issue 189 - November 1988
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Cloud cuckoo land
Here we go again, I thought. With its headbanging title, your issue on the Politics of Greed (NI 188) seemed to promise the usual hellfire and damnation about the iniquities of Thatcher, Reagan and Co. I thought I'd end up feeling frustrated by you staying on your moralistic high horse without ever offering any concrete political proposals.
Instead your lengthy debate between editor and a 'reader' left me feeling the opposite. We're supposed to be inspiring people with our vision of how things could be different. And what's inspiring about a treatise on who can own brown rice stores and how many people it takes to make up a windmill construction co-operative? Thatcher never laid out her ideal world for everyone to shoot down - she and her cronies unveiled it bit by beautifully packaged bit. So why are you jumping through all these self-imposed hoops?
And if your modern drawing of Sancho Panza has been 'liberated from the master-servant relationship' why does he/she/it end up with the donkey?
I would like to add two points to your issue on violence (NI 187). First, many chemicals cause sudden uncontrollable rages: notably lead, the chemicals used to tenderize burger meat and certain food additives. There are also a vast number of chemicals in food which have been recently introduced, the effects of which are unknown.
Second, much violence in the West results I believe, from a sense of impotence. Many of us have as much control over our lives as animals in a zoo. The more centralized, urbanized and mechanized a society becomes, the less control we have and the more violence is bred. Your issue concentrated too much on women deploring male violence: if men are to become less violent, women must stop requiring them to enslave themselves to the industrial machine in order to support a family.
In his letter concerning 'native peoples' (aren't we all?), David Kemp argues that destruction of the environment has always occurred (NI 187). True - but only recently has technology made it possible to destroy life faster than it can be replaced. I have recently returned from the tropical rainforests of South East Asia where the almost negligible cutting down of trees by 'native peoples' caused no real destruction over millions of years. Now unscrupulous logging companies assisted by corrupt officials are destroying forests at the rate of 50 million acres a year.
Phil Lumley writes that 'Israel is fighting a war of survival against Islamic aggression' (Letters NI 187). It beats me how he can describe opposition to military occupation as 'aggression'. Would he call the activities of black South Africans seeking freedom, as aggression or legitimate struggle?
Could Mr Lumley tell us just how Israel is trying to 'resettle and improve the lot of the Palestinians'? Is he referring to the deportations, or does he mean that by making life so miserable in the refugee camps people will leave voluntarily?
I have been to the Holy Land twice this year and have seen the appalling conditions Palestinians are living under. In their position, I have no doubt that anyone would throw stones and anything else one could lay hands on in order to change the situation.
The Islamic Organization for Media Monitoring
Regarding your issue on Personal Violence, (NI 187), can you or any of your readers tell me how to differentiate between erotica and pornography? When can the pictorial depiction of the sexual act be called art - or would you ban it completely? And what about writers like D H Lawrence who made their reputations and sometimes their livelihood from describing sexual experiences? These questions are not addressed by the simplistic rhetoric of 'Porn is the theory, rape is the practice'.
I suggest that pornography, like anything else people devise for their pleasure, is simply a tool. Like alcohol or money, it is capable of vast abuse by those who exploit it for financial purposes. But I have read and enjoyed 'pornography', just as I have been aroused by the pictorial depiction of sex - and I refuse to feel guilty for it. The simple-minded conclusion you arrive at - that people must not use pornography - does not address the complexity of this social phenomenon.
Banking on sperm
I represent a group of women wanting to have children by men prepared to be semen donors. Some require anonymous donors who perceive their role as similar to that of blood donors. Others prefer men willing to be known, at least by name, to the child. A few wish the father to develop a relationship with the baby. If any NI readers are interested please would they write to: P0 Box 164. Brunswick East, 3057.
The editor who replied to the letter which protested at the lack of blacks on the magazine's editorial board (NI 185), has hung himself (sic) with his own belt. I quote: 'By far the best candidate has been white'. Surely a journalist of NI caliber must realize that 'best' is a subjective term. Your reply reminds me of my son paging through the brochure for George Washington University. When he asked about the lack of black faces, he was told that no blacks had qualified for the university because of the institution's high standards.
New York, US
Your article Mega-flops: Sri Lanka (NI 183), was factually incorrect. There were five dams built, none of which had to undergo frequent repairs, and the total expenditure incurred by the project up to the end of 1987 was $1.4 billion, not $14 billion as the article asserts. It is also quite untrue to say that any foreigners obtained land. All of the newly irrigated land has been allocated to Sri Lankan farmers and their families in plots of one hectare. Finally whilst it is true that prices and costs did increase between 1978 and 1987, none of this was directly attributable to expenditures on the Mahaweli Project, which was financed by outright grants and concessionary loans from friendly governments: basic social services and food subsidies were never curtailed. In undertaking such a vast development programme as the Mahaweli Project, it is perhaps inevitable that unanticipated problems arise. The challenge is to over- come them, and this we have done.
K H S Gunatilaka
Mahaweli Authority, Sri Lanka
Editor: First we must apologise for an error of a decimal point which grossly distorts the real expense of the project. However our concern about the' social, environmental and economic impact of the scheme on Sri Lanka's poor remains. The Mahaweli project - the largest foreign aid program to date - will affect one third of the Country's land mass and lead to the relocation of 10 per cent of the country's population. It will both radically alter the ecology of the region and shift rural producers from subsistence farming to chemically intensive cash cropping. It marks a decisive shift on the part of the Sri Lankan government to sacrifice self reliance for the possibility of increased foreign revenues.
Regarding your cartoon of Pandora opening the box of science (NI 184) - it was Epithemeus, Pandora's jealous husband who done it! He released all the evils into the world. The myth of a woman taking the blame to protect the male foible should not be perpetrated.
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist
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