issue 168 - February 1987
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The 'new imperialism' of Amanda Root's feature (NI 167) is not an illusion or an ideology but a social reality. In essence this reality is much the same as that of the old imperialism.
Since Lenin's day the carve-up of the world between a handful of imperialist oppressors in a large number of backward capitalist countries has been periodically reorganized. The US has taken over Britain's imperialist role and is now challenged by West Germany and Japan. Imperialism, the global system of capitalist domination, acquires new forms but exploitation and oppression remain the same.
The system is now in crisis, not because of any arbitrary decisions by Arab oil sheiks but because of the tendencies towards stagnation and decay so cogently identified by Lenin 70 years ago.
These worldwide trends cannot be combated by isolated Third World regimes. Nicaragua will not be left alone to get on with its alternative course of development The barbarism of imperialism can only be prevented through the concerted action of the international working class - an agency for progress which is conspicuously absent from the pages of NI.
'Women are half the world's population, do two-thirds of the world's work, and own one per cent of the world's wealth.' When NI published its special issues on women (NI 149 and 150) in 1985, women's double workload for meagre pay was given its due place as a major problem for both the developed and developing world.
But when NI publishes its special issue (NI 166) on work, what attention is given to women? Anuradha Vittachi's box on page 15 compares a typical day of a businessman (with secretary) and his childbearing wife failing to find time for her writing. But nothing about the invisible contributions to the economy of women's unpaid work, about the double expectations, and the implications of 'equal opportunity' policies. The message is clear - discrimination against women is purely a women's problem, not an issue that throws up important general questions about the structure of employment and economic expectations.
The absence of women from NI 166 does, however, reflect reality in that it echoes the conventional overlooking of women's specific needs and contributions. It may not help towards a solution, but it sure does remind us of the problem!
Richard Swift replies: The magazine dealt with a number of Issues that affect both men and women in terms of how work is structured. It is fair to say that implicit in the analysis were calls for a radical rethinking of what we mean by work and a breaking down of male/female roles.
Thou shalt plant
How can you write 'there was no work in the Garden of Eden - instead work was part of Adam and Eve's punishment'?
Genesis 2 verse 15 specifically says that man was placed in Eden 'to cultivate it and guard it'. One cannot cultivate a plot of land by looking at it - work was required. The punishment put on Adam was that the land would be cursed and that Adam's work would be hard and painful.
Are we supposed to sympathize with Jenny (A tale of 2 workdays, NI 166)? I see her as a spoiled, middle-class wally who cannot get her act together. She has the use of a (presumably second) car, lives in an area which has the unusual asset of a nursery school and a park, can afford to have rugs dry-cleaned and feed her family three cooked meals a day.
If she gave up a week or two of trying to be a literary genius, she could: a) house-train the puppy; b) teach the children how to wash and dress themselves; c) cut out cooked breakfast and lay in a supply of fruit and muesli; d) learn to walk David to the bus so he will not miss it. As Nick won't last long on his unhealthy regime she might look into the possibility of training for a proper job - perhaps as a secretary, then she will really have something to moan about.
What a disappointment to see the commonly misused term 'schizophrenic' in your otherwise excellent magazine (NI 166).
I realize it was a quote from the subject of the piece, but somebody should have put her straight. Being a radiographer during the day and artist in her spare time is not unique and certainly not schizophrenic. Sufferers of this sad and misunderstood psychosis deserve better.
Congratulations on your excellent issue on Pharmaceuticals (NI 165). My one criticism is that in profiling some of the participants of Health Action International you focus exclusively on groups in 'developed' countries. This gives a distorted picture of the true strength of the international network of groups in a wide range of Asian, African and Latin American countries which are actively campaigning for rational drug policies. How about including profiles of HAl's 'Third World' participants in a later issue?
Dexter Tiranti gives a balanced report on reasons for the proliferation of unnecessary pharmaceuticals (NI 165) and cites several promising ways in which the market is being regulated.
An additional valuable procedure would be to ban pharmaceutical companies giving free gifts or entertain entertainment, however small, to medical or nursing personnel. This subtle form of bribery allows entrance of many nonessential new drugs into the market.
Dr Constance A C Ross
We are told that the Chagos Archipelago together with the islands of Desroches, Farquhar and Aldabra were taken from the former 'owners' - Mauritius and Seychelles - and became an American Naval Communications base in return for a 'discount' on new Polaris submarines.
However the NI world map shows these islands as being the territory of Seychelles.
Somebody somewhere appears to have dropped a political clanger.
R J Powell
Editor: we'll ask Mr Powell to proof read the next edition. He's quite right. The Chagos Archipelago is a British Indian Ocean Territory. Apologies all round.
Many bouquets to Richard Swift for his issue on Work (NI 166), but one very large brickbat for not looking at slavery. What is more essential to a discussion of work than its most iniquitous form?
Slavery in its modern guise is alive and well and found all over the globe: at least 200 million children who work long hours for little, and sometimes no pay, because the alternative is starvation; a conservative minimum figure of 5,000,000 bonded labourers in India alone. And these people cannot even think of leaving their 'job' - armed guards and police see to that police see to that.
For many millions of people, discussion of the work ethic is a meaningless luxury. Especially when you are dying for a job.
The Anti-Slavery Society,
Colgate's Keith Crane, according to your article, stated that the product would not be sold in an English-speaking or Western country. This in itself is offensive as it implies that people in other countries can have all kinds of insulting merchandise foisted onto them as they either will not understand or care about the racism involved. Now that this 'Western, English-speaking' market has been exposed will Colgate's Crane withdraw it from all markets?
It is incredible that NI manages to devote an entire issue to children without raising the painfully obvious question of whether bringing children into this world can be morally justified.
I submit that in our present world of increasing violence, hunger, crime, environmental pollution, disease, social and economic injustice and a major risk of nuclear annihilation, the answer is clearly NO.
John J Moelaert,
British Columbia, Canada
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist
Many thanks to the 6,000 or so people who completed the questionnaire
NI readers are generally aged between 21 and 40 years old; broadly left politically; with a fairly irreverent attitude to the establishment; most belong to some activist organisation; you read, travel a lot and listen to music.
Most have been readers for up to three years, while nearly 20 per cent have been with the magazine for over five years. We were delighted at your enthusiasm in reading the mag: almost three quarters of those who responded said they read it every month. Just under half read the magazine from 'cover-to-cover' (more than can be said for some of us), while 39 per cent read 'about half'.
Two thirds of you have a diploma or a degree, and there appear to be slightly more men than women readers. Nearly all respondents are white and heterosexual. Over 60 per cent of our readers are in paid employment; over half work full time.
What do you do? Most are in education (27 per cent). Health and manufacturing/technical work come next followed closely by the church, social work, civil service/local authority and the professions.
Religion divides our readers more than politics. Just under half are Christians, but the same number have no religious convictions. There is a smattering of Muslim and Hindu readers and a bunch whose religious convictions are tantalisingly 'other'.
On the political front, 41 per cent of out readers, unsurprisingly, are socialists, Greens come next; liberals and social democrats accounts for 14 and 9 per cent respectively, while anarchists, Conservatives and Marxists slug it out for bottom place.
NI readers are energetic, while not busy working, voting or reading the NI you go to peace / church / environmental / Third World / women's group meetings. Most of you are members of a trade union, political party and professional body.
Time for relaxation. While 34 per cent have access to a video recorder, and 28 per cent bend your brains round a home computer, reading is the major activity. Fiction tops the list, followed by politics / current affairs, religion / philosophy and scientific / technical subjects.
You like travelling. Europe has been done. North America comes next, with Africa and E. Europe on level pegging. Smaller numbers have been further afield but only a few have made it to Australia/Aotearoa (NZ) and the Pacific region.
Best magazines? Nicaragua was the most popular of the last twelve issues, with South Africa, Sex, Pollution and Religion next. Then came Socialism, Terrorism, Lifestyles, Peace, New Technology, Crime and Thailand.
What would you like a magazine on? Multinationals was the most requested out of the list we provided; Ecology and related subjects, the Arms Trade, Northern Ireland, Education, Agribusiness, Aid, Debt crisis and World Hunger were all popular.
Why do you read the NI? 'Because it gives radically different perspective on international issues' were the main reasons given (music to our ears). Others like its reference material and find it 'concise, interesting and easy to red'. Six per cent said they received it because they want to support a worthy publication. Here's a selection of additional subjects suggested by readers:
Chile, Population, Energy, Frontline states, Rich world's poor, Trade, China, the UN, Morality, Reform vs Revolution, Cities, Feminist theology. We welcomed these ideas and some of them are already on our list of forthcoming magazines.
From the horses' mouths.
'I have to struggle to stay awake reading some articles'
'Stimulating, annoying, childish, unbalanced with some brilliant flashes'
'Some of the writing is appalling'
'More depth and more controversy please'
'Excellent resource material for discussion groups etc.'
'Letter from Mawere is best recent development. let's have more first-hand reporting form the Third World'
'How about a summary page to give you the "meat" in 5 mins for when you can't face reading the whole lot'
'No more soppy quizzes please'
'Could we have some success stories to cheer us up?'
'Your mix of topics reaches people who otherwise wouldn't think of reading so widely - like my Mum'
'Knowing you are a co-operative and the attitudes that come across in NI because you work that way makes me with you. There is a gentle and non-competitive ethos about the whole thing.'
'You all look too young. And let's have some jokes'