New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 361

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Letters

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Just music
As a recent subscriber I particularly enjoyed the politically motivated music on the free CD that came with Sounds of dissent (NI 359). I read a quote recently from a member of Girls Aloud: 'Music is just... music! It's wonderful but it's not going to change the world, it's not going to bring world peace, it's not going to do anything serious. It's just entertainment: get over it!'

Click here to read NI 359. Of course you cannot compare Girls Aloud to the musicians on your CD. However it does sadden me to think that some people really do not recognize the influential nature of music and lyrics. I hope the NI will continue to open narrow minds to the possibilities of creative expression.

Claire Churchard
London, England

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Just a little thing
The antiwar CD made me think and inspired me to write this poem. It may be just something I came up with in my spare time, but I hope that people will now be able to see that us kids also care and want to make a difference.

Rosie Ryan Flinn (age 11)
Bristol, England

If all war stopped, I wonder if,
The air would smell of peace.
And winds would whisper freedom,
If all the fights would cease.

The lion would take in the rabbit,
And give it a sheltered home.
And all the animals in the world,
Would never feel alone.

And all the people on the streets,
Who’ve suffered through sun and rain.
All the pain and sorrow they’ve felt,
They wouldn’t feel again.

And even the starving children,
Who’ve come from different places.
Would all be happy and bright,
And would wear smiles upon their faces.

But only a miracle could make this real,
And a miracle’s hard to find.
But even if this may be true,
They’ll still stay a wish in my mind!

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Low note
Arguably the worst CD in my appalling collection, only reprieved from the recycling bin by Billy Bragg and Ani DiFranco. Sadly the devil still has the best tunes.

Leo Tennant
Sheffield, England

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On air
Sounds of dissent really grabbed my interest as something different and unaired. Knowing so little of modern music (being a Sixties person and now more classically inclined) I was fascinated. To add a footnote, the day after reading the issue, the BBC announced that Daniel Barenboim had been criticized by the Israeli authorities for performing to an exclusively Palestinian audience. How relevant can you get?

Liz Inman
London, England

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Deadly denial
As someone who has worked against HIV in southern Africa and other regions since 1983, I was shocked to read recycled AIDS mythology in the usually reliable NI. Medical transmission (in both formal and informal settings) and unprotected anal sex may be underestimated and underaddressed in preventing HIV infection in many countries, but to quote unedited an argument from another publication that 'unsafe medical practices caused most of the spread of HIV in Africa, [and] anal intercourse accounts for the majority of the remainder' (Currents, NI 359) is to retail completely unverified poorly evidenced speculations. Denial is always an enemy in confronting HIV: in this case it bolsters the reluctance of heterosexual men to believe that unprotected vaginal sex could put them or their women partners at risk.

Ken Davis
Sydney, Australia

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Cuts both ways
Mourid Barghouti's heartfelt plea for poetry and the true meaning of words ('Verbicide', Essay, NI 359) would have been more convincing had he included in the introductory quotes not only the language of hate by Israelis but also anti-Semitic outpourings which are just as widespread among Palestinians.

Reiner Luyken
Achiltibuie, Scotland

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Sceptical response
I was wryly amused at being included among your 'toxic sceptics' (Climate change solutions, NI 357) and grateful to Tom Addiscott's excellent letter (NI 359) for defending our good faith. You have every right to challenge my arguments on 'global warming' and the Kyoto Protocol, but I am saddened that you question my motives, particularly as most of the 'information' you provide about me is wrong. I am not 'fiercely pro-industry'; I am independent and I make my own judgements, sometimes for, sometimes against. I have no links whatsoever with the fossil-fuel industry, although I believe I did once share half a bottle of wine with someone retired from the oil sector. I have voted Labour, old and new, all my life and my interest in 'global warming' predates my concern with GM crops by many years. Indeed, I have been deconstructing environmentalist grand narratives for over 15 years. And my prime concern has always been with the people of the developing world. In this respect, your readers may find my August article on climate colonialism in the magazine, Power Economics, to be of interest.

Philip Stott
Gravesend, England

Ed: For the record – we did not claim Philip Stott had links with the fossil-fuel industry.

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Adoptions defended
'The Baby Harvest' (Currents, NI 359) offered a distorted picture of international adoptions more suited in style to the sensationalism and one-sidedness of the tabloid press. The likening of adoptive parents to Northern corporations outsourcing their manufacturing in the sweatshops of the South is as misleading as it is insulting. Despite citing 'poorer countries' such as Korea, Vietnam, Russia, China and India as examples, only events in the state of Andhra Pradesh in southern India are referred to.

The article states there is a criminal network involving touts, corrupt agencies, government officials and lawyers, combined with the slow cultural and economic destruction of the Lambada community. Yet the main 'villains' are so-called rich Westerners.

As an adoptive parent of two girls born in China, and having met Irish, Norwegian, US and Spanish adopters, I do not recognize the picture of 'baby harvesters' presented by Ms Ramaswamy.

Any reader of NI will be aware of the corrupt practices prevalent at many levels of dealings throughout the world and campaigners in Andhra Pradesh have performed valuable work in exposing local malpractice. Nevertheless, the facts are that there is no shortage of babies and young children. Throughout the world there are tens of thousands abandoned and in institutions receiving considerably varying levels of care. Properly regulated international adoption is not 'the' answer in the flux of world disorder. However, it should be a win-win situation for all those involved.

Jim Conner
Glasgow, Scotland

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Fossil fix
Tom Addiscott doubts whether 'global warming' is really happening (Letters, NI 359). Climate change is but a symptom of the real problem - an over-dependency on oil and gas. Nearly half of the world's economically recoverable oil reserves have already been extracted and around 50 countries have passed their point of peak oil output. Yet the majority of the world's population has yet to access this dwindling, one-off resource.

It is not yet clear when the peak in world oil production will occur, but it could be as little as 10 years away and the economic effects would be substantial. Transport and agriculture are heavily dependent upon oil, and alternative fuels are still in their infancy. Constraints on the supply of oil will cause recession, unemployment and civil unrest. The only fuels which might bridge the energy gap between oil (and gas) and renewables are coal and uranium, but these too are finite resources with blemished environmental records. Renewable energy and energy efficiency are survival mechanisms - not just some 'green' ideal!

Mandy Meikle
West Calder, Scotland

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Corporate Crime Wave

Cuba’s future
Yes, 'Cuba hurts' (View from the South, NI 358). It hurts those who hailed and supported the Cuban revolution, and above all it now hurts Cuban people. The system of governance that allowed a small group of people to entrench itself in power indefinitely needs to be questioned, even when this group provided the leadership for the revolution. Of course Cuba constantly had to face the threat from its powerful neighbour, the US, but now this threat is being used as a cover by the ruling clique to hide its inability to maintain the true spirit of the revolution.

What we need is not a new political leadership, but to bypass it, directing creative energy towards projects that unite the collective will of the people. Cuban intellectuals can play a fundamental role in this respect if they can stop thinking that the change will only come with or after the change at a political level.

Rasheed Araeen
Founding Editor, Third Text
London, England

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Third party
Eduardo Galeano can usually be counted on for perceptive analysis, but was way off-base with his claim that in the US ' there is a single party disguised as two'. What about the Green Party? It has 250,000 registered supporters, has grown in party membership by 27 per cent since 2000, has elected 170 people to office across the US and is on the verge of becoming a significant force in US politics. Ignoring this promising movement the way the corporate media does doesn't exactly fit with the NI goal of promoting 'the action in the fight for global justice'.

Murray MacAdam
Toronto, Canada

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Letter from Lebanon

The promise
How grief and guilt kept Reem Haddad from
honouring a remarkable woman's request.

I stared guiltily at the flimsy papers filled with typed notes. 'My name is Alice Antonious Assad,' the narrative began. I had forgotten about this. I had forgotten about my promise. It was only while rummaging through my files that I came across the fragile papers and the memories flooded back.

It's been almost 10 years since my beloved grandmother passed away. The pain at the time had been so strong that I had put her most precious belonging away: a manuscript of her life story.

A few years before her death, our family managed to flee from war-torn Beirut. The civil war was in full swing. Our home had been repeatedly shelled. My parents and sisters went to the US, while my grandmother went to live with her daughter in London. Every summer we travelled to London to be with my grandmother. The move was difficult for her. 'This is the second time in my life I find myself fleeing and leaving my home and belongings behind,' she used to tell me with a sigh.

The first time was in 1948 when the state of Israel was created. She and her two daughters had then made their way to Lebanon.

Half-jokingly, I once replied, 'Nana, you should write a book about it.'

The following summer, Nana presented me with a few typed papers.

'I am doing what you said,' she said proudly. 'And you are going to write my life story.'

Nana worked hard typing up her memoirs. A summer later, she presented me with a 40-page manuscript.

Illustration: Sarah John
Illustration: Sarah John

But I had just started university at the time and was overwhelmed with studies. I put it aside. A few weeks before her death, she asked me whether I had started to work on her biography. Her look of disappointment was unmistakable when I acknowledged that I had not.

'That's all right,' she said smiling. 'You'll do it. Just don’t forget me. Please.’

'I'll never forget you, Nana,' I promised. 'I'll write it up.'

She passed away that summer and I had lost the most wonderful person I knew. I put away her manuscript.

The war ended in Lebanon and I moved back to Beirut. The years passed and I became a journalist. And then, a few weeks ago, I came across the manuscript. For the first time, I began to read the notes. And for the first time I began to see my grandmother - not as my Nana who brought me sweets and endlessly played with me, but as a woman who early in the last century would have been called a feminist.

Born under Ottoman rule, but raised in British-mandate Palestine, she spoke fluent English and faithfully followed English traditions - until she passed away, she insisted on having tea at five o'clock every day. Defying all Arab norms in those days, she attended university and travelled to Baghdad to become a teacher. I continued to read enthralled as tales of love, war, sacrifice and betrayal unfolded in front of me. In her late twenties - a scandalously late age - she married. Her husband, however, fell into heavy debt and died soon after. She was left alone with two young daughters. Again defying Arab norms, she refused to remarry and insisted on bringing up her children unaided. In 1948, she and her children fled to Lebanon with the thousands of Palestinian refugees escaping the nascent Israeli army. She enrolled in a typing class and became an executive secretary.

'Never accept financial help from anyone,' she used to tell me. 'That way your children will never have to bow down to anyone.'

In a modern setting her story would seem normal. But in the 1920s, an Arab woman - a career woman - living on her own was considered quite scandalous.

She had one wish before she died: to be cremated and her ashes buried in Palestine. Knowing that the Israeli authorities tend to refuse such requests, her ashes were smuggled into Jerusalem where she was buried near her family. She was home once again.

On 28 June 2002 my daughter, Yasmine Alice, was born. My grandmother would have loved her namesake.

I have recently started to work on the manuscript. I now owe it to both my grandmother and my daughter.

Reem Haddad works for the Daily Star in Beirut.
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