Europe's Highs And Lows

Our Nov. 1 report on Europe's liberal drug scene drew a large and vehement response from readers. Some Europeans criticized the story for reflecting America's "narrow-mindedness" about drugs. Americans also joined the chorus, recalling failed U.S. drug policies. While one Colombian wrote: "This problem has to be eliminated from both the supply and the demand side," others called for legalizing narcotics. Argued one Briton: "The result is a better product that's even taxable."

Your Nov. 1 report "Europe just says Maybe" clearly shows the soft position that many European countries are taking on drugs (Europe). As a Colombian living in Berlin, I have seen the drug problem from the suppliers' side, as well as the consumers' side. While in Europe "drugs are being normalized" and consumption is rising, the war in Colombia is worsening and the drug business thriving. Everybody knows that this problem has to be eliminated from both the supply and the demand side. But considering the Europeans' attitude to drugs, it seems they have forgotten their part of the problem. We in Colombia, however, are reminded of it every day.
Cesar Amin
Berlin, Germany

To accept drug use as an undeniable cultural reality, and not an individual manifestation of criminality, is a step in a the right direction.
Britta Van Dun
Eymet, France

As a British citizen I will vote for any party brave enough to put reality ahead of probity. I would prefer to legalize and license the production of drugs. Why should my children be put at risk by having to deal with the cockroaches that own the drug market? The example of the United States and Prohibition may be compared to Britain and the licensing of gin in the 18th century. Take the product away from criminals and produce it under controllable quality and distribution--the result is a better product that's even taxable.
David Humphreys
Hong Kong

I read your story on Europe's getting high with great interest. As a young European, however, I felt compelled to share my point of view. Drugs are indeed a big problem in Europe, and now that we hardly have any borders it isn't getting easier. But that doesn't mean that everybody under 25 welcomes drugs with open arms. Many of us have seen the effects of drug abuse and what it can do to a person--and that's why we say no to drugs.
Laura Lindholm
Turku, Finland

Your feature on drugs in europe reminded me of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" (1932). In this totalitarian dystopia people survive the complete eradication of the self by taking controlled drug "vacations," in a manner eerily similar to the ecstasy weekends popular among today's European white-collar workers. Maybe the campaigners for legalization are not as free-spirited and freethinking as they believe?
Robert Killian-Dawson
London, England

It's amazing that so many young people are concerned about environmental pollution while another aspect of chemical pollution of human organisms--through the use of synthetic and other drugs--is accepted and considered normal.
Lubomin P. Maxa
Copenhagen, Denmark

Your article asserts that a generation of Europeans use drugs more pervasively than their predecessors. Not true. Rather, a new generation has taken up, in relative moderation, softer and socially responsible drugs such as marijuana and cocaine while eschewing the addictive hard drugs, such as alcohol and nicotine used by their parents, which kill hundreds of thousands of nonusers each year.
M. Carling
Paris, France

The best way to fight drug abuse is not by punishing, jailing or indirectly causing the death of the addicts, but in the development of intelligent, convincing and compassionate policies.
Frank Scimone
Taormina, Italy

Which continent popularized and promoted drugs back in the '60s? What nationality were Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix? Where did Woodstock take place? Weren't there any drugs there?
Anne Solvignon
Milan, Italy

The fortunate ones are those who realize that there's no need for drugs. The best highs in life are natural.
Chris Leonard
La Canada, California

Your report on Prague's drug scene was quite accurate, but I have to point out two mistakes. There is no river named "the Vlasta River" in the Czech Republic, but rather the Vltava River. Also, although you got pot-legalization advocate and journalist Jiri Dolezal's name right by the featured photo he took for Spectrum Pictures, you misspelled his name in the text.
Jaroslav Plesl
Prague, Czech Republic

In your report "Goodbye to the Nanny?" you used a cliched characterization of Singapore's education system when comparing it with the virtues of U.S.-style education (Society & the Arts, Sept. 6). The issue is not having either order and discipline or creativity, but rather striking the correct balance between the two. Contrary to your statement that the Singapore education system "winnows out the losers as early as the age of 12," pupils are provided with a curriculum that suits their interests and aptitudes. In fact, these students were among the first to get computers. Almost all young people have 10 years of general education, after which more than eight in 10 continue on to technical and higher education. This is education that works. But we would like to do better. Our new initiatives in information technology and creativity build upon our existing foundations. We welcome new ideas that will correct our deficiencies and improve our education system. We want to prepare our students for the new knowledge age and allow them to grow to their full potential.
John C.W. Lim
Director, Public Affairs
Ministry of Education
Singapore

'A Fair Solution in Cyprus' Regarding your Nov. 1 interview with Turkey's Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, he's the last person to argue about genocide, since his own country is guilty of the second biggest genocide, after the Holocaust, against the Armenian people ("'Everybody Has to Change'," Europe). Alleging that there has been a genocide against the Turks in Cyprus is a farce. One wonders how Ecevit, with his exaggeration and selective memory, can have an objective and nonaggressive attitude toward a fair solution in Cyprus.
Tania Mitsides
Nicosia, Cyprus

It surprised me that there was no mention of the Kurdish issue in the Ecevit interview. The Kurds' plight must not be forgotten. Their basic rights, such as using their language freely, are still being violated. It's of paramount importance to get the Turks to recognize the rights of the Kurds.
Palmi Ingolfsson
Reykjavik, Iceland

In your interview with Ecevit you state that "[At the moment, only the Greek part of Cyprus has international recognition.]" There is, however, one internationally recognized government on the island, and that is the Republic of Cyprus.
Kyriakos Kouros
Under Secretary to the President
Nicosia, Cyprus

I share some of Denis Macshane's concern about the threat to globalization, but he fails to appreciate the information revolution's positive impact on global governance ("The Threat to Globalization," World View, Nov. 1). The threat to the global commons is easing with the emergence of a global town meeting where individual consumers and investors are transforming political realities, environmental standards and sustainability goals in every village, in every enterprise, in every nation. We have already seen it at work against repressive governments in Berlin and Jakarta. We have seen it at work on the floors of sweatshops in Dhaka and Rio. And we even see it now reflected in the Dow Jones sustainability index. As this circle of global awareness and action enlarges, the new participants in the global town meeting will surely drown out the likes of Austrian right-wing political leader Jorg Haider of the old order.
Owen Cylke
London, England

If globalization helps curb national egotism, then I'm for it. But if it means McDonaldization, then I'm strictly against it. There must be a third alternative: keeping both nationalism and Coca-Cola imperialism in check at the same time.
Roland Hunger
Hamburg, Germany

Dennis MacShane misrepresents the British people in his assertion of the "isolationist anti-European politics" of Britain's Conservative Party. What American party would sign up for a political system where the key institutions hold their meetings in secret, where no lawmakers are elected or accountable and where the resultant culture of corruption (in the European Commission) is glossed over as merely a hiccup? In recent years, more centralizing "laws" have emanated from the unelected ideologues of Continental Europe, supported by British socialists, all of which are presented, ultimatumlike, as "accept this, or you're a backward-looking reactionary." Do we seek isolation? No, we just value democracy.
Kerry Marshall
Brighton, England

I have to reject MacShane's accusations as having little basis in reality. Britain's Conservatives are both unconvinced economically and skeptical politically about the transfer of economic policy to a European Union central bank and currency committee. They are against EU bureaucracy. They are for flexible markets, free trade within Europe and the expansion of the EU to include countries from Central and Eastern Europe. Does any of this make the Conservatives isolationist? Does opposition to an EU single economic policy (with one interest rate being applied to divergent economies and national interests from Finland to Sicily or, in the future, Turkey) make them anti-European?
Laurie Haraing
Wolverhampton, England

MacShane says millions of people have a better life since the '60s because of world trade. He also gives the main reasons that billions of people now live in hopeless misery: life expectancy shooting up everywhere; millions more people to reach adulthood and have children. While population has doubled over the last 30-odd years, the distribution of wealth has been concentrating to the point that a tenfold increase in productivity has translated into barely a doubling of real income for most salaried employees.
Andres T. Stepkowski
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

I was glad to see you were back in Somalia, reporting on the tale of the two Somalias ("A Return to Somalia," World Affairs, Nov. 1). It's unfortunate that southern Somalia is sliding into an abyss and cannot come up with anything to solve its problems. The south is ruled by heartless warlords and miserable villains who thrive on thuggery and clan loyalty. The northern part--the Republic of Somaliland--has managed to restore normal life for its people. I believe the world community has a strong moral obligation to offer assistance and support in rebuilding that part of the country.
Abdullah Omar
Richmond Hill, Canada

If any lessons are to be learned from the U.S. involvement in Somalia, they have to be combined with those from Bosnia: either the United States works within the United Nations when required--not outside or instead of it--or all its criticism of the United Nations amounts to pure hypocrisy.
Bernard J. Henry
Garches, France

Republishing the six-year-old photo of the dead, naked body of the U.S. soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu is not newsworthy. Where is your compassion for this soldier's family and friends?
Martin Swist
Tokyo, Japan

The Pulitzer Prize brings with it a certain degree of responsibility. It is a shame Edmund Morris failed to realize this as he penned "Dutch" ("The Book on Reagan," Special Report, Oct. 4). Although he received unprecedented access to a sitting president, Morris squandered the opportunity by injecting irrelevant fictional accounts of Ronald Reagan's life. As a lifelong student of politics, I looked forward to an in-depth review of the most intriguing presidency of this century. Unfortunately, I was distracted by details of hydrotherapy on a nonexistent character who was used as a crutch to present less-than-favorable views of Reagan and his presidency.
J. M. Allain
Houston, Texas

I wasn't bothered by Edmund Morris's inventing a fictional narrator, but I was appalled by his bald adulation of Reagan. It was rank idolatry. Morris would have better spent his energies on a romance novel.
Bud Blake
Phoenix, Arizona