Rap music reflects social injustice, Galloway and others

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What is bleeding obvious is that rap music reflects social injustice

What is bleeding obvious is that rap music reflects social injustice

Sir: Deborah Orr ("A statement of the bleeding obvious", 17 May) is in danger of being dismissed as another middle-aged, middle-class, white, establishment figure who castigates a culture she is far removed from and blames its social deviance on its loudest expression - its music.

Hip-hop and rap music are the usual scapegoats for the ills of a generation of alienated young males in inner cities with, apparently, nothing better to do than hang around malls wearing "hoodies", intimidating people, "happy slapping" unsuspecting victims or, at the most extreme level, getting strapped (carrying a gun) just to preserve their masculinity. How many times has "gangsta rap" been cited as the prime suspect in this societal decline?

Within US hip-hop there are rappers who glorify "thug life", violence, and living in "the ghetto". And, yes, this has influenced aspects of the UK hip-hop and urban music scene. As with the US experience, UK artists are expressing their everyday experience: growing up on run-down housing estates, getting excluded from schools that are too stretched to pay attention to their educational needs, racism, police harassment, getting caught up in crime, drugs infiltrating their lives, violence, and a whole host of other negative experiences that I'm sure Ms Orr will never need to face in her daily life.

Public figures blame the music, which in many cases is the only thing keeping young people away from crime - real gangsters are not spending day and night in makeshift studios in a bid to "make it"; they're out being gangsters.

What is bleeding obvious is that Ms Orr misses the fundamental point about "young people today" - that they are bored, not being listened to, not being challenged, properly parented or properly educated, and that the only way they get noticed is by "acting up". The fact that young people today are using music as an outlet for creative expression is a good thing. The fact that much of the subject of their music isn't more romantic or happy is a crying shame. The focus should be on changing the reality, not barring its reflection.



Galloway made me proud to be British

Sir: Appearing in front of the US Senate subcommittee on live television, watched by millions around the globe, George Galloway may have done something inestimable for the image of Britons in the eyes of the world: he might well have redeemed us.

Never have I witnessed such a powerful performance by a domestic politician. I cannot think of any previous occasion when any politician made me feel proud to be British. Mr Galloway, whom I had not previously supported, has achieved this with a display of genuine bravery and fierce doggedness. One could not help but be impressed by his tenacity, his moral courage and his transparent honesty. And all this whilst in the very belly of the beast.

This serves as a stark contrast to the pusillanimous automatons that number the ranks of New Labour.



Sir: The most cathartic feature of George Galloway's magnificent performance in the US Senate Office was his reminder to the world of probably the worst crime against humanity of the late 20th century - the sanctions against Iraq. The wicked brutality of those sanctions has been forgotten, "moved on" from, or vaguely blended into the crimes of Saddam's regime.

Your report refers to sanctions that "he said had led to the deaths of one million Iraqi children". It is not just Galloway who "said" this, but a substantial list of former UN staff, one of whom referred to the sanctions simply as "genocide". Even the UN's own children's fund, Unicef, accepted that sanctions were the major reason why Iraq lost an entire generation of its population. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright clearly stated that the deaths of 585,000 Iraqi children under the age of five was a price worth paying; and Galloway of course used congressman David Bonior's memorable quote about "infanticide masquerading as politics".

There are still far too many consciences untroubled by what we really did to Iraq.



MEPs have put care of patients at risk

Sir: The fact that the European Parliament has voted to scrap Britain's opt-out clause from the 48-hour working week and make this limit mandatory will have a major effect upon patient care in our hospitals.

The majority of surgical consultants work far in excess of 48 hours per week and do so willingly in order to maintain continuity of care and to provide training opportunities for our junior surgeons.

The UK has the lowest number of consultants per head of population in Europe and the demands to increase patient throughput to meet ever more stringent targets and to provide a consultant-based service will be in jeopardy unless the Government can persuade the European Parliament to reverse this ruling. If not, we must take steps now to train many more surgeons in order to provide a safe service for our patients in the future, who quite rightly demand a high standard of care.



Nuclear power is not the only way

Sir: The Prime Minister prefers nuclear power to energy efficiency because he is "opposed to asking people to make changes to their lifestyle" ("Blair demands nuclear power to protect high living standards", 9 May).

In practice, choosing nuclear will result in yet more wealth being exported overseas, to the few American, Chinese and French corporations able to build and run nuclear stations competently. It will further consolidate power in the hands of the six global energy companies who run the UK domestic market. Our lifestyles will continue to follow the trajectory in which a few global rich get richer and the long-term prospects for the bulk of UK citizens deteriorate.

In contrast, creating market conditions in which choosing energy efficiency is easy and practical for consumers has potential to create £5bn wealth within the UK economy (Defra figures). By the nature of energy efficiency technologies (diverse and varied, and tailored to individual homes) this wealth is distributed widely. The energy efficiency and microgeneration market is highly accessible to innovation and enterprise by small companies, and offers global export markets. No non-voluntary lifestyle changes are required.

No other issue can possibly symbolise Blair's betrayal of the vision he sold in 1997 more than a decision to go nuclear. He hasn't listened, and he hasn't learned.



Sir: It mystifies me that we're trying this nuclear power blind alley again before getting serious about energy efficiency, which has a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the environmental impact.

In Germany and Switzerland, CO 2 emissions have been falling since 1990 and 2000 respectively, partly thanks to energy efficiency. In California, per capita electricity consumption is no greater than it was in 1975, thanks to an enlightened set of energy-efficiency policies, especially in the period 1985-1995 when consumption was slightly falling despite economic growth.

In the UK, policies to implement energy efficiency have generally been inept and incoherent. Moreover, the good ones we've had have not been continued for long enough. Once a policy works, you often need to stick at it for 20 years or more, not abandon or "reorganise" it with every change of government.

Which do the voters prefer: spending scarce resources on a lavish and extensive energy efficiency effort; or spending the same resources on a programme of new nuclear power stations such as the vast scheme which Margaret Thatcher tried and failed to build after 1979? You can't spend the same money twice.



New buildings for Catholic schools

Sir: The decision of the Department for Education and Skills to include voluntary aided schools in the Building Schools for the Future programme does not overturn a 60-year-old rule requiring churches to contribute to all school buildings' cost, as your article claimed last week ("Kelly angers secular group by pledging £500m to rebuild faith-based schools", 7 May).

Regulations published in 1983 gave the DfES the discretion to fund capital projects in voluntary aided schools up to 100 per cent where the spending was necessitated by government initiatives. Building Schools for the Future is clearly a government initiative which requires a unique response to ensure the programme is fully delivered.

Otherwise, Church schools - many of which are situated in areas of substantial social challenge - would have been discriminated against because they would not have been able to fund the building requirements within the collapsed time-frame of the initiative.

Under this agreement, £17m will be transferred from the existing capital programme for VA schools each year. This effectively means that VA schools will still be contributing to the costs of the programme.



Germany shows why PR works

Sir: Alan Norman (letter, 16 May) nails one myth about German politics, only to propound another - that the PR system "puts a brake on radical change".

Whatever one's views on the merits of Anglo-Saxon style economic "reforms", Germany's reluctance to embrace these lies much more with the attitudes of the two main parties, which between them control over 80 per cent of the seats in the Bundestag, than with anything to do with PR. Schröder's Social Democrats are instinctive defenders of the social market economy; the Christian Democrats have been similarly reluctant to share responsibility for any contentious measures.

Such radical ideas as have emerged have often come from the smaller parties, whether it be the environmental agenda of the world's most powerful Green Party, part of the Government since 1998, or the market liberalism of the Free Democrats. In Germany, radical change has the opportunity to filter through from smaller parties, eventually becoming part of the consensus, rather than being brutally and often clumsily imposed as under first-past-the-post.

One more question regarding the flexibility and dynamism of the German model. Does anyone seriously believe that Britain, with its fractured social and political fabric, could have absorbed a country with a bigger population than the South-east of England, reeling from 40 years of dictatorship and economic collapse and achieved anything like the same progress?

No; "warts and all", modern Germany remains, in my book, the fairest and most democratic of all the larger European countries, in no small measure thanks to PR.



Sir: I promised my grandmother I would always vote, as she remembered the suffragettes and the struggle for votes for women. I have voted in every parliamentary, municipal and county council election for 40 years and I have never been represented by anyone I have voted for.

When will Mr Blair keep his 1997 manifesto promise? I am 62 years old; before I die I would like to vote in an election with some form of proportional representation.



Sir: John Curtice is too quick to dismiss the Alternative Vote as a superior choice to PR ("System Failure", 10 May). His example of it giving a Blair majority of 98 based on ballots in 2005 is unfair, given that we cannot predict how voting patterns would change under a fairer system, such as AV. While I am delighted with The Independent's "Campaign for Democracy", I hope the case for AV will get a second look.



Arms to Uzbekistan

Sir: Britain must share responsibility for the recent slaughter in Uzbekistan. In early 2003 Tony Blair increased arms sales to allies in the "war on terror", which included Uzbekistan and many other countries with appalling records of state terrorism against their own people. New Labour's claim of an ethical foreign policy has never looked more hollow.



Scrabble master

Sir: The highlight of my Scrabble career came in 1998 when I achieved the same bonus word - INERTIA - three times in one game ("Masters of the table-top universe", 16 May). No one knew of another such hat-trick. Has there been a similar achievement with "inertia" or any other word?



Reclaim the streets

Sir: It's unfortunate that John Miller ("Two wheels deadly", 16 May) has decided to "wimp out" from cycling in the capital because of his negative experiences. We need mature riders like him to stick at it to help achieve critical mass. Only then may we expect to achieve changes to protect cycle-users, such as the law in the Netherlands and France whereby there is a presumption of blame against a vehicle driver who is in collision with a cyclist.



Meaning of maths

Sir: Mark Dawes (letter, 18 May) understands "maths" as including logic, while I suspect the majority of the population think of it as consisting of algebra and arithmetic. The instructions on a puzzle are aimed at everyman and use everyday meanings, often condensed to a small space. You cannot decode language using solely your own preferred interpretation of words; you must also exploit the context in which they are said to reveal the intended message. That's the beauty and the challenge of language over logic.



On the wrong shelf

Sir: As a schoolboy in 1970 I remember asking for a copy of Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath in my local WH Smith. I was directed to the Food and Drink section. Lo and behold, there it was.