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Wednesday 29 August 2012
Letters: Visions of Britain in the future
In Mary Dejevsky's deliciously plausible account of 2037 Britain (24 August), she doesn't tell us what has happened to that purported "special relationship" with the US, a relationship that in the twenty-noughties and –teens, dragged us into unwinnable wars (Afghanistan, Iraq, possibly Iran, possibly China); useless expenditures (missile defences) and illegalities (unequal extraditions, assassinations by drone).
That relationship has been looming over us, ever since Macmillan gave up our nuclear independence back in the 1960s. By 2037, shall we have perhaps have shaken it off and settled back into our actual ancestral, geographical home, on this side of the Atlantic?
Predictions of the future are always contentious and entertaining, but Mary Dejevsky's is slightly less believable than most. She must be the only person other than George Osborne who believes that the environment will play no major part in our immediate future, other than as something to gleefully trash without consequence. (Severn barrage! New airport on the Thames!)
Sadly, whatever we do between now and 2037, we will no longer be able to ignore what is already obvious. Our climate is changing and the effects of an insanely increasing population and rapacious resource use will be felt ever more strongly.
By 2037, nobody will be talking about new airports, Boris Johnson or the 2012 Olympics; they'll be talking about how the hell we can survive in the midst of the mess we've created. By then, maybe even national newspapers will be devoting space to the planet, instead of six daily pages on "business". Or is that a prediction too far?
I usually enjoy Mary Dejevsky's pieces and find much in them with which I am comfortable. Not this time. Suppose we do build the Severn barrage and Boris's airport. What is going to happen to all the birds to which these areas are home?
Both projects may well come up against a great deal of perhaps violent hostility. We really cannot go on and on "solving" our problems by ruining the planet and exterminating everything else that should live in it to make more room and more "wealth" for our profligate species.
I am 80 and many of the birds which I knew and loved as a boy in the countryside I have not seen for years. As a species, we have a long way to go to evolve ways of living on the planet without wrecking it and we are only paying lip service to environmental issues. Huge, damaging projects in sensitive areas are not the way forward even if they seem to be the obvious solution to our present difficulties.
Maresfield, East Sussex
Murdoch's revenge on Leveson
It had to be one of Murdoch's papers that broke the restraint shown by the rest of the press by publishing the images of a naked Prince Harry.
Not satisfied with the breach of his privacy or the subsequent publication by the media outside of the UK, The Sun had to demonstrate just how morally low it can stoop, pandering to the prurient and pig-ignorant of its readers in a desperate attempt to increase its circulation.
This is Murdoch and his editor's way of showing contempt for the embarrassment they suffered at the hands of the Leveson inquiry.
Newhaven, East Sussex
How immensely noble of the heroic Sun newspaper to publish photos of important people naked in its magnificent, principled defence of a "free press", a value which had to be "defended", because if The Sun didn't actually publish such photos we might all run away with the idea that illiberality and repression gripped the nation so deeply that it couldn't.
Milton, thou shouldst be living at this hour! What need, when we have Elizabeth Murdoch?
The Sun's brave stance for press freedom (by printing "naked photographs" of Prince Harry) should echo around the globe as a shining example to those fighting for a free press in China, Burma and Zimbabwe, and other lesser struggles.
It is unfair to compare Prince Harry with Edward VIII, who never held down a responsible job in his life and was protected from public scrutiny and ridicule in this country. Harry works as a soldier with men of other social classes and gets along with them wonderfully. It is a dangerous job. He deserves a little R & R.
As for the pictures, I quite enjoyed them. They were funny. Though I would not stoop to buying a Murdoch rag in order to see them.
In the photograph I saw, Prince Harry was covering his privates and there was nothing about the rest of his body, which could be seen on a beach, to object to. What is all the fuss about?
East Molesey, Kent
Harry's party looks like it was absolutely spot on. But given that I'm paying, next time I'd like to be invited.
Playing politics with exam results
Some 50 years ago, I took my A-Levels, having been offered a place at the new Sussex University. To my dismay, I didn't get good enough results and the offer was withdrawn.
This failure had a huge effect on my self-confidence and my career. Many, many times over the years I have looked back and wondered how different my life might have been had I not "failed" and had been able to take up that place. I blamed myself for it, and have regarded it as the most significant turning-point in my life.
A year or so ago, an old school-friend, now very high up in social science research, told me that the government of the day had not planned for the increase in university places required for those of us who were part of the post-war "bulge".
So they "failed" intelligent, clever people who might otherwise have contributed greatly to the nation and, in so doing, made us blame ourselves for it, causing considerable suffering and loss.
Fifty years later I now know it was not my inadequacy at all, but that of politicians and civil servants.
I was lucky; I eventually fell on my feet, but now I see it happening all over again to another generation and my heart bleeds for them.
When will politicians ever learn?
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Athletics all year round
Terence Blacker is grossly unfair in his summation (21 August) that sport is really all about money. Why shouldn't Mo Farah and Usain Bolt cash in on their success? Mr Blacker is wrong to say that all athletes do is prepare for the Olympics every four years while poor footballers have to put up with it nine months of the year.
There are countless championships and competitions Mo Farah and his comrades participate in – and win – without a fraction of the public support and recognition they get for an Olympic gold medal.
Footballers have hundreds of thousands of fans of their sport up and down the country willing to buy into their brand and talk about what they do for a living every day of the year while getting paid more than they could ever spend.
Our Olympians are in a far more solitary position of simply pushing their bodies to the limit at every opportunity.
With all the investment, financially and emotionally, from their fans, I would be angry if footballers were not scrutinised by the media and it is a nonsense to compare them to the likes of Mo Farah and Usain Bolt.
Stand up to Chinese power
I am inclined to agree with Owen Jones (23 August) about our "once in a century" opportunity to create a more balanced world order in the face of comparative US decline and before the rise of assertive Chinese power.
Will he then agree that the way forward is for Great Britain to rearm massively, in concert with reliable allies including Australia, Canada and New Zealand and more locally with France and Germany, with the happy side-effect of getting our economies moving and rebuilding our hi-tech and manufacturing industries?
Or does he favour yet more liberal blether about "soft power" and "multi-lateral action"? The Chinese are building aircraft carriers and nuclear attack submarines. The "rest of the West" needs to do the same, and we could lead the way. Anything less is wishful thinking that leaves us as clients of a diminished US in the face of Chinese power.
R S Foster
Good guys don't rape
If rape is rape, then rapists are rapists. Laurie Penny (25 August) reminds us that sex without consent is always rape, and victim-blaming is wrong. Somehow she simultaneously asserts that a rapist can be "a nice guy", forgetting it seems, where our blaming should rightly be directed.
One reason that rape committed by someone trusted or loved can be, as Penny says, at least as damaging as any other kind, is that it confronts the victim with the fact that we are often deceived by a false appearance of goodness. To write that someone can be raped by "a good guy", reduces rape to an outburst with the moral value of a Tourette's syndrome tic.
Woodford Green, Essex
Where wealth comes from
In his letter of the 27 August Mike Perry seeks to perpetuate the myth that wealth is created by the prudent and dissipated by all others.
There are, of course, individuals who fit his hypothesis. If, however, we exclude football players, bankers and their like, wealth is normally accumulated from untaxed, unearned capital appreciation. In the majority of cases this is the capital gain from home ownership. The greatest value of accumulated wealth is from inheritances, which, of course, also had been predominantly accumulated from untaxed, unearned capital appreciation.
Called to teach
I take issue with your leading article (22 August) on the University of Bristol research into teachers' pay and results. Perhaps state-sector schools in more affluent areas struggle to retain staff, because teachers (in spite of years of meddling from left and right since the 1944 Education Act) have both enough vocational intelligence and downright old-fashioned decency to want to continue to make a difference.
West Buckland, Somerset
Law for all
I couldn't help smiling at your leading article comment on Richard Branson that "the law is the same for everyone" (28 August). Indeed it is; as is often said, it forbids both rich and poor alike from begging for bread and sleeping under bridges.
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