issue 180 - February 1988
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Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
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A trivial game
Your trivialization of important issues is getting way out of hand. First in your Country Profile section you started giving star ratings for people's life expectancy and women's oppression. Then you set up a review section which reduces books about famine and war to a star rating for entertainment. And now you devote a whole issue (NI 179) to a ridiculous game - giving gold medals to the countries you approve of and dumping on the countries you don't.
Okay, so you 'consulted experts in the field' before delivering your judgements. But isn't the NI always telling us to distrust the authoritative views of experts, especially when they are pontificating about the Third World? What makes these 'experts' different - the fact that they think the same as you?
The temporary success of Greenpeace in preventing the dumping of noxious wastes in the North Sea by actually boarding the dumping vessel is an object lesson to those still locked in the non-violent action syndrome, like those in the campaign to close US bases in Australia and the anti-uranium movement
The bases will not be closed until a sufficient number go in and dismantle them, and uranium will be exported 'til the opposition is strong enough to physically prevent it.
C M Friel
Off the shelf
Your debate on masculinity (NI 175) is an essential part of the debate on gender relations which is usually left to the feminists to pursue. Recently while looking for a book on masculinity I was advised by the assistant to look under 'women's studies'!
But I was disappointed by the absence of any exploration of the notions of hierarchy and competition so deeply imbedded in our male-dominated society. The deficiency was further illustrated by the reference to one co-author as a professor and the others as 'working in the same department', a perfectly male way of expressing the relationship.
'Not another issue on male-bashing' I groaned, flipping through Masculinity (NI 175), but I was pleasantly surprised.
There was, however, one odd problem which was not discussed. It frequently happens that feminist women have relationships with men who are sensitive, communicative, share emotional and domestic chores and are committed to feminist ideals. But often the woman becomes distant, loses interest in sex and sometimes even goes off with more traditionally masculine men. This leads me to believe that the questions surrounding male/female relationships are not simple,
and we have a long way to go before we can simply pursue the 'if only men would' formula. Maybe we need more humanism and less feminism if we are really going to unravel the solution.
Neutrality on a subject like male prostitution (Masculinity NI 175) and child abuse ('men bring their 12-year-old sons to try out a travesti') is a political cop-out.
To give an entertainment rating to books dealing with economic exploitation or hideous human rights abuses, is obscene and evidence of a de-humanized mentality.
It seems NI extracts a frisson from contemplating exploitation. We must now add 'entertainment' to Herbert Gans' list of the 'Uses of Poverty'.
No South Vietnam
Thank you for printing my letter (Chinese aggression NI 171), but I must ask you to publish the following correction: Claire Culhane, Quang Ngai, South Vietnam, should read: Claire Culhane, Vancouver. There is no longer a designated area called South Vietnam in the present Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I used to be the administrator of the Canadian Tuberculosis Hospital in Quang Ngai.
Though sharing many of the concerns aired in the Population issue (NI 176), rm still disturbed by the complacency about the rising population. The prospect of the Kenyan population swelling to only 120 million, with vast areas of arid land, is devastating. A world population of 10 billion is equally cataclysmic, if we believe in co-existing with animals and plants and the right of future generations to a healthy environment
St. Aibans, UK
Thanks for letting me use your page to publicize a human-rights abuse in the UK.
I was born to a British mother and a father serving in the British Army in Malaysia during 1963. At six weeks I was brought back to Britain, and spent the following 24 years here. The Home Office has refused me British citizenship. My Member of Parliament responded to my appeal by pointing out that their refusal is in line with the law. I say the law is racist, sexist and inhuman. I am fighting to change it and minutely, perhaps, the world in which we live.
Any help or support will be gratefully received. My address is available.
Your magazine is not Internationalist, it's a cop-out! Where's the issue on British imperialism in Northern Ireland? And you seem to have debased the idea of personal politics to group therapy for affluent liberals trying to feel less guilty. Go away and eat quiche!
Your accepted batting order of the people responsible for appalling rises in the cost of housing - financiers, builders and landowners - could plausibly be reversed (NI 177). At least financial agencies have some pressure to provide funds at competitive rates, and builders to guard against pricing themselves out of the market, but landowners just have to sit on the land until they get the price they demand.
One way of halting this tyranny would be a tax on unused, unprotected land.
The article attributed to Natasha, USSR, in the Population issue (NI 176) was astonishing. Having recently spent a holiday in the Soviet Union I saw streets crowded with animated, healthy, well-dressed people. Yes, I saw them queuing for tomatoes, but the stall was still well-stocked the next day. Yes, there is austerity - broken pavements, grubby old buses, but 'life is very hard. You cease to be human' is melodramatic, dishonest rubbish!
You can do better than that.
'Straining for an ideal of sensitivity is a sight more constructive than imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger,' This quote from the Masculinity issue (NI 175) enraged me as did the sexist stereotyping of bodybuilding. Arnold Schwarzenegger is an outspoken advocate of women's equality, wrote a training programme in bodybuilding for women, and has always drawn attention to the fact that women's powers of physical endurance are superior to men's. Muscle mags these days are full of women.
Thanks to the hundreds who wrote for information following our article Women wealth (Update NI 172). Women-wealth is still unfunded so we can't respond individually or put out a catalogue to open up the market for our women's products.
Again we have asked Christopher Patten (Minister for Overseas Development) for support, reminding him of the Government's obligation to follow the agreed recommendations of the UN Decade for Women. We pointed out that in Holland, America, Scandinavia, Canada or Italy a unit such as ours would receive support from the national aid ministry. We have had no response. Should the situation change we will let you know.
Of otters and eagles
While your issue on Population (NI 176) led me to adjust my thinking, I remain convinced that overpopulation is the Third World's worst problem. But a reduction in the First World is also essential. Specifically it would be good news for women, otters, German forests, Stonehenge, eagles, cyclists, Spanish beaches, cave paintings, the Parthenon, dolphins and trails in the Himalayas.
Of Scotland's 8.7 million hectares, overwhelmingly rural, 50 per cent is held by 579 landowners, 40 per cent by 269, 30 per cent by 134, 20 per cent by 49 and 10 per cent by 13. I wonder how many of your readers realize that this represents the most concentrated pattern of private land ownership in Europe. I was struck by the fact that it actually compares unfavourably with many Third World countries you touched on in your Land issue (NI 177).
Isle of Arran, UK
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist