LETTERS

LETTERS

A way with words

December 6 1993
LETTERS

LETTERS

A way with words

December 6 1993

LETTERS

A way with words

Barbara Amiel is bemused by my attempt “to pin ‘mental illness’ on the young Conrad Black,” who grew up to become her husband and a guest on my radio program (“Something to be optimistic about,” Nov. 15). Black writes in A Life in Progress that for 15 years he suffered from attacks of obsessive fear. In our interview, he was eager to describe his anxiety attacks as a disorder 3 rather than an illness. I could find no one at § the Clarke Institute, where he was seen, who 9 could tell me the difference. Amiel, in her 1 own autobiography, Confessions, writes of her addiction to codeine. She might be discomfited to be described as a recovered “drug addict,” but there it is. Black was ill, mentally. Or, as the language would have it, mentally ill. That she should feel she must defend him from being “pinned” with this tag tells us much about how far she has to go to shake the opprobrium of mental illness.

Andy Barrie, CFRB Radio, Toronto

If the federal government is ever inclined to take Barbara Amiel’s advice and set fire to Canada’s social programs, it needs to keep one thing in mind: the dollars saved by slashing regional transfer payments and other benefits will be offset by higher social costs—more joblessness, ill health, hunger, poverty, human misery. These costs will be paid, as usual, by the working people struggling week to week and living far less sumptuous lives than Amiel. She goes on to complain about high Canadian labor costs strangling the “producers of wealth.” Are the millions of people who serve the meals, teach the classes, heal the sick, build the roads and do all the countless chores that keep a civil society functioning merely parasitic nuisances who have the effrontery to beg a living wage from their plutocratic betters? Amiel needs to remember that the producers of wealth won’t be wealthy for long if workers can’t afford to buy anything. Economic unfairness is bad for business.

Jim DiPeso,

Kent, Wash.

I cried myself to sleep last night—after having read Barbara Amiel’s column. Belatedly, I realized that had the world’s leaders recognized the economic genius of Amiel there would be no bothersome national deficits. The poor, the helpless and the sick would be written off, then there would be no more foolish government spending and annoying

taxation. Why couldn’t I have thought of that? But then, what can one really expect of “complacent citizens who don’t read, don’t think, don’t want to face reality”?

Leo Kurtenbach, Cudworth, Sask.

Sombre mood

Where I live the mood is sombre since Jean Chrétien announced the cancellation of the EH-1 01 helicopter project (“A crash landing,” Canada, Nov. 15). It is tragic that this promise is being kept at the expense of those who volunteer their lives to serve, protect and rescue anyone in need. This decision, besides placing members of the Canadian Armed Forces at greater risk as they attempt to respond to assignments, increases the potential risk to the public due to inadequate resources. It is obvious that military personnel who are not permitted to voice their opinions with regard to government policy have been misrepresented by their military and political superiors. Politics wins over logic, and at whose expense?

Leslie Ann Stephen, Armdale, N.S.

Critical condition

I commend Maclean’s on recognizing the important role and the critical situation of postsecondary education in Canada (“A measure of excellence,” Cover/Special Report, Nov. 15). However, I would caution anyone

who values such education only in terms of “employability.” University educations contribute to society in many ways: research, technology, fine arts, international relations and critical analysis can enhance the lives of individuals and the entire country. We will reap these benefits by improving accessibility to higher education—and by making postsecondary education a priority now—before it’s too late.

Loretta Gerlach, Vice-president, academic, University of Regina Students’ Union,

Regina

I believe accountability has been missing in the university system. Little public documentation on specific programs or departments is available. I have known students to choose a field of study, only to discover the professor they wished to work with was not interested in directing graduate work. During my own graduate program, I found that a member of my dissertation committee was vindictive, self-serving and never met a deadline. I spent much time and energy second-guessing her so that my final deadlines could be met. This professor’s difficulties were well-known in the university, but were not a matter of record. I would hope that some system is put in place so that information about irresponsible behavior on the part of a professor can be made available. I am now an assistant professor, and would welcome such an external review.

E. Jane Fee,

Assistant professor, School of Human Communication Disorders, Dalhousie University, Halifax

Letters may be condensed. Please supply name, address and daytime telephone. Write: Letters to the Editor, Maclean’s magazine, Maclean Hunter Bldg., 777 Bay St., Toronto, Ont. M5W1A7. Or fax: (416) 596-7730.