New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 154

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] FOOD[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman RussiAid

Enver Carim’s comment (NI September) that ‘Soviet aid figures (for Ethiopia) are not available’ is not true: a brief synopsis of such aid was given in Soviet Weekly dated 21.9.85. Some facts quoted are that ‘Three quarters of the food and prime necessities taken to the drought-stricken areas.., are carried by Soviet transport facilities.’ As well as short-term aid, the Soviet Union is implementing a programme over many years to help develop Ethiopian agriculture through irrigation works, land reclamation, dams and tractor assembly plants.

In view of these facts, the claim that the Soviet Union ‘offers nothing but weapons’ only serves to mislead.

Colin Brogan
British-Soviet Friendship Society
Wigan, Lancashire, UK

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Sino aside

In your September issue you praise China for its egalitarian and ecological policies, but fail to point out that China today is an empire not a nation.

The Chinese government is colonising minority areas (such as Tibet) and exploiting their resources and labour - so it is not surprising that the living standards of some Chinese have risen since the Revolution.

You say that the Communists made food ‘a basic human right’, ‘eliminated malnutrition’ and that China is ‘the best model for developing countries’. Yet local economies were basically self-sufficient before the Chinese occupation;

The claim about China’s ‘lead in ecological farming’ is also controversial since Tibetan lands have been worked intensively since that time to produce wheat, preferred by the colonisers to the local staple, barley.

There are many other examples of such exploitation. But the Chinese government is very good at producing its own propaganda - the New Internationalist does not need to help.

Cathy Cantwell
Canterbury, Kent, UK

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Blame where it’s due

The assistance provided by the Soviet Union to Ethiopia (NI September) recognises that the problem requires a long-term solution as well as immediate relief.

The biggest threat to world peace is the way that money is used to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, widening the gap between North and South - as well as between rich and poor in every land. Whilst I recognise its inadequacies, only the Soviet Union and similarly ordered countries offer any solution to this threat. The New Internationalist would be even more useful if it didn’t automatically blame Russia equally with the US.

D G Turney
Kirkby Lonsdale
Cumbria, UK

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[image, unknown] FEMINISM[image, unknown]

Scientific retort

As a female physics graduate I find appalling the attitude to science shown in your ‘Closet sexist’ quiz (NI August). Admittedly some of the uses to which some branches of science have been put are pretty sick, but without any science there would be no medicine, no farming techniques beyond grubbing in the soil with a stick, no ships, transport or culture.

Science is exciting, valuable and needs the input and new perspectives which girls and women can bring to it. A feminist who discourages a girl from doing science is doing as much damage as a sexit person who claims that girls cannot think logically.

Elizabeth Sourbut
London SWJS, UK

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Blind faith

I have to complain about your quiz on sexism in the August issue. As I read through the questions I wondered what were the real attitudes being espoused.

For example, if I am accused of sexism, why should I feel ashamed? Does the mere accusation carry automatic indictment? Should I accept anyone who points the sexist finger as infallible?

Is role reversal the only acceptable reaction to sexism? Why do I have to write out a shopping list? I don’t need one when I go shopping, so why should I make one for someone else? Why should I blindly opt for affirmative action?

In sum, I just can’t believe the amount of blind faith you expect a man to have if he is to be considered anything short of a pig. I mean, even the Unification Church or the Hare Krishnas pale beside the authoritarianism of thought that you feel feminism demands.

M Baudisch
Toronto, Canada

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Changing traits

Thinking about the ideas raised in the August issue leads me to question what feminism really is. Real feminism would change our attitudes toward so-called feminine traits and values, which center around the role of the nurturer; compassion, sympathy, concern. Nurturing implies caring for someone or something; for one’s children, all children, the environment, the poor, the powerless, the Third World, society, all the world. To nurture something means to care for and help it grow, to put its needs ahead of your own, quite a different attitude from one of domination.

A real feminist revolution would bring a change in values that would liberate men as well as women. Yet to bring this about women are going to have to remain true to themselves, even as they emerge in the fight for equality. I am reminded of a play in which the father says to his liberated daughter, ‘You think of man’s world as THE world... You have not gone far enough.’

Arlene Keddie
Sarasota, Florida USA

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Double take

Why, when you look at the oppression of black people in a racist society (NI March) do you use all white contributors yet in a double issue (July/August) on the oppression of women in a patriarchal society all the articles seem to be written by women.

Mike Hayes
Solihull, UK

Ed. Note: l wish that men - as a group - had taken feminism seriously enough to have useful things to say shout it, but sadly many still prefer to deny the existence of the problem. Fortunately anti-racism has not suffered the same fate, so we were able to find those in the dominant group taking on board the issues it raises.

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God the mother

I enjoyed the August issue, but found the seven principles of feminists limiting, most especially in respect of spirituality. Patriarchal religion is an instrument of repressive regimes all over the world. Feminism is therefore by definition anti all established religions - hence the recent upsurge in the West of interest in ancient Goddess-based religion.

All the oldest religions in the world are matri-focal, and worship spirit as in and of the earth. This perspective is central to our ability to survive and rescue the earth from the threatening holocaust. The earth is our mother, we must take care of her.

Cora Greenhill
Sheffield UK

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[image, unknown] VOLUNTARY AID[image, unknown]

Sponsored benefits

Your article on child sponsorship (NI June) deserves comment. Our children’s home in Jamaica is typical of many worldwide, catering for thousands of children. The sponsorship scheme as it operates within the home does not produce inequalities. Although only twothirds of the children are enrolled, all benefit as the sponsors’ donations release funds from other sources to aid those children not sponsored.

Your criticisms might stem the trickle of precious aid, coming from an uncertain and nervous source. You claim to champion the poor - please think carefully before you publish blanket criticisms of sponsorship.

Rev. Wilson Gordon
Carron Hall United Church
St Mary, Jamaica

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Treating termites

Your item in NI August issue ‘Brazil’s toxic groceries’ says that pesticides are sprayed, poured and dumped’ indiscriminately.

I manage a farm in Zambia and my predecessor lost half a wheat crop because he did not treat for termites. Here pesticides are very expensive and I was appalled to find that the only chemicals available for this are banned in Europe and the USA. Representatives from both Shell and ICI said that the chemicals were supplied by the parent companies as part of preferential trade deals!

So, please, don’t make sweeping accusations. Not all farmers are irresponsibly greedy. Most of us are in the business of feeding people (not poisoning them).

Gillian M Peace-Brown
Kafue, Zambia

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Religious question

It would be wrong to let Bryn Jones’ superficial and partisan dismissal of religion go unchallenged (Letters, NI, August). Religion is what happens when people explore the meaning of their existence,

just as politics is what happens when they live together, and technology is what happens when they seek to solve material problems. Religious feeling is as necessary and inevitable among humankind as breathing, as is exemplified by the fiftyfold increase in the number of Chinese Christians during the anti-religious administration of Mao Tse Tung.

That religion has been used as a reason for warfare and oppression is indisputable, but so have food, kinship, sex and natural resources; few would wish in consequence to abolish these. We need to understand the nature of man (sic) to explain why the world is screwed up - and that is a religious question.

Jon Garvey
Danbury, Essex, UK

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Backing on arms

V Wyatt (Letters NI 150) and others might be interested to learn that the Midland Bank has recently set up a Defence Equipment Finance Department Although all the major banks are involved in financing arms exports, this is the first instance we know of where a special department has been established.

In response to letters, the Midland has stated ‘We do not support the export of defence equipment to any country which is contrary to the foreign policy of Her Majesty’s Government’. This means, of course, that they could assist with deals to Chile, Indonesia, Iran or Iraq.

Ann Feltham
Campaign Against Arms Trade
London N1, UK

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