issue 247 - September 1993
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Head in the sand
Your issue on Multinationals (NI 246) was a shallow and biased piece of work. But more importantly it was also irresponsible. I found your hand-wringing over the dangers of the ‘global economy’ particularly pathetic.
Wake up NI! In case you hadn’t noticed ‘globalization’ is already here. You may not like it but you can’t wish it away or stick your head in the sand. Countries and companies that don’t prepare for it will end up big losers. Multinationals, to their credit, seem to be the only ones that understand this.
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Catalogue of errors
The catalogue of your recent errors as I see it includes: the wanton puerility of Starve Trek (NI 218) and the Debt comic (NI 243). Can they, I wonder, plumb greater depths? Perhaps not, but they can be flagrantly élitist and condescending by criticizing the plebs for so much as aspiring to venture abroad with a whole issue dedicated to abusing the hapless tourist (NI 245). Evidently you have taken on board the ‘Deep Green’ proposition that travel should be restricted to the ‘upper echelons of the Party’ – those worthy of the benefit.
Thank you for your Tourism issue (NI 243). I plan to travel independently later this year and you have strengthened my resolve to reject the exploitative tourist industry and seek a genuine appreciation of the people and places I visit instead. It will be harder but far more rewarding. To help me could you give me the contact address of the Women Welcome Women network you mentioned.
Women Welcome Women can be contacted via Frances Alexander, WWW, 8A Chestnut Avenue, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP11 1DJ, UK. Telephone: 0494 439481. Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope.
Everyone a winner
When I did my original research on the production of Nike shoes, I found that the cost to the consumer of paying a realistic living wage to workers would be just 14 cents per pair of shoes! Furthermore, those 14 cents would also mean an end to the 12-hour working day common in these factories, which in turn would create several thousand new jobs!
As Hitchings points out, puppet unions and military intervention make it tough for the Indonesian workforce. But their courage combined with consumer awareness in the West could make everyone a winner. A sentiment I’m sure Nike would endorse.
Bill on child labour
The Update on the consequences of the US ban on products made by child labour in the Third World (NI 245) is jumping the gun. The Bill to ban such products is not yet law in the US, nor does it propose a simple ban. The entry ban will not apply if a US importer signs a certificate of origin affirming that they have taken reasonable steps to ensure that the products are not made by children. Isn’t that the equivalent of a fair-trade mark for coffee?
The consequences of such legislation are also difficult to judge. Certainly the threat posed by the Bill has made governments and industry, particularly in South Asia, think seriously about enforcing their laws on child labour. They have been encouraged in this by social-action groups who believe that if employers are forced to stop exploiting child labour they will have to offer the jobs to some of the millions of unemployed adults.
Trade barriers to textile imports are a much more serious threat to jobs than the child-labour issue. If this debate raises consumer
awareness it can only be good. It seems to us at Anti-Slavery International that if we continue to tell Third World producers that our only concern is price then they will continue to seek the cheapest and most compliant workforce.
Anti-Slavery International, London, UK
Human rights denied
Thank you for your interesting and timely issue on human rights (NI 244). It was particularly welcome to see social, cultural and economic rights included as basic to human rights.However, there was no mention of the fact that these basic human rights are being denied every day to people living in every country in the world including those in the rich West. Mari Marcel Thekaekara wrote in her excellent article ‘New World Ordure’ that ‘the poor have never been a priority. Not now, not ever’. This is as true here in Britain as it is anywhere.
In this context, I would like to draw readers’ attention to ATD Fourth World, an international human-rights organization working with people excluded from society because of poverty. It works in over 40 countries.
Shocked into what?
I have just read through the combined Amnesty/NI issue (NI 244) and was so disturbed by what I saw that I felt I must write to express my objection. I feel it is totally unnecessary to describe the various human-rights abuses in such detail. It is possible to inform people about these atrocities using generic language.
I suspect that you would argue that you had achieved your objective – to shock us into action – and that we should be presented with the facts however hard they are to swallow. As an active member of Amnesty I do not need to be motivated to carry on by being continually subjected to more and more horrors. As for the unconverted, do you not think they will just close the magazine in disgust like I did?
Working for Amnesty is one of the most proactive ideological occupations because the simple act of writing a letter makes a definite, albeit minute, contribution to the cause one is targeting. How about reflecting that fact with a bit of optimism in your publications?
Brian Dooley’s article on the death penalty (NI 244) contained a pathetic cheap jibe at the Catholic Church. He implied that the Vatican’s stand on the death penalty, which he did not quote accurately, was calculated to obtain financial gain for the Church in the US.
This was scurrilous. The Catholic Church is foremost in petitioning heads of state and governments to show clemency. In 1990 the US Bishops’ statement on capital punishment stated that the imposition of the death penalty in the conditions of contemporary American society could not be justified. All this could hardly put them in the pockets of the US President.
I was surprised that no reference was made to Tibet in your recent issue on human rights (NI 244). I also noticed that the maps in it do not show Tibet as separate from China. I believe that where possible Tibet should be shown as a separate and independent country on all political maps. By continuing to show Tibet as part of China we are tacitly acknowledging China’s right to an occupation which is not only an abuse of human rights but is also causing environmental damage.
|The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist|
The Argentinian graphic artist who created some of the NI’s
most memorable images died of cancer in early July.
We were sitting in a crowded, battered Paris café last autumn. The windows had steamed over as the rain came down outside. We drank tea. Hector was showing me a volume of his poems published – and even translated into English – in Paris in the 1960s. I had no idea they existed. Poetry. That was, he said, how he started to use his imagination.
We’d been on a bustling tour of the Latin Quarter, where Hector had lived when he first arrived 30 years ago, a young Argentinian in search of his Italian and European roots. The ‘hotel’ where the owner took payment in pictures painted by his ‘guests’ had become an office block. The anarchist bookshop that closed down because customers stole all the books was now a burger bar. Only Shakespeare’s, the extraordinary English bookshop which still has beds among the shelves where penniless young writers sleep, remained the same. We talked to an old man – not just the owner but also Walt Whitman’s great-grandson, or so he said – who, on discovering Hector was Argentinian, suddenly walked off and didn’t come back.
We crossed the bridge to Notre Dame. Hector pointed to the stone reliefs defaced by the Commune – or was it the Revolution? ‘That’s my trade, like theirs,’ he said. He never lost his commitment to justice for oppressed peoples, his hatred for the cruelty of capitalism nor his unique talent for describing his perceptions in powerful, subtle, simple and often beautiful images. We entered the cathedral and suddenly there came an almighty blast from the organ, a great Gothic echo. Neither of us, I think, felt particularly reverential but nonetheless we stood rooted to the spot and caught each other’s eye.
We walked on through the old Jewish quarter, now sporting an entire street of shops selling fancy paper. Beautiful as it was, said Hector, no self-respecting artist would ever pay the price being asked for it. On and on we went, in and out of little shops filled with cheese, jars, Chinese lamps. By the time we arrived at the café I was exhausted. Hector was just getting started.
He was, I remember thinking, a little bit like Paris – still going, for better or worse, after all these years. Not long before, his studio had been flooded and he’d broken his working arm, so that he could not draw. A few years earlier a fire had destroyed most of his work. Left behind by technology, he was now taking evening classes with the unforgiving Computer. Knowing that he had never received the recognition due to him I toyed with the idea of trying to put that right, until it began to feel like an intrusion.
We went on to a Spanish restaurant where we ran into a young Argentinian friend of Hector’s. This man was some kind of scientist whose job it was to make periodic raids on the Amazon and steal toxic plants for pharmaceutical companies – ‘the real drug barons’, said Hector. They were both determined to take issue over something. What they finally settled on was AIDS. Tempers and voices rose sharply. Blows seemed to be on the agenda. From what I could gather Hector was wrong, but he won the argument. I claimed to be falling asleep and he immediately found me a taxi. Back in my hotel the phone rang. It was Hector, checking I’d got back safely.
Knowing that we won’t be able to get on the phone to him with some half-baked notion for a front cover or illustration that only he could turn into a strong, original image makes our work that much less intriguing. But we do have a rich legacy of his images. I suspect they will still be seen long after the words we write have faded on the page.