New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 331

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Letters

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A country destroyed
Cover of the NI issue 330 It is difficult to take seriously Olivia Ward’s article ‘This tattered chrysalis’ (Globocops NI 330) when it states that NATO aggression against Yugoslavia last year was undertaken ‘with reluctance’. Sham negotiations at Rambouillet offered threatening ultimatums that would have been unacceptable to any sovereign power. They were merely a pretext for an enthusiastic intervention and a cynical display of NATO power politics. It was a travesty of a moral crusade undertaken by cowards at little or no risk to themselves, where civilians were bombed and the economy of a small independent country destroyed. Politicians feed their egos on war and hysteria and we had plenty of evidence of this during that disgraceful episode from Blair, Robertson, Ashdown and that ilk. On Rwanda, the Kurdish question, and on Chechnya such people are strangely silent. NATO and its supporting politicians, like the Russians in Chechnya, were in it for what they could get, and time is revealing this to have been the objective of NATO intervention. Let us have no crocodile tears from Olivia Ward.

CD Smith
Danby, England

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Unsustainable capitalism
Wayne Ellwood (Sustainability NI 329) makes some telling points about sustainability. But he goes wrong when he writes that ‘Capitalism needs a firm hand on the tiller’, and envisages governments taking on a redistributive role.

Capitalism can only be run for the sake of profit: questions of sustainability and poverty are bound to take a back seat. In place of capitalism, a social system based on production for use will automatically solve the problem of poverty and provided the framework within which sustainable production can truly be approached.

Paul Bennet
Manchester, England

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Euphemism corner
Susan Watkin’s ‘Word Corner: Apartheid’ (NI 329) is true enough, but the word apartheid in itself is a racist propaganda trick. ‘Apartheid’ denoting mere ‘segregation’ conceals the irrefutable fact that its race laws were copied directly from the notorious 1935 anti-Semitic race laws of Nazi Germany. Racist defenders of apartheid sometimes try to defuse the comparison by arguing that South Africa ‘did not have a Holocaust’. But despite being Africa’s richest country, it had the third highest black infant mortality rate on the whole continent.

the word apartheid is a racist propaganda trick

Len Clarke
Uxbridge, England

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Just desserts
Just who does Madeleine Albright (‘WorldbeatersNI 328) think she is? Does she live near any members of custard pie-throwing activists the Biotic Baking Brigade, or anyone else with some morals and an oven?

Lucie Redwood
Korat, Thailand

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Got a life, thanks
I do not use a car. I use local facilities wherever possible. I do not over-consume. I recycle domestic goods and I believe community participation to be a social obligation.

So why did I only score 24 points in your survey ‘How Earth-Friendly Are You?’ (Sustainability NI 329), putting me well beneath the ‘Get a Life’ rating?

John Field
Tyne and Wear, England

John - and anyone else who was wondering the same - you were supposed to ‘Check off all boxes that apply to you’ for each question.

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Escaping from Windows
Cover of the NI issue 329 Your article ‘Eat, sleep, buy, die’ (Sustainability NI 329) asserts the role of the computer as a consumer product in addition to its role mediating consumerism (via the net). There can be an ‘upgrade treadmill’, with new software requiring hardware upgrades, and I support the view that certain well-known software and hardware producers manipulate consumer demand with their marketing. But computer users do have real alternatives available that offer a chance to escape or at least ameliorate the upgrade treadmill by using ‘open source’ [free and shared] software like Linux for operating systems and applications. Linux based systems have allowed both individuals and institutions to extend the useful life of older hardware.

Linux and the open source development model have successfully challenged the consumer oriented PC business, in technical terms, in terms of intellectual freedom and in terms of community development.

Hylton Guthrie
Tyne and Wear, England

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Low spirits
I was surprised to find the report ‘Message from a saint’ (‘Letter from LebanonNI 329) in your magazine. Reem Haddad is describing an ordinary parapsychological phenomenon which can be observed in all religions and cultures. I am observing a frightening development of irrational religious views all over the world that seem medieval to me. If people turn to this irrational perception of life how will they organize politically and socially? We already see a frightening scenario in the US with the role fundamentalist Christianity plays in election propaganda.

Renate Relle
Nurnberg, Germany

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A male submission
As an enthusiastic subscriber and reader of the NI, as well as a member of a sexual minority (I am a male submissive towards women) I eagerly awaited your issue on sexual minorities (Out South NI 328). I was disappointed to find exclusively lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues profiled. This brought home to me the still-closeted nature of my identity. Are even so-called ‘progressives’ such as yourselves afraid of a frank discussion of all aspects of human sexuality? Male submissiveness towards women is a revolutionary lifestyle with radical implications, aimed at rectifying millennia of male exploitation of women.

I am a male submissive towards women

Spencer Jeffrey
Harper Atlanta, US

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Doctored evidence?
Cover of the NI issue on Sexual Minorities The photo in the article 'It's what you do' of Out South (NI 328) was captioned ‘AIDS treatment, Cuban-style’, purporting to show quarantined AIDS patients receiving treatment. The casual reader might have been disturbed to see them apparently being cruelly deprived of human contact. In fact the photo shows nothing of the sort. The people in the picture are donating blood as can be seen by the intravenous lines leading from their arms downwards to bags where blood is being collected. The isolation procedures illustrated are necessary to ensure that the blood is collected in a germ free environment.

As you know, there is a well documented conspiracy to portray Cuba in a poor light and I wonder if you have been unwitting victims of this.

Dr Nick Hopkinson
London, England

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. You are absolutely right. We have checked with the agency which supplied the photo and it shows people donating blood which is then tested for HIV. Unfortunately, the caption we were originally provided with said only ‘Havana: Sanatorium’ as part of a series on AIDS.

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Cardinal sins
Your reputable magazine, which I find a real delight to read, has seriously risked its reputation with the ‘Worldbeaters’ article on Cardinal Ratzinger (NI 327). I am proud of the best of my Catholic heritage but critical of the centralization, clericalization and institutionalization of the community formed around the gospel of Jesus.

But your article does not add anything positive to the dialogue between the church and the deepest aspirations of people for love and justice. There are men and women of integrity, theologians and bishops alike, who are also concerned about the activities of the Roman Curia and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and your article may have done better to draw upon their thoughts and ideas.

Kevin Dobbyn
Tarawa, Kiribati

Letter from Lebanon

Where are your goats?
Reem Haddad draws a curious crowd when she goes
on a hiking trip through the Lebanese wilderness.

‘The important thing is to have some peace and quiet,’ said my husband as we and another couple – a Lebanese wife and her American husband – set off hiking in one of the most remote regions in Lebanon. All of us desperately needed to get away from noisy Beirut. Our plan was to explore hills of the Jird – ‘empty land’ – that lead to the fertile Bekaa valley, find a camping site and just enjoy the breathtaking view around us. Most importantly, we wanted to hear the beautiful sound of silence. This, we thought, would be the perfect escape.

A few hours into our hike and it was all that we had imagined. In the evening, we set up camp among the hills. After many tries we got a small, cheerful campfire going.

‘Ah, peace,’ said my husband smiling. ‘This is just what we needed.’

We all sighed contentedly. The nearest human being was hours away.

Suddenly, we heard the unmistakable sound of ringing bells. Before we knew it, dozens of goats surrounded us. We had barely got over our surprise when a shepherd materialized.

Illustration: Sarah John We stared at each other for a few seconds.

‘Where are your goats?’ he asked.

‘We don’t have any,’ I answered.

‘Then why are you here?’ he asked.

‘We’re hiking and camping here for the night,’ I replied.

‘You mean you just come here to walk and sleep?’ he said. ‘What for?’

I began to explain our need to be in nature when I stopped short. This shepherd had probably lived his entire life roaming the mountains. Beirut was a far-off place, and the concept of city people hiking was completely alien to him.

Still he stayed looking on at us with amusement. After a few minutes of awkward silence he finally moved away.

We sighed with relief. The shepherd was probably just passing through on his way to the other side of the mountain. We turned our attention to figuring out how to barbecue chicken over an open fire. And then the smell of goat excrement reached us. We looked up to see that our shepherd had chosen to set up camp right opposite ours. In less than a minute, he had a campfire going and sat near it staring at us. Shooing away some goats, we decided to make the best of it.

‘It’s only one shepherd,’ said my ever positive husband.

Suddenly, another batch of ringing sounds reached us and we found ourselves surrounded by another herd of goats. Its shepherd immediately came forward.

‘Where are your goats?’ he asked. He was young and had a machine gun slung over his shoulder. Trying our best to ignore the gun, we denied having goats.

‘If you have no goats, than why are you here?’ he asked.

As I began to translate for my British husband, the shepherd looked surprised.

‘Why did you change your language?’ he asked.

‘It’s English. He’s from England,’ I replied politely as I kept a wary eye on the weapon.

Our shepherd looked confused. He had never heard of England. ‘But how do you come out with that language? Is he your man?’ We passed him a huge plateful of meat and chicken – hoping he’d take it as a sign of friendship. He didn’t eat but looked pleased at the offering.

‘What is that?’ he asked pointing to our small green tent. ‘How do you fit in there?’

He didn’t look convinced at our explanation and eyed us doubtfully.

‘Well,’ he said. ‘You’d better be careful. There are thieves about.’

Thieves? In the middle of nowhere?

‘If you’re not careful, they will steal your goats,’ said the shepherd, jumping up and running after his herd. Moments later, he set up camp across from ours. Soon, another shepherd showed up.

‘Where are your goats?’ he asked us before setting up camp next-door.

We decided to retire for the night and squeezed into our tiny tents.

By the sound of things outside, the area had turned into a regular highway. More shepherds appeared, bells didn’t stop ringing, and goats constantly nuzzled up to our tent. Every few minutes the shepherds yelled to each other and some began to sing traditional Bedouin songs. Suddenly, shots rang out. We sat up.

‘They’re firing up in the air,’ my husband said soothingly. ‘It’s to signal to each other.’

We hoped.

The next morning nothing remained of the shepherds or their goats. If it weren’t for the blackened ground of the campfires, we could have sworn that we had imagined the whole thing.

Further hiking plans were cancelled as we sleepily made our way back to our car.

We yearned for the peace of Beirut.

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