HEY, MISTER TRIANGLE MAN…
Tom Flynn’s letter about Robert Grossman’s fine cartoon picturing Barack Obama playing the triangle among other celebrating Democrats [“Letters,” Jan. 1] really rubbed me the wrong way. Flynn thinks that of all instruments, the triangle is “the most trivial one of all.”
So I called my friend Billy Ware, who plays triangle professionally for the great Cajun and Zydeco band Beausoleil. Billy told me, “The triangle is humble with great musical virtue. It is also a fantastic groove machine.” He mentioned that while European in origin, the triangle is featured prominently in Brazilian music. Billy also told me that Don Montucet, the premier triangle artisan in south Louisiana, made his triangles from the iron tines of a hay rake before agricultural technology changed. After skillfully bending the iron into a triangular shape, Don would curl the ends of the iron. This gives the iron triangle a lower and richer resonance than the steel orchestral triangle used in, say, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
So, listen here. Don’t trivialize the triangle! It’s humble. It’s virtuous. And completely cool in the hands of Barack Obama.
Talking Heads & Tom Tom Club
LAND AIDS OR BAND-AIDS?
New York City
Alexander Cockburn doesn’t appreciate what the Grameen Bank has accomplished [“The Myth of Microloans,” Nov. 6]. Through its uncollateralized loans, the bank has helped millions of villagers acquire livestock, land and other assets, as well as half a billion dollars in savings. The bank has helped 650,000 villagers purchase homes, all of which must be legally registered in the wife’s name. The bank is also owned by villagers, who elect nine of twelve positions on its board of directors. These changes are deeply subversive–which is why the bank has been harassed by the Bangladeshi government and been a target of opposition and violence from landowners, moneylenders, Muslim fundamentalists and socialists alike.
With loans millions of villagers have acquired such things as a tin roof, a vegetable garden and proper bedding and crockery, and have achieved year-round food stability. Many have also been able to send daughters to school. Cockburn should not dismiss advances like these; they make a big difference in people’s lives. Moreover, deeper changes may be taking root. In the most recent national elections in Bangladesh, more women voted than men, and 18 percent of those elected to Union Parishad posts were members of the Grameen Bank or BRAC, the two largest microcredit programs.
Cockburn contends that the bank “places” its borrowers in debt. This is wrong. The bank would not have remained popular among villagers for more than twenty years if it were coercing or intimidating them. Poor people are not fools. When I interviewed Grameen borrowers who had faced cyclones and floods, they told me clearly that the bank was the key factor in their recovery. Without loans, they could not have repurchased assets to get back to work.