New Internationalist

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Issue 129

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NEW BOOKS

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Teachers of development education need to find not only individual books but whole series that arouse the interests of their pupils in Third World issues. This month we offer a selection, focusing on geography and communication.

Editor: Anuradha Vittachi

Creative geography

Oxfam publications are available from
Oxfam House, 274 Banbury Road. Oxford 0X2 7DZ, UK.
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All other titles are available from Centre for World Development Education,
128 Buckingham Palace Road, London S1l W95H, UK.
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[image, unknown] Something is happening to school geography texts, and not before time. Still around are the traditional texts which tell us about the products we get from other countries without ever mentioning what it is like to live there. But now the pendulum is swinging towards people; commodities are beginning to be seen as part of the larger issue of development and resource use. The challenge from television, video and other audio-visual media is being met with plentiful illustrations, filmstrip and video-linked study materials, slide and photograph sets. The pupil is no longer regarded as a pot to be filled with knowledge but as an active participant whose mind, feelings and practical abilities can be involved in learning.

The slide sets Nigeria in Change and the Caribbean in Change by John and Penny Hubley take in many aspects of modern and traditional life in Nigeria: child health, for example, or nutrition, sugar production and links with the EEC. This means that they can be used across the curriculum, in social studies, child care and health education classes as well as by geography teachers. And since they are a visual aid they could be used at most levels, from age seven onwards. Comprehensive teachers’ notes are included; there are five slide sets per title, at £5.50 per set.

For more detailed, pupil-directed learning, try Robin Richardson’s four books.

Progress and Poverty, Fighting for Freedom, World in Conflict and Caring for the Planet (Nelson, £1.95 each). They involve the pupil in discussing these controversial topics and painlessly supply an immense amount of information in the process. The books are very appealingly put together, with collections of cartoons - including the one reproduced on this page - and thought-provoking quotations, photographs, games and paintings. Both the content and presentation of this series are highly recommended.

Another Nelson series, Geography and Change (£2.25 each), is an experiment in bringing development education into the realm of traditional academic geography textbooks. Though the presentation of the text follow-s a fairly conventional pattern the content is unusual. The pupil is invited to consider what is being said and to give her own opinion about it. and what is offered often runs counter to established expecta tions - like the picture painted of Saudi Arabia’s generosity to other countries and its efforts to improve the distribution of wealth at home.

More daunting, but also more challenging, are the Jordanhill Project packs - e.g. Botswana, Tbe Emergent Nation and Conflict (£2.50 each). These contain firsthand source material like a Botswanan government paper on tribal policy and a NATO handbook (alongside excerpts from Nell’ internationalist). The notes and exercises guide the pupil through the materials and help him to get a balanced and realistic picture of the subject.

For voluntary reading or project work, the Beans series (A & C Block, £2.95 each), aimed at the nine-to-thirteen years age range, is visually very attractive and sensitively’ written. The texts are simple but informative, each covering life in. one country as experienced in one village, or by one child, so that a good deal of detail is possible - from cooking methods to hairstyles, glimpses of life in large towns to changes which are affecting the country as a whole.

Particularly readable is the Usborne Book of World Geography (£3.50), which brings together information from all over the world under thematic headings - life, religion, clothes, where things are made, natural products, food and drink, customs, money and weather - so it’s easy to compare the eating habits of the American with the Indian worker, for instance, or the climate of the South Pole with that of Hawaii. without having any conclusions forced on the reader.

Like the others, this book with its lively cartoons uses the entertainment value of colour, comedy and audience participation to draw children’s attention to issues that are too often presented as worthy but dreadfully dull.

Harfiyah Ball

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Unjust technology

Future Conditional: Science, Technology
and Society - a critical Christian view
edited by Brian Jenner
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Home Mission of the Methodist Church (pbk) £1.75
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Opening Eyes and Ears
by Kathy Lowe
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WCC (pbk) £3.95
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[image, unknown] Despite his devotion to art, William Morris held that. ‘rather than the wheat should rot in the miser’s granary’, it was better to destroy all art if that was a necessary precondition for the social change necessary before a truly popular art could be born. The parallel with technology today may not be so far-fetched. The direction of scientific and technical research (and its implementation) is determined by social and political conditions. In an unjust world. science will not merely’ be directed to the needs of a minority’ and against those of the mass of people. but will be actively’ used to prevent any’ challenge to the status quo. One can, thus, argue not only that science should be used to better ends but that we must first achieve a just, participatory and sustainable society in order that science can be put at the service of all humanity.

This, broadly, is the conclusion towards which Future Conditional moves, drawing on detailed documentation of the rôle of technology in the fields of health, food. energy arms production and the electronics business. The results of the application of the new technology - unemployment, cruise missiles, test tube babies or nuclear power stations - are not inevitable. Nor are they the result of ’objective’ scientific research. The political choices which lead us along this road are no more than that: choices.

In Future Conditional, a different vision of society, and the theological and biblical backing for this vision, is constructively presented for our consideration and action. Highly readable, it could be used in schools, trade unions, churches or discussion groups and is very reasonably priced.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to any change in the structures perpetuating injustice in the world is the power of the mass media to shape our ideas and prevent discussion of any real alternatives. In Opening Eyes and Ears, Kathy Lowe reports on nine communication ventures which are trying to sidestep the stranglehold the media have over the way we view the world. The Third World examples, from guerilla theatre in the Philippines to a local radio station in the Dominican Republic. seem the most effective in involving local people. Only these seem to make the essential leap from communication as such to communication as a tool to help people regain control over their lives.


CLASSICS

The Fear of Freedom
...being the book that analyses why people hate freedom

EVERYONE KNOWS the story of the Fall - the one about Adam and Eve, and a serpent entwined round a tree, and God and an apple. But there seem to be two markedly different versions of what the story means. The school-Christianity version is a simple, cautionary tale: silly Adam gave in to seductive Eve, who had listened to the wicked serpent; Adam did the one bad thing there was to do, and God punished the lot of them. Serve them right - and we’d better remember to be obedient so we’re not punished too. Incidentally’, we should remember also to watch out for women - they’re clearly an unreliable lot; and as for those too-clever types who make you ask awkward questions - well, you can see where the serpent landed Adam. Out on his ear.

Later, though, I kept bumping into a more subversive version of this ancient myth. The Fall was not a disaster. On the contrary, it symbolised the moment Mankind grew up. Up till then, humans had been like the rest of the natural kingdom - ‘amoral’, in the sense that they didn’t know how to be bad: they submitted without choice to the dictates of a remote authority. But after Adam ate the apple. which, significantly, comes from the Tree of Knowledge, he had consciousness and choice. From now on, he had to makeup his own mind - a painful, difficult moment, but also the first moment of true human freedom. It is at this point that Adam and Eve are equipped to go out into the world, conscious and individuated; complete with the possibilities to choose between light and darkness.

At this moment, too, they consciously differentiate between the sexes: life becomes much more delicious for Adam when he realises there is a real woman around, not just a sexless spare rib. And in this version the serpent is associated with knowledge rather than wickedness (‘cunning’ is related to ‘knowing’) though of a limited kind: intellectual skill, which Adam needs to use in his journey through the world, tempered with human wisdom and moral consciousness.

I’ve always preferred this version and was delighted to find a variant of it in psychologist Erich Fromm’s book, The Fear of Freedom. It’s a brilliant analysis of how modern man has thrown away this freedom that Adam so painfully won.

Usually, says Fromm, the responsibility of having all this choice is just too much for the individual to take. He can’t cope, and looks around feverishly for someone to whom he can give it away. He’d rather stay un-individuated. like a child still dependent on his mother to make choices for him; or Adam and Eve in Eden.

If the society he lives in has a strongly authoritarian culture like Stalin’s Russia, for example, or Hitler’s Germany - he is relieved. He hastily gives over his will to the leader. Any stubborn doubts that linger about sacrificing his integrity are quickly drowned out in the rousing roar of the millions pledging their loyalty to the cause. Being independent-minded is a lonely business. The urge to merge is too powerful to resist.

Sacrificing one’s chance to individuate by dissolving one’s self in another is an act of masochism: another way to avoid one’s insecurity and loneliness is to adopt an authoritarian posture and swallow up someone less powerful in an act of sadism. And yet, Fromm points out, the two are only opposite sides of the same coin. The Nazi who abandons his conscience to the Etibrer and then murders a Jew shows how masochism and sadism meet and blend.

Fromm makes it clear that the sadist is as much a dependent on his victim as the masochist is on his master. For example, he says, a sadistic man may neglect his wife cruelly and tell her to leave whenever she wants. But if she does try to leave, he’ll suddenly beg her to stay because he ‘needs her’. It’s true. Without someone to dominate, he has no sense of himself. Until he finds someone who will pander to his ego even more slavishly, he will not let her go. And the wife will usually have given over too much of herself to him to have the strength to make the break without his consent.

The political principles emoedded in this familiar domestic drama are as relevant today as they were when Fromm wrote his analysis in 1942. Women, minority groups. people who are powerless for whatever reason, will have to stop playing their obedient, masochistic role and reach for their freedom if the sadomasochistic cycle is to be broken. It’s probably asking too much to expect the cycle to be broken at the opposite point, by those in authority beginning to understand what makes them tick instead of hanging on to an illusion of security through a heavily rationalised lust for power.

Anuradha Vittachi

The Fear of Freedom
by Erich Fromm (1942)
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Routledge & Kegan Paul (pbk) £3.95
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