What a wonderful idea - your Twelve Rights Calendar! Congratulations to Roger Halsall for his inspiration; and to you for printing it. It’s things like that which can change the way people think, and that is really the only way in which any lasting improvement in the world situation will come about. The names of the days are beautiful and could translate fairly easily into other languages; the Latin months are not too obscure and have a certain grandeur.
Please may we have a big, colourful version to buy, or instead of a magazine, for next year? I shall certainly put one up in the school where I teach, and at home too.
Many thanks, too, for your excellent magazine. I do appreciate it not being stuffed with advertisements for glittering, luxury goods.
A third look
The ‘second look’ was a good idea (NI 131) but failed to raise vital questions. What is the New Internationalist, let alone UNICEF, promoting the idea that little packets of powders’ are necessary to counteract dehydration? The distribution of basic knowledge and understanding is fundamental to the battle against the monopoly of power and resources in Third World countries. Show how people can be taught and can teach each other how to make dehydration solution from sugar, salt and water. This is far from petty. All forms of mystification lead all to easily to dependency and exploitation.
Your report on racial violence in Sri Lanka (NI 128) did not make any attempt to analyse objectively the racial problems of the Sri Lankans. The report itself was totally biased against the Sinhala majority of that country.
The riots involved a very small section of the population, who were in it more for the purpose of looting than for anything else. Unfortunately some unnily and undisciplined elements of the security forces also participated.
Total comdemnation of the Sinhala people is unjust without considering the extremely provocative actions of Tamil terrorists. These terrorists have the tacit approval of tje Tamil leadership and the Tamil population at large who consider such acts as acts of heroism.
Costa Rica contradiction
At the end of last month I met an El Salvadoran priest who, having received a threat from a death squad in El Salvador, fled to Costa Rica several years ago. He now works with refugees from his native land at a refugee camp where he has been accused by the Costa Rican government of running the camp for guerillas. This priest has been arrested twice and has gone to court twice. He won both times.
The refugees are constantly attacked by many of the Costa Rican clergy. There is no standing army in Costa Rica but the police force are armed and all too often arrest refugees entering churches.
There are other violations of human rights in Costa Rica too. I have heard of several cases of false arrest and torture whilst in custody. There is also an organisation called ‘The Mothers of Political Prisoners’ in Costa Rica - something one always associates with the worst of political regimes. And CIA-backed Contra groups operate from within Costa Rica - a situation which would not have been countenanced prior to the receipt of economic aid from the USA.
Inspiration and denigration
Ashok Mitra’s jaundiced view of society ladies (NI 129) reflects unsubstantiated generalities and irresponsible use of ‘sample survey’ data to demean the role of women’s groups in development. Further, Mr Mitra ignores perhaps the most important contribution of these groups to development: the demonstration to the youth and other segments of the developing country’s society that development requires a personal commitment. Save your cynicism, Mr Mitra. and use your column to inspire, not denigrate women’s groups.
Superstructure in reverse
I found Ashok Mitra’s jaundiced look at the efforts of local society ladies (NI 129) thought-provoking. The problem which he exposed is common to many. if not all, social welfare organisations: any association composed of members of the superstructure, whatever its alleged intentions, is bound to operate in an hierarchical manner to the detriment of its subjects. In Marx’s opinion, ‘the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.’
An analogy can be drawn with the critical view that our welfare state simply perpetuates poverty, doing little, it any-thing, to resolve the problem.
It is the superstructure that has caused destitution. It should he the superstructure’s aim to reverse and rectify this.
One world calendar
How pleasing it was to read the opening two paragraphs of Ashok Mitra’s ‘Taking Issue’ in the December issue (NI 130). I believe that many would agree that the title ‘Third World’ is dreadful and only furthers the ‘them and us’ syndrome felt by many uninformed people.
How strange it was then to find a full page advertisement on the back of that issue referring to ‘The Third World Calendar’. What a blunder!
Hopefully 1985’s calendar will have a more appropriate title and not perpetuate the misconception of a Third World. There’s only one world and we’re all part of it!
People in glass houses
A recurring theme in the New Internationalist is that in poor countries it is the poor who suffer and get poorer and the rich who exploit and get richer. How can we help the poor of these countries when the rich people there are working against us?
The same prosperity gap exists in our own country which - although small in comparison to that between rich and poor in the developing world due to the hard work of social reformers over the years - is widening at present. We must be critical of exploitation in Britain if we are to be critics of the same elsewhere.
It was good to see an article, albeit short, on events in Haiti in the September issue (NI 127). Readers might be interested to know that USAID ‘experts’ acknowledge that the programme of swine fever eradication might be 80 per cent successful, and that that will probably be enough for their purpose. It is also quite clear that many peasants have taken their own precautions to protect their pigs by hiding them.
This is, of course, not to underestimate the gross injustices this programme has wrought among some of the world’s poorest people. Fortunately, the ‘hapless victims’ have more resilience than we often give them credit for. Haitian peasant life has survived many bad development projects, and will survive more until the benefits of change to them are more evident.
Let’s have less innuendo, less half-baked reasoning, less pages and more truth, facts and internal consistency.
Here are two small examples which I found objectionable (and I could find many more):
1. Neil MacDonald’s article (NI 130) sneered at the Salvadoran elections being a test of popular support because ‘half the political spectrum had been forced into exile or into the hills’. Yet he also managed to sneer at the 80 per cent turnout of voters.
2. In the Dumping issue (NI 129) you very fairly quoted what leading industrialists had to say about what we call their dumping, followed by your comments. I found almost all your comments failed miserably in answering their points.
I refer to the letter ‘The pot and the kettle’ from Jane Moonman (NI 131). What does New Internationalist think it’s doing publishing a letter written by a pro-Israeli public relations organisation? The equivalent would be to run an issue on North/South trade imbalance and then accept a letter from the press office of Unilever justifying exploiting the Third World. Is this supposed to be editorial balance?
What are we going to see next in New Internationalist - a letter from the American Embassy justifying human rights abuses in Central America?
Brake on progress
I have recently started a subscription to your magazine, which I read with considerable interest.
One gets the impression. however, that if it were not for the US the world would be getting on well and developing rapidly. I doubt whether this is the case. Surely the US contributes more, financially, than any other nation?
E W Price