new internationalist
issue 228 - February 1992

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]

Off the hook
Cover of the NI Issue 227 What could have induced you to devote two pages of precious editorial space in an issue on feminism (NI 227) to the subject of men? Afraid that leaving them out of the picture might upset the poor dears? After all, they are so often ignored and marginalized in the media and public life, aren't they?

Sarcasm aside, there were so many more important issues that received too little attention - reproductive rights and childcare to name but two.

If you were going to focus on men you could at least have done it honestly by focussing on the violence both expressed and hidden, which they and mysogynist culture generally effect on women's lives.

Sorry NI, you have done what so many others in the soggy male-dominated mainstream do: you have let men off the hook!

Jan Roberts
Manchester, UK

Dictionary extras
Some additions to the dictionary (Hidden History NI 226). How about:

War - A system of population limitation practised by antagonistic groupings in many emerging countries once they had been freed from colonial rule. Now showing signs of spreading to ex-Communist countries in Europe.

Television - An attempt to teach people self-reliance. Designed to show them that they can control their own lives by giving them the opportunity to 'switch off'. So far it has been a dismal failure.

W K Stead
Falmouth, UK

Pounding the past
Your Columbus issue (Hidden History NI 226) talked of the undoubted horrors of past centuries in the Americas. But would it not have been more constructive to suggest proposals for improving the lot of indigenous people in that continent now? I thought Marcel Thekaekara's analysis of how to reconcile India's native peoples to the twentieth century was spot-on and most of what she says could be applied to the American continent.

D W B Baron
Ludlow, UK

Vegetarian virtue
I find myself increasingly exasperated by 'preaching' vegetarians (Letters NI 226). The whole subject is highly emotive and vegetarians should not consider themselves as having a monopoly on moral correctness. Becoming a vegetarian is a very personal decision. Surely the purpose of NI is to allow its readers to make up their own minds. Therefore I see no problem with yours being an omnivorous journal so long as it allows a comprehensive survey of the surrounding debates.

John D Bridger (a vegan)
Liverpool. UK

In your editorial (Raw Food NI 225) you say that consumers in the North can influence the international food trade. But I was disappointed at how little emphasis you placed on existing Alternative Trading Organizations like Equal Exchange, a co-operative based in Edinburgh. It imports a range of wholefoods including honeys, coffee, tea and various nut-butters. The sale of these foods directly benefits the people who produce them and helps fund the publicising of information about development issues which is so desperately needed.

Rory Robinson
Inverness, Scotland, UK

Aggressive defence
In response to the letter Overwhelming Fear (NI 226) which was worried that an influx of refugees might lead to a break-down of law and order: oh dear, oh dear. The UK is less densely populated than Germany, Japan, Holland, and Belgium. Europe's population is ageing rapidly. The influx of refugees and immigrants - who are generally young and eager for work - will help maintain the elderly in the next century. Refugees will not take your jobs and home. Refugees do not prevent unions from protecting people, or councils from building cheap homes. And they did not destroy British industry - the Conservative Government did.

G Blackmore
London, UK

Illustration by VIV QUILLIN

Sweet correction
I think your information is inaccurate about the digestion and absorption of sugars (Raw Foods NI 225). Glucose and fructose are monosaccharides and are absorbed in the small intestines without any need of digestion. Lactose and sucrose, however, are disaccharides and both need to be digested before they can be absorbed.

Sucrose does not enter the blood stream immediately. It is also untrue that after the absorption of any monosaccharide that the digestive system then switches off and fails to absorb essential foods.

Finally, the information is inaccurate about the feast-famine-swing, which is regulated by insulin in a healthy individual to prevent this occurring.

Dr Gabrielle Syme
Leeds, UK

Ed. replies: Thank you for this information. It is at odds with that found in Commodities - How the world was taken to market by Nick Rowling, the source for the article.

Blasting Botswana
I was surprised at the left wing rating of Botswana in terms of politics and freedom, in your Country Profile (NI 224). The Botswana Democratic Party is not left-wing as you suggest, but is committed to an extreme form of free enterprise. And though it is true that education and health care are free, they are funded by mining rather than taxes.

Moreover Botswana is far from democratic. It is well known in the country that the elections have been rigged for at least the last fifteen years; the lack of outside knowledge about this leads some to suspect that journalists are being bought off. And as for the army, this seems to operate independently from the Government; six tourists have been shot at road-blocks over the past six years.

Chis Hillman
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Depressing changes
Ms Brophy equates Western-style prosperity with progress in your country profile of Botswana. I have always felt however, that the NI's aim was to educate people that 'the sound of drills and sight of new glass buildings' are not the only signs of advancement.

The profile praises Botswana because it has successfully 'Westernized'. But enough magazines take this view; I expected a broader perspective from NI.

Dean Gould
Ipawich UK

Invisible island
A friend of mine returned recently from an island called Palau, also known as Balau, which is being menaced by the US. The country has been part of a United Nations Trust territory since World War II and administered by the US. Washington was charged with helping the island people to move towards independence. In 1979 Palaun delegates drew up their own constitution which would ban nuclear weapons, waste or material from their territory.

The people set up their own legislative and judicial bodies and elected their own leaders, but the trusteeship has never been terminated and the US continues to administer the island. People have been blown up and murdered on US orders. And this seems to be related to the US nuclear domination of the Pacific. Yet little seems to be published about the plight of Palau people. Why?

Pauline Butler
London, UK

The desire to tread where none has been before may be 'one of the finest qualities possessed by human beings' (Letters NI 227). But conquering space is no solution to the world's immense problems.

We must tackle our difficulties on earth, before we set our sights on the stars.

Richard Green
Birmingham UK

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

Letter from India

Woman-time has come
Violence, imperialism and poverty dominate the lives of women worldwide.
But sisterhood is also global as Mari Marcel Thekaekara discovers.

CLAUDE SAUVAGEOT Washington DC in the US can seem like a world away from Gudalur in India. But at the fifth International Forum for Women in Development, we women found that in spite of differences in culture and language, our concerns were identical.

The meeting was meant to be a learning-together/working-together experience; a North/South dialogue. And it was. At any given time ten or fifteen workshops were running simultaneously on anything from ecology and gender-analysis to agriculture and structural re-adjustment. It was not possible to get feed-back from them all. But the overall impression was one of vigorous exchange and new perspectives gained.

I got some fascinating glimpses into the lives of women from other countries. Like Rosina Wiltshire from Barbados who spoke graphically about the effects of structural re-adjustment on the Caribbean. She told us how cuts in kerosene subsidies to poor people had forced them to rely more on firewood, bringing about devastating deforestation. Meanwhile the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, who proposed the cuts, insist that the root cause for environmental degradation is over-population.

I can easily relate this to tribal India where indigenous people are being uprooted from their environment in their thousands. In Gudalur where I live, we have had scores of deaths from malnutrition as a result.

In the old days such people got everything they needed from the forests. Yet today our government has no qualms about evicting them. It claims that this is to save forests, but at the same time it authorizes the cutting of thousands of trees to feed industry which it sees as synonymous with progress.

The same thing is happening in Barbados where Japanese companies have been welcomed even though they have razed entire virgin forests to the ground to plant coffee and other cash crops. The reason? Investment increases exports which increase foreign exchange. Meanwhile environmental protection goes out the window.

So what is the way forward for poor countries? One Indian MP got a standing ovation when she said that socialism was not dead in spite of Eastern Europe. 'In fact it's the only way forward for Third World countries,' she yelled, amid cheers.

Others insisted that any advances must involve more humane treatment of the South by the North. Catherine Rivas, a Cuban woman, pleaded passionately to North American women to stop the US Government's systematic victimization of Cuba. She told how the US had prevented life-saving drugs from reaching Cuban children, resulting in thousands of deaths. 'Are our children less than human? Are they different from other children that the rest of the world stands by and allows them to be murdered?,' she asked. There was a stunned silence. Then an outburst of anger.

I had read about the blockading of Cuba myself. But it had never seemed real to me. The North American women reacted spontaneously by pledging support. Later they met to discuss how to raise awareness in the US about the impact of the blockade. Peggy Antrobus from Barbados also pointed out that we must transform the inequalities in our own societies: 'We cannot forget that there is a South in the North (inner cities and ghettos in the US) as there is a North in the South (Third World cities).

But there was one issue which cut across all barriers. This is violence. In every corner of the earth there are battered wives, abused children, rape victims. Every woman present had encountered physical or mental violence, either directly or through a close friend or relative. There was an outpouring of experience, anger and pain. And out of the collective trauma emerged a surge of female strength; the unanimous resolve that we must come together to help fight each others' battles against violence.

The same woman-power was evident in the evening celebrations. The air was vibrant. There was singing and dancing. Solidarity. Strength. And one song in particular has stayed with me as expressing the spirit of the conference, for it said 'Woman-time has come.'

Mari Marcel Thekaekara has been working for the last seven years on a project she and her husband started for native people in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

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