New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 259

new internationalist
issue 259 - September 1994

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

Ray of hope?
Cover of the NI Issue 257 I was delighted by Richard Swift’s passionate and insightful keynote article (NI 257) yet depressed by the enormity of the task in tackling the Leviathan of global financial institutions. The situation he describes seems to be everywhere apparent: those holding the reins of power will always dwell on internal changes to the details of a system, pleading their own powerlessness in the face of larger forces. In so doing they divert attention from questioning the premises on which that very system is based, as though its rules had been cut in stone forever.

To those of us who look for radical change, the dilemma is how to create and hang on to new models when we are daily engulfed in the ramifications of the presiding one. This has ever been the predicament of a paradigm change: one has to hold on until there is sufficient disturbance within the system that it becomes impossible not to change. Certainly there is currently no shortage of disturbance within global systems. Is there possibly then a ray of hope within this darkness?

David Clark
London, UK

Eritrea
I have just received your issue on the World Bank/IMF (NI 257).

When studying your special poster I discovered that, despite the fact that Eritrea has been independent for over a year and is a full member of the UN and OAU with its own embassies, it is marked on your poster as still being occupied by Ethiopia. What a blunder! How come?

Bernt Karlsson
Caritas Sverige, Sweden

Ed: we apologize. It in no way reflects any disparagement of Eritrea on our behalf.

Internet
The media has always been directed by the few at the many. Communication by any person directly to any other on large-scale interactive networks is very different. Your article ‘More technology, less equality’ in the issue on the media (NI 256) dismisses this possibility.

Maintaining a regular readership involves looking at things through the same coloured glasses as they do. An aversion to products of the capitalist system may be common amongst NI readers – the effects of the system as shown by NI makes it difficult for them to be otherwise.

But the NI would be wise not to dismiss the self-educating respect-exercising and myth-exposing opportunities provided by the Internet, now connecting 0.36 per cent of the world’s population. This could also allow the laying of a solid foundation for a better world.

Gio Frank
Caerdydd, Cymru

Royal curiosity
Why does the Letters page contain views from a diversity of countries and the Curiosities page only those from the Commonwealth? Is curiosity a trait possessed only by those loyal to the British monarchy and if so will I lose this inquisitive quality if Australia becomes a republic?

G L Cain
Rockhampton, Australia

VIV QUILLIN cartoon
Illustration by VIV QUILLIN

Not an insult
‘Not North or South’ by David Giles on your Letters page (NI 256) perturbs me somewhat. I agree that the use of ‘North’ and ‘South’ as euphemisms for ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ is inaccurate as well as obscuring the real issue to a slight extent; but why does he regard it as insulting to the rich in southern countries? If it is not insulting to a poor country to call it poor, then why is it insulting to rich southern countries to call poor northern countries southern?

Clive Semmens
Ely, UK

Facing the truth
I was horrified to read Christopher Innocent’s letter (Letters, NI 256) : ‘It is the role of television, politics and religion to gloss over hard truths...’ I have to admit with sorrow that some church people fail to understand or act on this teaching. But this doesn’t detract from the extremely radical and challenging message of Jesus Christ, which is very far from being comfortable.

I agree totally with the rest of his letter. We do need to hear unpalatable truths about our world as it really is. Sanitized versions of horror cease to be true. If we are to fight such things we have to know what we are up against.

Margaret Thomas
Chalfont St Peter, UK

Confused study
Your issue on Northern Ireland (NI 255) strikes me as having fallen victim to a desire to adopt a ‘radical chic’ line which allows little deviation to account for the huge complexities of the situation. There was only a derisory effort in the issue to gain any understanding of Unionism. Given that Unionists make up approximately 60 per cent of the population in the North of Ireland their ideology is surely significant to any understanding of the conflict.

The major Republican voice in Ireland today is John Hume, and yet there was little mention of him in the issue despite the fact that it is his efforts which have brought the present peace process so far.

However, he is not involved in killing people so he must be less interesting than Martin McGuinness... Only Dave Duggan’s article began to address the central question of how we, as Irish people, can accommodate our various ideologies and aspirations in a way that will allow us to share our island in peace.

Ultimately the magazine is more useful as a case study of a British editor’s confusion rather than as a means to gain some understanding of the conflict in the North.

Aidan McQuade
Tigray, Ethiopia

Historic compromise
The magazine on Northern Ireland (NI 255) provides a very skewed view of current realities which stems in part from the imposition of a colonial model of understanding the conflict. There is a consistent tendency to depict the objectives of Irish nationalist – whether constitutional or violent – as essentially progressive and to portray Unionism as reactionary and irrational.

The issue is grossly over-optimistic about the prospects of a settlement. Today’s Republican leadership remains committed to the ending of the internationally-recognised constitutional position of Northern Ireland in the UK and in effect forcing the Protestants of the North into a republic of which they have no desire to be members. On the other hand, there are signs that the key political leaders in the South are willing to accept a ‘solution’ that would involve power-sharing in the North and strong North-South institutions in areas like energy and tourism.

While this would be rejected by Sinn Fein, the loyalist paramilitaries and the DUP, it could have the support of the parties that can claim the electoral backing of the majority of the Catholic and Protestant population in Northern Ireland – the SDLP and the Official Unionists. Such a settlement would represent an historic compromise between nationalism and unionism, not the strategy of nationalist victory which Sinn Fein and, we are sorry to say, your issue supports.

Henry Patterson and Peter Weinreich
University of Ulster, Northern Ireland

Garbage dumping
Since 1982 a whole train filled with highly-explosive garbage has been standing near Tirana. The Germans refuse to take it back. The dumping of chemical or radioactive garbage by industrial countries on the developing world is a major issue. It involves indifference and recklessness on the part of those creating the wastes – the nuclear industry is a prime example, continuing to expand while still having no solution to its waste problem.

I hope that the NI will be able to dedicate a month’s theme to this issue.

Marion Laudy,
London, UK

 

ATTENTION ALL READERS!
The NI holds an annual meeting in October to decide the following year's topics. If any readers have concrete suggestions, they are welcome to send their ideas to the editor of the Letters page by mid-September. One or two paragraphs only, please!

 

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

Letter from Lagos

A sporting chance
Nigeria is not lacking in sporting talent. What its young people lack is the opportunity to show what
they can do. Elizabeth Obadina experiences the joy and the sorrow of Nigerian football.

Illustration by ALISON MORETON Wednesday 22 June 1994. Time: 3.00 am. Place: anywhere in Nigeria. Car horns blared. Gongs banged. Bells rang. Whoops of sheer delight pierced the calm of the deep dead of night. Why? Why else but to celebrate Nigeria’s first victory in the World Cup: a 3-0 win over Bulgaria.

National spirits soared again briefly and noisily when the national team, the Super Eagles, scored their first and only goal against Argentina and for a third time when the team won its match against Greece.

For an all-too-short fortnight Nigeria’s World Cup soccer triumphs cheered a nation sunk deep in political and economic gloom.

On 5 July the dream shattered. When Italy’s Roberto Baggio scored his 89th-minute goal against Nigeria a long moan shuddered through the land. My youngest son burst into tears. The premature dancing and backslapping stopped. Patriotic ecstasy had been waxing strong for nearly an hour following Nigerian teenager Emmanual Amunike’s opening goal. ‘Please,’ went up the collective prayer. ‘Let Nigeria do something right for once.’ The Italian’s equalizer came like a cold shower and Baggio’s extra-time second goal felt like the executioner’s axe.

As the match ended the electricity cut off. In normal circumstances noisy household generators spring to life almost immediately. But that sad night there was gloom and silence, and my neighbourhood sat in the dark around dead TV sets. No-one felt like moving.

When I eventually fumbled out to start our generator I bumped into my neighbour who was gazing at the stars. ‘You know, Liz,’ he said, ‘it’s a shame, but I’m not really sorry we lost. We’ve got so many basic things to put right here before we can begin congratulating ourselves.’

The morning after the defeat it seemed as though Nigeria’s 90 million people had already forgotten that for four short two-hour sessions over the past fortnight they had rooted together, cheered together and wept together – as Nigerians. It was back to 1990’s militarized business-as-normal, playing off one ethnic group against another.

The chairperson of the National Sports Commission later announced that the Super Eagles Dutch coach would be replaced with another foreigner. ‘We haven’t solved our ethnic differences, so it would be difficult for a local man to take over and not be accused of favouritism,’ one sports editor commented.

Give local talent the ‘foreign’ treatment and stars are born. The route of the Super Eagles to the very top came via European football clubs who had recognized and nurtured youthful talent spotted in Nigeria. Not only football. Sprinter Mary Onyeli and her male counterparts train in America. American basketball’s ‘Most Valuable Player’ is Nigerian: Akeem ‘The Dream’ Olaiuwon. The list goes on. Britain’s Daley Thompson was born ‘Dele’ Thompson.

But all this should be no surprise. After all, virtually every black athlete from the Americas and Europe has ancestral roots in West Africa. Before Ghana was the Gold Coast. Before the Gold Coast, the Slave Coast which oozed evilly eastwards through Nigeria.

The mind boggles at what Nigerian youth could achieve given just half the sporting chance the average secondary school student in the West enjoys. Because despite enjoying the obvious kudos earned by the Nigerian athlete who defies all the odds to win, government after government has not invested in sports. Nor are sports treated seriously in Nigerian schools.

My area boasted a large open space that 20 years ago had been designated for a youth sports stadium. It has now been parcelled up and built over with luxury flats and houses owned largely by senior government officials and military officers. Down the road is a half-built stadium. Work stopped here ages ago. I pray it is not one of those FlFA hopes to use when Nigeria hosts the junior World Cup next year.

The miracle is that pathetic facilities, administrative politicization, graft and incompetence have not killed boys’ zest for sports. The girls, I beg to leave for another time. But boys improvize. Car wheels become dumb-bells. Any piece of wood serves as a table tennis bat and any flat surface as a table tennis surface. Open ground becomes the venue of a myriad Sunday-league matches, the ‘leagues’ being unofficial hometown and apprentices’ clubs. Barefoot and full of hope, Nigeria’s youth waits for the leadership and investment that will give them the chance to show their talent to the world.

Elizabeth Obadina is a freelance writer and journalist living in Lagos.

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