Bombs for breakfast
IS your next door neighbour armed to the teeth? Well, it might pay to be more polite in future because there are now enough small arms floating around to supply half the world’s adult population.
This chilling piece of information comes from the latest edition of 'Bombs for Breakfast'.* And, if the results of all this aggressive equipment are bad enough in the rich world, for the developing countries, as the booklet points out, they can be nothing short of disastrous.
Sales to the Third World were really stepped up during the 1960’s — a product of the escalation in technology and costs of modern weapons systems. A World War II tank sold for about $50,000 while today’s XMI for example costs over $1,500,000. And fighter planes that used to be little more than a propeller and a machine gun have evolved into complex electronic boxes where pilots are almost an optional extra.
To offset the huge development costs — and Britain uses up 20% of her Research and Development on military hardware — it is vital to have as long a production run as possible. The Third World soon comes into the manufacturers’ sales sights since it is here that nearly all the battles since World War II have been fought.
‘Selling’, however, is a rather polite word for what goes on in many cases. There are commission payments to individuals that the more unkind might call bribes. US Congressional investigations in 1976 for example, revealed that payments to the Shah’s nephew and the head of the airforce were an important part of US manufacturer Northrop’s sales drive. And a certain Mr Shapoor Reporter, a close confidant of the Shah, received a payment of over two million dollars and a knighthood from the British government for his part in securing the contract to supply the Iranian army with 800 Chieftan tanks.
Britain is fourth in the exporters’ league behind the US, the Soviet Union and France. About a quarter of all defence equipment produced goes abroad and its greatest sales success has been in Latin America, where it is the second largest supplier to governments whose commitment to democracy has not always been totally convincing.
This has been a great help to British industry during the recession. Arms exporters are among the most profitable companies. As the Times put it recently:
The impact of weapon sates on the Third World is twofold. First they drain away precious resources and second they add to the militarisation of already autocratic nations. In a substantial number of countries, arms account for a significant proportion of all income. Between 1968 and 1977 arms imports accounted for 34 per cent of all Egypt’s imports, 25 per cent of Iraq’s and 27 per cent of Afghanistan’s.
But these figures tell only half the story. Maintenance experts, spare parts, instructors and petrol will also be needed long after the original sale and will remain a permanent drain on foreign exchange. To meet the growing foreign debts governments then have to adopt policies that help to replace this exchange. These include the emphasis on cash crops instead of food, on tourism and on sending their own people overseas as labourers.
Ironically these are moves which in the end can lead to social unrest — and the need to buy more military equipment to deal with it. Military hierarchies, swollen with costly imported equipment, can offer rapid and ‘efficient’ responses to social problems. Between 1964 and 1967, for example, the Brazilian economy sank into recession but opposition to the military government was held back by the use of armed force and torture. The US was the biggest supplier of equipment but there was a good deal of British involvement from BAC, Hawker Siddeley and Westland.
But it is not just internal conflicts that arms sales can fuel. Regional arms races between Third World nations are an even greater consumer of military hardware. Kenya until recently had a relatively modest arms bill. But then things around them started to look more threatening. Relations with Uganda under Amin deteriorated and the socialist revolution in Ethiopia to the north was seen as a threat to Kenya’s western-style system.
Kenya started to re-arm. In 1976, in response to an urgent appeal from President Kenyatta, Britain sent an arms consignment reportedly worth $100m and has remained an important supplier behind the US. Both governments are anxious to help in Kenya — given the Soviet presence in Ethiopia and the strategic importance of the Persian Gulf.
Now it seems that the increased power and prestige of the Kenyan military is being used to quench internal unrest.
*Bombs for Breakfast published by Committee on Poverty and the Arms Trade, 5 Caledonian Rd, London N1 9DX, UK
Rock solid support
A letter to the UK music paper Melody Maker — ‘This "Keep politics out of rock" idea leaves a sour taste in my mouth considering that politics dictates every minute of my life — where I am able to sleep, eat, work and study; whom I am allowed to love and marry; where I can urinate; whether I can sit upstairs or downstairs on a bus; the list is endless.
‘Even as I write this letter, American jazz group Chase show their approval of racism by performing to a whites-only crowd of 20,000 in a country which outnumbers whites six to one in relation to blacks.’
This was written to support the British Musicians Union’s efforts to keep their members out of South Africa. And it sets the tone for the British Anti-Apartheid Movement’s attempts to promote a cultural boycott of the country.
Judging by the list of artists who have visited South Africa and Namibia in the last six months they clearly have a long way to go.
Cliff Richard, for example, gave a charity show last August in ‘Sun City’. This is the glittering capital of Bophutaswana — one of the tribal homelands that is being developed as a resort area for rich whites and a place where the laws on gambling are more relaxed than in the rest of the Republic.
Keyboard star Rick Wakeman played at four concerts there during October — his second visit to South Africa in as many months. He had previously performed at the Durban Arts Festival in July.
Shirley Bassey was there in October as well. Her visit prompted a letter in the black newspaper Sowetan:
Schedules for the same resort in 1982 include Rod Stewart — whose technical advisers gave a thumbs up to the Bantustan venue after a visit in August — as well as Elton John and Leo Sayer.
Due to visit Pretoria are rock musical composers Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber where they will attend the gala opening of their hit musical ‘Evita’.
Many artists, however, have refused to go to South Africa — most notably the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — and when the folk group Barclay James Harvest did visit they recanted afterwards and promised never to go again.
TRIBAL peoples constitute a significant and often ignored element of the global underclass. Many still practice some form of sustained-yield, low-energy agriculture such as shifting cultivation or nomadism, or they live by hunting and gathering. They tend to have little political power and little chance really to participate in the decisions that determine their fates.
According to a recent estimate by Survival International, nearly 200 million people, or four per cent of the global population, can be said to live in isolated or dominated tribal cultures. This total includes the better-known groups such as the remaining few million Indians of South America and the tens of millions of tribal people, mainly rainforest dwellers, living in Southeast Asia.
In black Africa, where most people identify with a tribe, deciding who to include under the label is difficult, but such groups as the nomads of the Saharan fringes, the Pygmies of central Africa and the Khoi-San peoples (Bushmen and Hottentots) of Southern Africa are included in the list.
Some of the more numerous tribal peoples are not well known internationally. In India for example, about 40 million people are ethnically and culturally distinct ‘tribals,’ and they generally share the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder with the untouchables, the lowest caste in the prevailing Hindu culture.
Thirty-six million in China, 22 million in the Soviet Union, and one and a half million in North America live in tribal cultures.
New tribes are still being discovered in the Amazonian and Southeast Asian rainforests. One small group contacted in the Philippines in the 1960s, the Tasaday, was so totally isolated that it used Stone Age technology.
Even today, road-building crews in the Amazon basin can learn the presence of a previously unknown tribe from a shower of poison arrows. And even today, some tribal groups are being physically decimated as a result of the intrusion of modern civilisation.
To give but one example: a Nambiquara village of 120 in Brazil’s Western Amazon lost six members to hired gunmen in 1967, then suffered a measles epidemic in 1971 that wiped out every child under age 15. Overall, the Nambiquara tribe’s numbers have been reduced from 10 or 15 thousand at the turn of the century to just 530 today under the combined impacts of disease, violence and the carving up of their lands by ranchers and colonists.
Anthropologist Anthony Seeger, former head of a private Indian support group in Brazil, has described the typical scenario:
For native peoples, integration with the dominant culture generally means new forms of hardship and degradation. Tribals become the lowliest of labourers, often in plantations or timber industries drawing on the very natural resources amidst which they historically lived. Some wind up in city slums and work as servants or prostitutes.
The destruction of indigenous cultures entails major costs for global society. The irretrievable loss of diverse traditions, philosophies and languages certainly impoverishes human culture and our potential knowledge of ourselves.
But the costs are in the material realm as well. Untold thousands of tropical plant species are known to native peoples but not yet to modern scientists. And modern man has not had great success in finding sustainable ways to use the rainforests and the desert fringes.
The contrast is illustrated by events in Peru. Recent colonists in one rainforest area have been unable, even with outside assistance and inputs, to feed themselves. In between outside food deliveries, they survive by bartering with or stealing from the nearby Indians who produce a food surplus on similar lands without any outside inputs.
This is not an argument for working to preserve tribal societies as static artifacts for others’ study and profit. Cultural and economic change has always occurred among these societies; further change is inevitable and is in any case desired by many of their members.
The issue is not whether the dominant society should decide to preserve tribal cultures in a pristine and isolated state, although this option should be available to particularly remote groups that choose it. Rather, it is whether tribal peoples will be given more control over a process of evolution and integration that is bound to be extraordinarily painful and conflict-ridden anyway.
With basic protection against land-grabbing, violence and economic exploitation, and institutions of government that allow self-determination, tribal peoples can work out their own paths of adaptation and do so with a dignity that is too often denied them.
In 1977 about 50,000 Canadian teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 became pregnant. About one-third of these pregnancies ended in abortion. Almost half of the mothers were admitted to hospital at some times during the pregnancy, often bleeding, anaemia or fatigue.
Socially the implications of these pregnancies for the teenage mothers were enormous. Most of them dropped out of school, lived on welfare often below the poverty line and their health and that of their babies suffered.
The Canadian example is typical of the plight of teenagers faced with unwanted pregnancies in other developed countries. In the Unites States, the Office for Adolescent Pregnancy Programs has awarded $6.4 million in 1981 in grants to organizations serving pregnant teenagers and teenage parents.
But the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy, whether wanted or unwanted, is not restricted to the affluent world. At a number of recent WHO meetings it has been very evident that many developing countries are concerned with the growing problem of unwanted pregnancies in their rapidly expanding urban areas.
While pregnancy outside marriage is frowned upon in some of these societies, in many of them social approval is given to teenage pregnancies through the custom of early marriages. Two out of five Third World women still marry before they reach the age of 20, despite recent increases in the age of marriage. In Africa, 40 per ent of girls aged 15 to 19 are married. The rate are also high for Asia and Latin America.
A WHO study reports that 10 to 12 per cent of all live births each year occur to mothers who have not reached the age of 20. Other studies show that in Europe, where adolescent pregnancy reached its peak in the 1960s, the rate today is around 70 per 1,000, with some countries, like Cameroon, having rates as high as 226 per 1,000. In Asia, Bangladesh has the highest incidence of adolescent pregnancy - 240 per 1,000.
That teenage pregnancies endanger the health of both mother and child is no longer disputed. Maternal mortality is higher among teenagers, especially those under 16 years of age.
Babies of teenage mothers have only a 50 per cent chance of being born healthy and their low birth weight is probably one of the most important causes of infant mortality in the world. These babies are also more likely to suffer from congenital abnormalities and increased susceptibility to infection and childhood illnesses than are babies born to healthy, physically mature mothers.
For most teenage mothers, early marriage limits education and career opportunities, leads to high fertility and perpetuates the inequality that already exists between the sexes.
PRESIDENT Chun Doo-hwan of South Korea has decided to - improve the image of his country abroad now that his offer to stage the 1988 Olympic Games has been accepted.
The clean-up now starting will, like South Korea’s economic growth of the past decade, be at the cost of the livelihood of many of his people. The average South Korean sees the hosting of the Olympics as irresponsible, in view of a $45 billion national debt, and as an attempt to deceive world opinion.
On November 20 it was announced through the Government-controlled press that the 36-year-old midnight-to-four a.m. curfew would be lifted ‘for the convenience of our people and to improve our image abroad’. Next day it was announced that this might take a little longer, as it would first be necessary to recruit and train another 16,000 police — on top of the Home Ministry’s plan to increase the force by 6,500.
On November 19 I witnessed the sweeping away of the last of the capital’s unsightly squatter settlements — though such slums still disfigure other South Korean towns. An estimated 1,200 riot police with shields and batons stood shoulder to shoulder, three deep, as the shacks of 3,000 people were destroyed and burned. No alternative accommodation was provided. It never is. Government-built blocks are sold off on completion and the landlords charge rents far beyond the means of the poor.
Factory workers have had no more than a two per cent wage increase while inflation runs at 34 per cent. And in the country areas virtually all the peasant farmers are in debt because the government has consistently neglected agriculture, while concentrating on manufactured products for export and artificially depressing the price of rice.
As the only legalised unions are those set up by the employers there is no collective bargaining. For some years some of the churches have given counselling to employees who have been wronged, but a new law now makes it illegal for a third party to intervene between a worker and his employer.
All protest is effectively silenced. Most liberal-minded university professors have been sacked and, together with students and ministers of religion, given repeated terms of imprisonment. Police have even been given the right to enter any place of worship and record all that is said.
Visitors to the Seoul Olympics will have the wool pulled over their eyes. As when the games were held in Moscow and Mexico City, visiting athletes and supporters will be given the propaganda treatment which these days seems to be a major purpose of this sporting bonanza.
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