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Letters

Vol. 23 No. 5 · 8 March 2001

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Saving Masud Khan

Wynne Godley’s article (LRB, 22 February) underlines the fact that psychotherapy is a profoundly risky business with an irreducible shadow aspect. Suggestions that Masud Khan was just a rotten apple should be resisted. As Godley says, his professional connections with D.W. Winnicott and others were impeccable and he was the training analyst for several of today’s psychoanalytical luminaries. The problem is that, even nowadays, the private training institutions of psychotherapy, such as the British Psycho-Analytical Society, enjoy unreasonable and excessive independence. What regulation and vetting there is (of course content, to take an obvious example) is usually carried out by friendly professionals from related institutions. Moreover, there are serious defects in the systems of complaint and discipline. Several of these institutions have been very reluctant to use external advisers and assessors (such as lawyers) in ethics cases. In one case, ‘external’ was defined to mean ‘external to the society hearing the complaint’ and other psychotherapists from a friendly organisation were appointed. The Government is considering regulation and there have been private efforts in the Lords to bring this about. These efforts will prove useless unless the feudal arrangements of the psychotherapy world are opened to public scrutiny.

Andrew Samuels
Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex

Wynne Godley’s terrifying account of psychoanalysis must serve as a warning to those who fear their handles may be grasped by analysts eager to open doors. Suffering distress, as Godley did, in my early thirties, I was directed to a (highly recommended) psychoanalyst who, after informing me that I should embark on a lengthy and expensive course with him, proceeded to ask, as I left my name and address: ‘Do you use the front bit?’ Realising that he had researched the ‘bit’ in question – an Hon., for which title I had as much responsibility as, say, a supernumerary nipple – I ran, never to return.

Emma Tennant
London W11

Buy Bolivian?

Not too much I'd recognise from this corner of East Anglia in Edward Luttwak's rather sweeping description of Northern Hemisphere beef production (LRB, 8 February). No antibiotics, vermifuges, vaccinations, sonograms and so on. We do have to feed our cattle in the winter, it's true, but at least the bull calves, which stay entire, don't have to worry about Luttwak descending on them in manly fashion at irregular intervals to remove their testicles. Or the anacondas.

David Scott
Brightlingsea, Essex

It is certainly true that antibiotics are seriously overused to treat cattle, but in the UK this is more a problem in conventionally managed dairy herds. Your average beef farmer will avoid the use of antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. In an organic herd such as ours antibiotics are hardly ever used. Over the last year, for example, we used an antibiotic only once, when one heifer had a serious case of foul in the foot, a potentially fatal condition. I find Luttwak’s statement that ‘nearly all beef cattle in Europe and North America are permanently unhealthy, and only survive in a chronic state of low-level sickness with large doses of antibiotics’ rather insulting. We pride ourselves on the health of our herd, which is closed: we use offspring as future breeders and thus avoid importing health problems. The cattle have a diet consisting of 99.5 per cent forage – in spring, summer and autumn grass, and in winter species-rich hay – and 0.5 per cent protein feed (sugar beet pellets). The fattening stock are finished extensively on grass between 26 and 30 months. The only barley we use is for steers: it is fed to them during the winter months, as part of the 0.5 per cent non-forage ration.

Unlike Luttwak, we do not need to use wormers or vaccinations because our herd management system is carefully planned in an organic arable rotation with leys and mixed grazing on permanent species-rich pasture rotated with sheep. Nor do we need to carry out distressing practices such as castration of young animals. We check the cattle every day and can immediately sort out health or calving problems. I dread to think of the slow deaths some of his cattle must go through with no one to help them.

I would be ashamed of Luttwak’s fertility figures of 60 per cent. Last year we had a 100 per cent fertility record, and the year before 95 per cent. We leave the bulls with the cows for three months and just let things happen. The use of the same bull pedigree makes calving relatively easy even for first-time heifers. European cattle farming has had a disastrous decade, but if you want quality food and a working countryside, buy locally produced organic beef.

Mike O’Leary
Ringstead, Norfolk

As a beef-cattle producer for many years until BSE made it unprofitable and unpleasurable, I found Edward Luttwak’s piece of special interest. I have, however, failed to find a butcher who can supply me with a Bolivian steak. Given its rarity, may I put in a word for Scottish beef which – notwithstanding Luttwak’s contention that ‘nearly all beef cattle in Europe and North America are permanently unhealthy’ – I used to rear without the aid of antibiotics, protein supplements or a resident vet and many of my neighbours still do.

Alexander Urquhart
Banff, Grampian

Modern Classic

In his review of Derek Mahon’s Selected Poems (LRB, 8 February), John Redmond remarks: ‘A vividly imagined crowd of mushrooms is at the centre of “A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford", the best poem in his third and best collection, The Snow Party, the poem towards which his early work rises, and from which his later work declines.’ This is faint, negligent praise which also works to marginalise Mahon’s later work. ‘A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’ is a poem which is revered – revered and held sacred – by many writers and readers. It is a modern classic, one of those permanent and immortal works of art which leave one breathless with admiration (I will never forget the day in September 1973, when I first read it in the Listener). Beside Mahon’s masterpiece, Larkin’s ‘Church Going’ and ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ look slightly parochial and awkward. Among other historical subjects, Mahon’s poem, which dates from early in the Troubles, gives a voice to the victims of political violence – violence which a substantial section of Ulster Unionism is trying to ensure continues. The relation of Northern Ireland’s political tragedy to Mahon’s art ought to have featured in Redmond’s review – and he ought properly to have praised a poem which many readers agree is one of the greatest poems in English since Yeats.

Tom Paulin
Oxford

Armenian Massacres

Inset in Mark Mazower’s review of the ‘Blue Book’ on Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1916 (LRB, 8 February), you publish an extract from Lord Bryce’s covering letter of 1 July 1916 to Sir Edward Grey. This letter was written at Arnold Toynbee’s suggestion in order to deal with the tricky matter of proving the authenticity of the ‘evidence’ presented in the book. On 11 May 1916 Toynbee had written as follows to Lord Bryce:

if you were to send these documents with an introductory note to Sir Edward Grey and say that they have been prepared under your supervision, that they are trustworthy, then your letter would be published by the Foreign Office as an official document, and the documents would constitute an appendix to your letter. The problem of publication would thus be solved. While giving the book an official character, it would free the Foreign Secretary from the obligation to take upon himself the probing of the accuracy of every matter mentioned in these documents.

(The letter can be found in FO 96/205: Toynbee Papers.)

Mazower, who might with benefit have asked why the current ‘Uncensored Edition’ of the ‘Blue Book’ is no longer published by the Foreign Office but by something called the ‘Gomidas Institute’, can read the full story in British Propaganda during the First World War 1914-18 by M.L. Sanders and P.M. Taylor (1982). As the authors note, Toynbee ‘became something of a specialist in atrocity propaganda’. Among his other works of the time were The German Terror in Belgium and The German Terror in France – no longer published by the Gomidas Institute or anyone else. He complained that it was ‘no work for a gentleman’; and once the object of all the propaganda, the entry of the US into the war, had been secured, he was assigned to more gentlemanly pursuits.

Osman Streater
London W1

Mark Mazower writes: It is true that the ‘Blue Book’ was published as part of the wartime British propaganda campaign. It does not follow that its contents are fabricated. Osman Streater mentions Bryce and Toynbee’s earlier work on German atrocities in France and Belgium. The most recent research on this subject by Home and Kramer (Journal of Modern History, March 1994) finds that those allegations were largely borne out by the facts. The authors rely on archival research. Opening the wartime Ottoman archives will allow scholars to test the veracity of Bryce and Toynbee’s material on the Armenian question, too. In the meantime, historians will naturally have to look elsewhere for their evidence. It is, however, important to note that the evidence of an official Turkish policy of mass killing does not rest only, or even primarily, with Bryce and Toynbee. The German archives, for instance, are much more important and I have not, to date, seen these written off as lies. Not everything is a matter of propaganda.

82nd Airborne

Michael Byers (LRB, 8 February) quotes George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, as saying that ‘we don’t need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten.’ This much-cited quotation appears to refer exclusively to the role of the US Forces in places like Kosovo. But in fact the 82nd Airborne was the division sent in by the Federal Government in 1957 to desegregate the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas, against the wishes of the state authority. As an Afro-American beneficiary of this intervention, Rice presumably knows this. The right of states to resist Federal power has of course been invoked in order to preserve racial segregation. If her remark is not an instance but an analogy, how far back do these people plan to turn the clock?

David Edgar
Birmingham

Contemporary Khaki

My tutor at Oxford, Edmund Blunden, told me that Keith Douglas was the best of the young poets (this was one of the nuggets with which Blunden enlivened his tutorials). Blunden was, as Ian Hamilton makes clear (LRB, 8 February), an important backer of Douglas's work. I edited the Cherwell in 1939 with David Beatty and we transferred the editorship to Keith Douglas, a sombre figure in his shady room at Merton. Douglas changed the paper's frivolous out of date cover with its red and black marionette figures to a suitably contemporary khaki with a few small figures.

Ruth Murr
Las Rotas, Spain

Quantum Pedalling

More immediately important to me than E=mc2 is that reading Jenny Diski enables me to pound a steady 25 m.p.h. on a stationary bike without even noticing (LRB, 8 February). There's a practical application of science for you.

Warren Keith Wright
Arbyrd, Missouri

Mon Pays

The ‘March on Washington’ photos mentioned by Michael Rogin (LRB, 22 February) are of Josephine Baker and Martin Luther King – not, as we had it, of Julian Bond.

Editor, ‘London Review’

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