|These are regular editorials
produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent
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The term ‘antimilitarism’ is not well understood, even in many peace circles, and there may be a simple lack of knowledge about what it entails through unfamiliarity with the term. Being opposed to armies and military thinking is, of course, not just the preserve of those who believe in nonviolence but in our context we are talking about the replacement of armies, highly weaponised and trained bodies of men – and some women - with nonviolent alternatives.
This is where the nonviolent activist is accused of being idealistic and unrealistic; who will defend us against attack? But, who is going to attack us? This is a serious question. And if they did want to attack us, what means would they use? All the military might of the USA did not defend it one iota against the attack of 9/11. And the 9/11 attack was a result of that US military might being exerted around the world, not that anything could have justified the suicide and murder attack on the Twin Towers and elsewhere.
Ireland has never had conscription. Nationalist campaigning during the First World War saw off the possibility of conscription and it was neither introduced then nor in the Second World War during which the Free State remained neutral. The fact that there has never been conscription here has tempered the response to armies, and meant that what antimilitarism has developed has been different to many other countries. However conscription is now regarded as inefficient by most military states since what they want is loyal, obeisant, highly trained soldiers who will kill on command rather than reluctant recruits.
However antimilitarism is only a starting point, or possibly not even a starting point but a part of a nonviolent identity. Those who believe in peace through nonviolence advocate many positive alternatives; social defence (a concept that builds on concrete experiences of mass peaceful/nonviolent action, much of it in authoritarian societies, and extends beyond organised state and civilian action in order to oppose any invasion or coup, and protect the positive aspects of society), mechanisms for conflict solving through mediation and early intervention, working for world justice, and so on. Some of the more positive roles played by armies currently could be fulfilled by unarmed crisis response and intervention teams; in this context, being armed is irrelevant.
Militarism promotes militarism; we saw that in the Cold war and we see it today in Russian-Western European relations. Militarism robs countries of money and, if the military are actually used, causes massive death and destruction. Militarism requires the arms trade, arguably the most corrupt, death-dealing industry in the world. Arms and arms races are again stealing from the poor and lining the pockets of the rich.
We can be proud to proclaim ourselves antimilitarists, not in some negative way but as part of what we seek to build in a peaceful future. Antimilitarism is part of what we are or should be. It may not be the first part of our identity that we proclaim, given that it can seem negative until we explain more, but neither should it be the last.
Nature and nurture
Nature can get on very well without homo sapiens – it would be much better off in fact - but homo sapiens cannot get on without nature, of which we are a part. This year has been a salutory lesson in the dangers of not giving nature its space. And the next major health crisis might come, not from China, but from a massive pig farm in the USA or Northern Ireland, or some other animal-exploitative venture almost anywhere in the world. Humans are still asking for trouble through how we treat flora and fauna. And this is independent of global heating issues
But it is the end of the year, a year not quite like any other. 2021 will bear hope that we can get back to a new normal. If the new normal is like the old normal then again we are asking for trouble in the future.
Perhaps the experience of 2020 has taught us some things; these may or may not be forgotten fast but we can but hope that some remembrance remains. One point is how much we depend on others, not just health workers but also supermarket shelf stackers and those working in rubbish collection and recycling, for example (in fact nearly everyone). We depend on others and they should have the respect – and monetary rewards – that go with that.
It is to be hoped that 2020 has also given us a new appreciation of nature in all its forms. Whether it is contemplating insects in a back yard or garden, the trees, shrubs and birds in a park, or the multiplicity of flora and fauna in the countryside, we can be bouyed and bounced by the wonders of nature.
In fact without the nurturing of nature we may find it difficult to find an even keel in life. There are many wonders in the human world and human culture, and whatever our cultural tastes there are great things to be appreciated. But a sunrise, sunset or swirling bird can take us into ecstasy – standing outside of ourselves – in a way which unites us to our world in an amazing way. Even growing some seeds in a window box or garden can be an occasion of wonder.
So here is to our awareness and enjoyment of nature in the coming year. May we extend our knowledge and appreciation both for our own sakes and for what we can do to nurture nature in return for its nurturing of us.
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Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –
This year will probably be remembered more than any other so far this century for three reasons. One is Covid-19 which swept across the world in a matter of weeks upending the lives of the entire human population causing anxiety and heartache for millions. It was the year when US president Donald Trump lost his bid to serve another four years in office. Some will rate him as just another president, memorable because he was uncouth and had an unhealthy level of narcissism. Aside from these traits and his environmental vandalism, racism and misogyny the greatest harm he did was to normalise the disposition many people have to ignore material facts and hold things to be true on the simple basis that they wish they were.
Thus in spite of the Washington Post documenting 20,055 “false and misleading claims” Trump made as president up until the 9 July, his taking the country out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the World Health Organisation and rolling back 100 key environmental regulations, most of which safeguarded human health, 73 million people voted for him in the belief that he had served the country well. The third reason 2020 will likely be considered a pivotal year is because it could very well be the one in which environmental meltdown could no longer be avoided because the governments of key economies duped themselves into thinking that their Green New Deal would heal the ailing biosphere and as a consequence avert the enormous amount of human suffering and mayhem that will otherwise occur.
The Green New Deal is modelled on the economic and legislative measures US President Roosevelt put in place between 1933 and 1939 in response to the Great Depression, a period of economic downturn which affected most countries during this time. The legislation, use of presidential executive orders and massive government spending on public works were designed to provide relief to the unemployed and needy, reignite the economy and reform the financial system in order to prevent another economic depression occurring ever again. The actions were dubbed the New Deal which most historians regard a success and certainly the electorate did as the Democratic Party, of which Roosevelt was a member, held the presidency for seven of the nine presidential terms from 1933 to 1969.
On the basis of its success governments feel that a Green New Deal will address the environmental crisis and in particular what is widely called the climate change emergency. This, as readers probably know, is that global warming gas emissions are on a trajectory to raise the temperature of the climate above 1.5 C as against pre-industrial levels before the close of this decade which if not averted will have catastrophic consequences for humankind and the bio-community. These are consequences that will last longer than the hitherto lifespan of humankind.
It is a relief to know that an increasing number of governments acknowledge the threat to global civilization arising from the harm we are doing to the biosphere. The fatal flaw in their critique is that they see the threat to humanity arising from mainly one source, global warming. On the basis of this their solution, it would be more accurate to say aspiration, is to all but eliminate the emission of the gasses that cause it, namely CO2 and methane. If successful, and it is a marathon task, this won’t prevent the biosphere from malfunctioning as per pre-industrial times and civilization from collapsing. New Green Deals also need to take account of the loss of biodiversity, which is of such severity it is called ‘the sixth extinction’, the loss of fresh water supplies through pollution and mismanagement, and the loss of soil fertility, to mention just three environmental problems that have a detrimental impact on human wellbeing.
As well as radically reducing our emission of global warming gasses we must, if Green New Deals are to achieve what they are meant to, undertake a profound cultural change that warrants been called revolutionary. The essential undertaking is that we move from our linear economy to a circular one and cease to equate a meaningful life with ‘having’ as opposed to ‘being’. In a few words our linear economy is one in which we transform nonhuman nature into sterile land, dead bodies of water and mountains of toxic waste. A circular economy mimics the natural world in which something which has served its purpose becomes a resource, a nutrient or shelter for another living thing. Think of the leaves trees shed.
The Green New Deal recently announced by the British prime minister in a ten-point plan signifies an awakening but is imbedded in the magical belief of unlimited economic growth on a planet of clearly defined dimensions and a highly sensitized, delicately balanced and thoroughly integrated biosphere. The world does not need New Green Deals of the kind put forward by the UK government but rather an economic plan that accounts for the multi-dimensional nature of the environmental crisis, addresses gross economic inequality and is rooted in the realism that we live on a finite planet.
Such a well thought-out and nuanced plan won’t, however, be enough. The effort to persuade people to abide by the Covid-19 health guidelines and the failure of the US Democratic Party and other groups to demystify Trump highlight the need for a well thought-out public education programme to persuade people of the necessity for a paradigm change in regard to the organisation of living. This is one that challenges wishful thinking, the prevailing concept of the good life, and cultivates the view that nonhuman life has intrinsic value.