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Freud was no fake

Bruce Charlton's attack on psychotherapy ('The counselling cult', July/August) is facetious and undiscriminating. He fails to draw a much needed distinction between therapeutic methods which are based on a rigorous investigation of the human psyche, and counselling practice which simply reflects contemporary victim culture.

Freudian psychoanalysis proceeds on the assumption that the methods which have helped to uncover the structure and functioning of the human psyche can also be applied therapeutically to psychical disorders. It is this interaction between the investigative and the therapeutic which has characterised psychoanalysis during its more creative phases, and which sets it apart, even today, from the trite 'confessional counselling' that has proliferated in recent years.

Charlton elides this distinction by vulgarising Freudian theory to the level of a BT advertisement. He speaks of the 'Freudian notion that it is always beneficial to "talk through" feelings, experiences, opinions...of a kind which are supposed to be the cause of current problems'. It is easy to ridicule any body of thought when formulated at this level of banality.

Charlton's crude parody of psychoanalysis also loses any sense of the historically specific nature of post-Diana Britain. The result is that attitudes peculiar to the debased outlook of the 1990s are projected back on to the opening decades of the century, as though the intellectual and artistic ferment occasioned by Freud's discoveries could be assimilated without reserve to our own little world of victims and counsellors.

Louis Ryan London

Who's dumbing down?

The only wrong note in James Heartfield's otherwise excellent article ('Who's dumbing down? ', July/August) is his counterposition of the Arts Council defending 'high culture' for the few to the politicians talking down to people.

The example he cites of talking down, 'the proposal to introduce Shakespeare to rave crowds in 10-minute gobbets', is in fact the New Audience scheme administered by guess who? The Arts Council. This follows hot on the heels of the other innovative new scheme that the Arts Council brought in this year, 'Arts for everyone', which included such projects as youth theatre workshops in Lancashire, watercolour workshops in Bridgnorth, local artists' exhibitions in Kettering and racism awareness workshops in Rednal. Worthy and community-based it is, but high art it ain't.

My point is that Heartfield underestimates how far 'talking down' has gone. There is no coterie preserving high arts, even if it is just for the few. The Arts Council is as desperate as the broadcasters, politicians and schools to find out where it's at!

Jane Sandeman London

James Heartfield is on the button when he describes the loss of faith by intellectuals in highbrow culture, and the mindless rush to cheap, pop (un-) Cool Britannia. Mind you, I do not think Italian opera and Russian Court ballet dancing and nineteenth-century orchestral music need Arts Council propping up - they must be in the market place selling their wares like the rest of us. But I was disappointed when he referred to firms buying my artwork for their lobbies instead of innovating in new technology - my work is innovation in the newest of new technology, the limitless human brain.

Patrick Hughes London

PS After all, Bob Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan; Dylan Thomas didn't change his name to Zimmerman Thomas.

Popsical sucks

It was like a breath of fresh air to read Mark Ryan's criticism of relativism in music today ('Don't crossover Beethoven', July/August). An appreciation of classical music is something that has to be learned and this is no simple task. For me it took more than a decade, from a fondness for a few opera arias to an appreciation of the universality of Wagner's Ring Cycle or Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk. It has been one of the most rewarding journeys of my life.

Ryan is right to say that 'unlike pop, classical music is not something that can be grasped by immediate sensation'. When I hear Rod Stewart's 'You wear it well' or some old Tamla Mowtown record it might remind me of a girl I once knew. But Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony or Schoenberg's A Survivor in Warsaw reinforce the highest achievements of mankind, like the heroic struggles against the savagery of the Nazis by the people of the Soviet Union and the Jewish resistance in Poland which inspired these pieces. This music is testament to the highest ideals of the human spirit that, in my opinion, could not be encapsulated by any other form of music. For that reason alone classical should not be equated with pop or jazz.

Dennis O'Driscoll Dublin

Mark Ryan ('Don't crossover Beethoven', July/August) makes some excellent and astute points concerning the way in which music is appreciated and its wider context in human history. A pity then that he makes the same mistakes in attempting to categorise music as he accuses the promoters of 'popsical' of making.

The massive shift in musical trends between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is due not to an onslaught of dumbed down populism, but to the invention of the recording studio, which relocates the definitive template for a piece of music in the musician's specific performance rather than in the composer's score.

'High' and 'low' musical distinctions have always existed, whether between the Beatles and Shostakovich in this century or between Gilbert and Sullivan and Mozart in previous centuries. But the logical implication of Ryan specifying Schoenberg and Stockhausen as this century's contribution to the historical continuum of high art is that a freeform jazz improvisation by John Coltrane (just as difficult and demanding of the listener as a piece by Schoenberg) does not deserve canonical status, simply because it does not happen to exist on the Deutsch Gramaphon label. Where do Ryan's simplistic categories leave freeform jazz, death metal or Buddhist chanting, none of which is necessarily of immediate intuitive appeal to the ear?

But Ryan's worst mistake is to take the recent ham-fisted attempts of a few accountants at blurring musical genre distinctions as being representative of all genre-defying music. This ignores at least a half-century of groundbreaking work, that extends from Walter Carlos' performances of pieces by Bach on a Moog synthesiser in the 1950s to Frank Zappa's revolutionising of almost every conceivable musical sphere, including the orchestral.

Sandy Starr Oxford

The drugs don't work

In response to Dr Michael Fitzpatrick's article 'The drugs campaign - just say no' (June), I would like to add some comments on his observations on giving methadone to heroin users.

I have been addicted to heroin for about three years and for the last four months I have had a methadone prescription. Although Dr Fitzpatrick mentions that methadone is not considered to be addictive, it is actually even more addictive than heroin, which means that prescribing methadone to a heroin user simply leaves the user with two difficult addictions to cope with, as a methadone prescription is no guarantee that a junkie will stop using heroin. I asked for my prescription in order to make my need for heroin less fraught and easier to control; I have very little desire to come off heroin at this moment in time. In fact the thought of being 'clean' fills me with terror and I think that it is this fear of life without heroin that needs to be dealt with, not any physical addiction.

Therefore, I am sure it is true that only major changes in lifestyle will persuade most junkies to come off heroin; the old cliché that you have to want to stop is surely true.

Name and address withheld

Viagra victims

I thought Timandra Harkness (LM-Mail, July/August) was being a bit hard on David Nolan's criticisms of Viagra ('Stiffening up', June). Although I agree that we shouldn't accept natural limitations on human experience, Nolan's piece pointed to the way in which a remedy for a fairly specific complaint has become a cipher for a wider non-medical anxiety about the status of men in society. The irony, I suspect, is that the thousands of men apparently seeking a prescription are not all belatedly admitting to the guilty secret of impotence, but are doing so in order to achieve exactly what Harkness is in favour of; that is, the enhancement of normal sex through chemicals. That few will admit to this is unsurprising in a culture where purely hedonistic demands are treated with suspicion, and where your only claim to anything is as a damaged 'victim' claiming 'reparation'.

JJ Charlesworth London

Monopoly makes sense

Jason Walsh (letters, July/August) objects to Microsoft's monopoly position in computer software and wants more 'choices' in computers and computer systems. The difference between using a PC and a Mac nowadays is like the difference between driving a Ford and a Vauxhall - for this difference Jason wants everything to be developed twice and so higher prices, more bugs, incompatibility and less time spent on innovative new application software.

Monopoly makes sense sometimes Jason. Stopping the forward march of standardisation, of the sort that Microsoft is establishing, would send us backwards in time; software developers would become a bit like cavemen, this time having to reinvent the wheel.

Roy Lidster Chesterfield

1.1 million to one

Ann Bradley wonders how the Guardian got its figure of 1.1 million paedophiles at large in the UK. Presumably from the same statistical methods that allowed it to inform readers that a bus driver had received £1.1 million for the rights to a novel he wrote in between shifts (the actual amount was 10 grand for the book and 15 grand for the film rights, of which he has so far received just £5000). Still, 1.1 million is a good figure: big enough to look spectacular in a headline, but also with that impressive .1, which gives it that all-important authenticity. I for one will be sorry to see it sacrificed at the altar of so-called 'accuracy'.

Toby Banks London

The what's NOT on guide

BURNING QUESTION: A book on the ordination of women has been banned on the orders of the Vatican. Copies of Women at the Altar by Sister Lavinia Byrne, a contributor to Radio Four's Thought for the Day, will be either pulped or incinerated. Be grateful that they are not burning witches any longer.

DAMNED IF YOU DON'T: After protests from 'leading Holocaust scholars', DC Comics apologised for the sixtieth anniversary issue of Superman in which the caped crusader travelled back in time to battle with the Nazis. Although Superman entered the Warsaw ghetto and met boys named Baruch and Moishe, the comic made no mention of the Jews. The editor explained that the word 'Jew' was left out to avoid the possibility of inadvertently promoting anti-Semitism.

NOISE POLLUTION: On behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), Sir Paul McCartney has written to the University of California demanding an end to experiments intended to help scientists retrain the human brain after hearing loss. Anaesthetised monkeys are currently exposed to a deafening 140 decibels; but at least the range of noises to which they are subjected does not include the singing of McCartney's late wife, and patron of Peta, the animal-loving Lady Linda. Meanwhile, the campaign which Linda led called for their lawyers when they discovered that somebody else had already registered an internet site under the name Peta. The rival acronym stands for People for Eating Tasty Animals, and the site encourages hunting with crossbows. A spokeswoman for the original Peta said it was 'not very funny'.

TOO SEXY: The sexual content of certain teenage magazines has been dubbed 'obscene' by broadcaster Anna Ford, who says she would 'like them banned'. Middle class teenage girls must be breathing a sigh of relief. At last there is something which their mothers' generation does not approve of.

SMOKED OUT: Smoking has been banned by Welwyn and Hatfield district council, whose employees may be disciplined if they are caught puffing either inside or outside their offices while on duty. The chief executive said: 'Smoking is unacceptable to this council - it is not the image we want to portray.' Passengers on a flight to Milan were not allowed to leave the plane for 40 minutes after landing, while captain Bryan Bliss demanded to know who had been smoking in the lavatory.

NOT AMUSED: A joke about foreign secretary Robin Cook's relationship with his secretary has been condemned by TV watchdogs. While hosting the National Lottery Show, veteran comedian Bob Monkhouse said of Cook: 'I can't blame him for putting it about a bit before his looks start to go.'

Andrew Calcutt provides a weekly 'What's not on guide' for Talk Radio on Monday mornings, MW:1053, 1089 kHz

Reproduced from LM issue 113, September 1998

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