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new internationalist
issue 208 - June 1990


The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short.
They may be edited for purposes of space or clarity.
Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
to the nearest editorial office or e-mail to : [email protected]

Dampening words
Cover of the NI issue 207 Every day 60 per cent of women in the Third World rise long before daybreak to fetch water (Thirsty for life NI 207), sometimes from miles away up and down steep mountain paths, on long, back-breaking journeys.

I find it very disappointing that the NI issue on water hardly brought out this vital aspect of the 'water and power issue, specially considering that the editor was a woman. Her short story on the subject was extremely ambiguous, almost saying that the way men wield power and have always wielded power is the only way it can be wielded. Does the NI really subscribe to this outmoded view? Much of the rest of the magazine was about dams and business interests: boys playing with big toys again. Please let's be serious. This was altogether too flippant a treatment of an important subject.

Dorothy Tredgold
Sydney, Australia

Slap start
Universities and research institutes are chronically short of up-to-date literature in many developing countries, and this hampers their work. The Science Literature Aid Project or SLAP is a newly-formed group set up under the auspices of the Third World Science Technology and Development Forum, which aims to collect unwanted technical journals for shipment to libraries in the Third World. Possible sources of this material include individuals who receive journals, university libraries and libraries in industrial research centres. There is a particular need in the fields of agriculture and literature. If you can help please contact: SLAP. 9, Daleview Avenue, Glasgow, Scotland, G12 OHE.

Daphne Wasserman
Glasgow, UK

Chilly reception
I was disappointed with your global warming issue (NI 206) as there was very little about turning down the heat. I expect all NI readers know the causes of global warming by now. What they need are practical ways to help. And I don't think headings like Fight for fairness and Love thy neighbour will persuade the wealthy to reduce their standard of living. It is the gulf between them and the Third World poor that forms the basis of their self-esteem.

Nat Brown
London, UK

Literally confusion
I agree with Wayne Ellwood's statement (Turning down the heat NI 206), that life on earth is interconnected with the earth itself. But to claim that inanimate substances are also part of life goes too far. The air that enters my body is part of the system which sustains my life, but is not part of me in the way my lungs are.

Richard Wilson
Bracknell, UK

Tiger rider
The Africa briefly in your March issue (NI 205), illustrates again the tyranny that exists in many Third World countries. President Houphouet-Boigny holds onto power in the Ivory Coast through the support of the French Government. Only he and the Paris Club have benefited from his despotic ideas. But he is living on borrowed time. He could never emulate the illustrious Nyerere and step down. He is like someone riding a wild tiger who daren't get off. If only the local people could take a leaf from Eastern Europe's book and unseat the rider.

Mr BC Fundafunda
Aberdeen, Scotland, UK -

Music madness
Your reviewer of Simbomba (Reviews NI 205) does no favours to this fascinating music when s/he tries to score points for it at the expense of other musicians - notably the Bhundu Boys who are described unnecessarily as imbecilically cheerful'. As a jazz musician interested in many music forms, how heartily sick I am of reviewers trying to whip up controversies between musicians - in this case from totally different backgrounds and idioms. This is an artificial approach which may make writing a review easier but shows no respect for the diversity of music or the sincerity of musicians.

Frances Knight
Hastings, UK

Bullying Cuba
The US is like a schoolyard bully that continually interferes with other countries. It has begun beaming American propaganda - in Spanish - into Cuba from Florida. Presumably the defence establishment of Washington is seriously under-employed as a result of lessening tensions in Europe. It has certainly taken the first step towards starting another war.

Richard Wooger
Whitby, Canada

Bland banter
Reading your issue on Trade wars (NI 204). I couldn't believe this was the same NI. It is much too sanguine about the global economy and the Third World's prospects in it. Have you caught the 'we've won' fever?

David Keppel
Essex, UK

Green snobbery
One major reservation to the issue on Green Consumerism (NI 203) is that it didn't cover the questions of cost and availability. Green consumerism is essentially a middle-class phenomenon and highly inequitable. In my home town the poorer wards are entirely devoid of Green items and the people here have neither the time, the transport nor the money to travel miles looking for them. Co-operatives could distribute green goods cheaply. But meanwhile perhaps we should also consider more deeply whether the person next to us in the supermarket deserves our condemnation because they have bought the cheapest washing-up liquid.

Andrew Griffiths
Preston, UK

Cartoon by VIV QUILLIN

Undissolved issue
As an old-age pensioner I have been attempting to live a 'green lifestyle' all my life (NI 203). Arthritis dictates that I use a washing machine and some electrical gadgets, but at least I thought I would use an ethical washing powder; I bought Ecover. I did not expect it to wash whiter than white, but I did expect it to dissolve. I had to re-wash a whole load, hand-picking out the undissolved grains of powder. I tried dissolving it in water at varying temperatures but with the same result. It may only be suitable for areas with soft water but, if so, it should say so on the packet.

Mrs S Kenyon
Isle of Wight, UK

Clean cars
Your Green Consumer magazine (NI 203) omits any reference to diesel cars which are better in many respects than petrol-driven ones. A modern Indirect Injection Diesel engine produces much less pollution providing it is correctly adjusted and maintained. The UK Government could help encourage the use of cleaner cars by adjusting the tax on diesel.

FR Partington
Tayside, Scotland, UK

Repellent recipe
In your Green Consumer magazine (NI 203), you mention that the Canadian green consumer guide offers a detailed list of recipes for everything from washing powder to furniture polish and moth repellent. Can anyone provide sources of these recipes in the UK?

Veronica Garvin,
Belfast, UK

Sexual fascists
I applaud your issue on homosexuality (Pride and Prejudice NI 201). My suggestion to gays who are dissatisfied with the service given them by the Church is to form their own church and refuse to bless the unions of homophobes. May God protect me from sexual fascists.

Adrian Redgers
London, UK

Enthusiastic alarm
I am an Ethiopian refugee in Sudan. I read your magazine. It is my best choice for it contains alarming information that the Third World should challenge.

Leake Tsadik
Khartoum, Sudan

Peace talk
Those readers who welcomed the issue on the Palestine / Israel conflict (NI 199) will be interested to know that the Labour Middle East Council which has campaigned on behalf of the Palestinians since 1969 - is currently seeking to expand its individual and affiliated membership. To this end we will be organizing a series of meetings throughout the UK on the theme of 'Israel and Palestine: which way to peace?'

We will also be developing campaigns around the issues raised in your magazine within the UK Labour Party and trade union movement. Further details from me at: the Labour Middle East Council, 21 Collingham Road, London.

Mr Kevin Durham
London, UK

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The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist

Letter from La Paz

Raising them tough
Susanna Rance explains why Bolivian child-rearing
beats the West's 'trapped housewife' approach.

'Let her die,' said Julia bitterly as two-year-old Mamuca coughed and tossed with fever, huddled in a blanket on the kitchen floor. It took me a while to grasp that my sister-in-law wasn't really willing her child's death. She was defying fate to take the baby away, stealing herself to bear the blow of losing this daughter as she had lost her first.

In the highlands only the toughest infants survive, trained to resist the cold, hunger and hard work from an early age. In Inca times babies were bathed in cold water and breast-fed without being held close and caressed lest they turn soft. New life is so fragile here that babies are not considered 'people' until they have passed their infant years.

When they can walk and talk a ceremonial first haircutting grants them their own belongings - money and gifts, laid on a shawl and blessed with each lock severed. This is their rite of passage into a community which gives them both social obligations and protection against a hostile world.

But until then they are swaddled: swaddling expresses the constraints and enveloping security that constitute nurturing in a harsh environment. So it was that my mother-in-law, with grim determination, bound my own baby's head immobile, her tiny arms strapped to her sides, her back straight as a rod. 'She won't like it,' I protested, willing the baby to rebel inside the rigid bundle. Sure enough, Nina screamed until her arms were freed, but then she slept soundly, wrapped tight inside the striped shawl which jogged against her grandmother's warm back.

Like most first-time mothers, I was already anxious about how best to care for my new baby. My doubts multiplied under the barrage of well-meaning advice on Andean child-rearing techniques. 'Don't hold her all the time, you'll spoil her rotten,' my sisters-in-law would say as they squatted to cook or wash clothes, their own babies casually slung in shawls across their backs.

Walking down the street with baby Nina in a kangaroo pouch was like running the gauntlet. Each neighbour would stop me to peep at the baby, scold me or warn of the dire consequences I was inviting through my ignorance. 'Her back will grow crooked if you carry her like that,' tutted the newspaper lady. 'How can you take her out without a hat? She'll catch cold and die,' shrieked the fruit seller, herself sweltering in the innumerable layers of clothing which offer protection against morning chill and midday glare on the Andean high plateau.

As I worked out my own style of mothering, I looked at the parents around me and saw puzzling contrasts between stoicism and indulgence, harshness and devotion. But I also saw that this was a child-loving culture such as we in the West have inst. Everywhere children are part of life, participating in chores and festivities, rituals of joy and mourning, rural harvests and union marches. They are neither resented nor idolized nor kept apart, but play, fight and join in the activities around them. Bedtime is non-existent since children simply fall asleep when tired and someone gently lays them on a blanket.

There were many benefits to living in a child-loving society. I could breast-feed in office meetings, on buses and on the street. My neighbour Luisa, whose daughters were in their teens, would call to say: 'Where are the kids? Send them around, I'm missing them.' Grandparents, god-parents, friends, helpers, uncles and aunts formed a secure network of people who made the children feel happy and wanted.

When Nina was four and Amaru two, we went to England for several months. It was a rude shock to experience the 'trapped housewife' syndrome for the first time. As I pushed the double buggy up the hill from Tesco's, I would see countless other mums on their way home, struggling with frustrated kids and their own isolation and depression. We were in a sort of underworld, denied adult company - and denied the chance to work outside the home knowing that our little ones were being well cared for.

Back to Bolivia, back to work, and suddenly child-care ceased to be an issue. People smiled and talked to children on buses instead of shushing them. The nightmare of bedtime, when other people expected my kids to be out of the way and I was too exhausted to stand them for another minute, faded into the past. Nina and Amaru were freed from the box of domestic isolation, and I felt nothing but relief to be in a culture where women aren't expected to make the inhuman choice between being 'efficient' workers and 'good' mothers.

Susanna Rance has lived and worked in Bolivia for several years.

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