1990s >> 1999 >> no-1133-january-1999

Voice from the Back

Don’t tell it like it is
Freedom of the press is regularly made a mockery of in Turkey, with the connivance of the authorities, states the journalists’ defence organisation, Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), in a report made public Thursday October 22. “Between January and August 1998 two journalists have been killed as a result of police operations, five have been tortured, fifty-eight attacked, menaced or harassed, and forty-five others have been interrogated” states the report, which adds: “At least six journalists were in prison for press offences at the end of September 1998.” Le Monde, 24 October.

Onward Christian brokers
Christian workers have always felt out of step reconciling their beliefs with the “hard sell” and “bonus envy” culture of the City. But now, according to the Centre for Marketplace Theology, an independent Christian initiative to bring the principles of God to the Square Mile, more Christian and non-Christian traders, bankers accountants and lawyers are looking for an alternative to the City’s prevailing ethos of greed . . . Malcolm Matson, an entrepreneur . . . says, “It only takes a couple of institutions to fail for people to start to take stock . . .” But Matson is well aware of the City’s resistance to a Christian message. In 1993 he was elected as a City alderman on a platform of Christian reform but was “blackballed” by the Corporation of London. “I ended up in the courts where I won a judgement to show they were acting illegally.” Independent on Sunday, 1 November.

Give that man a prize
“If food were distributed equally, the aggregate food availability would indeed determine how much food each person could get. But obviously this does not happen in any actual society. To decide whether a person will in fact be able to acquire enough food, we have to see what he owns, what he can produce with what he owns, what he can get in exchange, and so on. Starvation will result if a person is not able to establish ownership through these means. Starvation is a social outcome reflecting an entitlement failure. Availability of food is only one influence among many affecting that outcome.” So stated Amartya Sen in a BBC Radio 3 broadcast on 21 March 1989, expressing a view that famines are not caused by a collapse in food production but by a collapse in (some) people’s legal access to food, whether through money to buy it or through direct access to land to grow it, which he had already expressed in his 1982 book Poverty and Deprivation: An Essay in Economic Entitlement and Deprivation. Sen has just been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Economics. So, for once, the prize has gone to someone who has had something relevant—and—true—to say.

It’s official! We no longer have any unemployed people in the EU. This, at least, appeared to be the conclusion of a commission report on employment rates published last week. According to the document, the Union’s 18 million jobless are not out of work, unemployed or even on the dole. They are merely “Unused labour stock”. So now you know. European Voice, 22-28 October 1998. Marx had a more expressive phrase: “industrial reserve army”.

Body snatchers
Kidnap is the big concern for large companies, says Paul Slaughter, managing director of London-based Task International, which provides bodyguards for big businesses. “Ransom demands worth millions of pounds go through Lloyd’s insurance market every year,” he says, “but it is not common knowledge because companies and insurers do not want to admit there is kidnap and extortion.” During the last two years there have been more than 12,500 known kidnaps. The average ransom demand is about $1 million (£600,000). Financial Mail on Sunday, 1 November 1998.

What a gas!
The controversial police use of CS gas spray has come under fresh attack after a detective had a heart attack in training . . . The detective constable, who is in his early forties and has not been named was last night in a critical but stable condition in hospital after the incident on Thursday. He had voluntarily walked through a cloud of CS gas to experience its effects as part of a one-day training programme which all police are require to take. Mail on Sunday, 25 October 1998.

Fin de capitalisme?
Pre-millennial tension is not, as is commonly thought, a fear of the unknown. Instead, it’s a fear of the known—the dreadful, sinking suspicion that the alien invasion won’t come. This idea—that nothing will change—is as potent and horrendous as any fin de siècle fantasy of cultural implosion. It means we’ll be marooned in the nineties. Imagine that! An eternity of pointless, non-committal cultural air-kissing . . . We long for something to happen so badly that we don’t care what it is. Guardian, 19 November 1998.

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