January 2016 (supplement)
|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
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Action for Peace, All Children Together, Commission
on Justice and Peace, Corrymeela Community, Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament, Dawn, Dutch-Northern Irish Advisory Committee,
East Belfast Community Council, Fellowship of Reconciliation
in Ireland, Glencree Belfast House, Good Neighbour Campaign,
Lifeline, Peace People, Protestant and Catholic Encounter,
Pax Christi, Peace and Reconciliation Group (Derry), Peacepoint,
People Together for Peace, Sydenham (Belfast) Community Group,
Ulster Quaker Peace Committee, United Nations association,
Witness for Peace, Women Together.
This is a list of groups who were one-time members
of the Northern Ireland Peace Forum which ran from 1974 to
1988 (taken from Dawn Train No.7, 'Peace Forum Umbrella Folds'
article). It is only one small section of one part of civil
society, as was. A few of these organisations are alive and
kicking as much as ever, in a couple of cases under new names.
A majority have gone the way of the dodo. A few would have
disappeared but still have a skeletal networking function.
Several of these had connections south of the border, but
if you did a similar survey of peace and campaigning groups
in the Republic 'then' and 'now', you would also come up with
quite a different picture to 15 or 20 years ago. So whether
it is Northern Ireland emerging from the Troubles, or the
Republic, change is a constant.
Groups come and go. Our lead item in the news
section on Corrymeela pays tribute to a Northern group which
has not only weathered the Troubles but began before them,
and survived; a unique experience. As the funding environment
gets tougher and tougher, and Peace ll money also disappears
for the North and border region, even more of today's organisations
and projects may bite the dust. A change may or may not be
as good as a rest but a change is essential.
'Sustainability' is not sustainable for many.
A strong supporter base can help but rarely provide all that
is needed. Juggling different three-year funding contracts,
each of which comes to an end, is a nightmare for administrators
and fundraisers. And while charitable/trust money is essential,
the only alternatives are death or taxes; the death of a group
is a bit final and taxes, as in government funding, has the
same disadvantage as funding from charitable trust sources
- what the government gives the government can take away.
In addition, governments or parts of state apparatus have
particular political agendas which mean that even if you fitted
their criteria, taking government funding may not be the best
way to persuade people of your neutrality (this very much
depends of how you are working, and who with). The Republic
has also had less in the way of charitable-type trusts than
the North, although that situation is changing slowly.
Apart from being given loads of cash to invest,
owning property which is rented out to commercial or other
enterprises is perhaps the happiest situation to be in for
sustainability, unless you also have huge maintenance costs.
But arriving at that situation is formidably hard. Most people
will remain wedded to the application form and the power of
persuasion, or the power of prayer if they are so inclined.
Developing the spirit of volunteering is something
which most 'voluntary' and community groups try hard to do.
That has become harder in an environment where there are more
and more pressures on people's time, and consumerism and commercialisation
seem to take over every fabric of society, but idealism and
commitment still exist.
And expectations of the state have also been
changing, in particular in the Republic with the economic
boom of the 'nineties. The Southern state is now in a position
to provide much of the services in health and welfare which
were previously provided, sometimes haphazardly, by voluntary
groups; the fact that it may not, or the provision is extremely
patchy, is a sad reflection on a government without the courage
to raise taxes to 'normal' western European levels to a provide
a 'normal' western European level of social and health care.
It should but it does not. And in the UK the government likewise
refuses to raise taxes, even slightly, to fund developments
in wealth and welfare which are badly needed.
In this picture it is hard to feel that the
individual can play a role to make a difference. Empowerment
of the individual in an era of the empowerment of the corporation
is a difficult act to get together, and a time when governments
'listen' but do not hear. But change will come, whether through
choice or necessity, the latter because today's lifestyle
in the rich west is not sustainable in the medium to long
term. It simply cannot and will not go on.
We can choose to plonk ourselves on our favourite
seat and watch television. Or we can build a revolution, a
nonviolent and ecological revolution which can yet save this
planet from the violent megalomaniacs and vile consumerism
which threaten us in very direct ways, as with global warming.
We can even build the revolution and 'watch a bit of television',
or whatever switches us on (the remote control?). But we can
all do something, and 'something' includes encouragement and
validation for those who struggle against mighty odds to make
Lovers and couples are sometimes challenged,
perhaps by consumer advertising for florists or the like,
as to when they last said 'I love you'. Those struggling for
social and political change should be challenged as to when
they last said 'I really admire your work, keep it up'. It
is to be hoped that the modest effort that is 'Nonviolent
News' is itself a token of solidarity and expression of 'keep
up the work' to those covered…..and an opportunity for
others to show support and to network.
This month's poem from Lothar Lüken:
talk to strangers
pick up hitch-hikers
throw change into hats
know thy neighbour.
share your sweeties
give some credit,
don't suspect the worst,
DO touch that,
rip down your curtains,
look into eyes,
talk to strangers.
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