Australia's shameful treatment of the Aboriginies, do you never criticise China for her even more shameful treatment of the Tibetans, conquered by force and now cruelly exploited?

If it is wrong to allow mining on the sacred lands of the Aborigines it is equally wrong to allow it in the sacred mountains of the Tibetans.

V.B. Garne
Sevenoaks, Kent

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