Letters: Seasteads - islands of hubris and exploitation

These letters were published in the 30th December edition of the Independent

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It is a tragic irony that the billionaire entrepreneurs behind the Seasteading Institute (“A tax haven on the high seas that could soon be a reality”, 27 December) should squander wealth amassed through businesses dependent on the rest of society on seaborne communities designed to avoid reciprocating the relationship.

The world view of these “libertarian free-thinkers” intent on removing themselves from “the restrictions of nations, welfare systems and punitive taxes” does not extend, it seems, to recognising the role played by the global community in creating the financial means by which they plan to cast themselves adrift – other than helicopter “access to land-based hospital facilities” or for imported labour to do the “dirty work in exchange for a wage and a place to stay”.

The hubris on which such technocratic visions are based is evident in every expression of their DNA: lacking even the most superficial understanding of the wider social and environmental implications of the word “green”, their solar-panel tokenism simply underscores the extent of their disconnect with the real imperatives of our planetary predicament and their indifference to the challenges humanity faces.

Anyone who has seen the film Elysium will have been mortified by its dystopian vision of extreme inequality, where a hyper-privileged minority retreats to a vast satellite community but one which, poignantly, is still dependent on the subjugated masses remaining on a ravaged Earth for its continued existence. Life, indeed, imitates art.

Nigel Tuersley, Tisbury, Wiltshire

 

The super-rich may be able to avoid taxes by living at sea in floating cities and therefore free from any national tax regime.

However, there may be a drawback to this splendid idea. Queen Elizabeth I authorised privateers to plunder foreign vessels  at sea. Perhaps in the Second Elizabethan Age we ought to follow this example where “seasteads” are concerned.

John Naylor, Ascot, Berkshire

 

Recently, I learnt that I could hire the yacht RV Pegaso for a week at a cost of £441,000, rent an island off Grenada for £300,000 a week, or spend seven nights in a bulletproof chalet in the Austrian Alps for just £231,088.

There is just one small problem: I have insufficient funds for any of the above.

Bearing in mind that there is a limited number of pop stars, Lottery winners and footballers, I find myself wondering who is able to afford such luxury and what do they do to earn enough money to pay for such expensive holiday breaks.

This letter is not written out of envy, as I have no desire to go on a yacht, live on an island or spend a week in a bulletproof chalet.

There must be many in the fortunate position to be able to afford these activities, otherwise the owners would have to offer their services for considerably less. But  just what do they do for a living?

In an age in which there is so much poverty, the need for food banks, and hundreds having to sleep rough, we really are faced with the old social divide of them and us.

Colin Bower, Sherwood, Nottingham

British aid makes a difference to Africa

Peter Popham (World View, 27 December) is right that we are a major supporter of South Sudan, but he has misunderstood how British aid works. Recognising the results we are delivering does not mean that we view the country through rose-tinted glasses.

We know that there is no easy route out of poverty and conflict. Britain’s targeted aid projects are measured against specific objectives and realistic goals to ensure that aid money is spent well.

It is right that we do not leave countries like South Sudan to descend further into crisis and failure. Funding provided this year is already allowing agencies to scale up their response to the current crisis, including medical supplies and surgical staff. While we are under no illusion about the challenges still facing the country, this is making a real difference to the lives of people in South Sudan.

That is why, alongside our emergency humanitarian funding, we have a long-term development programme to build a brighter future for the people of South Sudan.

Lynne Featherstone MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, London SW1

The proposed “temporary transfer” of UN peacekeeping troops from other trouble spots in Africa to South Sudan is the clearest indication that the crises in Africa are stretching the UN to breaking point (“More peacekeepers for South Sudan”, 26 December).

With Africa hosting eight out of 16 UN peacekeeping missions in the world, and with concurrent violence in Egypt, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and South Sudan, the UN is likely to be overwhelmed, unless urgent measures are taken to have a standby pool of peacekeeping troops from Africa. The only alternative is to deploy Nato troops if Rwanda-like genocide is to be avoided.

Sam Akaki, London W3

Another view of Kate Losinska

Your obituary of Kate Losinska (26 December) smacked more of hagiography than a balanced assessment – starting the piece with “Heroism was in the very soul of the woman who fought a 20-year battle for the future of trades unionism in Britain”. Goodness, what modesty.

In fact, she was a virulent right-winger who used the right-wing press to attack the left in the Civil and Public Services Association. For example, Bernard Levin in The Times could always be relied upon to “expose” the names of left-wingers standing for election and to support the right wing.

One “fact” seems to have evolved over time. Your obituary notes that “Reform of the block-voting system led by branch meetings of activists was a cardinal aspect of her campaign”. In fact, the successful campaign for the individual vote for union members was launched by the left. She opposed the campaign initially, seeing it as another plot to attack the right. Only when her adviser Charlie Elliott realised that the right could take advantage of such a reform did she swing to supporting the campaign.

Mike McGrath, Leeds

Real hunt supporters are few in number

This year’s claim by the hunting fraternity of “a quarter of a million supporters at more than 250 Boxing Day hunts” averages out at 1,000 supporters per hunt, but just how viable is that figure?

For every high-profile venue, there are dozens attracting just a couple of hundred at the most. And these people, who drift back to the pub as the hounds move off, can’t be counted as “supporters of the repeal of the Hunting Act” any more than the 30,000 who packed Lewes’s High Street for bonfire celebrations can be used as justification for the reintroduction of burning traitorous Catholics at the stake.

I would admire the hunters if they were open in their defiance, but instead they sneak about in isolated corners, hunting foxes in the old way and intimidating monitors who get in their way.

The only way you usually see them is when they’re galloping in pursuit of hounds as they rampage after a fox through your back garden.

Dave Wetton, Tonbridge, Kent

Parents know where to draw the line

I am an 80-year-old grandparent and have had two girls of my own. How Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson (“Children’s tsar wants smacking to be illegal”, 28 December) can talk about the morals of smacking children in the way she does bewilders me, in particular her conclusion: “I have never understood where you can draw the line between one [physical chastisement] and the other [physical abuse].” If a parent cannot make that distinction, heaven help us.

The idea of bringing yet another piece of criminal legislation to bear on the home is horrifying. There are already ample laws to protect children: the problem is that they are not enforced – as with the virtually non-existent prosecution of female genital mutilation.

Ralph Copnall, Barnet, London

kalashnikov’s debt to the Germans

The big omission from reports on Mikhail Kalashnikov and the  AK47 is the debt the Russians owe to German arms manufacturing. The AK47 owes an enormous amount to the Wehrmacht’s MP44, the world’s first “assault rifle”, introduced in 1944. The designs, on the outside, are close to identical.

David Boggis, Matignon, France

A word of agreement

Do I agree with Terence Blacker’s list of words and expressions that ought to  be banned (26 December)? Oh, absolutely.

Peter Forster, London N4

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