Letters: The 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution

Cubans like their government, but want change
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The Independent Online

I hope that over the next month as the world marks the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, The Independent will present a more nuanced picture that that offered by Leonard Doyle in "Cuba fifty years on" (13 December).

While not denying the truth of what he writes, my recent short trip to Cuba taught me that while the people want change, they are anxious that it is judicious change. They want to keep low rents, free healthcare which gives a better life-expectancy at birth that that available in the United States, and the free education system that delivers literacy rates of 97 per cent.

I was told the reason the revolution survived the fall of the Berlin Wall was that so many people had obviously benefited from the new regime. Given that Cuba has a powerful neighbour intent on destroying the Cuban government, aided by those Cubans who lost out in the revolution, it is evident that it is the political will of the majority which keeps the regime in power. Thuggery failed to keep the Spanish in power and it didn't help Batista in the long run.

The irony is that it is the policy of the United States, and all the damage it has deliberately done to the Cuban economy, that has given the Cuban government a legitimate excuse for many of the difficulties Cubans face, and thereby deflected criticism from the national government itself.

Joanna Pallister

Durham

The "rationing" to which Leonard Doyle refers so disparagingly is an attempt to ensure that scarce resources are allocated fairly, and that every citizen has access to the minimum for a nutritious diet. That, coupled with universal healthcare and education better than the UK and USA, and almost none of our social ills such a drugs and crime, is an achievement which should be applauded.

Alice Mutasa

London N15

No way back to economic growth

I enjoy reading you but cannot come to terms with the paper's Janus-like view of the world – looking one way on the environment, but in the other when it comes to the economy.

Consider the editorial of 18 January: support for the measures to cure the problem of over-indebtedness by creating more debt, and too much buying by measures to get us buying even more. All aimed at bringing the world economy back to where it was before this began – ever-increasing wealth and economic growth – although these (together with growing human numbers) are the cause of environmental concerns which you express on other pages.

Under these circumstances deflation (as long as it is controlled) is good for us, not bad: it discourages debt, encourages saving, reduces prices and destroys wage-inflation. Deflation slows economies, defers spending on non-essentials, reduces the take of minerals and other resources and moves us in the direction of environmental sustainability.

Your call to put "the world on a pathway to sustainable growth" is to call for an illusion. There is no such thing as sustainable economic growth; that way leads ultimately to destruction and human misery. Sustainability can only be found by moving away from growth towards a simpler form of lifestyle. Yes there will be a period of unemployment and other social strains, but that is the price we have to pay for all the excesses of the past.

John Gamlin

East Bergholt, Colchester

In the light of what we know about climate change and the exigencies of sustainable development, your editorial "Radical action is needed in this economic emergency" (18 December) fails to propose genuine radical action.

In the UK our average lifestyles are three times beyond the carrying capacity of the planet (see the Living Planet Report, 2008). We need to cut production and consumption of goods, travel, oil and gas. We need to create totally new jobs that are carbon-neutral; those sectors that are based on 20th century assumptions of growth, cheap energy and the right to pollute must be allowed to die.

The current crisis is indeed an opportunity for a radical action, but in ignoring global warming as the overarching context for decision making, your editorial is, alas, cast in the same old thinking that is destroying the planet.

James Pitt

York

It is a pity that the recent serialisation by the BBC of Little Dorrit did not attract as large an audience as it should; those gambling their money chez Madoff could have learned much to their advantage from the fall of Mr Merdle.

They could also have learned from a similar scam perpetrated by Augustus Melmotte in The Way we Live Now by Anthony Trollope.

As it is said, there is nothing new under the sun.

Glynne Williams

London E17

Governments have used up their ammunition, says Adrian Hamilton (18 December). What, zero interest rates the end of the road? Be bold, I say. Central banks should pay borrowers interest for the privilege of borrowing from them.

Robert Davies

London SE3

Reasons to prefer private schools

People have, and will always have, strong feelings about private education (letters, 11 December). At the same time, there are very muddled feelings about the motives which prompt people, at great personal expense, to opt out of the state system. As both a parent and teacher (now retired from both activities) I do not buy into the idea that is is "good" for children to be educated alongside children from homes where poor parenting prevails.

I was a child from a poor family, with a mother, through no fault of her own, who was benignly neglectful. I was lucky enough to be lifted out of this dead-end environment and sent to Christ's Hospital, which assured a decent future for me.

The state system will not flourish until someone bravely realises that some children need to be educated away from home, in an environment which teaches them civic responsibility, care for others and ambition for the future. This cannot be the job of the day-school state teacher, (although the government would like it to be so) because it is a 24/7 commitment. State boarding schools – and I mean schools, and not penal institutions – are the only way to rescue those who disrupt classes with their behaviour and who cannot find their way in a social environment.

Doraine Potts

Cheltenham

There are so many errors in Simon Packham's letter (11 December) it is difficult to know where to begin. The 1,300 independent schools that are members of the Independent Schools Council provide more than £350m each year in financial support in the form of bursaries and scholarships. Around one third of all pupils receive some form of fee assistance. Nearly a quarter of our pupils come from postcodes with average or below-average incomes.

The primary reasons that parents choose education at an independent school for their children are, according to a recent Ipsos Mori poll, better education (60 per cent) and better discipline (36 per cent). Many schools were set up as charities and have no choice about giving it up if they want to continue their work. In any case, since when did not-for-profit advancement of the education of children become "morally dubious"?

David Lyscom

Chief Executive

Independent Schools Council

London WC2

Helping at the end of life

My grandfather died over 30 years ago of motor neurone disease (letters, 13 December). My mother brought him home to nurse him through the last weeks of his life, with the help of the family. She recalls a conversation he had with the doctor.

My grandfather argued cogently that since he was likely to die from choking, which would be distressing to those with him, he wanted to be helped to die. He was under no coercion, but it was his concern for the distress of his family not his own suffering that led him to consider euthanasia.

It is possible that the morphine he was given did hasten his death, and he died peacefully, surrounded by his family. I was a teenager at the time, but felt that helping someone at the end of their lives was a privilege.

Cate Gunn

Colne Engaine, Essex

Late Titian is for artists

I cannot agree with Tom Lubbock and your three correspondents (letters, 19 December) concerning the value of Titian's Diana and Actaeon. It is arguably true that late Titian is what is known as a painter's painter. Because artists are so closely bound up with the difficulties of painterly practice they are hugely appreciative of these masterpieces of the painter's brush.

I recall some years ago when a large show of the artist's work was given at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, that the crowds hurriedly passed through the seemingly dull last rooms. These, of course contained such masterworks as The Flaying of Marsyas. Again, these were representative of Titian's late work.

We must remember that he lived to a great age. His mastery of anatomy may have faltered or been of less concern, but the brushwork, with which very few artists excel, went from strength to strength.

Robert Senecal

London WC1

Historic pop on the television

Fiona Sturges made an error in her otherwise fab article "Heaven knows I'm miserable now" (18 December) when she asserted that "before Top of the Pops, all there was on offer . . . was Old Grey Whistle Test".

OGWT started in 1971, some seven years after TOTP. Ms Sturges, who I'm sure is too young to recall, is overlooking the claims of Oh Boy!, 6.5 Special, Juke Box Jury, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Ready Steady Go, all of which predated TOTP. Indeed TOTP is only one – albeit a long-running one – of the many attempts to provide a regular popular music fix for the young (at heart as well as in years).

David Sharp

London SW15

Importance of the right address

Philip Hensher's piece (15 December) about the Supreme Court and Little George Street calls to mind a City precursor.

A somewhat pompous incoming senior partner of what was then the accountancy firm of Coopers & Lybrand wrote to the City Corporation that it was bad for their image to be located in Gutter Lane, and he would be grateful if its name could be changed to Coopers Lane.

Back came a tart reply to the effect that Gutter Lane had been there a lot longer than the accountants who, if they wanted a better name match, might consider changing their name to "Gutter & Co".

Philip Goldenberg

Woking, Surrey

Light on Iraq

Your edition of 18 December reports on calls for an inquiry into the Iraq war. Not only should there be a public inquiry into the war but also a separate inquiry into the reasons for the conclusions of the report by Lord Hutton, which exonerated the Labour government. Let light be shone on that episode.

Nick Wagstaff

Milton keynes

Smoke and mirrors

New Labour's imaginative efforts to deter the young from smoking appear to be working out just as we might have expected. Queueing behind a group of the smooth-skinned gilded youth in the Co-op this week, I overheard one ask for a packet of Marlboro Lite "with the pictures". To have to buy the goods from under the counter is obviously going to add even more cool.

Elisabeth Dunn

Walditch, Dorset

By the book

The educational value of Douglas Keen to Ladybird Books (Obituary, 17 December) was not confined to children. Having rashly, without any relevant experience, purchased a sailing dinghy, I taught myself how to handle it (admittedly not to Olympic medal standard) with the sole assistance of a Ladybird Book on "how to sail" brought home by my 10-year-old son.

Bob Heys

Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

Global cooling?

It is true, as pointed out by your headline of 17 December, that this year has been the tenth hottest ever recorded. But a possibly more significant fact which your chart shows is that 1998 was the actual hottest year ever recorded. The chart shows that the years have been getting cooler since 1998, despite steady increases in carbon dioxide concentration. Has global warming ceased?

Dr Roger James

Portsmouth

Death penalty

The abolition of the death penalty may have disappointed Noel Coward, according to your correspondent (letter, 19 December) who claims that many others will have been similarly saddened following the Rhys Jones murder. I doubt Colin Stagg will be among them.

Robert Vincent

Wildhern, Hampshire

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