Until increasing work commitments and financial pressures clipped my wings in recent years, I was fortunate enough to travel widely. When I last bothered to count, I had totted up more than 50 countries that I have either visited or lived and worked in.
For me one of the key pleasures in travelling is to have had the opportunity to experience first-hand different cultures and customs. Hence my preference for far-flung outposts that have yet to be exposed in any great depth to Western culture.
Kota Kinabalu was somewhere I had fond memories of exploring over 30 years ago. A few weeks ago this provided the backdrop to considerable international furore over a group of youngsters who, in choosing to bare all, openly flouted local custom and tradition.
While on the surface the response of their host country may have seemed out of all proportion to the “crime” that was committed, many think it was right.
We can choose to behave as we wish in our own environment, but it must be incumbent upon us when we decide to travel elsewhere to respect the customs of the host nation and not to impose our more “liberated” ways on them.
As I am the owner of a wine school, it might be expected that I drink a fair bit of it and I love to eat all kinds of foods, but I have often visited countries where drinking alcohol and eating pork or beef is banned.
I prefer to sunbathe au naturel but rarely do so in public. I also swear like a trooper on occasion. When visiting others I try to be sensitive to the feelings of the company I am in and behave accordingly, even if this means abstaining from something that seems normal to me; I do, after all, have the choice not to go there.
In the past 40 years or so, I believe it is our failure as a nation to introduce others to our way of life, to integrate them into our culture and traditions, that has fuelled much of the current discord.
For too long, in an attempt to demonstrate how open and tolerant a society we are, we have pandered to other cultures, allowing their practitioners to exert undue influence in shaping our society, to such an extent that much of what we have held dear is now threatened.
In enabling those from other parts of the world to settle here without our being proactive about fostering their integration, we have to some extent been complicit in the current climate of hostile alienation that has created the environment for radicalisation, allowing the extremists among us to vent their rage against us by acts of terrorism, here and abroad.
Combe St Nicholas, Somerset
Julius Marstrand (letter, 2 July) is spot-on in his analysis of the difficulty we face in dealing with radicalisation. It’s no good huffing and puffing that we will prevail in the fight: that is exactly what the terrorists claim, too.
This is not a fight that can be won by military means. Though the Government may be right to take steps in the short term to prevent further attacks, it is the perception of our complicity with the evils that beset the Middle East – despotism, corruption, violent oppression and consequent poverty and misery – that acts as the best recruiting sergeant for Isis. And to challenge that perception we have first to acknowledge it.
The depressing truth is this: unless and until the international community demonstrates that it cares about the horrors being perpetrated on its watch, there will be no shortage of people being radicalised, however much we do to discourage them.
The United Nations, whose founding purpose is to “maintain international peace and security”, is strangely silent over recent events. We are all signatories to its Charter. We should be demanding that it puts its house – our house – in order. Short of that, we really can’t complain if our young people decide to take matters into their own hands.
Let’s organise safe havens for the innocent in Syria. As for Isis and Assad, we should watch from a distance as they wipe each other out – until we can help capture them for trial.
Andrew M Rosemarine
More people need to claim their benefits
The Government spin is that the benefit bill is unsustainable. The reality is very different. A Department for Work and Pensions report released on 25 June shows an estimated £580m in Jobseeker’s Allowance went unclaimed in 2013-14.
Added to this, £2.5bn in unclaimed pension credit, with a take-up of 61-64 per cent, and £3.6bn of housing benefit is also estimated to have gone unclaimed,
What is needed is a mass take-up campaign, rather than the demonising of benefit claimants. The real villain is the Government.
Global implication of North York mining
Potash mining (“North York Moors: new home to one of the world’s biggest potash mines”, 1 July) would be a disastrous step back in nature conservation in the UK and beyond.
There might be some short-term economic benefits, although the effects would be uncertain in the long term. However, more importantly, this decision would open the door to all sorts of investors, including the fracking industry, jeopardising the national parks concept in the entire UK.
And it has implications worldwide. I am engaged in the conservation of the last rainforests and mangroves in south-east Asia, arguing against short-sighted development and for the creation of protected areas. How could we convince the authorities in Burma and Indonesia to save the forest and not convert to palm oil fields or mines when we do not respect our own protected areas?
Dr Christoph Zöckler
Senior Advisor and Fellow
United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge
Which will be last EU state standing?
The little-by-little destruction of every nation state is the stated policy of the 1956 Treaty of Rome. There will be only one nation state when the process is completed. The only question is: which member state will be the last one standing?
What Greece has seen over the past few years was the inevitable consequence of joining the EU and the eurozone. Brussels has played the same game with other nation states, particularly Ireland, Spain and Portugal, but they all bowed to Brussels’ pressure.
EU policy is to do away with nation states by slowly destroying the ability of national governments to administer their own affairs. Greece is apparently the first country to choose the nuclear option – but every member state is being targeted by Brussels.
It continues to push until everyone becomes bound into its administration so tightly that exit is impossible. By 2020 or so, it will be too late to resurrect the mechanisms of self-determination. The next treaty will knock firmly on the head Brexit, Grexit and all the rest of the exits.
Church Stretton, Shropshire
Closing the academic gender pay gap
“Female scientists earn less in ‘shameful’ gender gap” (29 June) reported a pay gap between women and men in the professoriate in the Faculty of Science at Bristol University. While there is a disparity in the average salaries of men and women at that level, the figure quoted was incorrect, due to wrong information provided by the university in a processing error.
The report stated that at some institutions, including Bristol University, the difference in pay can be as high as about £21,000. In fact, the difference in average salary between men and women is just under £8,000 in our Faculty of Science. Across the university the average salary of a male professor is 4.7 per cent higher than that of a female professor, and this compares with a Russell Group benchmark figure of 6.8 per cent.
We are acutely aware of the need to address the pay gap and related issues, including the under-representation of women in the professoriate. We have recently introduced a range of new measures to support women in our university throughout their careers, although we realise there is much more still to be done.
Sir Eric Thomas
Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol
Meals for two don’t feed one
Rosie Millard (2 July) says “most ready-made meals are made for two”. Alas, I eat alone most days, but I have found that these meals barely cover a side plate, and I have to buy two portions to barely cover 75 per cent of a standard dinner plate. I am obviously shopping in the wrong stores.
The moor the merrier?
David Suchet’s performance as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest has been lauded. In light of recent arguments on this page, does this qualify him to play Othello?
Northwood, Greater LondonReuse content