New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 144

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] DRUGS[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Riding high

I read the October issue with great interest but the cannabis article ‘Myth of the evil weed’ was seriously misleading, claiming as it did that the drug has no discernable effect on driving ability.

The exhaustive review of the research carried out by the US Institute of Medicine in 1982 says that ‘There is experimental evidence that marijuana seriously impairs psychomotor performance. Strong evidence for impairment has been found in: Co-ordination... traffic performance; perceptual tasks; vigilance...

The authors do go on to say that studies linking marijuana to automobile accidents are inconclusive, but it would be a mistake to use that apparently reassuring remark to bolster an illusion of safety. For example, in Canada the Traffic Injuries Research Foundation found that cannabis was the second most frequently detected drug (after alcohol) in the bodily fluids of fatally injured drivers and pedestrians in Ontario. Cannabis was found in the blood of three per cent of the victims, most of whom were also impaired by alcohol.

Alcohol and cannabis when consumed together are known to compound one another to the detriment of driving skills. The impression should not be created that cannabis can safely be mixed with driving or other complex sensorimotor tasks.

Byron Rogers
Ottawa, Canada

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Double vision

Quite a chunk of doublethink entered your issue on drugs (NI 140) - particularly when considering whether or not peasant farmers should cultivate poppies, which you say could ‘make the difference between a reasonable diet and malnutrition’.

Surely the arguments against growing cash crops in general apply equally to poppies. The land would (as the NI has pointed out many times) be better used for growing food, since the profits usually go to multinationals and not the workers. If this is true for tobacco, as you suggest in the same issue, why not for poppies?

The fact that opium is probably less harmful than cigarettes is not the issue here: and don’t tell us that the world opium trade is run on a co-operative basis, with all the profits going to the peasant farmers

Tony Waterston
Dundee, UK

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Drugs truth

Drugs of all varieties are a permanent feature of our society. And if we are ever going to become mature enough to cope with this fact we can only begin by telling the truth. Your October issue (NI 140) was the only honest treatment of the subject that I have seen.

David Riebold
Essex, UK

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Brigade beginnings

In your August issue (NI 138) you have a caption which states that the Boys’ Brigade founded the Girls’ Brigade. The Boys’ Brigade did not found the Girls’ Brigade. The Girls’ Brigade Movement is the amalgamation of three organisations: The Girls’ Life Brigade; The Girls’ Guildry and The Girls’ Brigade, the original Company of which was founded in Ireland in 1893. The amalgamation took place in 1965 to become the International Movement of the Girls’ Brigade which now has a world total of 3,834 Companies with 178,233 members.

Although we recognise the completely separate and our functions, whilst sympathetic, are in no way connected.

Colleen Evans
National Commissioner
The Girls’ Brigade Australia

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

Feeding poverty

David Barrett’s article ‘The Church of the Rich’ in your July issue (NI 137) makes uncomfortable reading. That there are rich people in the world who do little to alleviate the absolute poverty and degradation of millions of poor and underprivileged has always been a challenge to the Christian church. However, he suggests that ‘Global sharing by Christians could solve most of the problems of famine, poverty, disease and unemployment’.

Is this possible? In my experience, simply giving money increases dependency at the cost of self-sufficiency. In the school feeding programme here, pupils and staff have learnt that it is easier to lift food off a lorry than to toil in adverse conditions growing their own. So the donor creates a need - and pupils learn how to beg. Christians are a part of the society that creates this dilemma. They cannot separate themselves.

The simple writing of a cheque does not of itself provide the answer

Christians. It is only through love and understanding between people that equality can be achieved.

Iliff Simey
Scott Hospital
Lesotho

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Slow success

Sumi Krishna Chauhan’s article ‘Hygienic software’ in your October issue (NI 140) argued that it is often difficult for people in the Third World understand and appreciate the use of water pumps, latrines and other hardware that has been supplied to them.

I thoroughly agree. But that is no argument for stopping the supply. In Africa the desert is encroaching on fertile land at a rate of four kilometres per year - a clear case for educating people in the value of trees. But equally a case for the affluent countries supplying more equipment for deep well-digging and irrigation schemes.

Material help of this sort and the continuance of help with food and seeds should proceed alongside increased education. We should not be discouraged by the fact that it takes a long time to change local behaviour. Most worthwhile projects do not get significant results quickly.

K J Barwick
Stourbridge, UK

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Conscience questioned

Anna Clark’s review of Erich Fromm’s essays in your November issue (NI 141) was informative and helpful. But the suggestion within it that the Christian conscience is an ‘internalized authoritarian voice’ and thus more dangerous than a humanistic conscience is surprising.

The definition that she quotes of conscience as ‘an intuitive knowledge of what is human and inhuman, what is conducive to life and what is destructive’ applies potentially to us all, Christian and non-Christian.

There are many examples of Christians whose consciences are clearly not of the authoritarian variety. The millions of Christians opposing repression in Latin America, for example, the Church of England Bishops with their response to the present British government and the American Bishops and their opposition to nuclear weapons.

Philip Kingston
School of Applied Social Sciences
Bristol University, UK

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Third suggestion

You invited response in your October magazine (NI 140) to the use of the term ‘Two-thirds world’. Certainly the term ‘Third World’ does give the Impression that there are three worlds, two of which are no more part of our own world than Mars. I think we should always refer to the ‘developing countries of the world’, just so we don’t forget that there is only ONE world - and that we should make it a more sharing one.

Yvonne Naylor
Belfast, UK

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Espousing Esperanto

The languages of other countries are too complicated for all but the linguistically gifted to learn at school. Esperanto offers an opportunity to communicate at a reasonable level without having to learn irregularities, idioms and difficult sounds - all these have been ironed out. This leaves the way clear to the actual object of the exercise: the quick exchanging of ideas.

I would strongly advise any interested reader to enquire about an Esperanto class at a local education institute. According to UNESCO an estimated ten million people use Esperanto as a second language.

David Curtis
Weston-super-Mare, UK

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Warning shot

You had a story in your November issue (NI 141 - ‘Heroes and Villains’) about using dramatic films in Bangladesh to carry worthy messages. Fine - as long as we agree with the propaganda. But what happens when this sophistication gets into the wrong hands? Shouldn’t such productions carry a warning: ‘This program is loaded’?

Scott Anderson
Milwaukee, USA

Ed. All movies, or TV programmes for that matter, are loaded with the values of the people who produce them.  Maybe they should all carry a colour code in the top left hand corner from deep red to deep blue and all shades in between.

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Mrs Gandhi’s task

I was amazed at the streams of newsprint wasted on the vilification of Indira Gandhi. All bad, nothing good... autocratic... antidemocratic... how they must have disliked the lady.

I wonder if any of the critics would be interested in the task of overseeing India, a country with more than two hundred languages and castes and a population which exceeds that of Europe, Britain and North America combined.

Victoria in her sunlit days tried it and failed miserably. And America with only two major races seems to have had more problems and more periodic outbreaks of violence than India ever had under Indira Gandhi.

Lakshman Umagiliya
Colombo, Sri Lanka

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