New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 146

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] YOUTH[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Slippery slope

Your January edition (NI 143) did not confirm to your factual, hard-hitting image. Factual articles and informed comment seem to have been replaced by sloppy turgid fiction. I do not subscribe to NI to read the thoughts of an adolescent Liverpudlian glue-sniffer, as surmised by a successful playwright. And I am not interested in the words your co-editor puts into the mouth of a teenage mother from Harlem.

The latter contribution I found especially irritating as it revealed a great deal about the textbooks the author studied during her college English literature course - and very little about the intended subject. Why not interview a real, live Scouse punk or teenage mother if you want to know what they think. Maybe because they might not be as articulate as your contributors? Maybe because you might not like what you find? Better play safe and make it up.

NI is no longer the source of information it once was. I am sure that you and your columnists are well qualified to write cleverly-structured short stories, full of sparkling prose, but perhaps their efforts would be better placed elsewhere. The issues you deal with will only be resolved by informed, incisive argument. Please stop this slide.

Christopher Tiratsoo
London E5, UK

Ed. Our aim was to use a new form of journalism to communicate more effectively the issues facing young people. All the contributors had to have a far greater knowledge of the person and their life than would be needed for a straight interview or regular story. All had talked with, listened to and lived in their subject’s environment for some time. And every story was backed by a detailed ‘Facts’ box. Sorry you didn’t approve.

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Cold shower

You say in the ‘Young Love in Harlem’ story that there are only two failsafe methods of birth control: abstinence and abortion. And even these have side effects.’

In the case of abstinence this is not true. To say that it has side effects (and the comment suggests that these are bad) would mean that a vast number of nuns, monks and priests who take a vow of celibacy suffer from those ill effects. But this is not evidenced by what most of these people state about celibacy. The same thing would also apply to the many people who are not restrained by religious regulations, but who also live celibate lives. There is no overwhelming evidence of this, and certainly all of these people are not indulging in sexual experiences with someone of the same sex.

D L Jones
Dover Kent, UK

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Youthful employment

In the ‘Tough Choices’ issue (NI 143) you state that it is difficult (for young people) everywhere to find enough jobs.

I don’t think you’ll find that particular problem in the Soviet Union.

Robert Wyatt
Twickenham, UK

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Silly Quiz

Your quiz in the January issue (NI 143) was one of the silliest I have ever seen.

For example, does Question 1 ‘Do you believe in true love, happiness and honesty?’ mean;a) that you think these qualities really exist? Or b) that most people ought to have them or could have them in more favourable circumstances?

For Question 8: at the age of 82. I have no parents, sexual partner, mentor or God and no particular respect for politicians or rock stars. So I cannot make any comparison.

On to Question 11: Emphasis should not be on getting where I am but on the success or failure of my efforts in the cause of humanity.

In the rating I am surprised that NI takes Winston Churchill’s (in)famous statement as a criterion. He was probably neither thinking of anyone in particular nor thinking very deeply at all when he made it.

Nil out of ten, NI.

Kathleen Jones
Bishops Castle
Shropshire, UK

Ed. Question 1 actually asked ‘Did (not "do") you believe in true love’ I did when I was 18 and think I do now at 37. But then, I scored low on my own questionnaire - Dexter Tiranti.

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Youthspeak

I was disappointed to find that all your articles in the Youth issue were about young people and not by them. This ironically seemed to reinforce the point many contributors were trying to make - that young people are excluded from having their own say about their lives. Everyone’s ready with sage analyses, few want to hear what it really feels like to be growing up in today’s world. So how about another issue giving young people a chance to speak out about their lives?

Sally Eaton
London, UK

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Leap of faith

Your article on born-again Christianity (NI 143) is ridiculously clichéd and intellectually lightweight. It is sad that such an important subject should be treated with sarcasm rather than honesty.

Certainly there are amusing aspects to Christian belief, but sneering at Michael’s ‘wide-eyed faith’ as if it were no more than a psychological boost is not very funny. It is insulting.

Moreover, your suggestion that social and political concern fade away because of predestination is plain silly. Just because something is bound to happen doesn’t mean the Christian ignores it. With the anxieties about Church involvement in politics, many church groups feel uneasy with sociopolitical issues, but none can say these problems do not matter.

I suspect Mr Forbes was embarrassed and his gut reaction was laughter at unselfconscious expressions of faith. But manner and substance are not the same thing - neither are gut reactions and truth.

Eric Foggitt
Dumfries
Scotland, UK

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Kiss of death

I do not like the moral tone of the lead article in your Tourism magazine (NI 142). You cannot blame people for the consequences of their insensitivity; they are unaware of the evil they do. Bluntly pointing it out only causes a defensive reaction which does not help.

Anyone who has visited relatively intact traditional societies must have picked up on the psychological peacefulness of the people. They live completely and unquestioningly within their roles. But there is savage oppression of women which is accepted as normal. And there is destruction of the environment. And all tradition inhibits human creative potential by its rigid conditioning process.

Even the most insensitive tourist to the Third World is just part of an inevitable process - the death of tradition. At the same time, the tourist may return home a little more sensitive and likely to reflect on the difference between here and there. I feel no guilt in urging people to travel in the Third World.

Edward L Butterworth
Vancouver BC, Canada

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Travellers’ code

I strongly disagree with one of the suggestions made in the ‘Travellers’ Code’ (NI 142). I think that it may be the first steps towards prostitution for people to ask for money for being photographed, particularly as those involved are often children. If people are not willing to be photographed freely, then they should not be photographed. A more meaningful exchange would be to send a copy of the photograph to the people in the picture.

In addition, haggling for the lowest price of goods produced for tourists may reduce the income of the producer, but indiscriminate payment of high prices for local consumables or food will distort the market economy. Then it is the poor that lose out as they cannot afford to pay inflated prices.

Ruth Hope
London SW18, UK

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Getting a lungful

A Wilkins of Bristol (Letters NI 142) is absolutely right in saying that there are no freedoms without accompanying responsibilities. Unfortunately many people are ill-mannered, and show lack of consideration for others in public places. Some people pick their noses, some people don’t wash, some people eat peas with their knives. And of course, some of them smoke with insufficient regard for the sensibilities of non-smokers. Such lack of courtesy should be condemned in anyone.

However, s/he is wrong in supposing that being with a smoker in a confined space damages her/his health in any way. Unpleasant and irritating it may be but it does not affect the non-smoker with any of the risks associated with smoking.

The Royal College of Physicians has dismissed evidence of risk from ‘passive’ smoking as ‘by no means clear’. The World Health Organization has discounted evidence of harm from passive smoking as ‘marginal’ and ‘inadequate’.

I hope that A Wilkins will not make him or herself ill by worrying any further about the effect of a colleague’s smoking on his/her own health.

Russell Walters
Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking
Tobacco (FOREST)
London SW8, UK

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One for the road

As someone who likes his booze may I correct Pierre Gentil’s statement (NI Letters NI 143) that ‘alcohol kills (other people) on a large scale and especially when it is combined with the use of automobiles’.

The root cause of death in an accident is the speed of the car. A car driven carelessly or too fast by a sober person can still kill. A drunken pedestrian just falls over.

Could we have less knocking the time-honoured and divinely sanctioned occupation of drinking, and a more circumspect attitude to today’s absurd obsession with going back and forth daily at breakneck speeds?

Simon Fairlie
Accrington, UK

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Correction

We apologise for a factual error in the March issue on Racism. The editorial claimed that there had never been a black Labour MP in Britain when in fact one Indian man was elected in the 1920s.

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