Space to fill
There are no known technical problems likely to prevent the building of huge visionary space habitats within thirty years, at plausible initial cost. The economic stakes in space are obvious enough: one small nickel-iron asteroid could make all the minerals on the Pacific sea bed seem unimportant.
The worst enemies of most space colony enthusiasts are their own political naivety and the ease with which they can be exploited by other interests. Do they think cheap energy from space will make the world a better place? They should read American history in the era of cheap gasoline. Who expects mineral multinationals to build beautiful cities in the sky, or encourage the growth of independent self sufficient communities? Maybe they will, but experience in such countries as Chile, Bolivia and Jamaica suggests that they wilt need a lot of persuading.
Besides the more obvious (and costly) improvements, such as building proper drains and waterworks — for which the political will seems to be lacking — a simple change would be to introduce ‘Health and Hygiene’ into the school curriculum from an early stage.
Health education could help the immediate development of the poor world far more than most of the Western-based subjects currently taught — and do more for health at a far smaller cost than all the hospitals and indigenous pharmaceutical industries currently planned.
When teaching in North Ghana, I found students as enquiring as their fellows in Britain and far more militant in questioning the way their school was run. For example. an incompetent or lazy teacher would have far more trouble from students in North Ghana than in the UK!
Prophet of Doom
Instead I would like to make two comments:
Firstly, the writer has used the word ‘war’ too broadly; some of the time ‘violence’ would be more accurate, at others ‘selfishness’. Both are the causes of war but not synonymous with it.
Second, the total effect of the piece is self-loathing followed by despair. A self-knowledge which finds no assets will lead to self-destruction. The writer’s description of the black side of our human nature was true enough, but only part of the truth: love and self-sacrifice do still exist and are not as ineffectual as he implied.
A prophet must show us the evil of our ways, but if he cannot point to a better route his words may hasten the very end he seeks to prevent.
It is clear that the intense pressure from the Government and attempts to undermine its financial security have led to its wholesale transformation into a Government mouthpiece. Sadly the network is now little better than can be found in other countries with State controlled broadcasting. Standards in programmes have also fallen, with a lack of experimentation and almost total reliance on tried and tired formulas and cheap American imports.
All those concerned with the reputation of the BBC whether at home or abroad should help the campaign to restore It to its previous eminence.
David I. Willis
Cloak and Dagger
Serious, detailed accusations have been made against the BBC, whose party line response always seems to take two forms. One — the critics know nothing of broadcasting, and two — the critics are just right/left extremists.
The first is just silly. The second — well, we all know what to think of people who respond to criticism by abusing the critic, do we not?
It would not matter if BBC bias was of the same crude kind as on the commercial channels. What is so insidious and malign is the BBC’s continuously-fostered myth of its impartiality.
It is not widely known but the BBC works in close co-operation with the British Government’s secret communications headquarters (GCHQ), with Radio Free Europe and Voice of America — which are hardly unbiased organisations. The nature of its co-operation with GCHQ and other intelligence gathering centres had better, perhaps, remain undescribed in your correspondence columns.
C. and D. MacNamara
Crumbs of comfort
Fortunately the picture is not as grim as Mr. Jackson would have us believe. In my country of assignment, we have made dramatic improvements in our assistance over the last year, with the result that food is reaching the intended beneficiaries, stimulating agricultural production, and enhancing the lives of thousands of women
and children in rural areas. Space precludes me from refuting Jackson’s criticisms one by one. They have been answered in "The Case for Food Aid" in WFP News obtainable from WEP, Via delle Terme di Caracalla, Rome.
Tony Jackson replies: If WFP News answers the criticisms in Against the Grain, then the moon is made of soy-fortified sorghum grits. It is good, however, to have a report of a rare food aid success story.
Wouldn’t life be simpler if only the unfortunate inmates of the ‘camp of peace and progress’ could forget about their real life experience and share the beliefs of your reader daydreaming naively in the safe refuge of Torquay.
L. A. Kosinski