New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 110

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] COMMUNITY ACTION[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Kibbutz conflict
Your inclusion of the Israeli Kibbutz as a ‘Milestone in popular pressure’ (NI 106) alongside the fall of the ex-Shah of Iran and the Soweto schoolchildren protest leaves me wondering if you are suffering from a subtle form of historical amnesia.

I remember as a young man consuming media descriptions of the kibbutz as a radical contribution to the idea of collective agriculture. However, after years of investigation I am of the opinion that the kibbutz is nothing more than an armed colony operating under the guise of socialist agriculture. With the recent Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the implantation of kibbutzism in ‘full swing’ once again, I would ask you to remember that the Palestinian people are not a myth. After centuries of colonial decimation their history should be acknowledged.

The Israeli military alliance with both the ex- Shah of Iran and the government of South Africa are other facts which should be analysed. The Israeli military are now advising the govemments of Guatemala and El Salvador on’ intemal security’ — intemal security being the control and liquidation of campesinos who have a history of collective agriculture descended from another history thousands of years old — that of the indigenous American people.

Ronn Benner
Shedden, Ontario,
Canada.

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Comparative success
Many people in the ‘First World’ are apathetic about development, and lack confidence to do anything active. ‘Problems are too big,’ they say, ‘I’m small, so why bother.’

When the New Intemationalist is more positive it can help build the necessary confidence. Criticism has its place but the best criticism is comparison of the bad with something better — as in your issue on Successes in Community Action (NI No. 106)

Peter Mansfield and Nigel Base
Dacca, Bangladesh

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[image, unknown] AGRIBUSINESS[image, unknown]

Sexist agriculture
Surely a magazine like the New Internationalist should be trying to undermine sex stereotypes, not support them? I am referring to your feature ‘The Global Food Factory’ in this month’s magazine (NI No. 108).

You show men producers on the food production line in the factory, and women consumers at the supermarket Yet many factories — in the West and the Third World —employ women in their lowliest packing jobs. And it wasn’t so long ago that your magazine informed me that ‘women work twice as hard as men’ (I had always suspected that was the case) throughout the world — accounting for at least half of agricultural work. So why depict the ‘Third World Peasant’ as a man?

Cherry Wendle
Orpington, UK

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Fighting the squeeze
Wayne Ellwood rightly points out the depressing effects of corporate control on the prices Third World countries get for their crops. But he ignores the cost/price squeeze within developing countries themselves.

Political power in poor mono-crop economies like Malawi or Bangladesh often lies in the hands of a minority of urban consumers. And they want cheap food —wherever it comes from. So governments keep producer prices low and peasant farmers with poor transportation and marketing facilities cannot afford to grow crops for sale in the cities.

The urban palate is satisfied with imported goods — like grain from the US. Keeping urban consumers happy means crippling poor peasants. And some of the blame for that has to be taken by Third World.

Max Etloe
London, U.K.

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Severed Christianity
On the question of’political bias’, Ian S. Henderson (Letters NI No. 106) omitted the key sentence, given by Michael Hare Duke, which might explain why the Salvation Army (and also the Presbyterian Church in Ireland) are to break with the World Council of Churches:

‘Perhaps any effective support for a disadvantaged group is a threat to somebody’s political dominance.’ This was certainly the case in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Henderson also chooses to ignore the fact that, in the case of Zimbabwe, help was given, not for military, but for humanitarian needs.

Severing their membership in this way can be nothing less than a mutilation of the worldwide body of Christ — even if for different reasons: for the Salvation Army, theological ones (as given by Mr. Duke); forthe Presbyterian Church in Ireland, a failure to identify itself with the disadvantaged.

L. Knight
St. Peter Port, Guernsey.

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Patronising travel
With your issue No. 107 you circulated an advertisement from WEXAS, offering cheap travel. When I received their literature in reply to my enquiry I was appalled.

It included such patronising comments as:

‘The next day is devoted entirely to game viewing, with a good chance of seeing some Masai warriors.’

‘The difficulties of taking photographs of people unfamiliar with camera equipment can be lessened by having a westemer pose with them.’

‘The Ladakhis are an infectiously happy people...

Other parts indicated a remarkable unwillingness to see the world as anything other than a Westemer’ s playground, with little thought for the needs of the local inhabitants— for example complaints that the source of the Amazon has been spoiled by a zinc mine. There was no evidence that WEXAS would be equally upset about, say, uranium dumping in Wales and Scotland, wild places accessible to ordinary people in Britain.

I feel that they display gross bad faith in presenting themselves through the New Internationalist, with the implication that they are at least sympathetic to its aims. On the contrary, the elimination of poverty and the campaigns you document so well are likely to conflict with the interests of WEXAS in keeping the world picturesque for the pleasure of their members.

Should you accept advertising from an organisation which encourages attitudes so opposite to those the magazine promotes?

Paul Ticher
London, UK

Editor’s reply
Although we check the advertisements that we print, we do not endorse them. Indeed we carry advertisements from organisations with whom we have a disagreement in principle. In this case we share your criticism of WEXAS’s other publicity methods.

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Land Rover graveyard Land Rover graveyard
Keith Wood suggests that he is needed to maintain aid vehicles in the Third World (NI 107).

During two months voluntary service with a British charity in Zaire I travelled in many vehicles and became an expert at ‘pushing the Land Rover’, the prerequisite of most journeys.

A little juggling of the parts from the many ‘dead’ Land Rovers (see photograph) may have provided a serviceable starter motor, battery and generator all in one vehicle.

But it is not only vehicle maintenance that is poor. Aid agencies have sent radio transmitter-receivers into the field, some of these radios have failed after a few months and may never work again.

Why is the need for technical support underrated? Aid agencies may not allow anyone less than a Chartered Accountant to be responsible for their finances, but do they permit anyone less qualified than a Chartered Engineer to define the technical support necessary for aid programs?

If there is not sufficient work for a vehicle mechanic or a radio technician in one particular agency, then the sharing of such skill could provide the much needed support.

John R.G. Corbett
Cheltenham, UK

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Charitable progress
Your item ‘Charity ends at home’ (NI No. 105) was disturbing to say the least It is paradoxical that ‘charity’ should be so defined as to exclude all that really needs to be done. But it is not surprising, Here in India too it is easy to find money for those charities which will not disturb the powersthat-be. But there can be no development without sociopolitical implications — and it is important to educate donors about this fact The funding agencies however, even when they fund progressive organisations, often colour the truth in their publicity to show only such progress as can be covered within the classical definition of charity. And they have justified this as necessary in order to continue getting support

An effort should be made now, by those who have seen what these countries are like, to educate the First World about the realities of wealth and poverty.

Krpa
Bangalore, India.

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Hawkish herring
In your February edition (NI No. 108) you published a letter rejecting the concept of a Peace Tax, but by a happy coincidence the same edition includes a review of Henry Thoreau’s famous essay on civil disobedience, which should be compulsory reading for all who are not convinced of the need for individuals to obey their consciences rather than submit to laws which they perceive to be evil.

The letter suggests that objecting to paying for massive war preparations is no more morally valid than objecting to paying for welfare, education, health services or foreign aid. Such a comparison is clearly absurd, no more than a red herring,

What the campaign seeks is the recognition that, in the same way that there is no legal difference between hiring an assassin and doing the killing oneself, so there is no difference between paying for war and actually fighting it, and that it is thus necessary to update conscientious objection to include exemption from financing the annihilation of millions of men, women and children.

Mike Garnier
Bristol, UK.

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