New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 324

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Letters

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Successful failure
Click to read the NI issue on Fair Trade. Anita Roddick reported from Seattle 'Sleepless in Seattle' (NI 322) that at the inaugural British non-governmental informal briefing, everyone expressed their frustration at 'failing mobile phones or the lack thereof'.

As mobile phones are products of the globalized corporate bodies against which she was campaigning, should not their failure be regarded as a success?

Roy Allison
Dartmouth, England

Differing view
Anita Roddick's article (NI 322) does not chime with my experience in Seattle at the same time. The major demonstration was by American trade unionists - some 45,000 - opposed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for job losses, in their perception, to developing countries. They persuaded President Clinton to take a protectionist stance against developing countries' exports. The Mayor of Seattle (and Chief of Police) encouraged the few environmental protesters to protest.

Some 100-plus self-styled US 'anarchists' began smashing up the centre of Seattle

I saw the change on Tuesday afternoon when some 100-plus self-styled US 'anarchists', committed to the end of capitalism, began smashing up the centre of Seattle and breaking up the few peaceful demonstrators sitting on the ground. Only when this violence took place did the Seattle police use the tear gas and pepper gas to disperse these thugs.

Incidentally, I found it weird to find environmental and development non-governmental organizations not realizing the WTO is an organization dominated by developing countries - they have over 75 per cent of the votes and can veto anything they do not like - as of course they did to ensure the US protectionist agenda was not adopted.

Tony Colman MP,
London, England

Important art
The artwork accompanying the 'Letter from Lebanon' in NI 319 was excellent. It is so easy to let visual elements become merely decoration for the 'all important' words. I believe art is a powerful form of communication that can express concepts far beyond the limits of spoken or written language. It was great that in an article that highlighted the complexities of and problems with communication inherent in language systems a graphic element was included that expressed the concept so aptly. It is this image that remains in my mind.

Rachel Langham
Paraparaumu Beach, Aotearoa/New Zealand

Public opinion
Thank you so much for your invaluable magazine (NI 322). I have only recently begun reading it, and it is such an education. I wish many more people were aware of some of the issues that you cover. I just get so outraged at some of the things I read, I want to do something about it. I want people to know.

I was thinking of photocopying one of your articles and sending it to members of my family and then I thought wouldn't it be a good idea if you published a pullout page with each issue which would be easily understandable for someone who had no background in these matters, and gave positive results of an alternative (eg with fair trade)? When I hear of the benefits to people, what they have been able to do as a result of fair trade, rather than just banging on about the horrendous results of 'free trade', it is so uplifting and really makes you feel you can make a difference.

It seems to me that against big corporations (and unfair trade), the main attack is public opinion - that's us! And most people don't know; we all need to be made aware in a much more compelling way, so we can't just bury our consciences so easily. It is so important that something is really done to halt this madness, for the whole world's sake. So any suggestions on what else we can do to change things would be most appreciated.

Janie Rosenwald
London, England

World capitalism
After one year of subscribing to the New Internationalist I ask myself why it isn't obvious to your contributors that all the ills you report have one root cause: the system of world capitalism.

Wake up, reformers! You serve the
system whose effects you loathe

You all seem to want to keep the profit system but without its inevitable effects. So you talk about reforms to the economy and so forth. Capitalism is a system of exploitation. One can't run an exploitative system in the interests of the exploited. I long for the day when all concerned people unite in the one realization that to abolish these ills and establish a better world it is necessary to abolish the capitalist system, whether that system masquerades as 'socialism/communism' or stands honestly naked in its rapacity. Wake up, reformers! You in fact serve the system whose effects you loathe, by imploring it, humbly, at least to wear a human mask.

Anthony Walker
Christchurch, England

Change at home
Instead of chaining themselves to fixtures in Rangoon (Truth in Action NI 319) making a din and asking for imprisonment and 'torture' to attract international attention, those two young British civil-rights activists should do it in London, the land where the root of the problem originated.

Burma, like many other former colonies, was getting along and evolving at her own pace and fashion when the British colonists barged in to plunder, exploit and generally mess up the whole place. But this is not history. To this day they are still at it, in a more respectable name called globalization. After rendering the country dysfunctional, their young sons/daughters come back as civil-rights activists to make judgements and denouncements.

If there is any place in the world to start seeking changes, it is in our own country, in our own home, our own closet... our own self. For me, that's nearer to 'truth in action'.

Wong Yock Leng
Singapore

Distorted truth
Cover of the NI issue 320. Whilst I share Adrian Adamson's hope for peace and stability in the region of Nagorno Karabakh 'Letters' (NI 320) I feel a few correctives are needed. The conflict goes back to Stalin's Communist regime and the distribution of territory within the Soviet Union. The enclave's call for self determination was met with a typical Stalinist response by Azerbaijan. It was the Azerbaijanis who began ethnically cleansing the Ngorno Karabagh enclave of its 90-per-cent majority of Armenians. Both Christopher Walker and Baroness Cox have written on the conflict, and it is in their direction that I would point Adamson. It was only when Armenian defence forces went into the area that it became a conflict in the true sense of the word. Video footage exists of a group of Armenian fedayiis capturing an Azeri tank that has painted on its side the Turkish fascist ensignia of the Grey Wolves. Indeed, Turkey's role in the conflict can hardly be referred to as that of a bystander. Adamson's Armenian population figure of 2.3 per cent is representative of the population of Armenians in Azerbaijan. The make-up of the population in the enclave of Ngorno Karabagh is closer to 90-per-cent Armenian.

Adamson's 'history' of the Ngorno Karabagh conflict reads like a Turkish 'history' of the Armenian Genocide, and is illustrative of the denial of that crime, and indicative of how the non-recognition of events in the Ottoman Empire facilitates such blatant misrepresentation.

It can only be hoped that the current stand-off is resolved peacefully; but as long as people such as Adamson are allowed to distort the truth then it can only be imagined that peace will be difficult to come by.

Lynda Morris
Southampton, England.

Musical tribute
Composer Clement Jewitt's Chechnya Story, was performed recently in London. The symphony was inspired by Olivia Ward's account of Rosa and Issa, who found love in the presence of death Dust and Memories (NI 284). Olivia Ward, long-time correspondent for the Toronto Star, wrote a regular 'Letter from Moscow' for the New Internationalist between 1995 and 1997.

Letter from Lebanon

Age shall not wither
Reem Haddad meets a champion surfer and rabbit-keeper who is over 100 years old.

Illustration: SARAH JOHN I wouldn't have given the elderly man a second glance if the young mechanic down the road hadn't yelled out to me.

'Do you know how old he is?' he says. 'He's 105 years old. Can you imagine?'

I couldn't. For a man more than a century old, Abu Husni is incredibly agile. He gives me a toothless grin and comes closer. 'You must always be happy,' he says to me. 'Never let anything get to you. Sadness. Anxiety. Worry. They're all bad things.'

Avoiding funerals, he warns, will also bring me happiness. By this time, half the block has gathered around the old man to hear his advice.

'Abu Husni,' says the mechanic, 'tell her about the past. Tell her about how you were a champion surfer in Lebanon. Show her your workshop.'

Obligingly, Abu Husni grabs my arm and jauntily climbs up some shaky wooden steps to the first floor of his family's building overlooking the Tripoli coast line. Much more slowly and grasping the handrails, I follow suit. The neighborhood clan soon follows and we crowd into the small workshop. Here and there, several wooden surfing boards are strewn about. Some of them are painted and some are obviously still works in progress.

'There was a time when people came from all over Lebanon to see me,' he says. 'They came from Jounieh, Tripoli, Sidon, everywhere to buy my wooden surfing boards. But no-one comes anymore. People are buying fibreglass boards now,' he says wistfully. 'They don't want wooden ones.'

Shrugging his shoulders, he runs his hands lovingly across the boards. Urged on by the mechanic, he reaches out to a shelf and gives me several well-handled black-and-white photographs.

In them, a handsome muscular young man is standing on his hands on a surfing board. In another, he is displaying many bulging muscles.

'That was me,' says Abu Husni, chuckling. 'I was the champion in surfing.'

But his most precious memories are of the British and French servicemen who were based in Tripoli during the Second World War.

'They were so good to me,' he recalls. 'And I was good to them. I brought them food every day. Whatever they wanted, I got for them.'

The soldiers are now long gone. The Khan they stayed in, once a majestic Ottoman building, is a rundown and filthy dwelling for about 50 poor families.

'The soldiers liked me. They gave me trousers, shirts and shoes,' he says. 'And in the evenings, I use to get drunk with them.'

It takes some time for the elderly man to come out of his reverie of bygone days. I am obviously forgotten.

'Abu Husni, show her your rabbits,' prompts the mechanic.

Smiling proudly, Abu Husni pulls out an old shopping cart. In it are remnants of lettuce and cabbage leaves.

'These are for my rabbits,' he says.

After securing his cart behind a door, he begins climbing the four floors to the roof - keeping well ahead of me.

There, tens of rabbits are either in cages or hopping about - all lovingly cared for by Abu Husni.

He can't remember exactly when he started raising rabbits, but he knows he was 'very young'.

For Abu Husni, the day starts at two in the morning. It is the perfect time to wheel his cart to the empty vegetable market. Over the years, he has learned to steer the cart deftly between the empty stalls. At one end of the market, he finds what he was looking for: several cabbages and lettuce leaves placed on one side. Vegetable-sellers are apparently well-acquainted with the century-old Abu Husni and his rabbits and put any leftover leaves aside for him.

Then he wheels his cart back home and carries the vegetables to the roof.

'My rabbits like to eat at this time,' he explains.

The furry animals are well acquainted with their feeding time as they climb on to their hind legs and follow their master around.

Suddenly Abu Husni looks up at me with twinkling eyes.

'Just remember, stay happy,' he says. 'And you'll live long.'

Reem Haddad is a journalist for the Daily Star in Beirut.
E-mail: reem.haddad@dailystar.com.lb

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