New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 142

Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] new internationalist 142[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] December 1984[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.

[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] AFRICA[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Whitewashed facts

If half Britain’s people were six feet tall and half four feet tall, the statement’the average Briton is five feet tall’ would be grossly misleading. Unfortunately, your World Bank and ODC ‘Poverty Index’ in September (NI 139) is just that. It gives an averaged series of figures for apartheid South Africa’s various races, thus producing statistical mumbo-jumbo of a kind much favoured by that country’s devious propaganda machine.

Abstracting the correct figures makes it obvious that some at least of your published figures from the World Bank and ODC exclude the most wretched of South Africans — those in the lethal black ‘homelands’; an interesting point (since exclusion implies recognition) as no organisation outside South Africa is supposed to recognise these fraudulent apartheid states, the World Bank included.

Your figures for South Africa, with more accurate ones added (W white, B = black. Indians and Coloureds excluded) are as follows:

Birth rate per 1000: 40 (W 30, B 43)

Infant mortality per 1,000: 55 (W 16, B 120)

Life expectancy: 63 (W 71, B 50)

Adult literacy: 77% (W 99%, B 70%)

GNP per capita: $2,670 (W $10,000, B $1,000)

Proof, I think, that apartheid’s dishonest statistics are getting in everywhere, covering up the vast and racist difference between black and white in South Africa.

L. Clarke
Uxbridge
Middlesex, UK

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] THE RICH[image, unknown]

Nato’s new boy

I read with much interest ‘It’s a Rich Man’s World’ (NI 137) because I had just heard that Lord Carrington would be receiving a large tax free salary for his new job as Secretary General of NATO.

I followed this up through my MP and received a letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stating that he will receive a salary of £46,000 p.a., plus £14,000 entertainment allowance, plus a house and a Rolls Royce. This is all tax free.

I would like to know if any of your readers have come across other government appointments which carry a large tax-free salary plus perks.

Richard H Barnes
Luncarty
Perth, UK

Ed. note: the competition is now open.

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown] YOUTH[image, unknown]

Rotten hero

Sure, kids want heroes (NI 138). They may use as models their parents, teachers, friends, athletes, musicians and so on. A hero is as much a creation of internal needs as external events. The suggestion that Che Guevara is more worthy a hero than Johnny Rotten is a personal statement of need, vision or value. Personally I’m not sure that killing people, for any reason, is more heroic than singing about one’s feelings of anger. If most heroes don’t make the TV news it’s not because countless small acts of heroism played out over a lifetime are any less important.

Gunter Bubleit
Quebec, Canada

[image, unknown]

Quit beefing

It is claimed by Aidan Harrison (Letters NI 139) that most of our beef is produced from grass grown on land ‘unsuitable for cultivation’. Cultivation of what? For while the land may not be good for growing the limited number of cereal types we raise in Britain, it is highly suitable for supporting other ‘crops’ — such as trees which provide energy, raw materials and food as well as improving ecological systems and giving shelter.

Beef production has wider implications. Because high quality beef from specialist herds is very costly the average consumer cannot afford it.

So a great deal is produced as cheaply as possible using calves the dairy farmer is glad to be rid of. This beef (the calves) is a by-product of a dairy industry which uses up masses of carbohydrate and protein-rich concentrates to achieve three times the yield obtainable from grass.

The overblown status of steak is a stumbling block in persuading the leaders of developing countries to establish an agriculture to feed everyone directly and fairly. It is the use of land in those nations to grow cash-crops which allows the few to eat as if they were in the West (with the consequent diseases of affluence) and forces the many to labour in hunger.

The system that takes 12 lb of grain to produce 1 lb of beef may seem appropriate to a farmer in Britain but it is irresponsible in the international context. The industry does not exist in isolation: nor does Britain.

Barry Kew
General Secretary
The Vegan Society
Leatherhead
Surrey, UK

[image, unknown]

Chewing the cud

Aidan Harrison (Letters NI 139) argues that most of Britain’s beef comes from grass-fed cattle grazing on land unfit for cultivation.

The farmhouse I rent sits in some of the most fertile land in the country yet nearly all is in barley for cattle feed. The rest supports cattle but only in summer. If cattle could be fed purely on uncultivable land the beef industry would be justifiable,but to produce beef in the quantities we expect in the rich world then cattle and cattle feed must encroach on good land.

Carolyn Marshall
Insch
Aberdeenshire
UK

[image, unknown]

Red light rumpus

Your update on Prostitution Costs (NI 139) assumes that men have natural irrepressible sexual urges while women do not, and that men therefore are forced to satisfy their sexual needs in any way they can.

Prostitution is far more complicated than this and it is inaccurate to talk of men having innate cravings which go beyond monogamy and which women lack. Sexuality is a socially constructed rather than a purely physical phenomenon. What men are buying is not necessarily just sex but also power in an unequal gender relationship.

Wendy Lee
Canterbury
Kent, UK

[image, unknown]

Victorian Bangkok

‘Forty per cent of the women of Bangkok earn their living as prostitutes’? (NI 139). It is blatantly absurd to state such a thing for a metropolis of over 6 million inhabitants (1984 estimate), even one of Bangkok’s reputation, and I can back that evident truth with my own several years experience of Thailand and the trade. The situation is in fact akin in most respects —economic, environmental, social and political — to that of Victorian London where 100,000 prostitutes are said to have regularly earned a living, that is about five per cent eligible females at the most, and never in a month of Sundays is it 40 per cent.

Give Thai women a break, NI, and help restore my lost faith in your accuracy. They could certainly do with a better economic deal, and the men too, but this kind of in-accuracy both insults the Thai people and enables Thai ohgarchs to laugh the situation away.

It should also be noted that the great majority of clients are Thai males, not tourists; again, analagous to Victorian London.

Keith Mundy
Dhahran
Saudi Arabia

Ed. reply: Point taken.The statement should have read: In Bangkok above 40 per cent of women working outside the house earn their living as prostitutes. See also pages 14 and 15 of this magazine.

[image, unknown]

Semenal research

Of the 75 per cent of named forms of contraception in your update on Population diagram (NI 139), all are technologies invented, marketed and advised by the established male ‘experts’. None derives from or aims at a woman’s right to choose.

The author asserts that a major reason why research focuses on women is the impressive scale of male sperm production, never suspecting that research has a gender too and is produced, financed and guided by Western male-dominated interests. Why else didn’t it occur that a single application of Superglue to the male would mean an infinitely higher prevention rate at half the cost?

There is now a body of research which exposes the real aims and interests of the contraception industry and the health hazards it brings to women users. As a result of this research, growing numbers of women in the West are giving up contraceptive technologies and changing to less interventionist techniques.

I wonder also about your statistics, that of 270 million people using some form of contraception two-thirds are in the West. Are we talking about forms of contraception or contraceptive technologies — about which it is easier to obtain statistics?

It is necessary to keep informed about new exploits in the contraception industry, but with a more critical attitude and less high-tech enthusiasm. ‘Alternative’ research also needs publicising.

Susanne Kappeler
Rabat, Morocco

Ed. reply: The figure of 270 million includes users of all forms of contraception.

[image, unknown]

Mapping Africa

George Eastfield (NI 139) in his criticism of your use of a ‘Mercators’ Africa to show drought areas seems to misunderstand the purpose of the Peters’ Projection.

This is a map of the world which portrays each country according to its true surface area and which should be shown complete. To use part of the Peters’ Projection for Africa alone would be misleading.

M Jones
Hatfield
Herts, UK

[image, unknown]

Fair play

Ashok Mitra’s irony (The Firework Kids NI 138) is misplaced. Exploiters by definition will ‘squeeze out profit’ but surely until a radical solution is found it is up to government agencies to insist on shorter working hours, better conditions and higher wages for those children?

As Mitra points out, those employers are breaking the law. If they do not respond to demands for improvement in their treatment of the children, heavy fines should be imposed and paid to the children and their families. This should only be regarded as a palliative in a situation that is crying out to be remedied.

Anna Newton
Linton
Cambs, UK

[image, unknown]

[image, unknown]


Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.


This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7

Comments on Letters

Leave your comment