issue 178 - December 1987
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Unearthing land rights
Your Land issue (NI 177) tackled some, but not all, of the most important problems. For example, private property is not the only source of land wrongs. Had you covered the USSR or Ethiopia, for example, it would have been clear that inadequate food production and forced removal of populations also undermine land rights.
The concept of land rights is still relatively undeveloped, and this impedes the progress of genuine agrarian reform. An article showing the specific demands for land rights by an indigenous group would have clarified these problems. Movements for the recognition of land rights among collective human rights have grown enormously, and require international support to counteract the political and military powers impeding the empowerment of the landless.
I find the call for revolution in the context of the Philippines article scary - for it is not foreign analysts who will be tortured and shot. Their focus should be on pressurizing the US government, the World Bank and ILO to support agrarian reform, not abandoning it and then advocating armed struggle.
If the resources plundered from the Philippines (equivalent to their current foreign debt) were returned, this would assist reform and weaken the government's excuses for not implementing it.
I was delighted to see materialfrom The Hesperian Foundation in the Chile issue (NI 174).
But your story of Lupe the Wildcat ignored Lupe's real happy ending when she finds life worthwhile and productive, like many disabled people.
The tone of the story was quite contrary to the emphasis in our work with them, that of empowerment and dignity.
The Hesperian Foundation
Palo Alto, USA
Party lyrics for U2
Your review of U2's The Joshua Tree (NI 173) prompted me to express my irritation with the whole section. I find the star ratings for politics particularly annoying and presumptuous.
In this case you seemed to forget the projects U2's lead singer has worked on, Band Aid, Amnesty, Ethiopia to name a few. Surely they don't need crude slogans for their lyrics as well?
Sandy Bay, Tasmania
Men! We are coming out of the closet at last! (Masculinity NI 175) It is wonderful to care for my child, to be close to other men, and to learn that I'm part of the oppression and must change. It's wonderful, but it hurts!
Not the Philippines
I am bemused by your use of the Philippines as an example to counter Myth 6 in your Mythconceptions, Population (NI 176), 'per capita incomes have grown by an average of 3% a year for the last few decades.'
Where do you get your figures from? Any survey of Filipino incomes shows around 75% living on and around the poverty line.
If there has been any growth in family incomes it must, in part, be attributable to repatriated money from migrant workers, hardly an argument for the proposition that increased population does not lead to poverty. The Philippines was, to use the specious gobbledygook of bourgeois economists, experiencing negative growth in the last few years of the Marcos regime.
The issue on Masculinity (NI 175) was very welcome. However the photo of a man bottle feeding a baby has dangerous associations with the commercial promotion of formula milk.
In order for fathers to have the pleasure of feeding their babies we recommend that mothers express breast milk, which can then be fed, through a cup, to prevent nipple confusion.
Dr Sinand Ray
I can't agree that women supply warmer, more stimulating friendships than men (NI 175). I have found the opposite. But single-sex groups are boring. We seek the opposite sex because they are different and therefore more interesting.
Hang in where?
I'm very grateful to Paul Ryan, Masculinity (NI 175) for giving me the benefit of his experience. But I'd be grateful for a further piece of advice. He says 'it's perfectly possible to hang in there while your partner takes her pleasure'. I find that either I hang OR I'm in there, never both at the same time. What position does his method require?
I was glad you mentioned Billings in your population issue (NI 176). But I want to stress that Billings is not just a method of birth control, but a whole philosophy of life and love based on fertility awareness. It avoids the need for unreliable and unsafe contraception. However, population planners are not interested in it, for it gives the choice to women and brings in no profits.
Nora's story The Wages of Sin in the population issue (NI 176) was only too true. When my girlfriend got pregnant and we decided, in spite of a brainwashed upbringing, on an abortion, I realized how the Catholic Church hinders any social or moral developement in Northern Ireland. However an increasing number of Catholics there are overcoming the archaic teachings of their church.
Please withhold my name for it would bring on hassles with my parents.
Date with a diaphragm
Well really! Opening the October issue on population (NI 176) I thought I'd been sent the wrong magazine. Is Date with a diaphragm the type of article we are to expect in the future? How about a horoscope, problem page and Princess Di on the cover?
Your correspondent in Irish Silence, Letters (NI 175) failed to notice the important factor that makes it hard to push the Northern Ireland problem into an imperialist framework. In spite of superficial resemblances to the Contras and to the rebels in Mozambique, the IRA differs in that it's not supported by any official government.
R C Sturch
Green down under
In spite of a generally interesting issue on Green Politics (NI 171) your article The Two Faces of the Australian Green movement was rather biased. Although you touched on the limitations of media campaigns you were soon back on their typical hype, which fails to distinguish between a party and a movement, and dwells on individual interest groups.
Many of us are trying for a real communitarian alternative to the party political mistakes of the past.
These go further back than any religious or political system. They have their origins in human nature. In the words of Jung 'But what if I should discover that the very enemy himself is within me, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved-what then?' perhaps St Paul's hymn to love (Corinthians 1:13) might be the 'one ounce of truth' we all need.
Congratulations on a very realistic picture of Chile (NI 174). But I must correct the addresses given for Amnesty International Canadian Sections.
For English speakers the address is: 130 Slater, Suite 800, Ottawa, Ontario K1P6E2. For French speakers it is: 3516 Avenue Du Parc, Montreal, Quebec, H2X 2H7.
Black editors please
Reading NI it's clear that many of your readers come from the Third World. I find it surprising, then, that all your editors are white Europeans, and must, therefore, be limited in their capacity to empathize with the oppressed. This must undermine their credibility for Third World readers, who get sick of being commented upon by first world experts. Why no articles on the state of a rich nation by a visiting African?
Another point. Why no second look for all articles?
NI comments: Of course we are limited, and therefore can only write credibly from the perspective we know well. However that is one also shared by many of our readers across the world. Many Third World journalists are doing an equally good job for their own readers, and so we are happy to leave that to them.
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist
Margaret St Clare has been working in the Zimbabwean
I am sitting in the small guest room of a convent in a Catholic mission, peaceful except for the rattling hum of an old fan and the occasional voices of the sisters. The day has had a quiet, calming, institutional regularity, punctuated by meals and tea.
The Catholic missions in Zimbabwe seem to combine intense activism with an atmosphere of reflection and repose; there are builders, metal- and leatherworkers, farmers, nurses and rural development activists as well as teachers and preachers.
Most of the country's leaders, including Robert Mugabe, were educated at Catholic missions. And the sisters' tradition of critical support for the present government continues most visibly in Moto (Fire), the country's main independent monthly magazine.
Before I came here I was sceptical about the impact of missions - and those of some denominations do have dubious reputations. But while I still reject the evangelical excuse for overriding another people's way of life, the missions' style of colonialism is a lot more attractive than the settlers'.
Economically and culturally, of course, they represent the same system - ours. But I question the intellectual consistency of those who embrace development ideology as the way forward for Africa but reject the missionaries and Christianity out of hand.
Socially speaking there is a strong sense of family identity among the Zimbabwean Catholics I have met, and I have been impressed by how warmly and closely black and white sisters work and relax together in an atmosphere of equality. In rural areas European Catholic priests and sisters are the only whites who speak Shona and many of them have been here for over 30 years.
Zimbabwean music has been developed for Catholic services, and once you have heard the distinctive drumming, it is impossible to mistake. But then, to a local ear, the same can be said for seven or eight other denominations. I remember one night walking with a local friend through an area unfamiliar to us both and being told 'That beat is a Seventh Day Adventist meeting', 'This one is the Apostolics', 'That over there is a traditional beer party.' Each beat has its own dance steps, its own way of singing.
Christianity has developed here into forms that many of its European proponents would scarcely recognise, from the Methodist hymns - led by one woman half a line ahead of the rest of the congregation, as in the Southern US, to compensate for the lack of hymn books and reading skills - to the moonlight conventions, for which young people congregate by lorry and bus from a 40-mile radius, to spend two days and nights in non-stop song, dance and prayer.
The independent African Churches go even further in rejecting European forms of worship. The most well-known in Zimbabwe are the Apostolic Church. Worshipers wear white robes; the men carry staffs and shave their heads. They build no churches but worship in the open, sometimes in spectacular moonlit mountaintop ceremonies with bonfires. Their members are instructed to use no Western medicines, and also to avoid traditional ancestral ceremonies.
The music moves in stirring. wave-like rolls, the bass sounding like a yodelling horn. No drums or rattles. The words are simple, often about going to heaven, and repeated over and over. More than the ideas or insights, it is the singing itself that unites the worshippers in a kind of joyful communal prayer.
Zimbabwean spirituality and spontaneity in worship is very much alive. At lunch today I heard a Zimbabwean priest ridicule conducted singing in church. How could such a regulated pantomime express anything that people really feel, he asked. I thought of our Scottish services and wondered where we would be without the organ hounding us on and into the next verse. How unconfident we are. How impossible - blasphemous even - to let the music unlock our spines and start our bodies moving in church!