New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 215

new internationalist
issue 215 - January 1991

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

Unsolved mystery
Cover of the NI Issue 214 Your World Bank issue (Pinstripes and poverty NI 214) confirmed my growing frustration with the NI. I, for one, am not surprised that a huge agency like the Bank has problems living up to its mandate to help the world's poor. What organization of that size would not have blemishes on its record? The point is: what can be done about it? Is a $23 billion-a-year organization just supposed to roll over and play dead? Or should it be reformed? And if so, how? Those are the questions I'd like answered. But after reading your World Bank issue, I'm none the wiser.

Tim Smithers
Port Hope, Ontario
Canada

Mutinous mutterings
Colonel Gibson (Letters NI 213) gives away his age as well as his militaristic mind when he states that 'voluntary respect for authority is the foundation for democratic peace'. Gone, thank goodness, are the days of 'do as I say, not as I do', and hopefully of education for the sole purpose of passing examinations. I try to teach my children to be co-operative and to show respect where it is earned. 'Authority' in the form of governments, military leaders and big business chiefs very rarely earns respect and therefore doesn't automatically get it from me. However while I am not a Royalist, it seems to me that the Royal family do more to deserve our respect than all the Thatchers, Kinnocks and Colonel Blimps put together.

Ronald Good
Niton, Isle of Wight, UK

Confused truth
Your search for 'truth is becoming increasingly confused. To display tarot cards under headings like 'facts and 'truth' is - at best - naive and absurd (What next? NI 213). If these things are not occult, as you claim, why are there people in my church who have needed deliverance from their effects? Your search for utopia might start afresh in the Bible, which reveals a loving God with a plan for humanity as a whole and a personal interest in each of us through Jesus. More and more people today are finding the true freedom and meaning this brings. Unfortunately you seem too ready to trot out received opinion against Christianity - sad for a magazine that claims to take a stand on the facts.

R Gwynn
Kingston-upon-Thames, UK

Confronting reality
Jessie Campbell's letter (Letters NI 212) expresses the fundamental democratic socialist belief - that industries, land and natural resources should be democratically owned and controlled by all the people and that production should be for human needs rather than primarily for profit - which idea the major parties in Britain and the US have been trying to eliminate from our thinking for many years. Thatcherism, in particular, must be halted before even a start can be made in reversing the wild squandering of resources. But without a change of heart and mind in the new Europe, as well as other industrial nations, any changes in policy in Britain will have little effect upon the threats facing the global environment.

Frank Beal
Cardiff, Wales, UK

Prickly problem
Further to Sue Shaw's feature The secret life of the apple (NI 212), we remind your readers that many hedgehogs have suffered in this summer's drought because their main sources of succulent food (slugs and worms) have been in short supply. We now hope to raise 'hedgehog consciousness' and help these amiable creatures put on enough weight to survive the winter. A shallow dish of water and a little dog or catfood left out each night could save a life. Your readers may also like to learn that a leaflet called 'Helping hedgehogs' is available from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, on request with an SAB from Knowbury House, Knowbury, Ludlow, Shropshire, 5Y8 3LQ.

A H Coles
Ludlow, UK

Cartoon by VIV QUILLIN

Address change
Please note the new address for the Henry Doubleday Research Association (The massacre of Apple Lincoln NI 212). It is at the National Centre for Organic Gardening, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry, CV8 3LG.

Jack Butterfield,
Shaftesbury, UK

Soft options
Men are forced to accept the dangerous, brutalising jobs like combat duty in wars, while women are protected from all the harsh, unpleasant things (The secret life of the apple NI 212). If men hate women it is possibly as a result of having been used to ensure that the lifestyles of women remain privileged and protected. Perhaps when women have the generosity and sensitivity to share their lives with us instead of precipitating us into the lonely and active role irrespective of whether we wish it or not, and at no matter what cost to us sexually, psychologically, emotionally, financially and physically, then and only then will we behave in the humane way that women tell us that only they behave.

George Lewis
Peebles, Scotland

Genital mutilation
Editorial changes have resulted in an error in my article 'Why men hate women' (The secret life of the apple NI 212). Episiotomy is not 'the cutting of skin between anus and vagina' - the definition inserted into my article. Rather it involves cutting through skin, flesh and layers of muscle in the only surgical operation not done with a scalpel. It is also the only surgical intervention which takes place on the body of a healthy woman without her consent and often without informing her. The most common reason given to women for episiotomy is that it is done to avoid a tear. However, many women are given them as a matter of hospital routine and until recently, when birth activists led protests against this form of assault, there was approaching 100 per cent episiotomy rate in some British maternity units. Research shows that a small (first degree) tear, which is the most common injury in childbirth, heals more readily and is more comfortable for women than an episiotomy. Routine episiotomies under these circumstances can only be described as a Western form of female genital mutilation.

Celia Kitzinger
London, UK

Reversed roles
I really like your magazine but Celia Kitzinger's article Why men hate women (NI 212) infuriated me so much I must write my comments down or I won't calm down. You see, my boyfriend is male and so is my father, along with quite a few friends and colleagues. Feminists must stop turning the tables against men assuming that they are all evil and womb-envious and that all women are victims of male violence. This attitude is as biased as that of men who see women as part of the weaker sex. Each person has their own identity. To claim generally that men hate women is preposterous. Where is your proof?

Christine Schafer
Manchester, UK

Tibet's children
The picture that was used for my article (The Dalai Lama and the Playwright NI 211) could hardly have been, less appropriate: bored-looking Tibetan children sat holding 'Free Tibet' banners under a balcony draped with the Tibetan national flag. 'Trouble in Tibet' the caption read. If that had been Tibet those children would not have been able to sit down, let alone be bored. Since 1987 police in Uhasa have fired on nationalist demonstrators using automatic weapons. Five school children were arrested last year for making copies of Tibet's national flag. One has been sentenced to an indefinite term at a juvenile detention centre. The other sentences are unknown.

The children in this picture were demonstrating in the Tibetan exile community in India where the Dalai Lama has lived since 1959. He fled Tibet ten years after the Chinese army moved in - not in the same year, as the editor suggested.

Catriona Bass
Oxford, UK

Serious solution
I am one of a growing number of Muslims of European descent who chose to become Muslim after years of contemplation (Fundamentalism NI 209). Yes, I am a 'Fundamentalist' and I know that Islam is the solution. It is the only belief system that can deliver all its promises to everyone. I take great exception to the way you lump Islamic Fundamentalism along with Christian Fundamentalism. Also, in the facts you state that Islam is opposed to women's rights. On the contrary, when Islam is practised in its true sense, women are respected and protected. We are elevated to a position higher than in the West. I pity the 'liberated' woman who feels she must expose her body. I cover mine and I am freer. I am also offended by your continuing portrayal of Muslims as dour and 'no fun'. Yes, it is true that 'there can be no fun and enjoyment in whatever is serious'. Death, crime and doomsday are not fun. However we have fun at the appropriate times like anyone else.

Amina Sadler
Colorado Springs, US

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

Letter from Tamil Nadu

War talk
The shadow of war hangs over Pakistan and India.
Can America help? Mari Marcel Thekaekara takes a look
at those who rule in the land of the brave and beautiful.

Scanning the newspaper headlines this morning I touched on President Bush's latest report to the US Congress. My eyes alighted on the lines, 'Soviet expansionism is no longer a threat'. At last. Unbelievably. Three cheers, I was about to yell. Then the bombshell. Mapping out the US security strategy for the 1990s, the Bush administration intends to shift the focus of its military concern to the Third World. 'God help the Third World,' I uttered in dismay.

I grew up in India, in a home where Communists were the bad guys and Americans the good 'uns. American movies, the only foreign films around at the time, reinforced this image. But in high school, a cynical history teacher pointed out that the most powerful democracy in the world supports and encourages fascist dictatorships everywhere. 'Study these reports,' she insisted to a largely disbelieving classroom: human rights documentation on atrocities by the Shah of Iran's regime; on Marcos' Philippines and the innumerable banana republics of South America. Millions of innocent people being tortured and killed with US government support.

Nearer to home, we had Zia's Pakistan. Pleas by the sack load, letters, phone-calls from respected politicians, religious heads and rulers of every major country failed to thwart Zia's maniacal desire to eliminate ex-premier Bhutto. The US continued to support Pakistan on the grounds that the Soviets were in Afghanistan hence they had to have an ally in the neighbourhood. The Soviets left and so did Zia. Now the American excuse is that they need to nurture Pakistan's fragile democracy. It has long been an inescable reality of the Indian subcontinent that the nurturing takes the form of supplying highly sophisticated arms.

But a new headache for Indian democracy is that the US - with a bit of help from West Germany and France - has contrived to supply Pakistan with enough nuclear technology to blast India off the face of the earth. The US has been systematically and deliberately responsible for building up Pakistan's stockpile of nuclear material. And it is ironic that the US protested strongly against France's decision to sell a 900 megawatt reactor to Pakistan; the US waived its own laws to sell nuclear material, the Symington Amendment, which forbids any assistance to a country engaged in military nuclear activity, thereby giving Pakistan the green signal to proceed with its programme.

On October 1, 1989 President Bush certified to the US Congress that Pakistan did not ON THAT DATE possess a nuclear device. He underlined the official position, which was only concerned to establish whether Pakistan possessed a nuclear explosive device and not whether Pakistan was attempting to develop or has developed various relevant capabilities. In effect, if Pakistan had assembled a number of bombs but left the last two screws untightened, the US authorities could assume that the devices would not in their existing condition cause a nuclear explosion. Hence the President's certification would remain valid.

The President's certification is a mere quibbling with words to provide an alibi in the event of any mishap: he could maintain that on the day of certification, nuclear explosive devices supplied by the US would not have caused a nuclear explosion in their then existing condition.

America's hypocrisy and duplicity still shocks me, probably because John Kennedy was idolized by Indians in the sixties. His portraits still adorn shop walls in remote Indian villages together with Gandhi, Christ or Krishna. Many Tamil children are named 'John Kennedy'. So American arms to Pakistan come as a slap in the face for most Indians, especially as tension between the two countries is growing.

Journalists returning from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir tell of the waves of hatred being generated by fundamentalist mullahs and religious leaders. Teenagers swarm the streets of Pakistan demanding contributions from a volatile public for a Jehad or Holy War. Every Friday after prayers at the mosque, fiery sermons are preached inciting true believers to start a Jehad. 'It's now or never,' blare the loudspeakers. And into this rabidly volatile scenario are poured US arms and ammunition in ever-increasing amounts.

I am actively campaigning for decent people in Europe and America to protest against their governments support of nuclear proliferation in the Third World. I invite NI readers to lobby their governments, demonstrate, protest, do anything they can to prevent a nuclear build-up here. I must confess I have a vested interest in this campaign. I want my children to know peace.

Mari Marcel Thekaekara has been working for the last seven years on a project she and her husband started for native people in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

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