New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 102

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] ALTERNATIVE MEDIA[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Truth or fantasy?

I welcomed the article (NI No 100) by Jorgen Lissner on advertising and the charities - especially the idea that there should be some arena for monitoring standards.

The long-term effect of advertising is something our commercial counterparts understand well. But most charities can only afford to look for short-term results from their advertising. The long-term effects, whether good or bad, are scarcely considered.

Perhaps this is one area where Lissner's ethical watchdog might have a role. It is sometimes claimed that the effects of this type of advertising are harmful to community relations or to peoples' understanding of our links with the poor world. The truth is no one knows the effects - and little money is being spent to find out.

If we cannot use advertising to expose what truly goes on in the world then we are failing in our duty to mankind. What we must do is be sure we are painting a true picture and not one that simply exploits a special case.

Finally, I would challenge Lissner to produce some advertising messages which really work, either in terms of raising money or communicating an effective message. For while the 'acceptable' posters and advertisements he cites are fine, when put in a newspaper competing with strong headlines and good stories, they may be quite ineffectual. Charities have a duty to tell the truth; we also have a duty to our supporters to make our advertisements work.

Sam Clarke
Appeals Manager
Oxfam
UK

Jorgen Lissner replies:

'As I see it, pornographic and unethical advertising is the result of a fundamental decision taken not by appeals managers but by board members and directors of voluntary agencies. Once the leadership has decided to give first priority to maximum agency income the door is thrown wide open for ruthless exposure of human suffering and such questionable statements as 'Fill in the banker's order now - we think you will agree it is the most worthwhile and rewarding thing you could possibly do'. (Quote from recent Oxfam advert).

I happen to believe that money is not the most important contribution voluntary agencies can make to world development. Once Sam Clark and I agree on that point we can start discussing what truly goes on in the world and how best to discharge our duty to mankind by disseminating messages which really work.'

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[image, unknown] CENTRAL AMERICA[image, unknown]

Jumping the gun

In Tim Draimin's article (NI No 99) the American Institute for Free Labor Development is cited as a major institution designed to derail radical change and co-opt potential trade union leaders into bureaucrats.

Draimin uses as an example of AIFLD's sophisticated approach to the ending of the 1954 Honduran banana workers strike. AIFLD, the American Embassy and the CIA, are credited with organizing a 'putsch' of the 'radical' trade unionists to install more pliable 'moderate' elements. What happened in Honduras among the workers of the United Fruit Company in April-May 1954 is subject to various interpretations and analyses.

What is not, is the role of AIFLD. Union leadership training in Latin America in general and AIFLD in particular should be seriously discussed and examined by those who wish to see progress and social change in that part of the world.

But the American Institute for Free Labor Development was organized in 1962 and to say that it played a role in the Honduran events of 1954 marks a new low in Latin American scholarship.

Paul J Baicich
Oxon Hill
Maryland
U.S.A.

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[image, unknown] CULTURE[image, unknown]

The old internationalist

In defending your 'BP' dating scheme (NI No 98) you ask a correspondent (NI No 100) 'should we insist that others divide their history into events occurring before and after the birth of a foreign culture's god?

This might be acceptable from an old internationalist, but it reflects a very odd, almost racist, bias today. The culture into which Jesus was born is foreign to Europe - possibly more strange than it is to some other parts of the modern world. Could it be that you are trying to tell us that the religion in which the BC/AD system began is foreign to Philip Potter, Miguez Bonino, Brigalia Bam, Desmond Tutu, K H Ting, Daisy Gopal Ratnam, M M Thomas, Leslie Boseto. . .? It is a short step from saying that cultures and religions should stay fossilised where they began, to advocating repatriation.

Culture is not the same as religion. If you want to fix a date by some cultural event, one set of problems arises; if you prefer a religious reference, there is already a choice. To assume that Christianity was and is European is to bring together all the problems with few, if any, of the conveniences. Worse, it hinders the Christian education programmes of some Western churches.

Revd H Undy
Christian Education Movement
London
UK

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[image, unknown] DISARMAMENT[image, unknown]

After the holocaust

I fail to see how there could be any 'rich-pickings' (NI No 100, Letters) after a nuclear holocaust. The Soviets could also use the argument that their nuclear weapons are necessary to prevent a takeover by the West, (an argument liable to be fuelled by the hostility of the Reagan administration which has failed to reveal amazing evidence of new nuclear arms development in Russia). This is the kind of negative argument we can do without.

Both sides should work towards nuclear disarmament and divert more money and energy into Third World development.

And Europe should think twice before accepting US Cruise missiles, and letting America use Europe as its nuclear battleground.

Tamara Roach
Fleetwood
Lancashire

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[image, unknown] COUNTRY PROFILE[image, unknown]

Our mistake

I've always relied on the N.I. for accurate, incisive reporting. But lately I'm beginning to have my doubts. The map accompanying your Mozambique country profile (NI No 99) is a case in point. Not only does the capital Maputo have its old colonial name Lourenco Marques. But independent Zimbabwe next door is still quaintly labelled Rhodesia.

The country profile page is too valuable a resource to let mistakes slip though. I suggest you double your proof reading staff.

John Kent
Toronto
Ontario
Canada

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Unofficial family planning

I would like to correct your assumption that contraception is a dirty word in Tanzania. (NI No 99, Update). It is not. While Tanzania may not have an official policy of fertility control, the government endorsed the main principles of the United Nations World Population Conference in 1974 - namely the right for couples to 'decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children' and the need to make available to couples the 'information, education and means to do so'.

Under a directive issued by the Ministry of Health, all regional medical officers have been advised to provide family planning services. Recently, the Government has been very much aided in this by the supply of contraceptives by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.

Shadrack E Munisi
London
UK

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Natural man

The NI does from time to time join the ranks of the 'flat-earthers' (NI No. 99, Update). The term 'artificial fertiliser' is really nonsense. It is perfectly legitimate to apply additional nutrients to soils deficient in them, and it is perfectly clear that continuous cropping will deplete nutrients. The options are either to discontinue cropping or to increase the nutrient supply.

There are various ways this can be done - by using quick-acting forms of the nutrients concerned, or slow-acting forms, or maybe organic forms or in the case of nitrogen, via bacteria. Any of these can be described as 'artificial' if one regards mankind as outside ecosystems imposing human will on an alien biosphere. But this is nonsense: mankind is an integral part of ecosystems and thus whatever he does is 'natural' whether it be constructive or destructive.

C. G. R Chavesse
Rotorua
New Zealand

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Racism, naturally

I was astounded by the revelations in your review of Barbara Rogers' book 'Race: No peace without justice' (NI No. 99). That Ms Rogers, having surveyed a world replete with examples of racism, should then conclude that 'the enormous variety of situations presented ... made it impossible to see the flaw as located anywhere other than in human nature itself is simply incredible.

It is surely high time the hoary old myth of 'human nature' was laid to rest. Racism like nationalism or sexism, is an aspect of behaviour which is not as fixed and inflexible as the term 'human nature' suggests. Rather it is plastic and subject to endless permutation through social conditioning.

And if behaviour is socially determined then we need to examine the social conditions that give rise to racism.

It is illuminating that Ms Rogers should feel indignant that the record of Russia, particularly as regards Afghanistan, should have been discussed of the World Council of Churches International Consultation in 1980. It is childish to believe that one must necessarily be a supporter of Western-style capitalism in order to be a critic of its counterpart in the East - namely, state capitalism.

Things are not so very different in Russia. There too, a distinct class effectively owns the means of wealth production by virtue of its control of the state, with production organised not for human need but for profit.

Had Ms Rogers but looked, she would have detected there too the vicious streak of racism that characterises any system that pits man against man in sordid competition.

Robin Cox
Haslemere
Surrey

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