|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
Also in this editorial
The tsunami of 26th December
last in south-east Asia wreaked death, destruction and devastation
wherever it visited, with upwards of a quarter of a million
people killed. It was a natural phenomenon which would have
happened irrespective of what human beings happened to be
doing. But not all the effects were devoid of human interference.
Obviously the fact that citizens from fifty countries were
killed is a reflection of global travel and the worldwide
tourist industry. But destruction of mangrove swamps, and
damage to coral reefs, both at times associated with the same
tourist industry, exacerbated the effects. And the lack of
adequate defences was due not just to it being a once in a
century occurrence but also to the relative poverty of the
main countries involved. It needs to be ensured that adequate
warning systems and adequate shelters should not be dependent
on countries ability to pay.
But there is a bigger problem, a much bigger
problem on a global scale. With rising sea levels much of
the area devastated by the tsunami will become under water
or at risk from normal sea movements - as well, or course,
as coastal areas around the world. Many of the beaches on
which tourism depends will simply disappear (they may in time
reappear higher up but with rising tides the coastal situation
will be a mess for decades, until decades or centuries after
humanity takes action to stabilise the situation and the globe
eventually responds). The sea/land interrelationship is about
to be disturbed in what will be a shocking and worrying time,
unprecedented in known history.
While inhabitants of low-lying areas will generally
have time to move elsewhere in an ordered fashion, where will
they go? Bangladesh, one of the most populous countries with
very low-lying land, does not have the luxury of lots of space
for those affected to move to. Whole islands (such as the
Indian Nicobar and Andaman islands affected by the tsunami)
will simply disappear. The rich countries (such as ourselves)
who have done most to cause the problem will haul up their
drawbridges and defend their own, with occasional gestures
to salve their consciences.
Where will it end? We cannot tell. The process
of global warming is well under way and still the response
from those who have the money, but not the sense, to take
effective action, is paltry. We sometimes think of particular
eras in the past as being barbarian, uncouth, with savage
people doing savage deeds. But none of these eras has succeeded
in doing what we have done, disturbing the balance of life
on earth so much that a significant amount of life, human
and otherwise, is threatened with possibly centuries of instability.
If you want barbarians, try us and our 'civilisation'.
The robbery of £26 million pounds in banknotes (only
about £10 million of which could be used by the robbers)
before Christmas from the Northern Bank in Belfast was a heist
and a half. The fallout from that raid will continue to be
felt for a considerable time. Even if devolved government
had once again evolved in Northern Ireland, and the Assembly
was about to take off again with the DUP and Sinn Féin
as top dogs, it would have revolved back again to direct rule.
It must be assumed that Sinn Féin involvement in a
government in Northern Ireland, through unionist acceptance
from either major brand (DUP or Ulster Unionist) or rather
lack of it, is at least another year or two away.
Sinn Féin leaders have issued many protestations
of innocence while Chief Constable of the PSNI, Hugh Orde,
was put on the spot to name the culprits. And he named the
IRA. There are many questions here - was Hugh Orde right (possibly)
but also was he right and accurate, in other words, what part
of the IRA was involved, if any, and who authorised it? Was
it a relatively freelance operation by some members a) fundraising
for their retirement while b) discomfiting the leadership
of the IRA and Sinn Féin who knew nothing about it?
The idea that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness would agree
with such an operation which they would realise would totally
jeopardise their position does not seem at all logical.
While the 'peace process' has had many a faltering
step in Northern Ireland, it has been predicated on the assumption
that Sinn Féin 'can deliver' in terms of the cessation
of violence. If that is not the case, and parts of the IRA
are beyond the political reach of Sinn Féin, that is
indeed a worrying situation and one which would have long
term consequences. The 'peace process' may have numerous more
twists and turns yet.
It is not always that the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) agrees with our analysis, or us with it. However
a recent future-scoping report looking into the next couple
of decades details the 'terrorists' of the future; Iraq and
other possible conflicts "could provide recruitment,
training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency
for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalised' and
for whom political violence becomes an end in itself."
Those who have fought in Iraq could disperse around the world
and increasingly their planning and training will be less
geographically based thanks to the internet. In other words,
we can say that the USA and UK by their war in Iraq have advanced
the cause of international 'terrorism' considerably. The graduates
of Iraq will replace the generation of those who were graduates
of the war against the USSR in Afghanistan so far as Islamic
military militants are concerned.
An important argument of the peace movement against the war
in Iraq was that military intervention would, far from stemming
'terrorism', give it an enormous boost as the US and UK set
international law to one side, as indeed they did with international
public opinion and international morality. A key part of the
old Christian 'Just War Theory' (which, incidentally INNATE
does not subscribe to as a code since it is too limited and
has been used as a charter for war making and not a code for
peace keeping) is proportionality in response to aggression
(a proportion of good over evil). Other key points include
there must be a declaration of war by the king (ruler), it
must be a last resort, there must be a good intention on the
side declaring war, and there must be protection of the innocent;
the war in Iraq clearly fails most of these tests.
George Bush proclaims his Christianity avidly, and Tony Blair
is Christian but does not flaunt it in the same way, but it
is clear neither knows anything significant of Christian teaching
in relation to war. And George Bush's version of Christianity
really is a 'Crusader' mentality, fighting militarily for
the faith, analogous within Islam to the (we would argue mistaken
also) understanding of 'jihad' as military rather than spiritual
struggle. The 'Crusader' mentality is a complete negation
of the Christian message.
If a couple of thousand people were killed in
9/11 in the USA, one to three (or more) times that number
of civilians were killed in the one US assault on Falluja
alone - civilians who had utterly no connection, directly
or even indirectly through the involvement of their country,
with 9/11 attacks on the USA. And that is only in one battle.
The response of the USA and its allies is totally disproportionate
to anything which was originally done; but unlike the images
of 9/11 which filled the TV screens of the globe for months,
how many have seen the carnage and corpses from Falluja? The
US and UK might have 'won' that battle (in a case of Falluja,
'to save the city it was necessary to destroy it', cf "In
order to save the village, we had to destroy it" the
Vietnam War) but they have been losing the war, if you define
that in their terms as a 'war on terrorism', notwithstanding
recent elections in Iraq and the courage of Iraqi people in
coming out to vote. The biggest 'terrorists' and promoters
of 'terrorism' in all its forms are proving to be those who
proclaim their opposition to terrorism and their support for
democracy. And that is a big problem for those who really
want to remove the causes of 'terrorism' and who believe in
democracy. With 'friends' like George and Tony, who needs
enemies? But enemies we will get.
with Larry Speight
The beginning of a new year is a traditional
time for making resolutions. There is the sense that we can
begin again and live a more meaningful life through better
use of our skills and resources as well as been more generous,
patient and empathic. The root of this desire for a fresh
start might well be triggered by such factors as our emergence
from the depths of winter darkness, the realization that our
planet is once again moving towards the light and warmth of
spring, and with other life-forms we can be reborn. When we
think of resolutions for 2005 we should include aims and vows
that will improve our relationship with our neighbours and
the biosphere as well as our personal circumstances. Some
of the things we might consider doing are the following:
- Help people in the poor regions of the world
through buying fair trade products. See the Fairtrade Foundation
website at www.fairtrade.org.uk.
- Put our savings into a bank that abides by
an ethical policy and works for positive change. Two such
banks are; Triodos Bank, see www.triodos.co.uk,
and Charity Bank at www.charitybank.org.
- Obtain our domestic energy from a renewable
source, such as a wind farm. For a list of suppliers contact
Friends of the Earth at www.foe.co.uk.
- Use energy saving light bulbs. According
to the Energy Saving Trust (www.est.org.uk)
if every home in the UK used three energy efficient bulbs
we would save enough energy to power all the streetlights
in the country, save money and reduce greenhouse emissions.
- Save water through taking a shower rather
than a bath, and place a litre plastic bottle in your lavatory
cistern. Contact, Thames Water, for energy saving ideas:
- Donate money to a charity such as Water Aid
who assist some of the 2.6 billion people who lack access
to clean water and proper sanitation, see www.wateraid.org.
- Minimize our impact on eco-systems through
reducing what we buy, reuse and recycle.
- Walk, cycle and use public transport rather
than a car, which will help keep us healthy, save us money
and cut down on greenhouse emissions. As a point of interest
Ireland is a more car dependent country than Britain and
the United States.
- Plant a native tree on an occasion of celebration
and give trees as gifts. Contact the Wood Land Trust: www.woodlandtrust.org.
- Become more mindful, as in seeing things
as they really are, rather than interpreting things in a
way that reinforces uncritically examined beliefs.
I wish everyone a happy New Year.
This short item forms a PS or addition to the INNATE documentation
on consensus (which forms some of the most downloaded material
from the INNATE website).
Quakers, members of the Religious Society of
Friends, tend not to talk about 'consensus' as such; they
would define the process more in terms of 'waiting on the
Spirit' or 'listening to the Spirit'. However, an outsider
might label their approach as a consensus one since the aim,
through both silence and words, is to arrive at an agreement
acceptable to all through an equitable process.
Their approach is well explained on the Glasgow
Friends website which details how Quakers handle
business meetings. If anyone is interested we would recommend
checking out the information there directly but what follows
is a very brief summary of some of the more important points.
There is silence at the start of a business
meeting and in between people speaking, and such meetings
are regarded as worship. Openness and attentive listening
are expected of everyone attending. One person will normally
only speak one time on one item of business (unless replying
to a question or stating a matter of fact). Opposing views
are welcomed but it is not an argument - a point emphasised
by the silence between speakers. The clerk of the meeting
has various functions, including drafting a minute of decisions,
and while not a conventional convenor or chair can shape the
debate but needs to try to discern the collective mind of
the meeting. The clerk exercises their skill, at the appropriate
time, in drawing up a minute which reflects the will of the
meeting, even if it is that it cannot come to a decision.
The clerk can call for silence if feelings on an issue get
It might be added that while the Quaker
worshipful ethos is not something which is easily translatable
to other contexts, some of the above techniques can be used
in any context, such as only speaking once or silence in between
speakers, and expecting attentive listening is nowadays a
common part of group contracts/agreements at the start of
a group process.