* DIVISIVE TONE

I was greatly disturbed by Arvind Kumar’s editorial (“Give Peace a Chance,” IC, August 2004), finding its tone divisive and its logic non-existent.

Kumar writes, “You can say no to fear. You can choose peace,” after lambasting Israel’s current actions to ensure its own peace. Is he aware that even Bill Clinton in his book My Life says that the Barak offer was too good to be turned down? That Clinton urged Arafat to take it and not “vote for Sharon”? Arafat’s response was to start yet another intifada. Looks like Israel voted for peace and paid for it with their lives. On the India-Pakistan border India too has voted for peace and paid with 50,000 lives in Kashmir and counting.

Kumar talks about the corporatized media. But I (like any other regular person with Internet access) read 44 different newspapers from all over the globe, including Al Jazeera and Yahoo News, from Moscow Times to Dawn, from the Sydney Morning Herald to the Japan Times for free! And so can you. Kumar overlooks the fact that the corporatized media, including PBS, is basically a liberal media. (If you don’t think so, ask which candidate the newspapers and television stations are endorsing.)

The seeds of destruction in society are sowed when extremism is encouraged. No one should doubt that Presidents Clinton and Bush are patriots as are Senators Kerry and Edwards. The 2004 Presidential candidates have different visions, but neither is evil. Constructive debate is when one analyzes facts and not represents one side as the side of fear and war and the other the side of peace and comfort. Supporters of the different visions are opponents, not enemies, patriots all.
Vijay Parikh, via e-mail

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* WHERE THE UNITED NATIONS FAILS

I read your editorial (“Give Peace a Chance,” IC, August 2004) and was pleased to see your “vote for peace” and vote against fear. Thank you for doing that.

Yet, I do not carry the same faith in the United Nations as you do. The United Nations has not done much when it comes to dictatorship and famine in Africa. It has been an organization of elite men mostly from wealthy families in developing countries with exclusive privileges (with few exceptions). The UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are two of its most reliable and effective wings. I cannot say the same of the others.

It is much easier for any individual, leader, or an organization to challenge and confront the educated and those who are already in the frontline. It is much harder to confront Third World dictators who find it easier to blame the United States or any foreign powers for what is lack of integrity, honesty, humility, and genuine commitment to human welfare on their part. The United States has exploited this weakness in many parts of Africa and South and Central America.

Change is a two-way process: there is self-development and there is social development. India cannot hold colonialism responsible for its corruption or its casteism. It cannot hold colonialism responsible for its sexism or its fundamentalism. The same holds true for other countries like Pakistan that have been harboring and ignoring Islamic militants who will one day bite the hand that feeds them. That is already beginning to happen. Domestic and regional weaknesses can be used and abused by foreign powers, as they have been in the past, but they cannot always be identified as the cause of the country’s or region’s problems.

Somehow, the boys at the United Nations are better at criticizing and processing rather than acting. It is easier for many of the three-piece-suited UN men (who wear expensive Western clothes better than the guys born and raised in the West) to sit for hours talking, discussing, and debating without taking appropriate actions. This is where the United Nations fails—appropriate and timely action amidst famine and genocide. They don’t take responsibility for their inactions that cost huge number of lives every year.

I believe in giving peace a chance but the United Nations has to start holding rogues in developing countries accountable. Without a doubt, the United States has been, at times, internationally ignorant, arrogant, and so provincial that much of its rhetoric about global human rights has been just that: rhetoric. But there has also been inaction from leaders in other countries who forget that aid is not a permanent solution to their problems and one cannot constantly beg and act with impunity and arrogance at the same time. Though Nehru and Gandhi might have over-relied on bureaucracy, and underestimated its incompetence and ineffectiveness, they got it right when they promoted self-reliance, self-sufficiency and self-determination especially on basic survival issues. I’d like to see Kofi Annan confront corrupt and ruthless dictators in Africa.

Meera Srinivasan, via email

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* INTERESTING READING

I enjoy reading various articles in your magazine. The interview with Ved Mehta (“An Adventure in Light and Darkness,” IC, May 2004) was particularly interesting. I read his book Face to Face when I was in Bangalore in the mid-1960s and admired him for the opportunity he got to go to the United States. Now, reading about him after nearly 40 years thrilled me. Especially so when he was asked to comment about his school in Dadar and he said, “I often think to myself: ‘There go I but for the grace of God.’”

Again, Prasenjit Gupta’s story (“In Benares,” IC, August 2004) was very moving as to how behavior changes with people’s status.

Arya Bhushan, via email

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