Not black and white
Thank you for an interesting October edition on Minority Rights and their denial - but it’s a pity that the situation in Britain was dealt with so superficially. John Forsythe’s article was illuminating, as far as it went, yet how one can write an article on the Scottish minority and skim over the grim battle for survival of the Gaelic-speakers defeats me.
Wales, too, is a minority ignored by the last issue, a country with a culture separate in every way from the English and Anglo-American sphere, and with a language spoken by half-a-million people, many of whom have faced prison sentences over such simple things as the right to register the birth of a child in Welsh.
If you are to include Britain in an issue that deals with minority rights, at least acknowledge that the proW lems are not confined to Black/White situations.
Paul A Jenning
Reforms plus hospitals
I read your ‘Justice in Health’ issue with interest. I sympathise with your belief that much of the high technology hospital-based medicine is inappropriate to the health of our society. However, I have never found the issues as simple as you portray them: I wonder who has benefitted most, the village in Lesotho where I installed clean water supplies while working at a mission hospital, or the patients in Scotland for whom I have performed a kidney transplant. The clean water supply may have saved several babies dying of dysentery but what future is that for many of them in a land so over-populated and destitute of resources? The kidney transplant have enabled some young people to have a better quality of life and perhaps work for a better society in the future. I personally would prefer to see increasing amounts of money spent on health and social reforms both hospital-based and otherwise.
The USA and UK economies are heavily dependent on the production of war materials. I suggest that high technology medicine can be a partial alternative to the endles arms race, providing employment in and out of hospitals and work for manufacturing industry. We need computers, CAT scanners, gamma cameras, ultrasound scanners and NMR scanners to name but a few. I submit this is a more worthy objecfive for our manufacturing industry than the production of ever more lethal missiles with the resultant threat of the extinction of mankind. I have no doubt that a 50 per cent increase in cigarette tax plus a a total ban on advertising would do more for health than many of our costly hospitals.
Let us have both social and environmental reforms as well as high technology medicine. Let us compete with the Russians in the production of cheap, safe and effective drugs for bilharzia, leprosy and tuberculosis and compact, low-cost, portable, high definition ultrasound machines instead of nerve gases and cruise missiles.
My attention has been drawn to G. Reardon’s letter in your current issue. In it she takes you to task for mentioning Real Aid in the context of your attack on trickle-down. She says the Report’s proposals ‘are largely based on that very theory’.
I can only assume that G. Reardon has never read Real Aid - or doesn’t understand what trickle-down theory is all about. The whole point of Real Aid is precisely to ensure that benefits accrue, at the first round, to the poorest sections of the community. An approach further removed from trickle-down is hard to imagine. May I encourage G. Reardon to read the Report before she rushes into print to condemn it?
Revd. Dr Charles Elliott
You recently asked readers to suggest their own themes for future issues.
I would be very keen to have you examine what I would call ‘the failure of Western culture’. I believe your team could very usefully examine the following propositions.
With enormous consumption of energy and resources, the United States have established almost universal literacy. Yet the standard of information available through American media is regarded as poor by most Europeans.
Again, the standard of entertainment on American television is culturally regarded as more primitive than its European counterpart.
Drama in all Western entertainment invariably contains elements of gross and unjustifiable violence. Yet, as that admirable film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ demonstrated, violence is not essential to achieve a dramatic effect and commercial success.
The major characteristic of Western popular entertainment is personal risk problems (with strong viewer! reader identification) resolved by violent action. Against this background, small wonder that major issues are presented in over-simplified notions of threat and counter-threat.
It seems that the Western educational/cultural system has failed the mass of the people, and this failure to communicate adequate concepts of macro-economics and geopolitics is the essential cause of our present predicament: hovering on the brink of nuclear catastrophe.
Not the Third World
I am replying to your request (NI 128) for suggestions on how best to describe the group of emerging states.
Good Lord, of course the consulting firm was right to object to the ignorant use of the term ‘Third World’.
‘Third World’ is a phase I have never used - and never will use because there is no such thing. There is only one world. Which country in our one world is not developing?
I have used the terms ‘more developed’ and ‘less developed’; on other occasions I have simply used the terms ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ countries, while I believe that being poor and being poorly developed are two different things, as are being rich and being richly developed.
Joseph Chinedu Ogbuagu
We were appalled by the sexist article which Ashok Mitra wrote in the November 1983 New Internationalist. He is certainly right in describing the oppression of India’s poor by the economic and political elites, but we were horrified by his failure to recognise the oppression of women in all classes in Indian society.
He describes women ‘stealing or borrowing one another’s husbands but, once... past the post of menopause...’ developing an interest in social welfare. Here he is treading the well-worn path of defining women purely in terms of their reproductive role. Men’s responsibility in this ‘stealing or borrowing’ of partners is not even referred to, and Mr Mitra evidently suffers from the misconception that women’s sexual interest is linked with their ability to reproduce.
These ‘ladies who adorn the superstructure’ are surely excluded from economic and political power. His venom would be more correctly aimed at the real power brokers in society - their husbands.
Julie Mellor and Christopher Thompson
In the interest of balanced reporting - not to mention your readers’ morale - could you give us more good news occasionally?
Bias and the Malvinas
Patricia Harrod (NI 127) considers it a biased statement to say that ‘1,000 people were sacrificed in 1982 for useless islands in the South Atlantic’. Her version is that ‘Those who died gave their lives for the people of those islands and for the protection of us all against international anarchy’.
It would be only too easy to compose unbiased statements of the aspirations of Hitler and Mussolini (‘to create a sense of national purpose... mobilise the idealism of youth. counteract the sinister forces of Jewish money marketeers and the creeping tide of Bolshevism . . . bring civilisation and order to darkest Africa. . .‘) and for aught I know Attila the Hun.
Patricia Harrod’s ‘point’ is a meaningless slogan: "We all’ are not protected against international anarchy by the bigger fist or the eager sale of armaments to whoever can be persuaded to buy: but by negotiation and concerted international action. By sinking the Beigrano Margaret Thatcher cut short negotiations and (by dispersing international sympathy) removed the possibility of concerted action. A biased but surely correct statement would be that it was crude and cynical but successful electioneering. Or, in Private Eye’s words, ‘they died to save her face.’
What I would be interested to see and challenge other readers to produce, is a really unbiased statement, in one or two sentences, of what the Falklands war was about.
Editor’s Comment: This competition is now open. Not more than two sentences please.
It seems to me that there is a more positive creative attempt to both accommodate Islam and harness modern technology realistically within the Soviet sphere of influence than the ‘Eastern Bloc’ is given credit for.
I’m thinking in particular of womens rights, accessible doctors, child care, and the unglamorous but crucial literacy campaigns which create the opportunity for self-confidence and self-respect.