So much to give
I cannot read my copies of the NI without weeping. At times I am engulfed by frustration, rage and sorrow. The faces of people haunt me; their fear, their resignation, their hope.
I live in a wealthy capitalist country which prides itself on allowing a few Somali refugees, or a few (carefully chosen) Afghan refugees to live here. We have a tiny population, rich resources of land, timber, clean water - we have room for so very many more. I am ashamed to have so much when so many people of the world have so little and I am ashamed that my country does so little to give aid.
At times I am engulfed by frustration, rage and sorrow. The faces of people haunt me
I am ashamed that my sisters and brothers around the world are starving, being tortured, denied the medicines they need while I live here in safety and comfort.
I read that on 11 September, which we remember as the day the twin towers fell in New York, 35,000 children around the world died of hunger. Are the deaths of these children less important? Perhaps we should all remember the words of the poet John Donne: 'Any man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind.'
Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Refuge in Jordan
I am surprised that you failed to mention (Refugees, NI 350) that more than 50 per cent of Jordan's population is made up of Palestinian refugees. Jordan conferred full citizenship on these refugees. This despite the fact that Jordan is not a rich country and has few natural resources. There has been a lack of international will to protect Palestinian refugees.
The noble qualities of resiliance and initiative are twisted by the media into opportunism
The courage of refugees
Refugees are often portrayed as passive and helpless by well-intentioned people in Western society. Yet refugees take initiative and act upon situations of oppression. Only a small proportion of the citizens of a country would be strong-willed enough to leave everything behind and start again in distant places like Australia.
It is only upon reaching Western countries that this initiative is restricted by barbedwire fences and imposed economic subordination through food vouchers and the like. The noble qualities of resilience and initiative are twisted by the media into opportunism and even potential terrorism. Why? Because a good citizen is a passive citizen.
The Essay on the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (NI 350) failed to reflect the cultural and political awareness that one would expect to find in the NI. He is introduced as 'the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí'. But like many Catalans, Gaudí felt no more Spanish than the West Papuans or East Timorese feel Indonesian. From some point onwards he even refused to speak Spanish, and in his old age he was arrested for trying to attend an 11 September mass in memory of the Catalans who died during the Spanish invasion of 1714 (Barcelona fell to the Spanish troops on 11 September 1714). Even his name, Antoni, is misspelled (Antonio is a Spanish name). Throughout the rest of the article this blunder persists, giving the Spanish version of the original Catalan names of a number of places and people. It looks as if the author's sources came from Franco's times (when Catalan names were banished) or from the new reactionary tide rising from Madrid.
Life expectancy in Zambia
Zarina Geloo's Country Profile of Zambia (NI 350), rightly highlights the calamitous decline in that country's life expectancy in the last 10 years. However, this is not 'entirely due' to the HIV/AIDS pandemic as the article suggests. Since the early 1990s the imposition of structural adjustment and economic recovery programmes, whether insisted upon by multilateral donors or fashioned internally, have had a disastrous impact on the living conditions of the great majority of Zambians. Consequences have included a rapid rise in the price of staple foods, a reduction in government spending on public service projects such as water purification and sanitation and the introduction of fees for medical services. These factors, combined with Zambia's continuing debt-servicing burden, the resurgence of malaria and increasing levels of unemployment as newly privatized industries downsize their operations, also help us to understand why life expectancy has dropped so shamefully in the past decade.
Shut that door...
You argue that immigration to wealthy countries must be a good thing (Refugees, NI 350) because it fosters economic growth. Increased percapita wealth is good, but expansion through population growth typically reduces a society's quality of life. In south-eastern England, burgeoning population growth has pushed housing prices sky high. If growth continues at present rates (let alone increases through open immigration) then what's left of the English countryside will be sucked into a massive housing boom, while traffic becomes intolerable.
It is irresponsible to generalize that 'residents of wealthy countries fear a cultural invasion'. Most value the rich variety of cuisine, music, etc that immigrants have brought to their doorsteps. But immigration has been given a bad name by the small number who violently eschew the 'melting pot' and make the natives feel strangers in their own land. The vast majority of immigrants are hardworking, law-abiding, integrationist citizens - controls should be continually improved and strengthened to increase further the proportion that meet that description.
Most recent immigrants - the rich and the poor, the skilled and the unskilled, the legal and the illegal - tend to work like dogs. Good for them and good for their employers, but their co-workers rightly ask whether the company will start to expect it of all employees.
Clearly there is much room for improvement in the immigration controls that exist today. For starters, refugees admitted to wealthy countries should be allowed to work and earn their keep, rather than be forced to sit dejectedly in glorified prison camps, attracting resentment as burdens upon the State. And the process by which applicants are vetted must be improved. But you have not begun to make a credible case for throwing the doors wide open to all comers.
A foreign national living in London, England
...and the back door, too
Advocates of open borders regard those who oppose illegal immigration as lacking in compassion. But an open-border policy would not be viable in our times so immigration criteria have to be defined and applied. Within this reality it is not at all compassionate simply to accept at face value illegal immigrants ahead of other asylum seekers who may actually have a far greater need. True compassion requires objectivity, not a mere emotional response, so those who advocate proper assessment and processing of illegal immigrants in order to give equal opportunity to asylum seekers applying from outside a country are actually demonstrating far more compassion for those in most need than are those who advocate accepting any intruder who manages to get through your back door.
The gates of hell
I and thousands like me are against a US invasion of Iraq. The idea of bombing innocent people sickens us, as it should any civilized nation. And those who do support such action are strongly opposed to a unilateral invasion.
Yet President Bush is intent on starting a war, despite the fact that Iraq's arsenal has been greatly reduced since the Gulf War, that there is no sound evidence that Saddam Hussein is planning to attack anyone with whatever arsenal he may currently possess, nor any evidence to link him with the 9/11 attacks.
Has Vietnam already become 'The Forgotten War?' We went into that conflict with great confidence. Years later, after dropping thousands of tons of bombs, after thousands of people (including many of our own) being killed, we were sick of the whole mess. I remember that war. I remember our anger and grief. Are we ready to relive such an experience again?
There is already enormous anti- American sentiment in the world today, not just in the Middle East but in areas such as Europe and Africa as well. The President has alienated this country from other nations and invading Iraq would not only increase this anger; it would spawn even more terrorists. As a Saudi Arabian official recently warned: 'If Baghdad is bombed, it will open the gates of hell.'
War is murder. Granted, one side of the conflict might be a little more evil than the other, but the decision to go to war is never completely altruistic. If only it were so simple as 'the good guys versus the bad guys', but realistically, there are political and economic agendas as well.
My father, Glenn Alen Carter, went to war in Korea. He went to war because he was told by his government that it was the righteous thing to do. History tells a different story, however, deeming it a political fiasco. So why did he have to carry a metal plate around in his head and suffer unimaginably until his untimely death at age 30? I believe it was because the decision-makers in Washington feared the political winds and had little compassion or interest in taking into account the human toll of poor decision-making.
I really have to question the motives of all the political factions that would send us careering into a war with Iraq. What is this talk about war being good for the economy, creating jobs and such? At what price? Putting a price on the lives of our children is ludicrous.