For all your warnings in previous issues about stereotyping and the dangers of media images, you appear to have fallen into these very traps in your issue on Youth - ‘Goodbye to innocence’ (NI 138). Punks and skinheads, you say, are ‘voting for racism and the right’.
You have obviously failed to understand the essence of punk. Punk is about freedom - from oppression and from elitism. The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy in the UK’, for example, was a call for radical change - there are certainly punks who would not agree with this and punks who are racists. But these are not true punks - merely the ones on which the media focus.
If you want to illustrate the links between the music industry and right-wing politics you should be looking at the ‘New Wave’ groups with names like ‘Joy Division’ and ‘New Order’.
I appreciate that your aim is to shock but surely the impact is weakened when the statistics quoted are exaggerated. Your August issue on Youth (NI 138) is a glaring example. Ms Vittachi states that in every fourth family a girl is sexually molested by a member of the household or a close family friend. And Ms Taylor hammers home the same figures for the US, the UK and Australia.
I wonder how many incestuous families or households Ms Vittachi and Ms Taylor number amongst their circle of friends and acquaintances? My own experience has been contact with school-leavers from some 15,000 families over a period of thirty odd years and a considerable number of the teenagers concerned come within the ‘disadvantaged’ bracket, including the emotionally disturbed. At a guess I would say that I encountered about a dozen cases of incest, i.e. rather less than one in a thousand as opposed to one in four.
I read your article on incest (NI 138) with interest and some scepticism. I accept that the men involved have abused their power and the trust their victims placed in them. But the other half of the picture, without which no damage would occur, is the tabu which society places on sex.
If sex was regarded as being as normal and as enjoyable as eating and drinking then the girls would suffer no damage from being fondled. Would it not help if a person who felt the need for sexual activity could without condemnation, find a willing equal partner who might enjoy sex with them as easily as they might enjoy a meal or a drink together?
There is incidentally no tabu that prevents mothers bathing toddler boys. For reasons of hygiene they should pull the foreskin back and wash the glans. This is considered to be quite normal, there is no outcry about it and the boys suffer no prolonged psychological damage.
Juggling with words
The words of Thomas Cullinan in your centre-page poster (NI 137) mean very little. ‘If we idolise wealth, then we create poverty ... etc’. You could interchange ‘poverty’ and ‘wealth’ here and swap the words round similarly in rest of his statement and it would be equally valid. Probably more so! The real culprit is idolatry. Idolising anything except God is evil, and even that is evil if it is in tangible form.
No bomb, no story
We were very glad to see the attention given to non-violent means of action for social justice (NI 136).
Even so, I was surprised at the editorial comment that ‘political oppression in the Third World is often so severe as to demand violent resistance’. Some of the most significant non-violent struggles have occurred, or are occurring, in the Third World. Sadly, they are not very often a subject of pressing interest to the press. It is all too true that anyone with a bomb can attract attention far more readily than those, however numerous, who refuse to seek their goals by violent means.
Readers of the New Internationalist might find it interesting to read a survey of non-violent movements in Latin America which is published in the current IFOR Report. We would be willing to provide a copy below the usual price to any NI reader. (Send £1 or dollar equivalent).
I’m writing to express my disappointment with ‘Looking beyond violence’ (NI 136). The whole issue was preoccupied with justifying support for armed revolution.
I disagree that non-violence is only a tool that can be used in ‘non-repressive’ societies, a tool appropriate for the West but not for the Third world. Non-violence was successfully used against Nazi Germany in several instances: by a group of Aryan wives who freed their Jewish husbands from the Gestapo and by Norwegian teachers who refused to implement Nazi ideology in schools.
I would also like to challenge Eleanor Maclean’s assertion that South Africa in particular is a clear-cut case for supporting violent resistance. In a highly developed country with an infrastructure dependent on black and coloured workers, non-violence is still an option. Both non-violent and violent struggle will involve terrible suffering, as Sharpeville and Soweto have shown. Non-violence isn’t an easy choice but still a possible one..
I must hasten to correct the misinformation offered by your correspondent Jane Beatty (NI 138), concerning the nature of wholefood shops. Ms Beatty’s description of these as being run cooperatively may have been true a decade or so ago, at least in the south of Britain, but I regret that it is not the case now. Most wholefood shops throughout the country are run just like any other business: for maximum profitability to the proprietor (who in many cases does not consume the food being offered for sale).
Life on Earth
The struggle against abortion is part of the same struggle underdevelopment, poverty, the arms race, pollution or unemployment. The fight, I suggest, is against all forces which militate against or deprive others of life. Abortion destroys the life of another human being. Totally. Like poverty and all the other evils. I therefore oppose it. Totally.
The two and a half million abortions in the UK since the 1965 Act involved more human beings than most of the minority problems that subscribers to the New Internationalist like myself care about. Support for minority rights and abortion at the same time is illogical -- at best an immaturity of thought but at worst an expression of dual standards. But somehow I don’t expect much support for such an unfashionable view from New Internationalist readers.
The way the American politicians have conducted the Olympics, they have beaten every record of nationalism - even that of Adolf Hitler in 1936.
I was pleased to see a review of Robert Tressell’s ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ in NI 138. But you missed one important point whereas most British socialist classics are set in the industrial areas, Tressell’s is set in a fictional southern coastal town.
In these days when politicians and journalists so often make glib remarks about the ‘rich south’ and ‘poor north’ of England, Tressell’s exposure of what lies behind the ‘sunny south’ image is still relevant. Housing conditions are still bad, wages for service workers are still low. What makes it worse is that the nature of the tourist and service industries makes labour organisation difficult and breeds complacency and political apathy.
As I write this; Trade Union leaders are preparing to meet in Brighton and, rightly, they will discuss at length the miners dispute and other problems of the depressed north. But how many of them will give a second thought to the hotel workers, waitresses, chefs and shop assistants who serve them, the hidden face of the south, and still the ragged trousered philanthropists?
US and them
I am disappointed that you, along with the rest of the media, give such a preponderance of space to America. I had hoped you would redress the balance with a more ‘internationalist’ perspective.
Ed. Like it or not, what happens in the USA has a profound impact on the rest of the world - and an understanding of this is, we think, helpful to any internationalist.
I wonder if any of your readers has done work on land-reform in a developed, Western nation? It seems to me that agricultural labourers in Britain could benefit from some of the land reforms advocated by the New Internationalist for Third World nations.
What would the production implications be if land was broken into smaller, self-contained economic units in Britain?