issue 194 - April 1989
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Some of us remember the old days when the NI was gloriously unpredictable - one month a short story taking up the whole magazine, the next a cartoon issue and then a bit later a fold-out world map. These days you are so efficient that the magazine even arrives on time! And much though I appreciate your relentless exhumation of the world's injustices month by month, I find myself hankering after the wacky old days.
So thanks for the Peters' Atlas wallchart (NI 193). It may have been designed to give you lot a rest but some of us readers needed a break too.
It is easy for journalists to sit behind their word-processors and criticize what others are doing. How often do they roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty?
Your Mozambique issue (NI 192) epitomized this dichotomy between the scribblers and the doers. Mozambique's plight is pitiful - as the magazine well illustrates. In such a difficult situation mistakes are bound to be made. What good does it do to knock foreign governments and aid agencies who are at least trying to help (Keynote and The new missionaries)? What, I wonder, would the writers of these pieces do if they had to co-ordinate an aid programme for Mozambique?
And what course of action would the Mozambican journalists who criticize their Government's policies (Political puzzles) take if they suddenly found themselves in the hot-seat of a country in chaos?
I understand that criticism and controversy make for more interesting articles. But in the face of the devastating effects of South African aggression - is it really fair?
Regarding Language Lives (NI 191), here is a word from the dead. Making passing references to the poor, the black and to women does not make one a radical or even a liberal. Consider Billy Brace's letter (Letters.) which says of Gaelic: 'We rarely lament the loss of those languages now'. What typical English imperial condescension. Fel llawer o'm cyfodwyr mi ddysgais Gymraeg ar lin fy mam. Mae'r iaith yn hen and mae yn iaith fyw! (Like so many of my fellows I learned Welsh on my mother's knee. The language is old, but the language is alive.)
Peter Stalker's dismissive comments on Esperanto (Keynote NI 191) ignore two facts. It is an auxiliary language so people speak it as equals - and it can be learned fluently in a couple of weeks. It is also wrong to say that 'Esperanto hasn't made it anywhere yet'. There was a time when every major rail station in Europe had Esperanto signs and some Esperanto-speaking staff - while several European radio stations still give regular broadcasts in Esperanto. This language was crippled by the nationalism it was designed to side-step. Before the war when the League of Nations was set to endorse Esperanto, the French blocked it because they wanted French as the international language.
For more information contact The Esperanto Centre, 140 Holland Park Avenue, London W11, UK. Elsewhere, see your phone book.
West Yorkshire, UK
How does Arnold Jago (Letters NI 191) make the logical leap from Dr Dianne McGuiness's research-findings to his conclusion that a woman's place is in the home? If men naturally enjoy mathematical stimuli more than social stimuli then I would have thought they were at least equally well equipped to deal with the socially isolating position of working at home - and possibly better equipped to deal with everyday geometrical shapes such as vegetables, kitchen sinks and washing machines.
Banking on men
Maybe it is true that the differences between women and men are genetically determined as suggested by Arnold Jago (Letters NI 191) - and it does seem to be men who cause all the wars, poverty, oppression and are now causing the destruction of the planet - so perhaps Mr Jago would agree that there is no hope but to get rid of the lot of them. I'm sure that sperm banks will keep the species going.
As a 43-year-old man who would like to marry and have a family, I feel for women who also long to have children. However I could not become a sperm donor (Letters NI 189), especially if this would mean I would never know my child or the woman who bore it.
My father was always very distant with me - so that when he died I felt I hardly knew him. It took me years to come to terms with this. Knowing the effect this had on me I could never conceal myself from a child of mine.
However if any woman reading this is looking for marriage and parenthood, I would certainly be interested in corresponding with her. I'm healthy, vigorous and like bush-walking. Please write to: 35 Goodlet Street, Ashfield NSW 2131.
A Ugandan pathologist studying African cancer trends was sceptical of Zimbabwe's high lung cancer figures compared with other African nations until he had checked our records for himself. The difference is attributable to the low price and ready availability of cigarettes in Zimbabwe where tobacco is one of the main crops and a major foreign currency earner.
A Zimbabwean tobacco-farming friend who was tackled about the wider implications of his livelihood, claimed that 'people are old enough to look after themselves' - a view which is quite unjustified in view of the tobacco industry's ugly marketing techniques.
Dr CPE Naylor
In response to the article on women in the Soviet Union (Silent Sisters NI 190), I found Ms Feldmann's conclusions insulting. Because she cannot find Soviet women marching for abortion on demand she concludes that there is no women's movement. This shows an ethnocentric arrogance which ignores the thousands of Soviet women working for peace and to free Soviet Jews. Women get together and discuss the lack of hot water and other domestic issues which also signals their awareness of sexism. Such meetings are comparable to the consciousness-raising groups of the 1960s.
The attitudes ascribed to Soviet women in general could just as easily be observed among Western women. Most of these consider feminism a dirty word and aspire to a happy and long-lasting marriage. Economically this is still a rational choice. If Soviet women choose to ignore men's dinner-time conversation it is not necessarily because they lack education: it may be that these women too have difficulty getting a word in and risk being verbally assaulted by men's sexism.
In an otherwise superb issue on Debt (NI 189), you miss the opportunity to indicate that the increasing global reliance of capitalism on debt is a basis for internationalism. Thus we should emphasize the point that the debt of North American working people is not a way to finance new extravagances but the only way to maintain their lifestyles in the face of wage cuts and unemployment.
How will banks and other financiers manage to collect three thousand billion dollars in outstanding US household loans over the 1990s? Already many grass-roots activists in the US are attacking the biggest banks on issues as diverse as their continued business with South Africa, their indirect exploitation of the Third World's people and their close ties to union-busting corporations. Our slogan in the next decade should be 'Borrowers of the world, cartelize'.
Institute for Policy Studies,
The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist