The helplessness we feel about Brexit and its consequences must not allow us to fall into complacency

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Sunday 25 February 2018 18:13 GMT
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Many of those currently in power across the world are responsible for unleashing the worst aspects of human nature
Many of those currently in power across the world are responsible for unleashing the worst aspects of human nature

I have tears in my eyes as I put down Harry Leslie Smith’s moving article. He has put in a nutshell all my fears about the ills that threaten the world today, and reinforces my shame that so many of my baby boomer generation voted to leave the EU, casually ignoring the impact on their children and grandchildren.

He rightly emphasises the absolute necessity for cooperation and integration with other nations, and we need reminding daily that we have enjoyed 70 years of peace thanks to the EU. This point was made at the time of the referendum but has rarely been mentioned since.

Many of those currently in power across the world are responsible for unleashing the worst aspects of human nature, allowing greed and self-interest to rule while compassion and honesty are trampled on. Harry is right to highlight the terrifying complacency that allows us to sit on our hands while everything that is good and true is steadily dismantled. Our wincingly slow response to the horrors in Syria is one example, as is our failure to act promptly over climate destruction even after decades of warnings and the irrefutable evidence that the process is currently speeding up.

What can we do? One of the worst things is the feeling of powerlessness that many of us experience. We talk to each other and of course we all agree, but how do we reach those who are comfortable with the lies and deception practised by our leaders and reinforced by a powerful press? Suggestions would be welcome. I just live in hope that our letters to papers are read by some of those in power, and that letters to our MPs are heeded. Sadly, in our flawed democracy I have yet to be represented in Parliament by a party I voted for.

As a nation we are crashing into catastrophe. As a race, our planet would be better off without us.

Lynda Newbery
Bristol

The Government cannot deny it locks up refugees

Brandon Lewis MP’s description on BBC Question Time of this country’s immigration detention policy was misleading and inaccurate.

He claimed that “people in detention centres are people who are illegally in this country and are there for a period of time until they go back to their country. Asylum seekers go through a different process”.

All three of these claims are incorrect. Not all immigration detainees are in the UK “illegally” or without permission. On the very day that Lewis made these claims, The Guardian reported on the case of a 60-year-old who had been in immigration detention for five weeks, with the Home Office accepting that he was lawfully present in the UK.

This is by no means an isolated case; many immigration detainees have permission to be in this country. It is wrong to suggest that only people without leave to remain are subjected to immigration detention.

Secondly, most immigration detainees are in fact not removed from the UK. Home Office figures consistently show that, for the last several years, less than half of detainees are removed from the UK. The majority of detainees are released into the community, having spent weeks, months or even years in detention.

Thirdly, asylum seekers are indeed detained, and are detained in the same centres as others. At the end of September 2017, of the 6,965 adult immigration detainees, 3,466 were “asylum detainees”. Of the 24 children detained under immigration powers, 18 were “asylum detainees”. In fact, at any time, the majority of detainees will be “asylum detainees”.

Lewis’s claims are therefore incorrect. If the Government is ashamed to publicly admit it locks up asylum seekers, it should stop detaining them, rather than just denying that they are detained.

Shoaib M Khan
Middlesex

The NHS deserves words of praise, not just criticism

We should all be more aware that some aspects of the NHS are working and all the negative reporting is damaging people’s confidence in the service.

My wife fell outside the Royal Preston Hospital last Wednesday, hurting her face and leg and fracturing a bone in each hand.

Despite the A&E being very busy, she was quickly examined, had a head scan, X-rays of both hands and her chest, confirming the fractures. Both hands were plastered and a follow-up was arranged at the fracture clinic.

The staff were excellent, treating us with efficient, friendly care, even providing tea and a sandwich. Treatment completed, we were back home at 2pm.

The health service needs and deserves positive comments and support for the morale of all the staff.

Michael Pate
Preston

There are enormous benefits to learning languages, beyond what Google Translate can offer

I am prompted to write by Andy Martin’s delightful essay about the problems of translation between languages – witty, informative, philosophical, everything one could desire on this subject.

To declare an interest, as one is supposed to do these days, I spent the best part of two years learning Russian in the 1950s, courtesy of the Government, and three years studying French and German at Cambridge. So I spent some of the best years of my youth attempting to move meaning, feeling and content from one language to another and back again. As a result I am well acquainted with all the problems that Andy writes about.

There is no point in my covering the same ground that he has dealt with so brilliantly, but I have two comments which may be of interest – one personal and one anecdotal.

The personal point first. The Cambridge degree was largely literary, an amazing and privileged opportunity to enjoy and analyse some of the great works of French and German literature. To my shame, it did not leave me with fluent French and German, but it did give me the incalculable benefit of a classic intellectual training, in which I do believe, but there are those who don’t.

More specifically, what was the greatest tangible benefit of all those years wrestling with translation out of and into English? About this I am absolutely clear. It taught me to write my own language really well and to enjoy doing so. I have never seen or heard that comment from any other language student, but would be interested to know whether others feel the same.

The anecdotal point. One friend, both on the Russian course and at Cambridge, did become a fluent German speaker and actually became involved in simultaneous translation from German into English at very senior diplomatic level. One of the idiosyncrasies of German is that the verb comes at the end of the sentence. In complicated sentences, with various sub-clauses, all the verbs tend to congregate at the end of the sentence, long after the simultaneous translation has passed by the main verb. I asked him how on earth he dealt with that problem.

Martin may appreciate his answer: “You have to guess the main verb and if you get it wrong, you have to finesse things in the next sentence.”

Bernard Theobald
Nottingham

Some career advice for Czech spy Jan Sarkocy

Over the past few days, I have really enjoyed reading the claims of former Czech spy Jan Sarkocy. These have included being instrumental in organising Live Aid, secret meetings with Jeremy Corbyn and receiving shocking information on the contents of Margaret Thatcher’s breakfast.

With such a colourful CV and a penchant for outlandish claims, surely the ex-spy would be an ideal candidate for the forthcoming Ukip leadership election?

Robert Boston
Kingshill

Trump’s absurd suggestion of arming teachers sounds more comic book than actual policy

Donald Trump has obviously taken on board what Sean Connery said in The Untouchables: “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way!”

The President is certainly influenced by the great teacher, Dr Indiana Jones, who was a university professor using guns, knives and a whip to good purpose in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It now seems that Trump’s presidential style and policies are based on pop culture.

In my day, 60 years ago, teachers were all heavily armed – canes, walking sticks, cricket bats and stumps, board rubbers, chalk pieces, gym shoes, wooden and steel rulers, rolled-up newspapers, rope, electric cable, Chinese burns, flying pennies, pressure holds, physical torture, heavy sarcasm, ridicule and verbal abuse. All used to good effect in the classroom.

Of course teachers were more mentally unstable than the students, having barely survived the Second World War, Korea and various colonial atrocities. They had been schooled in the best of Nazi, Japanese and Chinese interrogation and mind control methods. All this did was instigate an arms race and guerrilla tactics by the students.

Considering my Birmingham roots, perhaps a Peaky Blinder stance could be introduced, with mortar boards edged with razor blades having a certain appeal. Especially if used as a defensive form of ninja throwing stars. The use of Kevlar and carbon fibre could see a renaissance in teachers’ gowns. Billy Bunter and The Bash Street Kids meet Batman.

If you want to appreciate my school days, there is a 1968 documentary available on Amazon and Netflix titled If.... Possibly, the first evidence of student armed response to scholastic oppression.

Hopefully the President can learn from history to develop an understanding of reality. Currently his political policies are too much based on comic-book fantasy.

Philip Moore
Hereford

What do Ronald Reagan, Lee Harvey Oswald, JFK and his brother Edward Kennedy all have in common?

They were all surrounded by armed and trained security guards when they were shot.

What chance does a teacher with a handgun have against an assailant with an assault rifle firing through the walls and doors?

Once again, drivel and nonsense from the NRA-funded White House.

David G Leddy
Surrey

A teacher bonus for getting better results – no, a teacher bonus for more more qualifications – no. A teacher bonus for carrying a concealed gun – yes. It’s a weird world.

Dennis Fitzgerald
Melbourne, Australia

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