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Monday 18 June 2012
Letters: Euro crisis
Long arm of Greece's creditors reaches our beach
Half a kilometre down from our small village in Crete, we have the benefit of a tiny bay and beach. It is too small and ordinary to be of interest to many tourists, and is frequented largely by villagers and their families.
Christos has a taverna on the beach, for which he pays a rental fee to the dimos (council). In the past few years he has transformed both beach and taverna at his own expense. He ran water pipes in and had electricity brought down, without dimos help or participation. Shade is provided by two large acacia trees which he planted five years ago.
He has built stone supporting walls for the table area and extended it into a very pleasant, shaded area from which to sit and watch the sea. Every spring he puts out umbrellas and beach beds, for the use of which he makes no charge. In short, Christos has made the beach a pleasant meeting area for many villagers.
Yesterday, the dimos came to assess Christos's tax responsibility, presumably in the light of the latest IMF initiative. They have decided he has expanded the table area and must pay the same rate per square metre as they do in Falassarna and other beaches which are flooded with tourists; he must pay €140 tax on each of his 10 umbrellas, even though he makes no charge for their use.
He must pay all this now, at the start of the season, before he has made any money at all from his enterprise. The total amount is €3,500.
Payback time? If only it were.
As we near the endgame on the eurozone crisis, when several countries will be ejected, we should spare a moment to thank Gordon Brown for keeping us out.
He was attacked for not joining the euro by a host of people, including the current Deputy Prime Minister and the current Scottish First Minister, who both said that we urgently needed to join. With low interest rates from the Bank of England and a competitive pound for our tourist and export industries we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr Brown. He may not have been a slick TV performer like Messrs Clegg and Salmond, but he was right.
The eurozone was unsustainable from day one. The dreamers behind it were divorced from the realities of the marketplace.
The Soviet Union was another unsustainable economic model designed to unite incompatible economies. Much of Europe now faces similar social pain to that endured at the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the likely implosion of the bond markets, banks, currency, pensions and government spending. One can only hope this crisis will not be accompanied by civil disorder.
The Leveson inquiry has revealed that very able and responsible people, well under 60 years old, have been unable to remember important emails or conversations.
The Government is proposing a retirement age of 67 for many professions, including doctors. The last thing I want if an important decision has to be made about a life-threatening illness is for the 66-year-old making that decision not being able to recall what has to be done. Perhaps the Government should reduce the proposed retirement age – if they can recall what they announced in the first place.
David Cameron's memory is so highly trained that he can deliver hour-long speeches without a single note. But, oh dear, place Mr Cameron on oath and ask him some awkward questions and that perfect memory suddenly disintegrates. Have psychologists studied the extraordinary effect of an oath on the memory of politicians?
Newcastle upon Tyne
Whoever had the idea to release the story about the Prime Minister leaving his child behind in the pub in the same week when he said he could not recall the basic essentials about conversations with Rebekah Brooks should be guaranteed a place on the shortlist for the next Tory "director of communications".
St Andrews, Fife
Religious views of gay marriage
While the majority of British public get along very well with members of the society whose sexual orientation lies towards the same sex as their own, a tiny minority from religious groups is hell-bent on fracturing this peaceful existence over simple phraseology.
As a British Muslim I am entitled to hold my views about same-sex couples and their civil union through the prism of my beliefs. At the same time the secular democratic norms we live under, which grant me the protection to practise my faith without fear of prejudice and discrimination, also oblige me to respect and uphold the rights of other members of the society, especially those who need it the most.
Inclusion of same-sex couples under the umbrella of marriage will not compel the millions of heterosexual people of faith, and those who follow none, to abandon their vows. It will only give credence and better legal protection to those consenting adults who have already decided to live their lives together as a couple.
If the elected representatives of the people choose to give the union of same-sex couples the same title as the one used to describe the legal and religious union of heterosexual couples, it should be accepted by the clergy, be that of any denomination. Entitlement to their religious opinions should not be used to interfere with the rights of others. If religions are to thrive, they ought to be more inclusive and accommodating, rather than damaging established relations within the communities of this tolerant nation.
Dr Shaaz Mahboob
Jesus said nothing about sex, though he expressed disapproval of divorce. He spoke out against the rich who ignored and/or exploited the poor, and against religious people who observed the outward forms of religious devotion and were pleased with themselves while judging other people to be inferior. But loving, honest, generous, forgiving hearts were the signs of Love's Kingdom, then as now.
Our ideas about marriage and divorce have evolved over the centuries. Our recent knowledge about human sexuality has uncovered a whole spectrum of orientation. Maybe now is the time to redefine marriage as a union of two human beings, two persons, who pledge themselves to live together lovingly and faithfully, irrespective of gender or the ability or desire to have children. And to do so not just for themselves but for the common good.
And maybe now is the time for the established Church to relinquish its "position of privilege". It would find itself in a far better place from which to love and nurture the weak, the dispossessed, the despised and the overlooked.
The fact that civil partnerships legislation has no table of kindred and affinity comparable to that which governs marriage shows that there is a profound difference between gay partnerships and marriage. Can the gay community not develop a new vocabulary and leave the well-respected language of marriage in peace?
Revd David Perry
South Cave, East Yorkshire
Whatever the arguments over grammar school education and the Church of England's stance on gay marriage, the former taught me the word "antidisestablishmentarianism"; the latter, some 35 years later, gave me the opportunity to use it.
Who saved the whale?
Michael McCarthy consistently writes with knowledge and passion on natural history. Would that his knowledge of history were as consistent. His account (13 June ) of the history of the campaign to save the whales was distorted by his passion for a romantic story.
It was Friends of the Earth, not Greenpeace, that led the campaign for a moratorium on whaling in the early Seventies, well before the foundation of Greenpeace in Britain. It was the 300,000 postcards from children to the Prime Minister, the successful campaign to ban the import of whale products, the two demonstrations in Trafalgar Square and the inflatable whale that sank in the Thames outside a meeting of the International Whaling Commission that persuaded the British Government to lead the call for a moratorium.
The spectacular and courageous efforts of Greenpeace on the high seas certainly played a part in getting the moratorium agreed and perhaps an even bigger part in keeping it in place. But, the main, if less spectacular and easily noticed work was done by researchers and lobbyists from FoE and many others in the drab meeting rooms that journalists find so boring.
United against colonialism
I heartily endorse the call by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of the Argentine Republic, for an end to British colonialism, which in her case refers to the Malvinas; and I hope that she will reciprocate in the future regarding six counties in northern Ireland which are another vestige of insidious occupation by this same foreign power!
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, Ireland
Justin Byam Shaw's article, "So who'll get a knighthood?" (14 June) clearly sets out the socially divisive nature of this system of patronage. It is part of the hierarchy that flows from monarchy and that, as he says, "institutionalises snobbery, privilege and social ranking" – all the things that paralyse social mobility and ensure national stultification.
Rail and road
John Oakley (letter, 14 June) bleats about "the desecrating scar of HS2" in relation to Danny Boyle's vision of an idyllic rural England, without, apparently, noticing the far worse scar of the M40. But perhaps Mr Oakley is too fond of using that motorway to criticise it?
Can I suggest we satisfy both Anthony Rodriguez and David Penn (letters, 16 June) by siting a nuclear power station at Battersea. Not only would this eradicate transmission losses, but you can be damn sure it would be the safest power station in the world.
No hacking here
What pleased me about the the editor of The Independent's presence on Any Questions last Friday evening was that not only did he say that his paper did not do hacking but that I could believe him.
If the change to a decimal currency removes the need for a 12-times table (letter, 16 June), what was the case for 11-times? Surely cheap calculators remove the need for any kind of mental arithmetic.
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