New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 149

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] MANAGED SOCIETY[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Bittersweet freedom

Devoting a whole issue (NI 146) to the subject of social control without admitting that without it there is not freedom but anarchy (in which only the powerful are free) is to be guilty of the very distortion and suppression you condemn.

You imply there was once an age of innocence - possibly still in existence in a few quiet corners of the globe - when women and men lived in freedom and harmony without onerous controls. In fact most traditional societies have customs and rules regulating every circumstance of life.

In addition you overlook that ‘freedom’ also means ‘freedom from’ - hunger. poverty, illiteracy, premature death and so on. In spite of their imperfections the mixed liberal/socialist/capitalist societies you condemn do provide these freedoms in greater measure than any other societies known to history.

Finally you virtually ignore the fact that most of us are afraid of freedom, as Fromm and the existentialists have shown, and desperately search for controls and controllers.

Jock Parsons
Lianrilsani
Mid-Glamorgan
UK

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Here is the news

Chris Johnson’s article in your April issue (NI 146) was almost as predictable as BBC TV’s nine o’clock news.

The nub of the article was about broadcasting truth and it would have been helpful if he could have shown how the BBC news direction is controlled, and just how it could be made to produce ‘true’ news.

After all, not everyone’s view of truth is the same. Indeed it would have been a revelation to us all if the BBC had found the solution and was beaming out news programmes which would be recognised by everyone as ‘true

Richard Brown
Edinburgh, UK

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Household management

I was taken aback in NI 146 to see child care and housework referred to as ‘routine and free time activity’ rather than managed activity’.

In modern societies these functions remain highly ‘managed’. They are managed, by husbands, welfare workers. advertisers and the media. Moreover, the demands of the managers of other areas of our lives (teachers, government, employers, media, etc) more and more infringe on our ‘free time’, managing us indirectly if not directly.

We have no more freedom to decide our own approach to child care and housework than to decide our own approaches to education and employment. The eight hours and 23 minutes a day stated in this magazine is a gross underestimate of managed time.

Caroline Raine
Oxford, UK

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Bad behaviourism

Has Huw Richards actually read any of Skinner’s works (NI 146)? If so I am surprised at his shoddy synopsis of behaviourism.

The abuse of psychiatry in the ‘free’ world is a very obvious cause for concern. That cause cannot be served by the mindless lumping together of psychology and psychiatry, much less by Richards’ peculiar (and inaccurate) synthesis of environment and genetic make-up’ as behavioural reinforcers. I imagine that Richards was himself positively reinforced for this particular piece of deviant behaviour (ie. writing this article) by being paid for it. If so. I respectfully suggest that in future he be left to simmer in his own confused ‘inner processes’ without being rewarded for exposing them.

Jane Leitch
Haworth
W. Yorkshire
UK

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Destructive elements

I read with sadness the views in ‘Everything under control’ (NI 146) which seemed to imply that the control of behaviour is always evil.

I think that failure to control certain behaviour is evil. My work involves running a therapeutic community for children whose thoughts and behaviour have been shaped by poor child-rearing techniques at home, unfortunate experiences at school and by a society which seems to have little altruism left in it. These children suffer because of the attitudes they have adopted: attitudes which are counter to their own interests as well as to the interests of society.

No-one wishes to live in an authoritarian state which dictates from the top down, but neither do we wish to live in a society which is ungoverned or ungovernable because of the destructive elements within it.

Professor Dr L. Lowenstein
Fair Oak
Hampshire
UK

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No no Nirvana

I have seldom read a more ignorant article, nor one in worse taste, than Tom Hawthorn’s article ‘Next Stop Nirvana’ in your April issue.

Applying his logic to the physical level (the only level he is apparently capable of understanding) we find:

a) Some doctors get very rich by charging high fees.
b) This proves that they are not actually curing their patients.
c) In fact their patients only think they are ill.
d) Disease doesn’t really exist anyway.

QED!

Jacqueline M. Nebel
Brussels, Belgium

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Last word

In the April edition’s ‘Endquote’ some words of Bishop Desmond Tutu are quoted, ending ‘We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land’. In fact Bishop Tutu then went on to say ‘And we had the better part of the bargain. Thank God for that gift’. This greatly changes the message of his words since he was building a much more complex argument that looked beyond materialistic competition to the unity of souls.

It is ironic that you should misuse a quotation in this way in an issue about managed information. The problem is that we are all prone to sacrifice the truth of others in order to confirm our own images of the truth.

David Norling
Chichester, UK

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[image, unknown] RACISM[image, unknown]

Black experience

In response to the editorial comment about the black ‘community’ following the letter ‘Blanket Black’ (NI 147) there are two points I would like to make.

First, as a black woman I can assure you there is no ‘black community’ just as there is no ‘white community’. However, black people have indeed reclaimed the word ‘black’ because although we have no common culture or language we have a common experience of racism that gives us a certain unity.

Second, on your point about black people being better judges of what is racist, to an extent you’re right. It’s not for white people to tell us about racism. However, simply being black does not mean that one has an understanding of the operation or function of racism; we may experience it, but we don’t necessarily understand how or why. Indeed, there are black people who claim that there is no racism. These people serve to make whites feel comfortable about their racism by pretending that they’re not racist. It is this false consciousness on the part of some blacks that prevents us from uniting in order to overthrow racist institutions.

Moiram Ali
Oxford, UK

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Cultural divide

Martin Maguire’s article on racism in New Zealand (March issue) overlooks the difference in the cultures of the pakeha (whites) and the Maori. Basically, the Maori make their decisions by consensus - they talk till all are agreed - whereas the pakeha do it by ‘democracy’ - the will of the majority prevails. Further, for the Maori the concept of land is part of their tribal heritage and it can only be sold with the approval of its many individual co-owners. For the pakeha land is individually owned.

Maguire concludes ‘we (the pakeha) must face up to and challenge our own racism and that of our society’. But shouldn’t this challenge be addressed to pakeha society itself? After all is it really any better than that of the Maori that the pakeha should expect the Maoris to conform to it? White anti-racists in New Zealand may have begun using Maori words, but they still maintain the superiority of the pakeha system. as Maguire’s article seems to imply.

H E. Hiley
Guildford, UK

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Forest fire

I cannot let pass the misquotation about passive smoking given by Russell Waters of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking and Tobacco (FOREST) in your April issue Letters.

Far from saying that the risk from passive smoking was not clear, the Royal College of Physicians report actually said that ‘the extent to which passive smoking exposure can damage the health of other-

wise healthy individuals is by no means clear’ (emphasis added).

And since that report further studies have backed up the suspicion that prolonged exposure to sidestream smoke increases the risk of cancer of the respiraton.’ tract.

Dr Thomas E. A. Carr Chairman
National Society of Non-Smokers
London, UK

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Come to cancer country

FOREST’s misquotation of the Royal College of Physicians report (Letters NI 146) to try and make out that there is no problem with passive smoking is as devious as it is irresponsible. But then the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking and Tobacco is a tobacco-industry organisation. The letter only shows the same reckless disregard for the scientific evidence on smoking as has been shown by FOREST’s paymasters for so many years.

As health at last begins to win the day over smoking in the West, the same multinational tobacco companies who sponsor this ‘Freedom’ organisation are turning to the developing world to try to get those who can least afford it hooked on their wretched products. Already in many developing nations lung cancer is top, or rapidly heading for the top of the league of fatal cancers; and heart and respiratory diseases are also showing tragically familiar patterns to those recorded in the West once the smoking epidemic had taken hold here.

David Simpson, Director
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Royal College of Physicians
London, UK

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