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What's new

Nonviolence News July 2017

Editorial: Northern Ireland - Wrong deal, no deal

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: Lessons from Grenfell Tower

Readings in Nonviolence: Alternatives to Violence Project impact

Billy King: Rites Again

Editorials

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

Editorial 243: October 2016

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Neutral on whose side?

The first two news items in this issue of Nonviolent News deal with Shannon and the USA's use of that airport for its war efforts. The idea that the Department of Foreign Affairs would deny a Freedom of Information request 'in the public interest' is a clear indication that they have something to hide. So which 'public' are they talking about whose interest it is not in? Would that be the political elite – including many in Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour parties - who insist on backing the USA's war efforts through unquestioned use of the facilities at Shannon Airport? It is certainly not in the interests of the wider public, a clear majority of whom oppose US military use of Shannon, and it is certainly not in the interests of peacebuilding.

On a wider level there are interesting times ahead in relation to Irish neutrality. The removal of the UK from the EU, presuming that this goes ahead as it is most likely to do, within a couple of years, does two things. The first is it opens up the possibility that the EU at certain levels will use the opportunity of British absence to try to forge ahead with increased military and security cooperation which Irish leaders may find difficult to resist, despite protestations and guarantees. The most powerful states left in the EU, Germany and France, are in favour of increased military cooperation. But the second, and contrary, thing which UK removal from the EU does is it breaks part of the overlap between the EU and NATO. The UK remains keen on NATO but, on the basis of a rather flawed decision making process (whatever you think of the result – see Editorial in Nonviolent News 241) its government has declared for withdrawal from the EU.

UK withdrawal would add one prominent NATO member not in the EU and Ireland could – if its leaders saw fit to act on its neutrality policy – argue that military cooperation should take place, for those who wish, through NATO and not through the EU. Six EU states are not members of NATO while they may be involved in the so-called Partnership for Peace run by NATO (an exception is Cyprus).

The recent EU summit at Bratislava saw Enda Kenny saying that Irish neutrality is protected and, while there are words to that effect attached to the EU Lisbon Treaty, what this means in practice is open to question, particularly given the Republic's recent approach to neutrality. It would be better if military cooperation took place outside of the EU arena which looks like it is heading for further dovetailing with NATO, even if all EU states will not be involved or fully involved.

Neutrality should not imply impartiality when it comes to questions of justice, rights and peace internationally. It also should not mean that aggression and violence go unremarked but that these are opposed, whoever the aggressor and violator is – be that the USA (in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere), Russia (in Ukraine – although 'the West' including the EU had a significant destabilising role there – Syria etc) or anyone else. It should also mean building non-aligned alliances for peace.

Ireland has a record which includes many things it can be proud of in relation to neutrality and international affairs, dating back in terms of the Irish Free State to de Valera and the League of Nations. It also has some aspects where it should be rightly ashamed, such as selling Shannon to what is effectively the highest bidder. One task for progressive people and bodies in Ireland is to claim that proud neutral record, of standing up for peace, and develop it for the 21st century.

An important aside here in relation to the EU concerns its approach to green issues and resources. While the EU has obviously played a role in pushing some green concerns and regulations on often reluctant states, how all this squares with the Bratislava promise to "deliver on the promise of prosperity" is a good question. Decoupling 'prosperity' and more particularly wellbeing from resource use is a key issue here.

And this is where green and antimilitarist concerns come together; in the resource struggles – and wars – of the later 21st century, will the EU be a positive or a negative force? One danger is that the development of its military 'wing' will make it the latter and that, when it comes to the crunch, it puts the narrow interests of its states and citizens above world interests and those of impoverished countries. This could imply using 'its' military in regressive ways to ensure resources for itself. Far-fetched? Not when you consider what may be coming with global warming, nor indeed the general response to refugees coming to European shores currently.

NATO is a body which should have no connection or role for the Republic, and turning Irish neutrality into a positive and fearless force is a positive goal to have. In Northern Ireland the goals must be somewhat more modest given that it is part of a NATO member state. In the North, just challenging the idea that NATO and the British Army are positive forces in the world is one goal, not only on the Protestant and unionist side which tends to identify with things British anyway but also on the Catholic and nationalist side. Unfortunately we are just entering the 'Remembrance season' which the British state, and pro-military bodies, try to turn into a uniform acceptance of the British military's role. Obviously those who died in war, on all sides, deserve to be remembered but not in a way which glorifies war and extols the military.

Response:Global Peace Foundation

INNATE carried a short news item in Nonviolent News 242 which was critical of the Global Peace Foundation and mentioning its link with the Unification Church in Korea ('Moonies') and its right wing nature, see here; it is not the norm to be critical in the news section of Nonviolent News. This was sent, as a courtesy and with the possibility of a reply, to the Irish office of the Global Peace Foundation in Limerick. As a result, INNATE coordinator Rob Fairmichael subsequently had a short meeting with Arnold Kashembe, GPF Ireland Country Director, and Cat Lockman, GPF Director of Organizational Development based in the USA, when they were in Belfast for their September international conference.

It is INNATE's policy to encourage debate and discussion so it always welcome responses to material it produces, preferably for publication in Nonviolent News so the responses are shared.

We publish below a response from Cat Lockman of GPF to the item published in Nonviolent News.

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Global Peace Foundation (GPF) along with its partner, Co-operation Ireland, was proud to host the recent Global Peace Leadership Conference at Queen's University, Sept. 10-13. The conference drew experienced peace practitioners from many nations including the US, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Belgium, UAE, Ireland, and the UK who offered valuable insights on reconciliation, forgiveness, and cross community engagement from their respective regions. They also gave presentations and guided discussions on the essential role of ethical leadership in addressing the urgent challenges confronting the international community. Please feel free to review online.

The previous INNATE newsletter (issue 242) included commentary about the Global Peace Foundation that is factually inaccurate. GPF is a non-partisan, non-sectarian public charity, receiving broad-based public support from many partners and donors. GPF is legally, financially, and strategically separate from any religious organization; since it was founded by Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon in 2009, GPF has rigorously maintained its entirely non-sectarian approach in all of its activities.

The Global Peace Foundation is a 501c3, tax-exempt organization, operating in accordance with the guidelines of the United States Internal Revenue Service. To maintain its tax status, GPF submits to a public support test as well as files a publicly available tax return. Donor information is also listed in the GPF Annual Report, available online.

GPF promotes the central importance of our common humanity and shared values to building social cohesion and mitigating religious and ethnic divisions. It believes that shared values are the necessary platform for diverse stakeholders, including those of many faiths, to work collaboratively toward ethical and cohesive societies.

ECO-AWARENESS ECO-AWARENESS

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

Adam & Eve's Folly

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."
Genesis: 2:15 (The New Green Bible, 1989)

Many people read this story as a message about sexuality, which is understandable as a great deal of what immediately follows is God's view about the relationship between a husband and wife. Some psychologists regard the story as a metaphorical account of humankind gaining self-awareness and moral autonomy. The flaw in this is that if Adam and Eve did not have these faculties God would have had no need to forbid them to eat the forbidden fruit. An environmental interpretation is that God is warning us to exercise restraint over our curiosity and avarice. Climate chaos, the loss of biodiversity and social and economic injustice affirm that we have ignored God's warning about forbidden fruit.

Like Adam and Eve people today want to have and behave without regard to consequences. A fruit we like so much that we use it in over 2,000 products including tooth paste, lip balm, biscuits and margarine is palm oil which is grown on a truly massive scale in Indonesia. We are happy to avail of this fruit while knowing, at least in general, the ecocidal consequences of doing so which is the annual burning of thousands of square miles of rainforest in Sumatra and Borneo to clear land for palm oil plantations. As much of the fauna and flora the rainforests are composed of are unknown to science we will never fully appreciate the tragedy of their loss or suffer the full consequences. The latter we leave as a legacy to future generations.

Given the amount of readily available information about environmental issues it would seem that the random person you see in a supermarket aisle is happy to avail of palm oil whilst knowing that a treasure of millions of years of evolution has been incinerated to satisfy their taste and convenience. Given our tendency to ignore the suffering we directly and indirectly cause others it is no wonder God was so harsh with Adam and Eve and expelled them from the Garden of Eden. Not only this but it seems He deprived them of immortality. In listing how He would punish them and their descendants He says:

"By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken, you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
Genesis: 3:19 (The New Green Bible, 1989)

Evidence of our complicity and direct involvement in the poisoning, burning and trashing of Eden -Planet Earth - can be found in our predisposition to prioritise economic growth over preserving nonhuman nature and our cultural landscape. This is exemplified in the decision by the Northern Ireland Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard to build a four-land dual carriageway through an area of south Derry associated with the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney. The road will desecrate the landscape which inspired many of Heaney's poems including Lough Beg National Nature Reserve, an important wetland which provides a sanctuary for migrating birds to rest and feed including the black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper, wood sandpiper and whooper swan. The lough is also the home of many rare plants including the Irish ladies' tresses orchid. The road will run within a 100m of Heaney's birthplace.

Given that Mr Hazzard is not faced with a build or not build decision as there is a viable alternative route through an old airfield and industrial estate it is reasonable to conclude that his decision is based on the illusionary saving of a small amount of money. Illusionary, as keeping Heaney's landscape intact, inclusive of its biodiversity, would reap sustained economic benefits for the local community.

The Irish Government is as uncaring about nonhuman nature and cultural heritage as the Northern Ireland Assembly. The most recent evidence of this is in their refusal to meet their climate change obligations through expanding animal husbandry which will lead to a significant increase in the country's emission of greenhouse gases. There is also the case of Heritage Minister Heather Humphries extending the hedge-cutting season, a decision that will be catastrophic for nesting and breeding birds.

God tells Adam and Eve that they "shall die" if they eat the forbidden fruit. If we don't exercise restraint we will, by our own doing, become extinct as we cannot live without a healthy biosphere. Almost as important we need an emotional and intellectual connection with the biosphere, a sense of place, a sense of belonging.

In spite of our technological distance from Adam and Eve, a period of some 200,000 years, we still commit their folly of believing we have an unreserved entitlement to have everything we cast our eyes on. This is aptly expressed by the character Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971) when she sings:

"I want the world, the whole world, and I want it now. I want to lock it all up in my pocket. … If I don't get the things I'm after I'm going to scream."

The time has long passed for us to be good neighbours to our fellow earthlings and be mindful that because we can have or do something doesn't mean we should. Fracking, building roads through eco-sensitive areas, desecrating cultural landscapes and expanding animal husbandry are among Ireland's forbidden fruits.

Copyright INNATE 2014