issue 163 - September 1986
The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short.
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Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
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The approach taken on New Technology (NI 162) was very good overall. But there were points that could have been further developed.
Networks of people who believe in a more intelligent, compassionate and fearless world can benefit greatly from using the chip. Campaigning networks can be set up on a wholly decentralized model which would make it very difficult for institutions to 'decapitate' or control them. Such networks could respond with great speed and efficiency to institutional abuse of people's rights.
We can now have the computing technology which only a few years ago was held solely by the most powerful governments. It is our responsibility to use it to make a better world.
Rich world bias
That science and technology are very biased will not surprise many of your readers.
The proportion of NI 162 concentrating on 'advanced countries' (17 pages) as opposed to 'international issues' (three and a half pages) may be more surprising.
There is a very significant omission from your survey of repressive regimes in NI 161. I suggest you add the following. Leader: M. Thatcher. State ideology: Officially parliamentary democracy. In occupation of northern part of Ireland.
Summary: 3,000 killed since 1969, of whom 14 shot by British Army in peaceful civil rights demonstration 1972; 15 shot by plastic bullets, all unarmed, seven of them children. International League for Human Rights cites Northern Ireland (along with Chile and Poland) as a country where excessive force is regularly used by security forces.
Because: Strategic - use of the North as defence and now as nuclear base to defend western flank. Nationalist pride - Ireland is Britain's oldest colony.
Well, well. So Policewoman Yvonne Fletcher was 'accidentally' shot by someone in the Libyan Embassy (NI 161). It only needs one word in a long article to reveal the bias of the writer - it would be interesting to learn how Diana Johnstone discovered that the death was an accident.
Like Bob West (NI 160) I am sufficient of a revolutionary man to wear coloured clothes and no cufflinks. I have even begun wearing soft pinks and cerise. Yes, surely the walls of oppression will crumble.
Then I notice Burton stores are carrying pink and lemon this year and chic stores called 'New Man' sport all manner of stereotype-busting clothes. Thus I am reminded of the danger that men's anti-sexism may evolve into just another issue of style. Those of us men who have begun to believe that men too need liberating must be ready to love and be allies to all men and not just those whose economic, educational and family history have put them in easy reach of the style and manners required by the men's movement.
Don't let's allow our rightful rediscovery of our own beauty turn into another codification of our misjudged sense of superiority.
The myth of camp
Bob West's 'progressive version of appearance as resistance' (NI 160) says more for his sense of theatre than his sexuality. His article perpetuates all the old myths and repressions even as he tries to destroy them. West's notion that camp equals homosexual is insulting to homosexuals like myself who treat their sexuality seriously and not as some kind of sociological drama. His ideas are insulting to women because they repeat the lie that being female means being weak and subordinate.
He misses the point because appearance is not primarily about power but about identity. Who you are is what you are. West fails because he offers no new answers to this question.
Androgyny is as age-old as sexism and does nothing to uncover a new and positive way of being male.
The NI Gospel
The NI always scores highly in its clarity of presentation and analysis of the problems and forces at work in the world. As far as solutions go, though, you fail lamentably.
Eat less meat, drive a smaller car, shop at ideologically sound enterprises. Your emphasis is always on the individual doing their bit for humanity. Of course individuals make up society, but as individuals they are powerless. Even your 50,000 switched-on readers living their lives according to the NI gospel present no threat to the current world order.
So where will change come? It may not be especially fashionable to say so, but from the exploited: those who are forced to produce the pollution, raise and slaughter the meat, and assemble the mass-produced junk.
Bow, London, UK
P.S. I couldn't find any recycled paper in Bow to write this on.
NI Gospel (Part 2)
After reading the letters in NI 160 I thought I had picked up a copy of The Plain Truth or the Moral Majority Newsletter! I can barely believe the misogynistic, oppressive and ignorant views expressed by some readers.
Boys against wall
I want to express my resentment at the vicious clutch of letters in NI 160. Norman G wrote that he and his wife were both angry. Why then is her name unattached to the letter - ironic! Joseph S, George L, JRB and Norman G all seem to feel incredibly threatened by women speaking for ourselves. Don't worry now, boys - the Revolution has yet to begin.
Lanora Da Silva
I take exception to Alan Long's claim (NI 160) that Australian farmers willingly subject sheep to mulesing just in order to prevent flystrike. Flystrike is a major problem in our sheep industry, responsible for the death of 1.6 per cent of the sheep population in a normal year. There is considerable research being done in Australia to find alternative flystrike control methods and farmers would be overjoyed if they could stop mulesing. But it is something they must do for now unless they wish to see more of their animals dying from septicaemia and shock.
In NI 145 you printed that Truganini was the last Tasmanian Aboringinal woman left after the massacres. This is incorrect. The Tasmanian Aborigines have survived and are fighting for their rights. Their struggle is made harder by the propagation of the myth that they do not exist.
Editor Chris Brazier replies: You're quite right - we fell into the same trap as everyone else. According to the Australian Commission for Community Relations between 4,000 and 5,000 people of Aboriginal descent now survive in Tasmania. But that does not make the slaughter of their ancestors any less horrific.
Credit where due
I'd just like to set the record straight about the Nestlé boycott (NI 160). The NI did not initiate the boycott - this was started in the US in 1977 by a group called INFACT. The NI must certainly be given credit for giving the issue its first press attention in 1973 with its cover story, The Baby Food Tragedy, but this followed many years of concern already expressed by paediatricians, UN agencies and consumer groups. As early as 1939, Dr Cicely Williams gave a speech entitled 'Milk and Murder' to the Rotary Club of Singapore.
Baby Milk Action Coalition
Income distribution: good; position of women: good literacy: excellent The 'Free World' could do with repression of this sort. Who are the repressed? Not women, evidently. Perhaps they repress men for a change or, at least, their machismo.
Bishops Castle, UK
I was very much impressed by your TV film Man-Made Famine. As an African young man, I learnt a great deal about what I had always taken for granted - that my mother had the responsibility of growing food for us her children while my father went to town to look for work. The fast-growing towns depend on food grown in the villages and it is the women producing it
I now realise how important women are in all aspects of our societies. At home in Malawi, we have a Mothers' Day and I can see the reason why.
Bangor, Wales, UK
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist
Margaret St Clare has been living and working in the
I moved house on Sunday afternoon. My new home is only borrowed, a beautiful collection of four small houses about 25 minutes' walk from the school. It nestles (as tourist brochure say) under the lower end of Vakwambo mountain, and looks north, between hills, to the lake and more mountains beyond. At sunset the loveliness makes your heart melt. (Maneru!: the evening greeting from a girl driving her goats home from the mountains as I write - rain-clouds grey above the trees, golden evening sunshine on the goats' backs as they run.)
On Saturday I had my last cold shower in the neighbouring teachers' house. And on Tuesday evening I washed at the river by the light of a four-day-old moon, picking my way across smooth granite rippling with water and moonlight in search of a suitable place for bathing and hair-washing, enjoying the secret signals of fireflies under the trees and the raucous hilarity of the frogs. As I stripped off to wash, the sight of the moonlight on the moving water, and the reflection of the stars in the still pools were still new enough to astonish me.
I was helped to move by me Zimbabwean friend, Joseph, and his brother and sister. We borrowed an elderly Peugeot estate car to carry my belongings most of the way over the steep (but not too steep) rock and swampy (not too swampy) field. Others, we were told, have driven all the way here, round the vegetable gardens by the stream and along the edge of maize fields - but their cars probably had first and reverse gears that worked.
From the parked car we moved the stuff by wheelbarrow, head and hands; boxloads of books, papers, posters, kitchen paraphernalia in embarrassing quantities; clothes, tables, chairs, mats and mattresses, shelves and cement bricks. One load, littered in the grass beside the car, looked almost obscene and I resolve (again) to get rid of as much of it as possible.
And yet I like these things around me: they are my home, and they express my personality. A lot of what I think and say to others, for example, comes out of books, and I still seek confirmation, encouragement and further clarification in others' printed opinions. I like my clothes too - second-hand, home made, shop-bought - though I do, gradually give most of them away.
But my reasons for leaving my job at the school must be inconceivable to many local people. This morning my neighbour commented, politely probing: 'the children are difficult?.' 'The children are fine', I assured her. 'I'm not moving because of the children.' Further than that I was unable to explain, though I went on speaking. I often have this feeling of missing the mark completely when I am trying to use Shona, the language of traditional rural culture with relatively constant human values and practices, to express problems generated by the incessant self-revisions of our culture of galloping 'progress'.
Who, after all, are more contemptuously critical of the attitudes of the old white missionaries than young radical Europeans? Who are more uncomfortable in the mission-school system than teachers like myself, who belong to a later generation of the same onward-thrusting culture? And so who can blame rural people anywhere for being confused by, or indifferent to, the pendulum swings of our theories and values?
So my thought run on, refuelled by the new experiences of living under thatch, drawing water from the well, washing at the river. Increasingly, I feel conscious - whether in Edinburgh, Harare, Baton Rouge or Louisiana - of living between two worldwide cultures: the culture of money and power, and that of the poor and powerless.
I think the most challenging thing for me here will be living with my doors open in a sense that they have never been before. But perhaps that can wait for another letter