New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 188

new internationalist
issue 188 - October 1988

Letters

The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short.
They may be edited for purposes of space or clarity.
Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
to the nearest editorial office or e-mail to : ni@newint.org

Mental block
Cover of the NI Issue 187 Why does your Personal Violence issue (NI 187) pay so much attention to physical violence and hardly any to mental cruelty? Could it have something to do with the fact that most physical violence is perpetrated by men and it is simply easier to point the finger of blame at them?

While appreciating that personal violence is a huge subject for a 32-page magazine to tackle I feel that the issue could have focussed on the more subtle - and often more harmful - forms it can take. A sarcastic parent, for example, may do a lot more damage than one who slaps a child when naughty but treats them with respect the rest of the time. A manipulative, verbally vicious woman may be far more dangerous than a physically aggressive man. And what about the violence to the person caused by hunger and poverty? These are only alluded to in Dan Vega's piece from Peru.

Dick Vincent
Portsmouth, UK

Fighting talk
When will these people who advocate out-dated ideas like socialist revolution' cease plaguing your Letters page? While they are out selling Militant or holding public meetings, we NI readers are getting down to things that matter. These socialists must realize that the road to liberation in the Third World depends on progressive people in this country using ecologically sound transport (cycling), wearing radical T-shirts (at great personal cost), and agonizing about our sexual roles. What do socialists have to offer that can rival this deep commitment?

Colleagues! The New Internationalist revolution is coming! A wave of middle-class guilt and 'One World' sweatshirts will sweep the globe, fascist dictatorships will crumble before the onslaught of spiky-haired people with non-competitive life-styles, a new sun will rise on a world purged of nasty rough people and individuals with awful taste in interior decoration. Until that great day, let us hold our coffee mugs high, whatever the risk, and wear our T-shirts with pride.

Max Neil
Preston. UK

Seedy suggestion
Although New Zealand earns more than 90 per cent of its forestry foreign exchange from exotic coniferous plantations, it is not comparable with most other sellers of tropical hardwoods (Facts NI 184). Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia mine their indigenous forests with little concern for the long-term sustainability of their resources, whilst New Zealand practices sustainable forestry using exotic forests planted 70 years ago. These trees were grown precisely to preserve New Zealand's indigenous forests, and as a result the natural forests have increased. Your June issue would have done well to address the dire need to accelerate reforestation, because this is a process which is far more likely to reduce the pressures on the world's forest resources, than the lofty (but unrealistic aim) of changing the consumption patterns of the developed world.

Steve Johnson
School of Forestry,
Canterbury, UK

Blind spot
Is photography yet another form of exploitation? While white people from the North are usually named in close-up media shots, non-whites from the South are not. This trend can be seen in 'Third World' slide-shows, fund-raising adverts for Ethiopians and now (Allah preserve us), the NI. How many people in NI 185 (apart from Fidel Castro and the photographers) were afforded the simple courtesy of being named? Please take or find photographs that provide names for the faces: your subjects deserve this, every bit as much as you, me... or even Fidel Castro.

Greg Whitehead
Development Education Group, Australia

Cutting words
The lack of balance, depth and self-righteousness of your magazine inspires increasing irritation. I did however read your coverage of the devastation of the world's forests with some sympathy (NI 184): the greatest contribution you could make to the cause would be to cease publication.

Christopher Maconochie
Sussex, UK

Cartoon: Cath Jackson
Cartoon: Cath Jackson

Time-bomb tension
The Philippines is sitting on an environmental 'time-bomb' and a major part of the problem is the imminent loss of its vital forest. The archipelago suffered a 55% forest loss between 1960 and 1985 (the Marcos years) and the trend is continuing today, with 250,000 acres being destroyed annually.

A recent satellite scan showed the densely populated island of Cebu has zero forest; 60% of the land is severely eroded and the rivers are silting up, killing fish and causing floods. It is estimated that there will be no primary forest left in the Philippines by the year 2000.

Meanwhile in the race for export dollars, commercial loggers are given a virtual 'carte blanche' to clear fell, cut undersized logs, finance illegal loggers and to log areas defined as National Parks and Reserves. Squads of armed thugs enforce the loggers' power, often with the connivance of local and national politicians and governments departments.

Larry Marshall,
Quezon City, Philippines

Nailed down
The letter from M J Hughes (Letters NI 184) seems to be saying: 'Fair's fair. If the blokes have to fix everything, then the women gotta do their share.' But unfortunately many men still do not think it appropriate for women to dig ditches or mix cement. Women who dare don a pair of overalls, are immediately labelled 'butch' and 'dykes', though what sexuality has to do hammering in a nail, I still can't fathom.

Lydia Bezeruk
Semaphore, South Africa

Loose connections
I endorse the spirit of the Housework issue (NI 181) that men should take a greater responsibility for the maintenance of the family, but nowhere do you define what you mean by 'housework'. There seems to be a loose assumption that 'housework is what women do'. But if it is understood as the unpaid work necessary for the maintenance of the family and home, does it not also include mowing the lawns, painting the house, fixing a blocked drain and so on, which tend to be jobs done by men on their days off? Even if the definition hinges around the term 'unpaid', it applies even less to developing nations since many people live in a subsistence economy where almost all work is unpaid. Also, when you consider that most Third World people do not live as nuclear families but in extended village communities, the term 'housework' becomes even more meaningless. Women are not going to make much progress so long as the association between women, house and children survives.

Christina Reymer
New Ireland Province,
Papua New Guinea

Gene screen
A Molecular Auschwitz by Dick Russell (NI 182), raised many well-founded concerns about genetic manipulation technologies and their applications. They are fully shared by the Australian Conservation Foundation which recently began a campaign to ensure the mandatory notification, assessment and control of genetic engineering in this country. We would like to hear from NI readers who have information to share about these hazards and strategies for dealing with them.

Bob Phelps,
Campaign Officer,
Australian Conservation Foundation, Hawthorn,
Victoria 3122, Australia

Soft on slugs
I am trying to grow a nice traditional garden which is being invaded by slugs. Of course slug pellets could kill them easily, but they take days to die: it just won't do. Under the advice of a friend, I tried putting them in a jar of salt water. Terrible. Finally I transported them to a nearby field, but what a drag. Of course I have thought of more radical means, like treading on them, but it makes me feel like Hitler. As you are a fairly humanitarian magazine I thought you might help.

C Fraser
Oxford, UK

Editor: You can write to the following address for a leaflet on the non-chemical control of slugs: Advisory Officer, Henry Doubleday Research Association, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry CV8 3LG, UK.

Money matters
The underlying assumption in the Housework issue (NI 181), is that a 'housewife' is a white, metropolitan, married mother. But the reality is that housework is inseparable from poverty, which this issue of NI hardly mentions. Women have to work like crazy because we don't have the money not to, and the less money we have, the more work we are forced to do. Is help from men to clean our slums all we want? (The implication is that the single women who head 20%-40% of the world's families will have to get a man if they want assistance.) Why concentrate on re-distributing the work, when if we redistribute the wealth we can abolish so much drudgery? One move in the right direction was the United Nation's 1985 decision, to count women's unwaged work as part of every country s Gross National Product. The debate on housework must begin with the recognition that women's work is essential to the economy.

Lisa Longstaff
Wages for Housework Campaign,
London, UK

ERRATUM: Tartrazine E102 is a food additive to be avoided - not E120 as stated in Diet of Violence NI 187). Our apologies for this printing error.

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The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist

Letter from China
 

[image, unknown] Children of the moon
One night every year the full moon drives China's young people mad with excitement. Sue Robson explains.

Rockets were shooting into the darkness long before the moon rose. The machine-gun rattle of firecrackers summoned us into the warm night , and we walked through the pink-paper debris of spent fireworks as little boys lit more, awaiting the results with fingers in ears and eyes screwed up. Then the moon came up.

It was gorgeous: huge, silver, a perfect circle rising above the city and suddenly the streets were packed as China giggled its way into the year's second great holiday - the 'Moon' festival which celebrates China's quin nian: 'fresh of years' or young people.

The moon rose above the campus, between the outstretched fingers of Mao's giant statue at whose feet students formed a circle The teenagers crowded around a vacant patch of concrete. Where a tape-recorder blasted, waiting for someone to start dancing. But bashful under the fairy lights and brilliant moon, no-one would.

More and more young people flocked around us as we sauntered through the dark night, until we had gathered a great horde. Joking, giggling, chatting, we swarmed towards the mountain on the city's edge.

The moon lit the polished stone steps as we began to ascend, climbing a mountain is never a solitary experience in China but a mad rush upwards in an excited crowd and this mob, all under 25 was more excitable than most. Whole gangs kept breaking away to start high-pitched card games, buy beer and apples from stalls lit by wax tapers and - once to join a party, merry making under the pines. There, to the strumming of a fast guitar and a squeaking mouth organ, an excited couple danced under the moon's half-light.

From tunes warbled on flute and accordion to disco beats on passing ghetto blasters music was all around us as we climbed Sometimes teenagers simply wandered along singing folksongs to the starry sky.

And deep within an ancient Buddhist temple, shuttered against the night, monks beat on an insistent, melancholy drum. Against the monastery's bolted gates, couples hovered in the shadows: although most institutions here forbid their students to have boy- or girlfriends many youngsters break that rule today.

But most were single-sex groups, holding hands in camaraderie as they stumbled up the steps under the light of the great moon . Only a few dark shapes wandered solitary and sad. Some students told me that the mid-Autumn Festival brought them poignant reminders of home. The moon festival is traditionally a time for families to get together but students often find they simply do not have the money - or the time - to stand all night in the 'hard seat' carriages amongst throngs of people going home to celebrate.

'I wish I was at home with my family,' said one girl mournfully. 'My father is preparing beer and mooncakes in the courtyard He will invite our neighbours to join the family watching the moon then they will play games and tell jokes. And whoever wins will be rewarded with an apple.'

.Inside the pagoda at the very top of the mountain we opened beer and ate our mooncakes: flat and round, filled with dried fruit, impossibly red cherries and lurid green angelica. Outside on the mountain's silvered peak, teenagers sat in circles telling jokes and singing. In a country where most people have no radio, no TV or cassette recorder young people often take it in turns to sing lilting Chinese folksongs and the garbled words of Western pop. Some groups roared with laughter as boys began a 'crosstalk', producing greater and greater boasts to meet the others' straight-faced lies.

And still young people poured in their hundreds up the slopes to watch the moon, now shining high above the city. They shrieked and giggled, teetering up moonlit stone steps rubbed so smooth by centuries of feet that they were treacherous to trendy heels The rockets had long ceased to whizz from the grey city spread below us but throughout the night, firecrackers exploded suddenly, spasmodically from the suburbs.

Sue Robson is a teacher of English at a small-town university in the Yangtse River Valley.

 
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