MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

November 19 2007
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

November 19 2007

MAIL BAG

‘Women don’t get any “neutral downtime” because they are being worked to death’

CLIMATE OF DEBATE

GOD KNOWS David Suzuki has been criticized about everything (“The trials of saint Suzuki,” Environment, Nov. 5). But the miracle is that he is still credible, still has our ear, and still makes us think. This is the result of hard intellectual work that has stood up to peer pressure, has been derived from real modern science, and has not been watered down, but is communicated respectfully in a fashion we understand. And the “we” are not just Canadians, because Suzuki has been recognized, respected and heard around the world for decades. It makes me wonder why Al Gore got half the Nobel Peace Prize.

Douglas J. Hallett, Kingston, Ont.

IT WAS THE MEDIA that canonized David Suzuki, and it is refreshing to see that there is a growing realization that he has always been a money seeker cleverly wrapped in the flag of good causes.

GuyP. French, Toronto

SOME FELLOW ENVIRONMENTALISTS chide David Suzuki for cozying up to big business and government. As it is becoming clearer that being green can be good economics, the former environmental sinners are now coming for Suzuki’s advice. It is not he who has changed, but his former antagonists. Some of his allies seem to have difficulties seeing that he never was at war with these institutions, but only with their bad practices. Giselher Weber, Thornton, Ont.

LET’S CALL HIM what he really is: an ecowhore using his once good name for personal financial gain and time in the spotlight. Suzuki is well aware that the cost of Kyoto is absurd and he knows damned well that as long as India and China continue to burn vast amounts of coal, Kyoto is a fairy tale. In addition, his role as the pitchman for fluorescent bulbs totally ignores the larger problem concerning the impact that these mercury-containing products will have on the environment once they are in need of disposal. He can storm off of as many radio shows as he likes, but what it really illustrates is what a caricature he has allowed himself to become.

Dr. Joel L. Goldman, Toronto

I HAVE BEEN a struggling advocate for this battered planet far longer than your “saint.”

I believe there is little chance of us changing whatever it is that convinces Homo sapiens to be such mindless monsters. It is now clear that man is determined to have cars, trucks and planes, and the biggest insanity of all, space travel, until too few of us survive to do any more damage. The turning point probably occurred about half a century ago when we replaced railways with trucks and airplanes and cast our eyes to the moon. The idiots who are in charge, by one means or another, have continued to rape the planet long past the point of no return. Our current Meccanoset mentality, as demonstrated by the Euro-

peans, has been to build the Airbus A38O, the biggest passenger airplane in the world. With what it takes in fuel, we could gas up guided tours to space.

But enough of that; I’m 90 soon, so I’ve had my time. I wrote all this stuff in the 1960s and before. The media, including Maclean’s, ignored me for the most part and it’s likely that you will again. But then there are still those who think the earth is flat and maybe it soon will be.

Ian Cass, Victoria

BEARING THE BRUNT

THE ARTICLE BY Charlie Gillis and Barbara Righton (good move, by the way, to use coauthors—one male, one female—to avoid criticism for bias due to sex) primarily discussed the relative levels of happiness, then versus now, in traditional female/male couple relationships (“Why men are getting happier,

and women more miserable,” Society, Nov. 5). But what women did they poll? No one polled me. I would have posed the following question back at them: could it be that my current level of happiness, far exceeding my level of happiness in the 1980s, is directly related to the fact I dumped the husband who encumbered me at that time?

Nancy Roberts, Brockville, Ont.

THE ENDING OF the article claiming feminists in the ’70s would have “put down their placards and gone home” if they knew that feckless men would be enjoying the fruits of women’s labour is journalism 101. I’m also curious as to why the writers didn’t contact any of the amazing scholars in feminist studies at York University and the University of Toronto, preferring instead to quote from American second-wave feminists Gloria Steinern and Susan Faludi.

Jane Haddad, Toronto

THIS PIECE MADE ME wince over and over again. There’s a reason women suffer from the “happiness gap”: too often, they’re being sucked dry by emotional and financial leeches. They don’t get any of that “neutral downtime” because they’re being worked to death. If they quit work, they’re seen as unmotivated, backward-looking housewives. We want to think things have changed for the better since the 1950s, but have they?

Margaret Gunning, Port Coquitlam, B.C.

I SUBSCRIBE TO the now outmoded JudeoChristian ethic that worked for nearly 2,000 years, but in the past 30 has been challenged by feminists who thought they had a better idea. I have been married for 36 years and devoted my life for the most part to raising my children and looking after my husband. Val Schuetze, Powell River, B.C.

FEMINISM DID NOT cause women to be unhappy. As Susan Faludi asserts, their unhappiness is over the fact that things haven’t changed. Women are still burdened with a second shift and men still have not stepped up to the plate.

Dale Story, Ottawa

VENEZUELA, ‘FREE AND FAIR’

IT IS AMAZING that when confronted with the most significant expansion of democracy

‘My family and 1 never intended to leave Ottawa, but if Larry O’Brien continues to be mayor, we may be forced to flee to a city that cares about its families’

in a generation, Western political elites see a “mad dash to dictatorship” (“Hail comrade Chávez!” World, Nov. 5). Michael Petrou’s article lacks balance and perspective. He calls the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, totalitarian, autocratic and fascist, and accuses him of stifling dissent. The only proof of these assertions are the statements of well-known opposition figures such as Leopoldo López and Teodoro Petkoff, who supported the bloody 2002 rightwing coup against the Venezuelan government. This, in itself, should lead us to question their so-called democratic credentials.

In reality, Venezuela is seeing an extension of democracy that the West should be envious of. At the same time as the electoral system in Canada, the U.S., and Britain is facing a crisis of legitimacy (witness the 52 per cent turnout in the recent Ontario elections, for example), Venezuela has massive participation. Sixty-three per cent supported Chávez in the 2006 presidential elections, which were called free and fair by all credible sources. Venezuelans have gained the opportunity to recall their president, an opportunity that U.S. citizens opposed to the Iraq war would love to have. And in the newly proposed constitution, if it passes a democratic referendum later this year, Venezuelans will enjoy a six-hour workday and the expansion of power to community councils that will allow people to control their own neighbourhoods.

Readers of Maclean’s should ask themselves what kind of dictator expands health care, education, social services and democratic rights for the mass of the population?

Alex Grant, Hands ojfVenezuela Campaign Coordinator, Toronto

YOUR ARTICLE appears to single out Chávez as a stereotypical Latin-American dictator, when in fact he is a typical politician. The U.S. is saved from Chávez’s extremes by the two-term limit of the president, although this does not prevent family dynasties in its history. In Canada, many prime ministers have proven the Peter Principle and overstayed their welcome. Moreover, the U.S. was once friends with bin Laden, Batista, Papa Doc, Saddam Hussein and many other dictators and mass murderers, as was convenient. For politicians, consolidation of power is the name of the game and popular

service is the ruse. At least Chávez is doing some of that, while neither Canada nor the U.S. seem too preoccupied by it.

Eva Saphir, Toronto

ELECTING A CLOWN

OTTAWA MAYOR Larry O’Brien’s laissez-faire governing style has been devastating for many families and Ottawa’s low-income population (“Mayor or may not,” National, Nov. 5). As a mom of three small children, I was shocked to hear that my subsidized child-care fees could rise from $60 a month to $1,500 a month. And as a bachelor of social work student and a youth worker, I was disgusted with Mayor O’Brien’s poor-bashing comments, as

well as the elimination of the harm-reduction crack pipe distribution program. My family and I never intended to leave Ottawa, but if O’Brien remains mayor, we may be forced to flee to a city that cares about its families. We voted for a mayor, but elected a clown. Cathy Brohman, Ottawa

AND BABY MAKES TWO

THE FACT IS that while some women might choose to make radical, unethical, and ultimately destructive decisions about reproduction and families, the great majority of North Americans lead lives in normal and supportive families in which men play a constructive and loving role (“A guide to knocking yourself up,” Help, Nov. 5). Far from being an unnecessary part of the family, men are as intrinsic to a family as women, and anyone

who believes differently is setting both themselves and their children up for unfulfilling and confusing family lives. It is not surprising to me that someone pursuing a Ph.D. in something as lightweight as cultural history would believe that men are unimportant and not conducive to a good environment for child-rearing. I wonder, however, if “Melle” has studied the effects that such monstrous rhetoric has on the psychologies of men in the Western world as a whole. And what if she has a son? How will his own sense of self be affected by her pervasively negative view of men? Sounds like a new form of prejudice, doesn’t it?

Drew Maxwell, Toronto

IN 1981, at the age of 29,1 decided to become a single mom, having been married and divorced and not wanting to go through that again, but wanting very much to have a baby. My daughter is now 25, has graduated college and university and is working. I was lucky. She was not a problem child, and I had excellent support from my family, friends and community. Very few people snubbed their noses at my situation. The secret for raising a child on your own: always let them know that they were wanted and that they are loved. It is not for everyone, but I have never once regretted it.

Irene Camp, Piéton, Ont.

PAKISTAN AND TERROR

KUDOS TO PAUL WELLS for shining a light on a dirty secret in the war on terror (“The

two faces of Pakistan,” World, Nov. 5). In November 2001, the Northern Alliance forces had over 8,000 Taliban fighters, including the cream of al-Qaeda’s crop, surrounded in the city of Kunduz near the Pakistan border. They were forced to sit back and watch as Pakistan repatriated thousands of Pakistani Taliban (and their al-Qaeda brothers-in-arms) across the border to their homeland with the blessing of the U.S. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, who stated that this supposedly humanitarian evacuation was authorized by the White House. The repercussion now for Canadians is that some of those evacuees are leading the fight to kill our men and women serving in Afghanistan. If 50,000 Soviet troops could not seal the Afghanistan-Pakistan border during the Soviet occupation, then what chance have we got to keep Pakistan’s military intelligence, the ISI, from supplying the Taliban with men and equipment against our forces?

Dennis Letourneau, Canmore, Alta.

PLAYING THROUGH PAIN

STEVE MAICH’S ARTICLE was a gritty yet realistic look at the repercussions, especially to male athletes, from serious injuries in the world of sport today (“The concussion time bomb,” Health, Oct. 22). My question to sports authorities is why dangerous playing conditions continue to exist even with all the evidence pointing to potential long-term health consequences and early death? Is the public responsible for accepting and cheering on risky sports situations and behaviours, or are coaches the ones putting pressure on their athletes to play through pain in order to maximize profit? Coding inherent in all contact sports suggests that as a male, one should be able to accept all the risks involved without complaint. Fist fights that often happen in hockey are one example. Players are expected to participate in the brawls and then continue to play even if they happen to be injured.

Although Maich did not describe any injured female athletes in his article, I am confident they are on the same path. Women athletes too must be able to recognize the deeply ingrained principles of aggression, toughness and pain tolerance. Simply put, sports are not the same co-operative and health-promoting activities they used to be. Dagmara Klisz, Mississauga, Ont.

FEEBLE HUMOUR

IN YOUR SPORTS INSERT, I read with interest Mark Schatzker’s article on saving the NHL south of the border by injecting a few Hollywood stars (“Celebrity power play, Sport, Nov. 5). If the writer had done his homework, he would have discovered that Brendan Bell,

whom he has in a potential love match with Paris Hilton, does not play for the Maple Leafs, but was traded by the Leafs last year to Phoenix. Although the picture is of Brendan, I think he meant Leafs centre Mark Bell, who pleaded no contest to drunk driving and hit-and-run charges last summer, and I think an apology is in order to Brendan and his family for this feeble attempt at humour. Brian D. Mann, Ottawa

ORDINARY PEOPLE

HOW NICE IT IS to read of an ordinary man with an extraordinary character (The End, Nov. 12). Having taught both Ed Schellenberg’s son and daughter, I can see much of him shine through in them. There is much to be said for a simple, selfless life. Ed should be an example to us all.

Michael Hendricks, Langley, B.C.

IN PASSING

Helmuth Buxbaum, 68, murderer. A wealthy nursing-home operator, he was convicted in 1986 of contracting the Idling of his wife. Known as a devout churchgoer, Buxbaum had a double life, consorting with prostitutes and using cocaine. A nephew who witnessed the killing successfully sued Buxbaum for trauma.

Washoe, 42, chimpanzee. The subject of a groundbreaking study, she was the first chimp to learn American Sign Language and reportedly taught it to other chimps. Some researchers believed that Washoe was merely imitating humans, but her handlers argued she was evidence that other primates have the cognitive ability to use structured language.