New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 284

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

Daily violence
Cover of the NI issue 282 I am writing to register my disgust at the association inferred in the interview with Nils Christie (Criminal Justice NI 282) between violence against women and people who have done ‘something silly’. To minimize violence by reducing it to an issue of ‘silliness’, resolved by making ‘good’ the damage, is preposterous. It is crucial that we acknowledge the seriousness as well as the consequences of the violence we tolerate in our daily lives. Juxtaposing violence against women and a seriously flawed criminal-justice system is politically misguided and damaging. Violence in the home, where most violence against women occurs, is a microcosm of our violent society. Because of this, developing our understanding holds the key to developing a kinder world. Your interview contributed nothing to this development.

Jan Wagstaff
Nottingham, England

Utterly wrong
I enjoy the writings of Richard Dawkins (Reviews NI 282) and was interested to see that your review of River out of Eden reflected his own bigoted attitude towards other views. His statements of ‘Wrong, utterly wrong’ and ‘the fallacy is utterly glaring’ are not good examples of a reasoned defence against other views. I have spent over 20 years in scientific research and have learned to respect and consider other viewpoints. I am now nearing the end of a degree in theology which is showing me why things work. Perhaps Richard Dawkins would care to devote his next book to explaining why things work, rather than his usual how things (may) work.

Nicholas W King
Glasgow, Scotland

Confused class
The title Class – Out of the Shadows (NI 281) was great; unfortunately the contents continued the NI approach of presenting lots of good statistics with poor analysis.

NI continues capitalism’s attack on class consciousness by promoting a confused concept of class which cannot but maintain the division of the working class into competing groups. The capitalist class consists of those whose income is derived from ownership of the means of production, who needn’t work to live. The working class is the rest of us. That includes upwards of 90 per cent of the population of every country on this planet. By promoting the ‘middle-class’ versus ‘working-class myth, NI damages working-class solidarity.

The cause of the problems in the world, or the reason they cannot be solved, is capitalism, and working-class solidarity to end capitalism is the solution.

Steve Szalai
Victoria, BC, Canada

Birth defects
In your Update NI 279 you used a photograph to illustrate a piece on Vietnam about the effects of Agent Orange. The use of such a photo when discussing ‘birth defects’ seems extremely exploitative. It demeans and diminishes all of us, especially those born with a disability. I would also like to draw your attention to the use of the words ‘birth defects’. Individuals who are born with a disability do not need to be labelled ‘defective’.

Tony Sano
Dundas, Ontario, Canada

VIV QUILLIN
Illustration by VIV QUILLIN

ICTUR
In the Action section of the issue on Class (NI 281), you state that the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) is based in Brussels. In fact, our address is UCATT House, 177 Abbeville Road, London SW4 9RL. Tel: (0)171 498 4700. Fax: (0)171 498 0611.

Tom Sibley,
ICTUR, London, England

Going back
The Endpiece story ‘The Ark’ (NI 281) moved me immensely. I too have suffered that guilty tension between a genuine belief in and passion for true equality and the real-life inadequacy and trauma of not being able to cope with some extremes of mental disability.

I admire Rod Isaacs greatly in being able to go back and can only pray that he, and I too one day, will be given the ability to enter into true solidarity with the people of L’Arche.

Felicity Windsor
Liverpool, England

Mugabe’s stand
After reading your Update NI 281 on gays in Zimbabwe I began to see the light in the current thinking in many African intellectual circles that we can’t just continue to be the trash-cans of other cultures’ effluent. We must consume your cars, radios, microwaves, clothes, music, films, ideas, when the only things you will accept from us are ‘primitive curios’.

We have seen a lot of this irrelevant Western trash crash resoundingly in Africa because it is imported wholesale and forced onto the people without regard to time and place. The West hates Mugabe because he can stand up to them, speak their language – and tell them to go to hell. Mugabe is no saint, but Zimbabweans have come to appreciate his guts when he tells the IMF, the World Bank and other Western dictators to get stuffed.

Donatus Bonde
Gweru, Zimbabwe

People, Ideas, Action
One question I’ve had for a long time concerns your subtitle: ‘The People, the Ideas, the Action in the Fight for World Development’. For instance, is ‘world development’ really a goal of Green Economics (NI 278)? Also, being a pacifist, I’ve had a bit of a problem with your use of the word ‘fight’. I prefer ‘struggle’, as it has a better chance of referring to a non-violent process.

Doris Giese
New York, US

International Health Conference
The International People’s Health Council, the National Progressive Primary Health Care Network of South Africa, and the South Africa Health and Social Services Organization are planning a conference on ‘The New World Order – A Challenge to Health for All by the Year 2000’. The conference will be held in Cape Town on 29-31 January 1997. We are keen to encourage the participation of a broad range of primary healthcare workers, especially those who can tell stories of work that happens locally but which challenges the global threats to health. We are calling these ‘Stories for Change’ and guidelines on putting them together are available from us.

Interested parties should contact the International Conference Organizing Committee, Stories of Change, SAHHSO, PO Box 43241, Salt River 7924, Cape Town, South Africa.

María Hamlin Zúniga
IPHC Global Co-ordinator,
Managua, Nicaragua

Larium sufferers
I write to draw attention to the controversial anti-malaria drug Larium – also known as Mefloquine. On leaving to work in Angola, I was aware that the risk of neuro-psychiatric side effects from Larium was, according to Hoffman La Roche, 1:10,000. I was also aware that anyone with a pre-existing cardiac conduction problem should not take the drug.

Since having stopped taking the drug six months ago, I have experienced a cardiac conduction disorder, severe dizziness and mood swings. I am just one of hundreds of ‘Larium sufferers’ whose normal working and social lives have been totally disrupted. There is no antidote and individual recovery rates and detoxification are anything from three months to two years.

There are currently 500 people suing La Roche. I hope that my letter probes people to think very carefully about taking a ‘safe’ malaria prophylactic. For further information contact Larium Action, 122 Balgores Lane, Gidea Park, Romford, Essex RM2 5SX, England.

Sarah Chave
Dymock, England

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

[image, unknown]
L E T T E R [image, unknown] F R O M [image, unknown] C H E C H N Y A

Dust and memories
Olivia Ward remembers two lovers – who were also combatants
in the bloody war between Chechnya and Russia.

I met Rosa in a friend’s house in a village that is now dust and memories. ‘I started as a farm girl,’ she said with a smile. ‘Then I became a nurse. And then...’ She kept her voice low. In a war zone you cannot be too careful.

Rosa was a fighter, one of the many who had taken up the gun against Russia when their homes were destroyed or family members killed.

With her creamy skin, soft grey eyes and red hair she looked more like the milkmaid she had once been. And, she admitted, in the beginning the hardest part was dressing for the job.

‘I used to wear a skirt, because I am a devout Muslim. But my commander said I was crazy, this was war.’

She blushed.

‘I put on fatigues, just like the men. But at first I wore the skirt over them.’

Illustration by SARAH JOHN

As we rode into the hills the next day to the dull thud of Russian rockets, Rosa’s shyness abated a little. She was married, she told me. But her husband had left Chechnya to earn money in Azerbaijan. In the year he had been gone there was no word, and no money.

I wanted to ask if, as the only woman in a group of 30 men, she had formed any new attachments. But for a strict Muslim woman the question was not merely shocking but insulting.

‘Relationships are very different up here,’ she volunteered. ‘Instead of living completely separate lives from men as we normally do, here we are all comrades. In war some traditions can’t be observed.’

Her eyes glowed with excitement as she explained how she now ate all her meals alongside men, talked to them as equals, and sometimes gave them orders.

As our springless four-wheeler heaved over the steep track, she jumped out and ran to the top of the hill, oblivious to the rocket bursts.

At dusk I sat on the ground with some resting fighters, sipping tea. Rosa had disappeared from view.

Worried, I moved cautiously around the shadow of the trees as fresh blasts reverberated. In front of me was the outline of two people in rapt conversation. They sat side-by-side, but only their fingers were touching.

Rosa’s eyes met mine in the flickering dimness. She smiled.

The next day as we sat in the jeep she said simply, ‘His name is Issa.’

Their forbidden relationship began six months earlier, when he helped her collect the wounded in Grozny. Then he joined her unit and they were together almost every day.

‘I had no idea of what men thought or felt,’ she admitted wonderingly. ‘Even my husband. In our society men make demands and women fulfil them. It is part of our religion and sense of duty.’

Issa told her his thoughts and feelings. He was eager to understand hers. As the death-dealing weeks passed, a new kind of love took root. Not a physical one, as taboos were too strong and they were never alone. But a bond that made even their daily hell bearable.

‘When we die, we go straight to paradise,’ Rosa whispered. ‘We will meet each other there. It is all we can expect.’

That was one year ago. Since then death has travelled to every corner of the land, feasting on civilians and combatants alike.

Rosa vanished defending a village where her refugee relatives were hiding from Russian bombs. Issa fell in a rocket attack on an ammunition dump.

Now I stood at the edge of a mass grave in Grozny, staring at anonymous mounds of earth, washed over with grief.

I remembered how Rosa and her friends had prayed that night on the hill, prayers for the safety of all of us. As an unbeliever I had only wishes.

Now, looking at the pathetic heaps of earth with their final indignity of fading number tags, I wished from the bottom of my heart that I had the faith to pray for them, even too late.

I knelt in the dry, bitter wind and crushed a bit of earth between my fingers. Was she there, somewhere? And Issa? Lives blocked, cut off, done violence, ground to dirt.

At Jean-Paul Sartre’s grave, Simone de Beauvoir had said: ‘His death separates us. My death will not unite us.’

But my fingers pressed the earth as though Rosa and Issa were, somehow, brought together there in the palm of my hand.

Thinking, may there be paradise.

May you find it.

Olivia Ward is bureau chief for the Toronto Star.

[image, unknown] Issue 284 Contents

[image, unknown] NI Home Page

©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996


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