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What's new

Nonviolent News May 2019

Editorials: Shannon, North

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: The challenge of ecological meltdown

Readings in Nonviolence: His-story and Her-story in nonviolence

Billy King: Rites Again

Editorials

These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 117: March 2004

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News.]

All aboard the roller-coaster

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 changes.

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.

Luken From Below

This month's poem from Lothar Lüken:

Strange Talk?

talk to strangers
pick up hitch-hikers
throw change into hats
know thy neighbour.

share your sweeties
your wealth
your feelings
that joke.

give some credit,
don't suspect the worst,
DO touch that,
touch them.

rip down your curtains,
look into eyes,
return smiles,
talk to strangers.

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News.]

Copyright INNATE 2014