New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 240

new internationalist
issue 240 - February 1993

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

Lookalike
Cover of the NI Issue 239 Pictures of work (Hard Work NI 239) may have been neglected but the photographs you give us don't completely fill the gap.

If people come to look like what they produce, why don't we get to see what Salgado looks like himself? I don't expect him to resemble a photograph in some way, any more than the woman in Barcelona that Eduardo Galeano talks about really looked like a chicken. But he does tell us that his pictures look like his life rather than vice versa. This suggests a one-way process - that although the work he photographs is 'hard', the photographs he takes of it express his own (romantic?) view of it.

What I end up with is a strong response to Salgado's genius as a photographer rather than an insight into the much less pleasant world of hard work. I only wish I could agree with him that manual labour is dying out - and there will be no more pictures like his to be taken in future.

Francine Sedley
Toronto, Canada

Normal paranormal
Your brave attempt to put the paranormal into the conceptual frame of the NI reader (Magical Mystery Tour NI 237) was splendidly balanced, helpfully informative and reasonably sane. But what it didn't address - unless I missed it - was why the paranormal exists.

Every culture in the world, every folklore, is rich in stories of otherworldly encounters. Why? Not because the visionaries are hysterical or mentally ill (though of course they sometimes are) but because seeing a vision or talking to a god is the appropriate solution for the individual's need at that particular moment.

What Debbie Taylor experienced in Africa, what Richard Broughton finds in his lab, is the human mind bursting through its conventional barriers. This is why I profoundly disagree with Sue Blackmore when she tries to convince us that 'hunting for the paranormal is not the way to understand the human mind'. For a great many of the cultures in whose condition NI is interested, what we would call 'paranormal' is everyday normal.

Hilary Evans
London UK

UNICEF riposte
I am replying to the generalized, and unsubstantiated attack on the work of UNICEF in Sudan (Letters NI 236).

Mr Byng clearly has little experience of bureaucracies. UNICEF is widely praised for its decentralized structure - 83 per cent of its staff and 87 per cent of its expenditures are in field locations - for its management-by-objectives approach and for reaching low-cost goals in primary health care, water, sanitation, nutrition and education. UNICEF is also praised for its advocacy on the rights of the child, in achieving global political commitments to children and in the promotion of breastfeeding. Responding to a range of humanitarian crises has cost the lives of four of our international staff this year alone, two of them only recently in southern Sudan.

The voicing of individual grudges is surely out of place in the pages of NI.

Robert D Smith
UNICEF UK, London

Cool comfort
What a pity it was that your correspondents (NI 237) were so incensed with Anuradha Vittachi's suggestion that the apparently high consumption by the better classes of people might be unreasonable (Sex, lies and global survival NI 235). They missed their opportunity to defend their dominance.

Perhaps all their chill warnings of overpopulation did was to cool and comfort those of us who live near the Equator without air conditioning, and thereby encourage us in our profligate ways. How easy it would have been for them to explain that what they have and what they use is their right. And anyway, there ought to be some compensation for living in the UK at this time of year.

Nevell Hungerford
Eaat Awin Refugee Camp
Kiunga. Papua New Guinea

Apology
The map of Israel in the January 1993 issue incorrectly showed the Gaza strip appended to Sinai, and Sinai itself as part of the Occupied Territories. It reverted to Egypt in 1982 after the signing of a peace treaty three years earlier. We apologize for this error, and for the mis-spelling of Jordan. Responsibility for these errors rests entirely with the NI and not with the author of the piece.

Sceptical
It is a mystery to me how so many otherwise intelligent people can apparently suspend their critical faculties and swallow so much nonsense about the paranormal (NI 237).

To give just one example of the need for scepticism: when the police were searching for the 'Yorkshire Ripper' they were given 'information' by over 100 mediums. The newspapers published some of the psychics' drawings of his face. None of the drawings resembled the man. What is important, however, is not that they got it wrong: it is, from the psychologist's point of view, how easily we forget that they were wrong. If just one of the pictures had been close it would have been proclaimed by the clairvoyants as evidence for their case. Similarly, we tend to remember only those dreams which come true.

David Simmonds
London, UK

VIV QUILLIN cartoon
cartoon by VIV QUILLIN

Mothers' apartheid
I find it worrying that Commonground equate breast-feeding with sex (Letters NI 238). Campaigners have worked long and hard to encourage women in both North and South to breastfeed their babies. However, a lot of women don't breastfeed out of embarrassment or shame - it is seen as sexual and therefore unacceptable behaviour. This means that they either capitulate and bottle-feed or suffer a sort of breastfeeding mothers' apartheid, unable to take part in life outside the home for fear of having to feed their child in front of other people.

I thought the front cover referred to (NI 235) was excellent. It shouldn't be breastfeeding mums who are hidden from view but those people who have difficulty treating them as normal members of society. With breastfeeding, as with many other things, a few more positive images can do nothing but good.

J Smith
Nottingham, UK

Off target
Thanks for the issue on population (NI 235). I read it all through wondering when Anuradha Vittachi was going to reach population. She never did. There was nothing about how women in the South actually want fewer children than their mothers had; or about the appalling lack of maternal and child health care or family planning services in many countries; or about the health benefits of family planning, or successful (and voluntary) programmes all over the world. In fact there was nothing much about the South at all.

According to their reports to the UNCED secretariat for the Earth Summit, most countries think that population issues are important for the future of the environment. They have a fairly balanced view - they don't think rapid population growth is the root of all evil, but they don't dismiss it as irrelevant. If you were President of a country where the population had doubled in the last 25 years and might double again in the next 25, you wouldn't dismiss it either.

Alex Marshall
UNFPA, New York

Popular poison
In response to the article 'Dirty surf' (Saving the sea NI 234) I am appalled by the sewage problem and the way it's being handled throughout Australia. Beachgoers: what kind of government would not take the precautions necessary to warn of the dangers and risks of swimming in highly polluted areas? Bondi beach in Sydney is one of the most popular (topless) tourist beaches of Australia. It is also one of the most polluted. When I visited this beach last year not once did I see a warning sign! I only saw hundreds of happy surfers who had no idea that they were swimming their way to toxic poisoning.

Nicole Sumner
Victoria ,Canada

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

LETTER from LAHORE
Letter from Lagos

The long march
Maria del Nevo records an extraordinary - and Ultimately fruitless -
day in the life of political opposition in Pakistan.

Illustration by MIRIAM McCURDY Two days before the opposition alliance's Long March to Islamabad, led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, thousands of political leaders and workers belonging to the Pakistan People's Party were arrested. Across the country, from Punjab to the North West Frontier Province, roads were blocked, a bridge was blown up near Sukkar, people were stopped at airports and railway stations. Islamabad, swarming with police squads and army trucks, became an inaccessible island.

The Government accused the opposition of attempting to destabilize it by holding a massive demonstration outside Parliament House, inviting a violent response and the imposition of martial law. Nevertheless people from all four provinces seemed willing to overcome any obstacle to join the Long March.

Lahore marchers met up at dawn at the Bhatti chowk (round-about) just outside the old walled city. We gathered in the offices of our newspaper the Frontier Post, later that morning in an atmosphere of anticipation. Ejaz Haider Bukhari, the deputy editor of our features section, had gone to Bhatti chowk. So had Rahat Dar, our features photographer, and a team of reporters.

We waited for news. Hours went by. It was unlikely that the Lahore marchers would ever get out of the city. All we learned was that the city around us had come to a virtual standstill. Every hour or so we received worried telephone calls from Ejaz's wife.

'Any word?'

'No,' we replied.

Ejaz didn't return until mid-afternoon. Breathless, his face swollen and his eyes streaming, he told us of the terrible violence he had witnessed.

'Thousands came,' he said, 'but by the time I reached there at seven o'clock there were already clashes between police and crowds. We ran here and there but couldn't escape the tear gas or the police batons. They charged again and again. They beat women and children, anyone who got in their way. They pulled down people from buses and beat them as they lay on the streets. Skulls were opened, blood flowed... Then the marchers got a policeman. They tore his clothes away until he lay naked in the street. A large group standing over him, they kicked him over and over. They beat him to pulp.'

He told us that somewhere en route Benazir's jeep had been stopped and she had been injured. We waited for further news. We crowded around the television. 'There are unconfirmed reports that Benazir has been arrested,' the BBC informed us. We hung on. Gradually reporters returned to the office and began filing stories on the terrible violence they had seen.

At about five in the evening the news editor came up to the features section where Ejaz was frantically filing his stories and told us that Benazir had reached Parliament House. There was a sudden cry, both of surprise and of victory.

'It's impossible,' retorted Ejaz. 'She was spotted on the Murree Road heading towards Liaquat Bagh.'

He was right. Half an hour later our photogra pher, Rahat Dar, telephoned from Liaquat Bagh where the marchers were to meet and progress tc Parliament House. Benazir had reached there anc addressed an audience of some 50,000 people She had been dodging police all the way, going from house to house, from jeep to jeep, anc finally had taken a lift from our photographer who sounded extremely pleased with himself.

'Every day will be a Long March day,' announced Benazir at Liaquat Bagh, before she was finally arrested.

Her arrest was confirmed by our newsroom only a few minutes later. Everyone was hit by the feeling of anti-climax. In the end nothing had been achieved. The opposition leader had not reached Parliament House in Islamabad - and neither had anyone else. All that remains is the debris left by nationwide violence.

Maria del Nevo is a former NI staff member who now lives and works in Lahore.

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