January 2016 (supplement)
|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]
Ireland, both Northern Ireland and the Republic, can sometimes feel immune to, or outside, many of the threats existing in the world. This is usually a mistaken feeling. There is no more globalised society than Ireland, and if Europe or the world catches a cold then Ireland had better beware. The presence of a Japanese Buddhist monk on a peace pilgrimage to the G8 conference in Fermanagh should remind us of the threat which nuclear weapons and power are to the world. They haven’t gone away you know.
The recently published yearbook from SIPRI gives bad news on this matter (also bad news regarding progress on cluster munitions) and, incidentally, makes a total nonsense of the Nobel Peace Prize presented to President Obama in 2009. As SIPRI states:
“At the start of 2013 eight states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel—possessed approximately 4400 operational nuclear weapons. Nearly 2000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert....The decrease is due mainly to Russia and the USA further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons under the terms of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) as well as retiring ageing and obsolescent weapons.”
“At the same time, all five legally recognized nuclear weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—are either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so, and appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely. Once again there was little to inspire hope that the nuclear weapon-possessing states are genuinely willing to give up their nuclear arsenals. The long-term modernization programmes under way in these states suggest that nuclear weapons are still a marker of international status and power.....”. [See link]
The nuclear menace has been around a long time. It would be (nuclear winter) suicide to use these weapons, apart from any retaliation in kind. But as long as they are considered a marker of status and power there will be others who seek to join the club, and their presence and the possibility of militant military groups getting their own bomb, and holding others to ransom, is a real and present danger.
There has been an old saying in the anti-nuclear movement that unilateralists (people willing to forsake ‘their’ nuclear weapons irrespective of what others do) are multilateralists who mean it. For those who wish to exercise their opposition to nuclear weapons in a focussed and organised way, Irish CND http://irishcnd.org offers one opportunity for people to put their feelings into action. There are many others. The anti-nuclear cause still deserves all the support we can give it and Faslane nuclear base in Scotland is but a stone’s throw away from Ireland, for Fionn Mac Cumhaill anyway. Though come to think of it, he may need decommissioned as well.
Enjoy the G8!
The way Northern Ireland is getting geared up, you would think a terrible onslaught was about to happen; thousands and thousands of police will be on duty, jail wings ready, all sorts of other logistics in place, plus lock down in Fermanagh (and if it doesn’t move or moves slowly in Enniskillen then it has been painted). Much of the reaction is over the top like Queen’s University Belfast closing for the weekend because a family-oriented IF event on world economic justice is happening nearby (the big Belfast demonstration on G8 is nowhere near the university area), and all a long way from Co Fermanagh.
Obviously there has been violence at G8 events in the past but much of that has come from police. There is an impressive programme of alternative events happening, mainly in Belfast but also in Derry, and big demos in Belfast and Fermanagh. As reported in this issue, the details of most of these are at www.fairerworldfestival.org but look out for other events locally.
There are many alternatives to the failed national and global, economic, political and military policies of the G8 governments, and much will be explored in the Fairer World Festival. So, do not be put off by the establishment panic. We can learn from, and enjoy, this opportunity to show we care enough to dare to say – we will have a Gr8 time showing peaceful alternatives to the G8.
David Cameron and the British government chose Co Fermanagh as a good place to hide away the G8 from protesters. But it is to be hoped that the world may see that people in Northern Ireland want a different vision to that inhabiting (or inhibiting) the minds of G8 leaders.
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Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –
King Leopold 11, King of Belgian, was born in 1835, succeeded to the throne in 1865 and died in 1909. He ranks as one of the greediest, cruellest and most manipulative rulers who ever lived. He is best remembered for the founding and exploitation of the Congo Free State, later called Zaire and today known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Adam Hochschild in his book King Leopold’s Ghost (2006) estimates that King Leopold was responsible for the death of 10 million people and sanctioned the most barbaric treatment imaginable on the indigenous population including chopping off hands and genitalia, forced labour, the liberal use of the whip, the burning of villages, mass murder and in the process reaped an estimated fortune of a billion dollars in today’s money. In his time he was one of the richest men in the world.
The Netherlands, Germany, France, Portugal and the UK adopted many of Leopold’s methods of control and exploitation. Today we believe we live in more enlightened and compassionate times and think that the avarice, wilful violence and the subjection of whole peoples ended when the European powers withdrew from the countries they had colonized. Although the scale of the tyranny and cruelty of Leopold’s time is a thing of the past the avarice of rich investors, governments, and transnational corporations has not changed. As in Leopold’s Congo avarice causes immense suffering, the early death of millions and widespread environmental destruction.
Today governments and private companies still use military might to gain ownership and exploitive rights in foreign lands. Indonesia has occupied West Papua (previously called Irian Jaya) since 1961, appropriating its wealth, persecuting the indigenous population and laying waste to the environment. Shell Oil has deprived millions of people in the Niger delta of a healthy and sustainable livelihood through the pollution of water and vegetation by way of oil spills, and uses military might to subdue opposition and protect their operations.
Governments, rich elites and international corporations are engaged in a widespread practice known as “land grabbing”, which is colonialism in modern garb. Countries targeted by investors include Argentina, Congo, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, and South Sudan. The investor, or land grabbing countries include China, India, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, the UK and the USA. The aim of the land grabbers is to secure food, fuel and other resources for the exclusive benefit of their own populations and economies. An inevitable result of land grabs is the displacement of local people from their lands. The displaced become destitute, and the bioregions are turned into mono-crop deserts. The palm oil plantations in Cameroon and rubber plantations in Cambodia are an example. In regard to the latter 56% of farm land is foreign-owned. (New Internationalist May 2013)
Hochschild (2006) informs us that the “chiefs signed over their land to Leopold, and they did so for almost nothing.” (p. 71) As the New Internationalist, May 2013 reports, this is the case for millions of small-scale farmers today. Hazel Healy quotes Sandrina Muaco a displaced farmer in Mozambique, who voicing the experience of unnamed millions says: “I lost everything.” She was paid $664 by a sugar processing company in compensation for the loss of six hectares of fertile land and her home.
Land activist Diamantino Nhampossa in an interview with New Internationalist informs us of the fate of the dispossessed. “I don’t see any difference between now and the colonialists. ... The companies take land away from you and give you a job. You become a slave on your own land, and then you disappear. That’s what happened in Brazil. What becomes of you? You become forgotten people in slums.”
People in slums have to earn a living and many end up in factories earning 50p for a ten-hour day making clothes for the affluent. The recent tragedy in Dhaka in which over 1,127 people lost their lives when the Rana Plaza building they were working in collapsed highlights the injustice of the international economic order. Most Europeans share with King Leopold the fact that we reap the rewards of the labour, resources and environmental destruction of countries we have never visited. This is the King Leopold Syndrome.
If colonialism is to become a thing of the past, if we want to say we are civilised, we have to be serious about restructuring the international economic order. The forthcoming G8 Summit in County Fermanagh is an opportunity for us to impress upon the G8 leaders the necessity for a new order.