issue 162 - August 1986
The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short.
They may be edited for purposes of space or clarity.
Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
to the nearest editorial office or e-mail to : [email protected]
Your terrorism issue was a breath of fresh air, especially in a world where the term has become part of the arsenal of cold war conflict. The Western media have done precious little creative thinking on the whole topic of political violence. It is about time someone recognised that systematic state terror is at least as intolerable as the isolated acts of would-be revolutionaries.
I think Alan Long has overemphasised the significance of the slaughterhouse in his article on our meat-eating habits (NI 160), although having worked in one I admit it's pretty grisly.
Whether an animal is stunned, shot in the head or electrocuted before it has its throat cut is surely not important - the animal is going to die anyway. What is more important is how it lives for the months or years before its final journey. People who care about this should stick to eating sheep and ducks, which have so far resisted the effort to adapt them to battery farming, and avoid eggs, chicken and pork.
Powys, Wales, UK
There are, no doubt, some parts of the Hebrew scriptures that may be quoted in support of eating animal flesh but not even the most carnivorous Biblical literalist would claim support from Adam and Eve!
It is only too clear that the food given to humankind in Genesis 1 and2 is 'every plant yielding seed' and 'every tree with seed in its fruit'. Far from being offered as meat, animals are presented as the companions of humanity.
The vegetarian case may be stronger than we commonly realise in the scripture and traditions of Jewish and Christian people.
Rev Brian Yellowley
Your issue on South Africa (NI 159) contained much valuable information and a wide spectrum of views, but surprisingly does not have a contribution from the African National Congress (ANC).
This is all the more remarkable bearing in mind that you credit the ANC with having 'enormous black popular support'. To fail to include a statement by the main black organisation is a bit like doing an analysis of the opposition to the Conservative Government in the UK which includes the Social Democrats but ignores the Labour Party.
Editor Chris Brazier replies: Our idea was to hand over the issue to the liberation movement inside the country - to the unknown black activists whose voices we never usually hear. The ANC is banned and exiled and so could not be involved in putting the magazine together on the ground in Johannesburg and Soweto. But many of the contributors to the issue support the ANC. The NI supports it too - as it does the rest of the movement working for radical change in South Africa.
The careless sex
Your issue on sex really opened my eyes. Can it really be that so many of my fellow-sex are so careless of their partners? And in doing so are so irresponsible toward themselves?
There is much to be done in opening our eyes to our own assumptions, blind spots and weaknesses, and above all prejudices. Such a process of eye-opening, even if it does not start a revolution toward responsibility, must be an essential lubricant for the forces of peaceful change.
Drowning in perversions
If the editor of NI 158 can conclude that 'the so-called sexual revolution of the Sixties and Seventies did so little to increase sexual pleasure' what is the point of resigning ourselves to more of the same? Isn't it hopeless cynicism to anticipate another revolution which 'will probably involve immersing ourselves in every kind of perversion'? Reading the rest of the issue we get the sick feeling that we are already drowning in perversions - rape, sexploitation, porn, homosexuality, promiscuity, child abuse etc. To offer more of the same is as ludicrous as to offer alcohol to cure an alcoholic.
Diane and Robert Jensen
Let me tell you a little bit about my foreskin, which was a casualty of the chopping block when I was but an infant. I didn't know that my parents had organised this bit of surgery in order to desensitise me until I read NI 158. Somehow for the past 25 years I have managed to enjoy myself sexually, but now I will always wonder what my sexual life could have been without this 'mutilation'. I can only hope that some of your younger readers will not suffer too many emotional ill-effects under the spectre of knowledge of their like mutilation. For me it is already too late. For them the results could be damaging.
Did you print the letter Rape of men (NI 160) as a joke, or in an attempt to present a cross-section of views?
In a world where polygamy is practised, where men are encouraged to be sexually active, it takes a rare convolution of ideas to be able to state that men's aggression 'may well be largely due to women selecting for breeding the biggest, strongest and most aggressive male'.
What about George Lewis and a few of his brothers having the courage of their angry convictions and rejecting the roles that patriarchy (i.e. male-dominated value-systems) imposes on them? I thought readers of an enlightened journal such as yours had begun to get away from the 'blaming women for everything' syndrome.
As a new reader I am somewhat puzzled by the balance of the letters you print. I thought the magazine was about inter-
national problems and the Third World's exploitation by the West. Half your correspondents, though, seem to have read some other magazine - in NI 160 six of the 13 letters were about sex-related problems.
When such a large proportion of the world's population - and not only in the Third World - is wondering where the next meal is coming from, these middle-class preoccupations seem somewhat out of place.
One of the problems with environmental pollution (NI 157) is the difficulty which the ordinary person has in establishing the nature of pollution in the everyday environment. For example: where can we get water or soil tested for chemical pollutants? Where could a mother get her breast milk tested for PCBs? If people knew where to get this information they could then become their own environmental detectives so that information might take the place of apathy and worry.
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who can answer these questions particularly related to Alberta, Canada.
Dr R Bamford
Box 209, Beaverlodge,
Alberta TOH OCO, Canada
I subscribed to the NI because I was looking for a magazine that featured informative articles about world affairs which were critical in their approach and free of stereotypes and the traditional dogma of Left or Right. I'm sorry to see that the NI falls so short of the mark. The recent shift towards 'personal politics' (NI 158) is clearly out of step with the aims of the magazine as set out on the inside cover.
As for stereotyping, look no further than Pollution and Politics (NI 157). You have pigeon-holed people into groups, each with your view of what they think. And if we weren't sure who you were talking about, you have thoughtfully provided cartoons of each. Liberals 'dither' while balanced on bicycles. The heritage lobby totes a shotgun and reads National Geographic. Single-issue environment campaigns are portrayed as relics of the Sixties who are too narrow-minded to see that 'the Greens' have the only answer.
I don't think your readers want to trade one dogma for another. I certainly don't.
Fife, Scotland, UK
Recessions come and go like a dreadful epidemic and I often wonder why we must always be helpless victims to them.
One major cause of recession is certainly lack of demand for goods and services. But Keynesian theories, which advocate that governments spend more in order to create jobs and stimulate the economy, are not potent enough medicine for our economic woes. I would like to suggest the following stronger measures:
Government legislation to the effect that business enterprises and employed individuals must spend a fixed percentage of their earned incomes on any and whatever things they wish. This way more demand is created, and the economy is stimulated. Countries, perhaps with the auspices of the UN (since there is no world government), could arrange to voluntarily spend a fixed percentage of their GNP on each other's goods and services.
Instead of just griping about the recession in resigned helplessness surely some of these measures could be considered.
C K Wong
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist
Margaret St Clare has been working as a secondary-school
Living in Zimbabwe continually makes me feel I am re-learning things I thought I knew about already. And the school holiday just over has rubbed one lesson in many times.
I and five other expatriate visitors were playing host to two Zimbabwean families. But our guests spent the whole day inside the house, virtually ignored by their so-called 'hosts', who sat around outside talking to each other, or dozing, or moaning about the 'awful Church songs' the guests were singing to keep their spirits up in the weirdly anti-social atmosphere. After hours of this, one of the Zimbabwean women guests asked me, quietly, 'Are those people not happy?' Inwardly I blessed her for releasing a deeper response than the anger and shame I was feeling. All of these people think of themselves as progressive and anti-racist. All chose to spent the holiday here with me in the village, knowing we would be celebrating with local people. Yet all of them failed even to show simple good manners.
I should add that, individually, I like these people very much, and don't believe any of them would have acted in such a way had they come alone. But there is something about groups that relieves peoples of the responsibility towards non-members.
Hitching northwards after the holiday with Joseph, my closest Zimbabwean fried, brought a series of lifts where I was treated with friendly respect - by black and white drivers alike - while Joseph was ignored and sat in silence, once he had admitted he was 'only' helping his family to farm. None of the drivers were interested in a man who was neither employed in a 'proper' job nor studying for a qualification.
We were on our way to a town at the centre of a prosperous mining and commercial farming area, to visit a woman friend of mine working at the hospital. She lives (of course) on the white side of town - a sprawling American-style suburb of generous, verandahed bungalows set in generous, gardener-pruned plots. Here we were taxied from house to airy expatriate house, where the conversation (in English) was usually about Zimbabweans - their culture, economic, social and sexual - but rarely was a single question directed at Joseph.
On our last afternoon, a Sunday, Joseph and I borrowed two bikes and cycled to the nearby African township. In the dirt roads of the township we were a sensation; groups of playing children hooted, danced and ran alongside us, asking and answering questions; adults walking home from church or sitting on their doorsteps greeted us warmly, surprised to see a European and a Zimbabwean together, on bicycles. We saw small, square houses shared by two families; tiny garden full of thrusting banana tree, maize, tomatoes and greens bordered by strong bamboo fencing. It seemed a lively, relaxed young community, and both of us greatly preferred it to the other side of town.
So why do well-intentioned people behave so rudely and inhumanely towards those they believe they wish to help? (And here I include myself, for I have sometimes found myself acquiescing uneasily in segregated social situations.) I can only suggest that it is frightening and painful to break down the protective barriers which shield us from identifying with those who have no work (as we understand it) or education (as we conceive it). What they do have in place of such privileges we can't grasp until we remove those barriers and discover that their lives are not, as we dreaded, simply unrelieved suffering and boredom. They are, on the contrary, habitually joyful in the face of difficulties, and always upheld by a confident sense of community which we ourselves lack and which many of us, I suspect came here to find.