Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter210



Letters to the Editor

(February 28, 2011)


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Egyptian Hopes: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #104

To the Editor:

The theme "Mubarak out" is, of course, a euphemism for the real problems facing the ordinary Egyptian. How do you fight that? If the people were to go into the street and complain about the bad water, no garbage removal, low incomes, education levels, etc., etc., the government could react. They would make promises and even make some changes (maybe). But, they would also have the excuse to remove the "rabble" from the streets and go back to business as usual.

On the other hand, getting rid of Mubarak is a pretty good start, although you cannot make an omelet by breaking just one egg. That won't be enough to go round.

The Egyptian people need much more than that. They need a new Constitution and all that goes with it. Democracy is messy, and sometimes it is filled with crazy ideas (see Michele Bachman & the Tea Party nuts). But getting to the agonizing end is worth the effort.

Of course you are right. Food, water, and employment are the real problems. Most of the Arab Middle East is in the same boat. Overpopulation, limited resources, even unpredictable weather, are all factors that make folks unhappy.

"Democracy" -- The American Way, as explained by Mr. Barker in the next article certainly is not the answer. I would never recommend our horse and buggy system from the 18th century to anyone. A parliamentary system works better.

We will see what happens, but my hopes are not high for the Egyptian people.


Robert E. Fowler
Mondsee, Austria - February 14, 2011


A Gift from the Cutting Room Floor: Peter Byrne's Young, Spanish Speaking, And Following The Crowd

To the Editor:

Since the original foreword was considerably edited unfortunately, perhaps Peter Byrne might want to read this, which will appeal to his thinking side, and even irritate him somewhat more: "Unedited Foreword to Granta's 'Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists' Issue," on line at:



Aurelio Major
Barcelona, Spain - February 21, 2011

[Ed. Aurelio Major is the co-founding editor (with Valerie Miles) of the Spanish edition of Granta magazine.]

Peter Byrne follows up:

Dear Aurelio Major,

There's nothing irritating about the uncut version of your and Valerie Miles's foreword to Granta 113, The Best of Young Spanish Language Novelists. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. My irritation is rather with whoever cut it. Surely more is better when furnishing context for 22 writers in translation from a dozen countries. You must have winced when the marketeer told you he was cutting in order to reach "a wider public with perhaps less concern about context." That public is hardly concerned with selections from Spanish language writers with or without background.

Interesting your question to the young writers about authors having -- beyond their fiction -- "active influence in the public sphere." It's no surprise that they didn't see the possibility. It would have been more interesting to ask them which way their influence would tend if perchance it were possible. Wasn't there once something called youthful idealism?


Food Prices & Overpopulation: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips

To the Editor:

The Blips from the Martian desk are often informative and well researched. Its author goes at great lengths to highlight what remains hidden in the mainstream media, all the while demonstrating his careful scholarship. His last three Blips on the swirling Arab revolts have been particularly interesting.

However, his analysis overemphasizes the material conditions behind the revolts in the Arab world -- what he calls "the socioeconomic system of power and property" -- and minimizes the human dimension of these upheavals. The young protesters wanted regime change in the name of freedom and human dignity, concepts that go far beyond material considerations and food prices. Is this due to an ideological bias?

In regard to high food prices the author notes the incidence of US production of biofuels, among other factors (bad weather, financial speculation, etc.), on these prices. This may well be factual, though in a very marginal way, but the pachyderm in the room for all to see, namely overpopulation, is nowhere to be found in his analysis. There is plenty of food to go around but too many mouths to feed. Yemen is a case in point: in average, each Yemeni family has six children. This is not sustainable, especially in light of water shortages afflicting the country (Sana'a, the country's capital, will run out of water within a decade as its aquifer is almost entirely depleted). To ignore overpopulation does a disservice to a better comprehension of the crises and conflicts about water and food that are bound to occur in the future.


Darrell Johnson
Tempe, Arizona, USA - February 20, 2011


Missing the E: Peter Byrne's London Laughing (February 2008)

To the Editor:

Not a carp -- just to point out that Byrne's "Letter from London" article, as published, has the name of pluriennial London political figure and ex-mayor Ken Livingstone misspelled as "Livingston," throughout. I enjoyed browsing your Swans site, while checking the words of the Boris Vian antiwar song Le Déserteur and discovering its joint provenance.

Kind regards and many thanks,

Michael Duggan
Little England, U.K. - February 20, 2011

[Ed. Many thanks. We have issued a correction.]

Fresh from Peter Byrne's entrails, which are presently in London: "It's good to have readers. Michael Duggan is right. Ken Livingstone, cut down by the voters in 2008, shouldn't also have his name mutilated. As for moss, Mr. Duggan is wrong. Moss is soft and nice."


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Published February 28, 2011
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