Many thanks for your May issue (NI 135). In its widest form, the food issue is arguably the most pressing of our times.
As a city-dweller searching for a satisfactory diet, I often - in the words of John Forsyth (page 12) - begin to feel terribly alone’ faced with so many vested interests and consumer apathy. May’s NI was therefore a welcome friend, as well as being another indication that the much-needed food revolution is gathering momentum.
I noticed a distinct sense of humour creeping into the last edition (NI 134). This is an extremely dangerous trend. You don’t seem to realise that we must take our politicians and economists seriously. Imagine what would happen if we didn’t. We might end up laughing these people out of office and power. God forbid!
John Lennon once said something like this, Humour is our most potent weapon against those in power. . . they don’t understand it’. Could he have been right?
The horse’s mouth
Last week my mother, who has shares in British American Tobacco and Shell, received letters from both of these companies.
The one from BAT was about a resolution from the World Development Movement to stop the tobacco industry using immoral advertising in the Third World and about the unacceptably high tar content in cigarettes sold there. The Shell one was a resolution by the World Council of Churches to stop Shell selling oil to South Africa and Namibia.
The most interesting thing about both these communications was that at the bottom of the voting form it said The Directors advise shareholders to vote against these resolutions’.
I resisted responding immediately, anticipating that too much of a good thing might provoke even greater reaction from the medical profession. However I will respond now to Dr S Inglis and Cockburn’s letters.
I worked within psychiatry in the National Health Service from 1966 to 1973 and resigned as Nursing Officer and Psychotherapist when I could no longer resist the overwhelming evidence that after almost 150 years of trying to prove scientific efficacy, psychiatry was still unable to demonstrate any disease process which could be called schizophrenia, endogenous depression or neurosis.
It is now clear that if, in the 18th century, the original committee of legal minds and lay people had been allowed to investigate the plight of lunatics - they would have linked their problems with social deprivation. But the medical profession was free to monopolise the authorised response to these social problems and the Government acquiesced. To do otherwise would have been to admit partial responsibility for the social problems that existed.
Since then, Dr Inglis, it is the people with problems who have been misunderstood, not the bogus profession of psychiatry.
Psychiatry can, and does, control and modify behaviour. It invariably does this in the favour of the dominant values of those in authority.
People with problems do not want them managed, Dr Cockburn, they want to deal with their problems in a way that they themselves understand so that they are not at the mercy of those problems again. In short they want to be seen as part of society like the rest of us.
We were very pleased to see that your February issue gave so much prominence to the question of mental health generally and its place in developing countries. The Richmond Fellowship has taken an initiative in this regard which may interest your readers.
The Fellowship runs over 70 halfway houses for ex-psychiatric patients in the Western world, but has long felt that the therapeutic facilities it has pioneered would be applicable to developing countries, It was therefore happy to respond to a request from the World Health Organisation to set up a model project in India, which is planned to open next year. Persons wishing to know more about the Fellowship’s work and plans, and who are interested in working in any of the proposed projects should write to us for further details.
Sauce for the gander
If the so-called law and order New Right’ governments of Mr Reagan and Mrs Thatcher (NI 133) were to introduce public mass executions for robbery and drug smugglings would you report the phenomenon with the same non-judgemental restraint that you exhibit toward such occurrences in China (NI 133)?
Or have I fallen victim to the delusion of bourgeois objectivity and the dreaded extremism for the centre?
N L James
Left hand Luke and the beggar boys
Out of control
New Internationalist rejects the dictator’s right to control, where death squads eliminate inconvenient opposition and the developed world’s right to control where poor people starve in order to overfeed the rich. Why then the staunch support for a woman’s right to control her body where the most vulnerable creature of all is similarly demoted to the rank of expendable commodity by the society which should support and nurture it?
Oppressive power groups always find a label to dehumanise their victim. The Nazis classed the Jew as untermensch’, today’s proabortionists class the unborn child as the foetus. It amazes me that left-wing groups should be so quick to support a movement so near the New Right in its aims and methods.
Elisabeth J Martin
Countries, like cars and other objects lacking the gametes essential to sexual reproduction, are sexless, right? But in your otherwise great magazine, countries keep getting referred to as in Argentina (‘she may be moving into weapons’, NI 131) and in Malaysia .... imports about 20 per cent of the rice she needs, NI 132).
So let’s hear it for ‘it’s of the world. If your magazine insists on feminizing countries, I may be tempted to stop reading him.
Parks or people
It was presumably by chance that NI 131 featured the Country Profile on Kenya, and an Up-Date on a Maasai tribesman’s faith in an injection of distilled water. The story from the Kenya Sunday Nation’ was supposed to be funny. The Maasai, a nomadic pastoral people, often serve as the butt of ridicule in the Kenyan press, as do the Irish in Britain and, in the past, the Jews throughout Europe. Such ridicule, of course, itself serves to conceal historic oppression and justify exclusion. This is also the case in Kenya. The Maasai have lost vast areas of grazing and watering land to the Kenyan National Parks, which form the basis of Kenyas tourist industry.
Despite suggestions in the mid-1970s of a government compensation scheme for the Maasai, the pastoralists have seen little of this tourism revenue. Rather the disappearance of much grazing land has resulted in many migrating to Nairobi and other cities, where they are most likely to join the unemployed in over-crowded shanty towns. These once-independent warriors are a sad picture of aimless demoralisation in Nairobi, where they retain their traditional tribal dress.
All this, of course, is a familiar pattern in Africa, and indeed anywhere that industrialisation and the development of capitalist agriculture has involved the expropriation of rural producers.
Dr Laurence Ray
I’m afraid I must take issue with Chris Mowles for berating the New Internationalist for publishing a pro-Israeli letter from Jane Moorman of The Britain/ Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
Mr Mowles main point seems to be that publishing a letter from a pro-Israeli public relations organisation is taking editorial balance’ too far.
Surely your readers have enough gumption and intelligence to weigh up the pros and cons for themselves and don’t just accept all statements at their face value.
Stating that Jane Moorrnan is the Director of the British! Israeli Public Affairs Committee is helpful, and might make your readers more cautious about accepting everything she says than if she was writing as an individual unassociated with any organisation.
John M Meldrum