All posts by Rob Fairmichael

Nonviolent News 294

COP26 events…….

There are a huge number of events taking place connected with the climate conference in Glasgow, with Saturday 6th November being the main ‘Day of Action for Climate Justiceworldwide https://cop26coalition.org/gda/ If there is nothing visible happening locally, search and DIY…. In the Republic you can try getting in touch with One Future local action groups https://www.onefuture.ie/ The following events are all Saturday 6th November – Belfast: Corn Market at 12 noon, and making its way to Belfast City Hall for speeches at 1pm, it will conclude at 2pm. Cork: 12:00 noon outside the City Library, 63 Grand Parade. Derry: Gather in Waterloo Place in Derry from 1.30pm for stalls, 2pm Rally and March. Dublin: 12:00 noon at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square East, marching to Leinster House (contact cop26coalitionireland@gmail.com) Galway: 12 noon at Spanish Arch. Limerick: 12 noon at Bedford Row.

Specifically on the considerable military element of global warming (amazingly, not currently counted in national emissions figures) there is an event in Glasgow on 4th November with involvement from World Beyond War and Codepink among others. You can also join lots of events online if you do a web search.

MII conference: …….building resilience and relevance…….

The annual Mediators’ Institute of Ireland conference takes place online on Friday 3rd December from 13.30 – 17.30. The theme is “A year like no other, building resilience and relevance for 2022 and beyond: building business and personal resilience to enable our mediation practice to thrive and grow.” The keynote speakers are Cinnie Noble on “New Beginnings – it’s time to write a new story”, Jeremy Lack on “Applying neuroscience to resilience-building: opening new avenues in cross-border conflicts”, and Justice Paul Kelly on “The changing face of mediation in the courts system”. The conference fee is €50.00 and the full details and booking link will be available on the MII website at https://www.themii.ie/

Irish peace movement history: Bits and peaces

INNATE has two online seminars coming up in November on Irish peace movement history – one about Northern Ireland, the other about international peace work. The webinar on Northern Ireland is at 7.30pm on Wednesday 17th November; the webinar on international peace work in Ireland is at 7.30pm on (the following) Wednesday 24th November. A number of speakers will talk for about ten minutes followed by small group discussion. The speakers on Northern Ireland are Ann Patterson, Anne Carr, Derick Wilson, Geoffrey Corry, Mari Fitzduff and Michael Doherty. Their involvements include the Peace People, Women Together, Corrymeela, Glencree, community relations, and the Peace and Reconciliation Group in Derry. Speakers on international peace issues are Joe Murray, John Lannon, Patrick Comerford, Peter Emerson, and Sylvia Thompson. Their background includes Afri, Shannonwatch, CND (both in the North and the Republic) and peace and ecology. A resources list of publications and weblinks will be circulated to participants (with an opportunity for additions to be made….) To book, 1) Send an e-mail to innate@ntlworld.com clearly stating whether you wish to attend the first, second or both seminars. 2) Please also indicate if you wish to be in a discussion group with a particular speaker and INNATE will try to facilitate this. See also attachment with email edition – and Editorial in email and web editions.

AVP looking for volunteers

AVP/Alternatives to Violence Project are delighted that they have been able to resume in person work and are recruiting new volunteers willing to start the training in the coming months. One Zoom information session about this has already taken place and another is on Tuesday 23rd November at 7pm (for an hour). If you want to attend please contact the coordinator dorothee@avpireland.ie Alternatives to Violence Project is a community of volunteers inside and outside prisons who run experiential workshops in conflict resolution and restorative practices. AVP is for anyone who wants to learn to build better relationships, prevent conflict and resolve it. See also https://avpireland.ie/

ICCL challenges Special Criminal Court

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has published its submission to the Independent Review Group on the Special Criminal Court which is examining it half a century after its establishment as an emergency measure. ICCL is calling for the immediate abolition of the Court. ICCL highlights six areas of particular concern: the lack of a jury; the dual role of judges as both judge and jury; the extensive powers of the DPP; claims of privilege by gardaí; and the acceptance of beliefs and inferences as evidence. ICCL states that the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers is a strongly-protected Constitutional right in Ireland. ICCL believes there is little evidence to suggest that jury intimidation is widespread, but if so, this is an issue which should be addressed by measures such as anonymous juries and by legislation at every level of the courts system. See the website at https://www.iccl.ie/ for more details and link to the full 65-page submission.

Housmans Peace Diary 2022

This invaluable aid for peace, social justice and environmental activists contains a World Peace Directory of around 1500 organisations along with the other features that you would expect from a paper diary, including notable dates and space for your engagements. The feature this coming year is on ways that smaller communities can resist being bullied by larger neighbours, and how they can be deterred from invading them. Individual copies are UK£8.95 (reduction for 10 or more copies) plus £2 postage charge for UK or £6 elsewhere. For ordering and further details see www.housmans.com/peace-diary

The World Peace Directory is also available online at http://www.housmans.info/wpd/ in a fuller version. It is worth reading the background information on the website to get the best use out of it.

Nonviolence in Action: WRI centenary conference

War Resisters’ International is running various online events on the theme “Nonviolence in Action: Antimilitarism in the 21st centuryin the period 20th – 28th November; This includes: 1) 100 years of resisting war and its causes, Saturday 20th November 2-4pm UTC with speakers Wolfgang Hertle, Joanne Sheehan, Roberta Bacic and Igor Steck 2) ,Resisting militarism today, Sunday 21st November 2-4pm UTC with speakers Ray Acheson, Dr. Sam Perlo Freeman, Rosa Moiwend, and Mamoun Abdallah. 3) Workshops during the week 4) Sustaining our resistance, Saturday 27th November 2-4pm UTC with speakers Stellan Vinthagen, Sarah Reader & Carrie Hou, and Andrea Ixchíu. 5) Discussion: What’s next? A space to reflect on the future of the antimilitarist movement, Sunday 28th November 2-4pm UTC. Details and booking at https://wri-irg.org/en/nonviolence-in-action Participation is free with a suggested donation of €10/£10 towards costs..

Church and Peace: War is contrary to the will of God

Church and Peace have, along with others, launched a peace appeal “War is contrary to the will of God”. This is in relation to the 2022 World Council of Churches Assembly (WCC) which is to be held for the first time in Germany. The aim of the appeal is for the churches to clarify their positions on Just Peace, nuclear weapons, arms exports and military budgets in the run-up to the Assembly, to courageously contribute to the church and public discussion, to seek dialogue with grassroots and to make clear demands on politicians. See www.ohne-ruestung-leben.de/friedensappell2022 There is a link to sign the appeal, and an English translation is available.

Global Learning and International Development ………

A new book by Centre for Global Education (CGE) Director, Stephen McCloskey, “Global learning and international development in the age of neoliberalismargues that the international development sector is in crisis which can be mostly sourced to its side-stepping the dominant development question of our age, the neoliberal growth paradigm. It argues that this crisis can be addressed, at least in part, by the sector’s re-engagement with the radical development education process that it helped to foster and sustain for over two decades. For publishers see https://tinyurl.com/nssczuv4 and for CGE see https://www.centreforglobaleducation.com/

Pax Christi: Policymaker’s tool…for sustainable peace

Pax Christi International has launched a new 42-page “A Policymaker’s Tool for Effective, Nonviolent Strategies for Sustainable Peace”. Aimed for policymakers (and all those who want to make nonviolence a matter of policy), it is a short brochure illustrating how nonviolence at the policy level has been proven effective around the world. It can be downloaded at https://paxchristi.net/2021/10/19/new-publication-policymakers-tool-for-nonviolence/

PSNI@20: Reflections on Policing North and South

The joint CAJ-ICCL conference “PSNI@20: Human Rights Reflections on Policing Reform North and South” takes place on Friday 5 November from 9.30am – 1.30pm in Belfast. In-person tickets are sold out but you can join online through www.bit.ly/psniat20 See also https://caj.org.uk and https://www.iccl.ie/

– Regarding Garda reform, ICCL has said that that proposals for improved garda oversight are essential to the garda reform process and must not be watered down. More details at https://www.iccl.ie/2021/rights-group-says-strengthening-of-oversight-essential-to-garda-reform/

The Matrix (vote)

A detailed report on the process of electing an all-party, power-sharing government of national unity, run in relation to Germany through a role-play exercise using a matrix vote, is available on the de Borda Institute website at http://www.deborda.org/home/2021/9/24/2021-14-a-matrix-vote-for-germany.html with explanatory notes.

PSNI security for Dalradian

Controversy has arisen over the PSNI waiving a £437,000 bill for security provided to Dalradian, the company attempting to develop gold mining in the Sperrins. This includes security for explosives. See https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSperrins/ and https://tinyurl.com/yj3nv3ck

Northern Eco-Congregation gathering

There is an Eco-Congregation online gathering for all those interested in the Northern Ireland/Ulster region on Saturday 4 December 2021, 10.30am – 12.00pm. This event is open to those in the Northern part of the country who are interested in learning how to start their church’s eco journey, work towards their ECI Award and develop their work into the future. Contact info@ecocongregationireland.com to book a place and you will be sent the Zoom link closer to the time. See also https://www.ecocongregationireland.com/

Editorials

COP26: Altruism and self-interest can and should unite

Whether the COP26 conference in Glasgow proves humanity has got a bit of cop on, or continues to cop out, remains to be seen. And it is certainly not over when it’s over; implementation, and buy in by others, is key. And of course there is a sense of deja vu, we have been here numerous times before, but this time there is little or no wriggle room left to avoid planetary disaster – of should we say more correctly, disaster for humanity and current ecosystems on this planet.

Green and ecological issues first started to raise their heads in the 1960s and 1970s, at which time green advocates were looked at askance by the establishment and most people for crying ‘wolf’. The green prophets of that time were regarded as cranks; the ‘wolf’ was seen to be a very long way off. Of course we have now learned that the wolf was already at our door. The wolf is now in our hallway. The lesson is of course that we need to pay more attention to prophets than to profits.

One exception to studied indifference in the Irish situation was the rejection of nuclear power, largely thanks to a phenomenal amount of work by the anti-nuclear power movement in the 1970s (which to some extent transmogrified into the anti-nuclear weapons movement and CND). Unfortunately this was not followed up by a movement for green energy. There are those who advocate nuclear power today as a filler for times when the sun does not shine or the wind blow. This can be appealing to some people but we need to be more creative and green than that; if nuclear power is the answer then someone is asking the wrong question. The issues of nuclear waste and unforeseen circumstances (remember Fukushima) have not gone away.

The world has had a wake up call by many different signs this year, not least the terrible extent of forest fires and record breaking global temperatures. The greatest danger to Ireland is of course the cessation of the Atlantic currents usually called the Gulf Stream. Without that our climate would be substantially colder – Newfoundland on the western edge of Europe. We already have seen increased wind, and increased rain in a substantial part of the country.

But others face being much harder hit. Whole countries and parts of countries will disappear – low lying areas, including a significant part of our cities – would be under water or at continuous risk of flooding. Of course ‘we’, in the rich west, can move, but at what cost? However when your smallholding in coastal Bangladesh gets salinated and floods, you have no choice but to join the impoverished throngs in the cities. And the number of climate refugees, from desertification as well as flooding, could make current refugee issues seem a gentle trickle.

This is where altruism and self-interest should unite. The fastest possible transition from a carbon based economy is needed throughout the world. We are all at risk. We know that humanity cannot achieve what it needs without the complete involvement and buy in of large and polluting countries like the USA, China and India. Our common interest as humans dictates that we act together, collectively, supporting poorer countries (who generally have not caused the problem, or very little of it). Covid-19 should have proved that to us if we still needed teaching. But this still entails governments acting against vested fossil fuel industry interests, a task which is more difficult in some countries than others; while some fossil fuel companies may be keen to get ahead of the posse and transition to green energy so they can continue into the future, others are clearly resisting tooth and nail.

We also have to be aware that climate change is only one part of going green, even if a vital part. Biodiversity, on which our ecosystem depends, could still be irreparably damaged even if climate change is reined in. Our resource use is way over the top of what the planet can sustain. Everything is, however, linked and that includes building peace and justice so that our personal energies can go into positive, sustainable futures rather than survival.

Ireland, Republic and Northern Ireland, has been slow to go green (ironic, as we know, given the national colour). While there are signs that governments are at last getting serious, we have to be continually vigilant to avoid them backsliding and making excuses. For example, allowing the increase of the cattle herd in Ireland is bizarre; maybe there will be a techno-fix or even low-tech fix (such as the feeding of seaweed) for cattle-produced methane but until there is then numbers should be reduced substantially, that is only logical. We cannot expect others to take the pain. But then we have then to support cattle farmers to transition to other types of production, or provide the research to decrease methane levels. Maybe, if there are going to be cattle producing diary products and beef, Ireland with its lush grass should be a centre for cattle production but that should be part of international agreement within the context of an overarching green policy for the world.

And there should be no pain without some concomitant gain or compensation. This obviously applies in the poor world where the contribution to global climate crisis is probably minimal but the effects are massive, and the cost of change exorbitant. The same applies to poorer people in rich countries; they should not be penalised; if green transition is done right then they should gain in the long term through energy efficient homes and reduced expenditure on energy.

But we all have to be up for change and a certain amount of disruption to how things have been done heretofore. The fact that change is necessary is almost universally accepted now. Boris Johnson may be a late convert to being an ecosystem saviour but perhaps he realised as well that his credibility (or lack of it) is on the line as prime ministerial host of COP26. It doesn’t matter who our allies are on this matter; what matters is getting climate change halted.

There are causes for optimism in the seriousness the relevant issues are being treated., but uncertainty too. The alternative, in not doing enough to keep the global increase in temperature well below 2°C, would not be a case of the glass being half full or half empty but, for most people, of there being no water at all, or, when it does come, being part of damaging floods.

COP26 may not be the last chance salon but to use a perhaps slightly anomalous fuel analogy, we are approaching the last service station before the desert. We have a choice before further travel: green energy or fossil fuels. If we still choose the latter then we may not make it through the desert. If we go big time for the former then there is some hope the desert may be coaxed into blooming again and our journey can continue without the risk of destruction.

A history lesson

We fairly recently editorialised on peace movement history (NN 290 https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/category/editorials/ ) but, given the webinars on Irish peace movement history organised by INNATE this month [see News section], we are visiting this area again.

In looking back we have to be honest with ourselves. This means acknowledging failures as well as successes – we probably tend to do neither. But part of it is also showing the amount of work and effort which went into various projects, the very considerable efforts made even when things did not go smoothly, and the courage it took to stick your neck out. To think of history as simply the headlines, such as the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998, is a bit like the ‘kings and battles’ model of history in the broader sphere, now much derided.

What brought about the Good Friday Agreement? What were the conditions which made it possible? What led to those conditions? How did things build up to that agreement? Clearly the Good Friday Agreement was a great achievement but it also had, and has, flaws, insofar as it copperfastened aspects of division in its consociational elements. The willingness of a very significant proportion of society in Northern Ireland to, for once, support compromise did not come from nowhere; it was hard won and struggled for over decades by different elements of civil society. Obviously some politicians were ready and willing but for others various bits of the jigsaw had to all fall into place, and they needed to feel they would not be damned by their supporters for compromising, and yet others remained outside the tent (even if they later ventured in and occasionally out).

On the international peace front there have, over the years, been significant inputs from people in Ireland to various aspects of disarmament at both state and civil society levels. The anti-nuclear weapons movement was big in the 1980s and had significant presence back in the early 1960s. There was considerable civil society pressure for, and support to the state, in the movements for banning landmines and cluster munitions. A significant number of people have taken the consequences of possibly being found to have broken the law at Shannon Airport to oppose subservience to the USA and its military there. Neutrality remains a popular policy in the Republic even if you would not know this from the way the politicians of most political parties behave, and chip away gradually at the bedrock of that policy.

Building up a picture of what has been done, on Northern Ireland and on international peace issues, over the lifetimes of those still alive, is an enormous task. It is also an important one, not just so ‘the truth’ of people’s struggle is documented, but for the inspiration it can give. Of course we can – and should – be inspired by young people today, particularly climate activists, but we are missing out if we do not recognise what has been done by oldies and not-quite-oldies.

In the Northern context, not to record civil society action to address the Troubles and division is to cede history to paramilitaries and the state, different though their narratives may be. However one commonality in both is the efficacy and necessity of lethal force. We can and should challenge that. And part of that is showing the exploration of, and advocacy for, nonviolent possibilities in the early and darkest days of the Troubles. Just one small example is the conference (and resultant book) coming from Corrymeela and Glencree in 1981 exploring models of political cooperation across borders. https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/12087496276/in/album-72157614893100575/

In the Northern Ireland context there are many different sectors of civil society including women’s groups, community groups, trade unions, churches, peace and reconciliation groups, those focused on community relations, and others. Each of these sectors has a tale to tell in relation to the work done to address the Troubles and explore ways forward both for their sector and society in general. The trade unions, for example, had many different initiatives and the fact that their story has not been told is not their fault (given a detailed Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU funding application which was failed). Of course the fact that churches are, in their nature in a sectarian society, symbols and sometimes bastions of division has also to be acknowledged; but so too should the sometimes personally costly work by some church women and men who pushed out the boat and sought to sail forward.

INNATE’s webinars in November are simply scratching the surface of something which requires detailed study and work. It will consist of people sharing on prominent experiences or events rather than detailed organisational history. A resources list will also be drawn up which can help facilitate further study. Future webinars will likely explore further, including the Quaker contribution to peace, and the story and work of AVP/Alternatives to Violence Project in Ireland.

The extent to which William Faulkner’s quote is true that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” has to be determined; it varies. Not everywhere and everything has the same attachment to partial views of the past as some have in and in relation to Northern Ireland. We can of course journey onwards without attention to the past, and every new situation and time is unique. But being able to identify the basis of success, or failure, and identify trends and ‘which way the wind is blowing’ is important for strategising and building our movements today.

The quote about standing on the shoulders of giants (a phrase which dates back centuries) has fallen into some disuse after being commonly quoted a few years back. But we don’t just stand on the shoulders of giants; perhaps a more appropriate metaphor is that we stand on the ground which has been cultivated and tended by many, many ordinary and extraordinary people in past years – you can call them all ‘giants’ if you want to but that may seem hyperbole. We are a part of collective movements for progress and change which stretch back not just to our grandmothers and grandfathers but their grandfathers and grandmothers, and way on back. No, we are not invincible but ‘we’ will continue that struggle and, in turn, our grandchildren’s grandchildren may acknowledge the work we did and tried to do.

Eco-Awareness

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

Understanding Cop26

By the time you read this Cop26 will be well under way and even if you had minimal interest in it, perhaps out of a mixture of despair and cynicism, you will nevertheless likely be aware that it is happening. As the outcome of the proceedings will profoundly affect every person and every generation until the end of humankind’s tenure on Earth, not to mention every species in the biosphere, there are some things it is important to know. Among these are its two cardinal aims.

The primary one is for the 196 countries who signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to pledge the amount of global warming emissions they will reduce by 2030 and each subsequent five years until they reach net-zero emissions by 2050. These pledges are known as ‘nationally determined contributions’. If the reduction pledges are less that what is required the average global temperature is expected to reach 2.7 degree Celsius by the end of the century. A temperature that will mean the end of civilization as we know it involving an unimaginable amount of suffering, hardship and the loss of much of humankind’s cultural heritage. The scientific consensus is that the rise in temperature can be kept below 1.5 degrees, as per the pre-industrial level, if significant reductions are made by the major economies. The global average temperature is 1.2 C while that of the Arctic is an alarming 3.5 C. These climate disrupting temperatures mean that the age of a lax regard to greenhouse gas emissions is over.

As a target is an aspiration unless based on a step-by-step procedure as to how it will be realized the signatures to the Paris Agreement have to submit a detailed plan as to how their emission reduction targets will be achieved. This involves intense political bargaining within each country as to what part of the economy has to make what greenhouse gas emission cuts. In Ireland, north and south, the sector over which much haggling is taking place is the beef and dairy sector. In the Republic the sector accounts for 37 per cent of emissions.

Another aim of Cop26 is for the wealthy countries to agree their individual share of the $100 billion annual transfer to the low-income countries to help them put in place technologies that have zero greenhouse gas emissions as well as help them mitigate and cope with the ecological catastrophes that will increasingly result from climate breakdown. The $100 billion is a fraction of the £2 trillion the International Energy Agency say is needed. The transfer pledge was made in 2009 and supposed to have been fully implemented in 2020.

Even if Cop26 goes as well as can be expected with ecstatic cheers all round there are a number of seemingly insurmountable hurdles countries have to overcome in meeting their pledges. These include dismantling and repurposing much of the physical infrastructure and financial arrangements that underpin our global economy as well as reconfiguring the dominant mindset which evolved in concurrence with them. Given the invested interests of powerful corporations and individuals making these changes within a short period of time will, even with the best of efforts, be no easy matter. The opposition of Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, to President Biden’s clean electricity program is an illustrative example. His refusal to vote in favour of the legislation has caused major setbacks. Readers may not be surprised to learn that he earns considerable financial dividends from his investments in the fossil fuel industry and represents a state which has a high number of jobs tied to coal.

The gargantuan nature of what is required is compounded by the clear lack of grasp governments, corporations, financial institutions and other bodies have of the need for a complete restructuring of society to take place without delay. Or it might be that these institutions understand the dimensions of the task but chose for the reason of short-term gain to take an incremental approach. This is one that, among other things, avoids constructing a rigorously fair and transparent taxation system, persuading people to significantly reduce their consumption of meat and dairy produce, ration their number of flights, and governments severely cutting back on the colossal sums annually spent on the military. In 2020 the global sum was $2 trillion. This includes the $72.6 billion the nine nuclear countries spent on nuclear weapons. The incremental approach, which is that of most governments, allows the vehicle we are collectively in to drive straight over the cliff into the abyss.

A number of reasons account for why society shies away from accepting that an ecological sustainable society, one that has zero greenhouse gas emissions, a thriving bio-diverse world and an absence of poverty and avoidable ill-health, cannot be a replica of our present consumerist society. The politics and marketing of electric vehicles in the format of the myth of individual autonomy and a means of status signalling exemplifies the commitment of governments and powerful business interests to the prevailing Earth destroying paradigm. This helps explain why the Irish and UK governments are intent on spending billions on new roads. The UK government plans to spend £27 billion over the next ten years.

The Earth destroying paradigm is summed up by James Ball in The New European, 21-27 October 2021. He writes that “Green tech and building can be good for growth and the environment.” Economic growth, dubbed green or not, is based on the extractive economy which in many instances has an inherent number of negatives including pollution, loss of biodiversity and poverty-level wages for many. This is in part illustrated by the case that the 70 per cent decline in the global population of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians since 1970 aligns with the worldwide rise in economic growth in this period.

The greatest impediment to becoming an ecological sustainable and equal society is not the lack of technical know how or organising abilities but our unwillingness to envisage such a society coupled with insufficient awe, love and respect for the natural world. As these can be addressed through education, in the holistic understanding of the term, there is no need for despair. Further, as each of us has a stake in the present and future health of the biosphere we are, whether we acknowledge it or not, ecological actors rather than spectators. Knowing this is empowering.

Readings in Nonviolence

Looking back to look forward

Introduction

As campaigning on the ecological crisis continues apace at the time of COP26, we thought it relevant to share a section from the WRI/War Resisters’ International Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns, specifically a section on studying particular campaigns in order to learn from them – and, as stated below, it can also be used in advance to mark issues which need considered in organising a campaign.

Some campaigns are, of course, small and limited rather than societal, national or international in scale. The extent to which some of the questions below are relevant will vary but that is fine. We can see what is relevant and reflect on those. And if we don’t ask the right questions we certainly can’t arrive at the ‘right’, or most appropriate, answers.

INNATE is also currently doing some work on Irish peace movement history, admittedly – given its resources – in a very limited way, and the questions here can be relevant for any political campaign.

This Handbook contains enough wisdom and practical advice to last us, and challenge us, for a very long time. It is available on the WRI website at https://www.nonviolence.wri-irg.org/en/resources/2008/nonviolence-handbook and paper copies can also be ordered.

Campaign case study guide

It is important to document campaigns so people can learn from them. Just as we have learned from the nonviolent campaigns of people throughout time and around the world, documenting our own struggles and stories may help people in other times and places. This guide, created for WRI’s Nonviolent Social Empowerment case studies, can be used by an individual or group to determine the information needed to construct a case study of a campaign. This guide can also be used to remind us of what we need to consider in organising a campaign.

Overview

  • Nature of the campaign – what was/is the issue? when did it start/finish?

  • Geographical and (brief) historical context

  • Participants – who (analysis of class, race/ethnic, gender, religious group, age, sexuality, ability, other) – did this change at different phases of the movement?

Chronology

  • Starting point

  • Were there (have there been) distinct phases?

  • Were there particular moments of expansion?

  • What were the peaks?

  • What were other key events?

Nonviolence

  • Was there a public profile of wanting to avoid violence?

  • Was there a declared public policy of nonviolence?

  • If so, what was meant by nonviolence?

  • Was there consensus around this? What kind of differences around this?

  • What measures were taken to implement a policy of nonviolence?

  • Was there nonviolence training? Were there nonviolence guidelines?

  • Was the campaign seen as shifting the values of society more towards nonviolence?

  • Were there particular sources of inspiration for types of action or ways of organising?

Means

  • What use was made of official channels, lobbying, electoral processes, constitutional mechanisms, and with what impact?

  • How was the mainstream media used?

  • What role or influence did they have?

  • How did they try to develop or use their own public media or alternative media? With what impact?

  • Did the campaign try to establish alternatives? Were they meant to be temporary or permanent? What happened?

  • What kind of means did they use to build a movement culture or sense of connectedness? To what effect?

  • Did they use withdrawal of cooperation as a tactic? At what stage? With what effect?

  • Did they try to directly disrupt of obstruct an activity they were campaigning against? At what stage? With what focus? With what participation? With what effect?

  • How did they use conventional means of protest? How did they combine them with other methods?

Organisation

  • Did the campaign agree on a formal structure?

  • What informal structures played an important role?

  • Was the campaign concerned to have a participatory structure of organisation and decision-making? If so, how were people trained in the process?

  • How did the campaign link with other groups/movements?

  • What importance did you give to coalition-building? With what criteria for alliances?

  • How did the campaign address the needs of activists to learn, to grow, to rest, to sustain their commitment?

  • How did the campaign address the possible contradiction between the needs of security and the desire for participation?

  • What kind of repression did the movement expect to face? What provision did they make to support the people most affected?

  • Did the campaign have a clear time frame and concept of strategic development?

  • How did the campaign develop its resources (human, social, economic)?

Goals and outcomes

  • What were the initial goals?

  • How have the goals evolved? Why?

  • Was it an aim to empower participants? In what way?

  • How were the goals framed – e.g. with what type of slogan?

  • Was there the flexibility to revise goals, e.g. to respond to particular events, or to build on success?

  • How did they expect the institution holding power of those who ‘benefit’ from being dominant to change? (e.g. to be converted, to accommodate some of your demands, to be coerced into accepting the demands, or to disintegrate/dissolve)

  • To what extent did they achieve their goals? – short, medium, long term

  • With what side effects? – positive and negative

  • Did their adversary make any mistakes that significantly helped their cause?

Empowerment

All the questions have some kind of link with empowerment. This concluding section returns to some themes but with more focus. Answers need to encompass the dimensions of power within, power- with and power-in-relation to.

  • Who was empowered? to be or do what? (to join in, to share responsibility, to take

initiative, to maintain their activism)

  • What contributed to this sense of empowerment? (e.g. training, group confidence,

achieving strategic goals)

  • How did the experience of different phases of a movement affected the sense of

empowerment?

  • What about people involved who did not feel empowered?

  • How were strategies of empowerment discussed / constructed? personal, group,

social?

  • Was any participant/group disempowered – how? How did this effect the campaign?

  • Nature of the campaign – what was/is the issue? when did it start/finish?

  • Geographical and (brief) historical context

  • Participants – who (analysis of class, race/ethnic, gender, religious group, age, sexuality, ability, other) – did this change at different phases of the movement?

Billy King: Rites Again

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Condescending, patronising – and unjust

Those who know the first, the very first, thing about dealing with the past know about how patronising and counter-productive is the advice of telling people who have suffered that it is ‘time to move on’; it can even be violent or totally excusing violence because it is in essence saying that at that stage ‘it doesn’t matter’ and “you don’t matter”. Effectively this is what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been telling the people of Northern Ireland though he couched it in different language; “We don’t want to deny anybody justice but what we do want is to heal, bring people together in a process of understanding of what happened but also to say to the people that it time but given that it wouldn’t enable people to get at the truth for Northern Ireland to move on”.

This was him talking to the BBC about his government’s ‘legacy’/amnesty proposals. But given that it is unlikely to enable people to get at the truth of what happened to their loved ones, in fact closing down processes, it was a lie to say “”We need to find a way of allowing people to reach an understanding of what happened and allowing families to reach closure while at the same time drawing a line.”

CAJ director Brian Gormally summarises (in the October 2021 issue of their newsletter Just News https://caj.org.uk/) that the British Government ‘Command Paper’ “proposes a sweeping and unconditional amnesty which would end all legacy-related ‘judicial activity’ (i.e. current and future legacy prosecutions, inquests, and civil actions) as well as all police and Office of the Police Ombudsman investigations. The paper also suggests the establishment of a new Information Recovery Body and various proposals for developing oral history and memorialisation initiatives.” How the latter would work without without the deleted functions, well, your guess is as good as mine, and given the current British government’s direction and the lack of necessary powers to be held by any information recovery body.

There was a fairly comprehensive agreement in 2014 on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland, the Stormont House Agreement, which was accepted across the board but has never been implemented. Again, Britain waives the rules; the Stormont House Agreement was fully multilateral, current British proposals are unilateral. It is clear, in that the British government is acting against the wishes of all substantial parties in both parts of Ireland, that it is acting only in its own narrow interests to promote an English nationalist agenda and protect the state from the truth of what its agents got up to in the little war in Northern Ireland. Unanimity in the whole of Ireland on Northern Irish issues is rare and to go against such agreement beggars belief..

I try not to use labelling language about people, [Really? – Ed] but in this instance I am prepared to make an exception, and it happens to be true. When it comes to this issue, Boris Johnson is a condescending and patronising dissembler (he purports to be acting in the interest of the people of Northern Ireland when it is clear he is not)….I am tempted to add the noun that he is a ‘Git’, which as well as being a computer system is a slang word of British origin indicating a contemptible and disagreeable person. Having introduced that word I will simply say he is too agreeable in that he agreed – in an internationally binding agreement – to the Northern Ireland Protocol to get his version of Brexit across the line with no intention of implementing it. He needs to git a bit of sense.

I Woke up this morning…….

Conscientisation is not a particularly pretty word but it is a useful one, representing the process of becoming politically aware. It can happen in a million different ways, not least becoming aware of the contradictions between what the powerful (at any level) say or proclaim and what they actually do. In recent years, much conscientisation has come about because of the ecological crisis; young people – and many oldies – see the complete mess us older people have made of the world’s eco-system and want a future that is not horrible beyond words. They also see the trotting out of seemingly eco-supportive words with a stunning lack of action.

Of course the hope is also that, once conscientised regarding one issue or area of life, people go on to be critical thinkers in everything. Thus someone who becomes aware of the need for radical change on green issues may develop an awareness of inequality at home and abroad – poor people everywhere, who have done much less than the rich to cause the crisis, are the ones suffering or likely to suffer by far the most. Thus wider political change is necessary, and the politically aware person can become convinced of a whole raft of issues in relation to ecology, equality, justice and peace. ‘Conscientisation’ as a term tends not to be used for people who become politically right wing for a variety of reasons, not least because it could be said it represents a movement away from justice and peace, though you could use the simpler term ‘politicised’; ‘radicalised’ tends to be used for violent jihadist Muslims but that can be stereotyping.

It is also a matter of joining the dots. Us ‘peace’ activists cannot exist in a bubble. The military are major polluters, as is the arms industry, and the arms industry is a major cause of poverty and inequality because money squandered on armaments is not available for adequate health care or social support. Despite western efforts to make armies welcoming to women, it is clear that the military and military style thinking are a bastion of machismo and male violence, at an inter-personal level as well as an international one (and this applies to the Irish army as recent reports indicate). In many countries the role of the army is as much internal repression as any possible international involvement. Everything connects.

But the empire strikes back. One of the ways it does so is by ridiculing alternatives. Thus political awareness and action becomes pejoratively ‘woke’ or ‘cancel culture’, crude but sometimes effective labelling to put down those who are politically aware. This right wing labelling is an old tactic, to dismiss ideas and the people who hold them out of hand rather than do a serious analysis of what is possible; get the man (sic) and not the ball. It is often a highly effective tactic because it portrays ‘our’ enemies in a very negative light, thus reinforcing ‘our’ viewpoint.

One counter-tactic is to adopt and reframe the right-wing rhetoric. Thus the gay movement reclaimed ‘queer’ (a word which also has a particular alternative currency in the English language in Ireland, as ‘quare’, meaning different or even exciting but not indicating necessarily negativity). Thus I can proclaim myself proud to be ‘woke’. After all, if you are not ‘awake’ you are ‘asleep’ and that means totally ignorant of what is going on. Of course the right wing rhetoric implies false consciousness and an attempt to be progressive in a stupid and negative way. But if you are not attempting to be critical of the powers that be then you become simply another fellow traveller for unbridled capitalism, militarism, ecocide and the rich and powerful who would like people to be naive little quiet consumers and shut up.

Cancel culture’ is another aspect of right wing labelling, implying that those seeking change are trying to ‘cancel’ people’s reality and culture. This is another real nonsense. Of course there should be a meaningful debate about statues of slave traders or buildings associated with repressive figures from the past. But things are always changing and if culture doesn’t evolve it dies. As well as imperialist and war monuments at Belfast City Hall, some figures are simply dignitaries from the time the City Hall was built at the very start of the 20th century; they are totally irrelevant to today and their only slight relevance is to say “These are the kind of people that the city fathers (sic) of the time sought to commemorate”. There is now, thankfully, a somewhat serious attempt to address the issue of who is represented there.

Statues can often be controversial and always have been. Republicans took matters into their own hands in Dublin in blowing up Nelson’s Pillar in 1966. Previously the central Dublin statue of King Billy was removed in 1929 (it had frequently been attacked and had been badly damaged in an explosion).

And sometimes statuary makes no great sense. In Birr, Co Offaly, ‘Cumberland Square’ (now Emmet Square, named after the republican Protestant Robert Emmet) had a statue on a column of the Duke of Cumberland, ‘the butcher of Culloden’ (the battle was in 1746 with a bloody aftermath following the English victory); he had no connection with the town or indeed Ireland but the statue was erected at the behest of the local ascendancy immediately after Culloden. This statue was taken down, for ‘safety reasons’ in 1915, interestingly pre-independence, and it may have been more to placate Scottish soldiers stationed in Birr (Crinkle/Crinkill barracks) than Irish nationalists! There was a debate later about replacing him, e.g. with the local St Brendan. However, and probably thankfully, nothing was agreed – also the sandstone column might not be up to supporting a new figure – and so the town retains a pleasantly imposing candlestick column with nothing on top. The story of its evolution is part of the story of the town – and Ireland.

The right wing idea that those seeking change are trying to ‘cancel’ history and reality is usually the opposite of the truth. Those seeking change are almost universally recognising the realities of today, actually remembering and examining what happened in the past, and challenging outdated ideological notions and rose tinted views, as well as wanting to foment a debate about the issues, not to simply say “You can’t have that”. Whether statues with an unpleasant past remain in situ but are updated with appropriate commentary on accompanying notices or guide books, or are pulled down and exhibited in some museum, again with appropriate commentary, is a matter for debate. An attachment to memorabilia of the US Confederacy or British or French imperialism, for example, should be openly challenged and not celebrated but how this is done should generally be through a consultative process – though of course direct action is an option for those who wish.

There is the related area of whether ‘apologies’ for past misdeeds are meaningful and have any meaning beyond saying “Let’s get our current relations recalibrated”. This raises all sorts of questions about judging the past by the standards of today. We are bound to do it to some extent but we also need an understanding of why people did something and how they thought about things. A key here is how other people saw things, and what actions they took. For example, the fact that the Sultan of Turkey had to be persuaded by the British to donate less for famine relief than Queen Victoria (because it would make her look bad) spells out volumes about how England regarded Ireland in the mid-19th century.

Ireland has its own shibboleths on both sides of the historical nationalist/unionist divide, and these continue to be a bugbear in Norn Iron; the way memorialisation of paramilitary deaths takes place tends to be very divisive, not least in marking territory. However the events associated with the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ (from the 1912 gun running through to the Civil War) have at least started a serious educational process to examine the events of a century ago a bit more dispassionately and look at the hurt and violence inflicted by all sides, whoever was in our view ‘right’ – if anyone. If this has been possible after a century or so then maybe by 2121 we will have got it sorted.

I don’t know if The West is A-Woke but being awake/woke is necessary north, south, east and west. Don’t buy a pig in a poke – be a woke…..or as that old badge or sticker said “Be alert – this country needs lerts”.

Stitched up

How do we make sense of violence and injustice? The scale can be so vast that we turn off because our minds can’t make sense of the level of suffering. Certainly we need critical analysis which can unwrap the secretive loops which the violent and powerful wrap around themselves and their deeds.

One excellent source of such analysis is New Internationalist magazine which takes an honest and critical look at the world and the important issues. The recent issue is on food, such a basic necessity that we in the rich world take for granted. But our ‘for granted’ may be depriving others. One story there is on how small fish are caught off the coast of Africa to feed, as fish meal, to northern hemisphere fish farms for salmon etc. Thus African fishers are finding the going much, much tougher and yields much lower because the fish they want to catch are used to produce a luxury food item, salmon, for people in the rich world. This is an appalling travesty and just one small example of what happens.

Another way, of making sense of things, which I wanted to deal with here, is of course through individual stories. These communicate directly to us. Stories can be told in many different ways. One of those ways, particularly used by women, has been through textiles and arpilleras [three-dimensional appliquéd tapestries which were originally produced in Chile]. And one story that attracted my attention recently was a Zimbabwean one told through an arpillera and a poem. It is entitled “For Paul, Disappeared 8 February 2012 “ and appears on the Conflict Textiles website at https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/conflicttextiles/search-quilts2/fulltextiles1/?id=429

Paul Chizuzu, a human rights defender for decades went missing on 8th February 2012 during the Mugabe era. Some years later the arpillera depicted in this entry was made by a colleague of his who said “It is ironic that we work with families of the disappeared, and then experienced first-hand the shock and despair of losing someone we cared about so deeply.” The maker of this arpillera, Shari Appel, had also previously written a poem about Paul Chizuzu:

A pebble does not sink without a ripple

A branch does not break and fall without a sound

A mouse in the jaws of a cat squeaks and struggles

A bird in flight drops one feather to the ground.

A heart in despair sighs, and leaves a whisper
A body in pain sheds blood upon the stone
A friend will follow signs until she finds you
I will never leave you, hidden, alone.”

This is very moving and to see the arpillera and more information, go to the link above.

The divil you know

I wanted to quote the best satirical comment I have seen on recent events in relation to the Norn Iron Protycol, and EU and UK statements about it. Former British government advisor-in-chief Dominic Cummings said (and this was reiterated by what Ian Paisley MP quoted Boris Johnson as telling him) that the British government never intended to implement parts of an international treaty it didn’t like. What I reproduce below came in a thread comment in the British Guardian, following a column from political sketch writer and satirist John Crace https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/oct/13/frost-and-johnson-test-sefcovics-mr-nice-guy-act-to-destruction : This piece is is by ‘Hoofitoff’:

Regina v Haddock

A curious case was heard at Westminster Magistrates Court on Tuesday last.

Mr Albert “Frozen” Haddock was charged with stealing a chicken from a branch of Aldi, having attempted to leave the supermarket without paying the price clearly stated on the label.

Mr Haddock claimed that the price was an “invitation to treat” but since nobody there would negotiate a different price, he could set his own reasonable price, particularly as he was in a hurry to conclude the purchase and return home by 5pm in order to be able to say that he had “got the shopping done.”

The prosecution alleged that he entered the supermarket but never had any intention of paying. Mr Haddock denied that this was the case; however he added that this behaviour was not at all unusual and that many people entered shops with no intention of paying.

He also claimed that he acted in a “specific and limited way” as he was happy to pay for the potatoes and carrots, but wished to re-negotiate the deal on the chicken.

Finally, he claimed that not having a chicken was causing distress to people in the community – specifically his family at 48, Gallipoli Road. It was the will of these people that they should have whatever they wanted, but because of the purist and inflexible position of the supermarket with regard to the price, the family were losing confidence in the system.

When asked by Mr Justice Swallow if he really thought that this approach could succeed, Mr Haddock explained that he was merely following the example of the British government with regard to negotiations, agreements and the rule of law.

The case was adjourned indefinitely.”

Anemone

We were trying to identify a flower in our garden, it is almost finished flowering now. We didn’t succeed in identifying it beyond being an anemone of which there are many, many different varieties. But it reminded me of the English comedian Kenneth Williams’ famous interjection as Julius Caesar in the 1964 Carry On Cleo film: “Infamy! Infamy! They have all got it infamy!”. This connection came about since the case of trying to identify the anemone had made me think of the late, great Frank Kelly and his ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. In this, the character played by Kelly, Gobnait O’Lúnasa and his mother are driven totally demented by the misplaced generosity of his lady love, Nuala; he says to her, “You are making anemone of me!” (well, almost those words). You can easily find Kelly’s ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ online – it was actually a record selling hit ‘a long time ago’….worth digging out, particularly coming up to the Christmas season.

However it is important to try to avoid making anemone of anyone. As those who know anything about nonviolence will understand, while you should try to avoid making anemone of anyone, if you do then you should try to turn them into a friend……

Sin é (or recognising the political party leading in the polls in both parts of this island, “Sinn Féin é”). I will return at the start of December when Christmas is nearly upon us, (whatever that holiday period will be like this time….) the year is certainly winding on before winding up. Until then, take care of yourselves and each other, Billy.

Nonviolent News 293

NIO breach equality on proposed Troubles amnesty

In a victory for civil society, the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) and Pat Finucane Centre (PFC) have welcomed a report from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), published on 29th September which concludes the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) breached its Equality Scheme in relation to its proposed legacy bill. The ECNI investigation was triggered by a complaint from CAJ and PFC, made in July 2020.

Daniel Holder of CAJ said: “We welcome this investigation report by ECNI, which shines a light on haphazard Donald Trump-like policy making on legacy by the NIO. Its notable that the NIO departed from applying its Equality Scheme procedures properly at the same time that it unilaterally ditched the Stormont House Agreement. An equality assessment should have been carried out and made available on the policy at the earliest possible stage to highlight the impact of this change would have, including on victims and their families.” See https://caj.org.uk/2021/09/29/ecni-nio-investigation/ and https://patfinucanecentre.org/

The UN Human Rights Council has been examining concerns related to the Northern Ireland Office’s impunity proposals. The UK proposes introducing legislation that would include a statute-bar on investigating conflict related incidents, along with an unconditional and unqualified amnesty for conflict related offences. CAJ’s written statement to the Human Rights Council on these developments is available on their website. Amnesty International also input to the UN Human Rights Council and Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager for Amnesty UK, said: This blueprint for writing-off conflict related violations not only breaches the UK’s international and domestic human rights obligations, but unduly interferes in our justice system and undermines the rule of law. It sets a very dangerous precedent.” https://www.amnesty.ie/amnesty-and-troubles-victims-address-un/ and https://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Northern-Ireland

Another report, from experts at CAJ and the School of Law at QUB, on the UK government’s ‘Command Paper on Legacy’ concluded that the proposed amnesty is broader than even that introduced by Chilean dictator Pinochet and cannot deliver truth for victims of the Troubles. See https://tinyurl.com/3wf3ncp5

Practical peacemaking wisdom from the North

Emily Stanton’s new book, based on her doctoral research, has been published by Routledge. It is entitled “Theorising Civil Society Peacebuilding: The Practical Wisdom of Local Peace Practitioners in Northern Ireland, 1965-2015”, https://tinyurl.com/59zwn4cn It includes new information about the role of civil society in peacemaking in the North and, as it details in the title, develops a theory on the practical wisdom of local peace practitioners. ISBN 9780367496838, 236 pages, though unfortunately, in terms of availability, it is priced as an academic publication (the e-book is £33). The information leaflet for Emily Stanton’s peace trail “Untold stories – Touring Belfast’s grassroots peacebuilding history”, also mainly based on her doctoral research, is available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/innateireland/43899692560/in/album-72157676326740807/ and the frame beside that. Nonviolent News (e-mail and web editions) will review her book in the near future.

Dated and dangerous: Fossil fuel powering data centres

The issue of fossil fuel used by data centres in Ireland is emerging as a major issue as data centres (115 constructed or proposed) mushroom around the country. A report in The Irish Times 28/9/21 reported that “If all the proposed data centres for Ireland were to be connected they could use as much as 70 per cent of Ireland’s electricity grid capacity in 2030.” A short, 8 minute, video from Afri, “Code Red: The danger of data centres” looks at the issue of data centres with a particular focus on Co Clare: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bucw38roFlc&t=3s

On a more positive and ecological note, another Afri video looks at the work of Siolta Chroí (‘Regenerating people and wider nature’) in Co Monaghan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiGYI1SsxoI and https://sioltachroi.ie/ The Afri website is at https://www.afri.ie/

More ‘made in Belfast’ violence from Thales

Thales, the missile makers and biggest bomb factory in Belfast, have been awarded major contracts for the British Ministry of Defence to develop “directed energy weapons”, which use laser and radio frequency technology. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-58562436 StoP/Swords to Ploughshares, the network opposing the arms trade in Ireland (both jurisdictions and with involvement from a variety of individuals and groups) meets regularly via Zoom and can be contacted c/o INNATE innate@ntlworld.com

White poppies from PPU

The Peace Pledge Union in Britain has white poppies available as usual for the ‘remembrance season’ in November. “They represent remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and a challenge to attempts to glamorise or celebrate war.” White poppies are available in packs of 5, 10 or 100 along with other resources; see https://www.ppu.org.uk/remembrance-white-poppies for details. In Dublin, white poppies are available at the Winding Stair Bookshop, Lower Ormond Quay.

Ireland gives big tech free rein

A report from ICCL/Irish Council for Civil Liberties, published in September, details how, in the words of the author of the report, Dr Johnny Ryan, “The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) has failed to send draft decisions to its European colleagues on a very large number of major EU-wide cases. This makes it impossible to uphold data rights and police how Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft, use people’s data across Europe.” See https://www.iccl.ie/news/europes-wild-west-damning-new-stats-on-big-tech-in-ireland/ with link to full report.

Irish peace movement history

INNATE is organising two remote/Zoom seminars on Irish peace movement history where a number of speakers will share briefly on a particularly memorable event or experience in the work. The first session, on work to do with peace in Northern Ireland, will be on Wednesday 17th November at 7.30pm, and the second, on international peace work in Ireland, will be at 7.30pm on 24th November. Further info and booking details in the next issue of Nonviolent News.

Church and Peace: Images of God – (Non)Violence

From 3rd to 5th September the AGM and international conference of Church and Peace dealt with the topic of Images of God and (Non)Violence. The participants explored manifestations of hierarchy, dominance, oppression, and violence – whether structural, spiritual, or personal. The aim was to determine the extent to which religious traditions and attitudes are linked to violence, racism, and sexism, to explore the connections between images of God and language, and to look at how language opens up or dictates how we think. It became clear that there is a close connection between authoritarian theology and patriarchal images of God, liturgies, and language patterns, on the one hand, and violence in churches, communities, families, and politics, on the other hand. Churches and congregations worldwide clearly have to grapple with these issues. The presentations, and other material are available on the Church and Peace website: https://www.church-and-peace.org/en/documents/international-conference-2021/

World Beyond War: War Abolisher awards

World Beyond war/WBW has three awards to be made at a 6th October ceremony. The Lifetime Organizational War Abolisher goes to Peace Boat https://peaceboat.org/english while the individual awardee is Mel Duncan and The War Abolisher of 2021 award goes to to Civic Initiative Save Sinjajevina in Montenegro https://sinjajevina.org/ Anyone can join the awards ceremony which takes place at 1pm Irish time on 6th October and further details are available at https://tinyurl.com/mfsu2pz8

Green growth?

The issue of ‘green growth’ is a thorny one and generates controversy. A new podcast from Feasta with economic researcher Beth Stratford outlines an agenda that she believes both degrowth advocates and green growth advocates should be able to sign up to. She describes four strategies for reducing growth dependency in the economy while simultaneously improving societal wellbeing. See https://www.feasta.org/2021/01/31/bridging-the-gaps-2021-podcasts-on-ecology-health-energy-well-being/

CCI work on independent living in Belarus

An article on Chernobyl Children International’s work in establishing an Independent Living Home for people with disabilities in Belarus, the first in the country, can be found at https://www.echolive.ie/corkviews/arid-40361606.html The CCI website is at https://www.chernobyl-international.com/

Conflict Textiles

Suitcases: Telling Textile Travels is an online exhibition of 23 international textiles from the Conflict Textiles collection focused on global displacement, both historical and current, its multiple impacts and the experiences of refugees both before and after they arrive and settle in their host country. On 4th October at 2pm, online, there is a guided tour of the exhibition, led by Roberta Bacic and on 6 October at 2pm, also online, an associated event – Conflict Textiles and CAIN: Learning the Language of Textiles, will provide a comprehensive background to the origins, development and mission of the Conflict Textiles physical collection and online archive. See https://www.platforma.org.uk/pf_events/suitcases-telling-textile-travels/ and

https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/conflicttextiles/

Editorials

Protocol protocols

Measures which the EU may propose to relax the Northern Ireland Protocol, somewhat like rabbits out of a hat, may be enough to keep some more people on board with the possibility of living with the Protocol. It would be at least positive and a contrast with the UK government which has magically avoided pulling any rabbits out of any hats in dealing with the issues arising, and has not even been rushing to fulfil its task in giving real time information to the EU on trade flows, but again looks like considering unilateral action. Almost anything it has proposed goes way beyond what the EU might agree to in its desire to protect the EU single market.

The UK providing adequate real time information is surely one of the keys to unlocking the Protocol conundrum. The EU realises there are problems and, while sticking to its single market doctrine, does seem willing to fudge some of the issues and make special dispensations in others (e.g. medicines coming to Northern Ireland from Britain) although it has been slow to move, partly because the UK’s intentions have never been clear. If it can be categorically shown that British imports to Northern Ireland are not going to pose a threat to the EU’s single market then the EU is much more likely, and empowered, to be lenient, and so it should be. It doesn’t seem the UK government gets this message.

Of course how unionists of various shades interpret all of this is another matter. Whether the DUP can save face, and votes, in relation to all this remains to be seen. We are not the first commentators to point out that just at the point when the EU was signalling they might be open to a generous helping of fudge, the DUP began issuing ultimatums about pulling down the pillars of Stormont if they didn’t get their way on the Protocol. However the language used by Jeffrey Donaldson has left just enough wriggle room that, should there be significant progress on some of the logjams then they might be able to claim enough ‘victory’ to climb out of the bunker in which they are ensconced (and which they built themselves).

There are real issues for unionists and it is understandable that they feel dumped on by the UK government and the EU. There is certainly a strong argument that the Northern Ireland Protocol changed political as well as economic realities in Northern Ireland without the consent being given by the people, and certainly not by party political unionists. On the other hand a majority in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU, and the demographics of a unionist majority no longer exist (this does not mean people would vote for a united Ireland in the morning – that is not the case); it can also be argued that Brexit per se altered political realities without people giving their consent, indeed they implicitly rejected it in the EU membership referendum.

However all this indicates just how fragile the political system is in Northern Ireland, and not just on one side. Whatever the rights or wrongs of it, the furore over President Michael D Higgins’ declining an invitation to an Armagh inter-church service marking the centenary of partition indicates how difficult decision making and its repercussions can be. While his reasoning can be understood, perhaps swallowing his principled reaction and attending might have been the wiser course – though there is rich irony in unionists castigating him for not attending when they are advocating a boycott of North-South bodies due to the Northern Ireland Protocol. The four main unionist political parties may be united against the Protocol but it is less clear how vehement ‘non-party political’ unionists are on the matter.

The British government is clearly unsympathetic to Northern Ireland and its concerns as a whole, and not just unionists or nationalists in it. This is evident in its continuation of promoting an appalling legacy policy with a Troubles amnesty which is universally opposed in Northern Ireland (and in the Republic), with an amazing unanimity on all sides. It also flies in the face of commitments made by the British government in the Stormont House Agreement of 2014. It is impossible to trust a government like that to do anything which is ‘right’ for the wellbeing of all the people of Northern Ireland as opposed to what is opportune in their ongoing struggle for a hard Brexit and dealing with the terms which they agreed to for Northern Ireland in order to get a deal with the EU. It is clear these are terms which they hoped to wriggle out of later. Their dishonesty knows few bounds and has had severe repercussions for Northern Ireland.

The DUP is certainly trying to talk strong but to pull down Stormont at this stage would not be their wisest move since each time there is a return from an assembly hiatus unionists tend to be weaker than before. That is mainly due to ongoing demographic change. And the stasis is bad enough with Stormont functioning; however as we know, violence and violent extremists flourish in periods of uncertainty.

The task facing civil society in all of this remains massive. Northern Ireland remains stuck between the divil of the past and the deep blue sea of the future, partially paralysed as it falls between not just the stools of unionism and nationalism but very different perceptions within both and complex situations simplified to banal simplicities..

Taxing matters

As those familiar with political and economic affairs in the Republic will be aware, the issue of corporate tax rates has been trundling on for some time, with the Government dragging its heels on willingness to increase this by a couple of percentage points to the proposed minimum of 15%. Changing from 12.5% to a minimum of 15% should not be a big deal but the Irish government has been digging in on the issue – and not winning too many friends in the process. It could have made the change without all the fuss.

While it is true that prosperity in the Republic has partly been built on low tax rates – a situation which multinationals have milked until the cows come home, even if some loopholes have been closed – there are other aspects in the mix. This includes a young, educated workforce, and being an English-speaking country in the EU (the ‘English speaking’ bit in reference primarily to the USA and investment from there).

The OECD proposals, while also trying to ensure tax is paid in the country where the income is generated, are not foolproof or radical. They are however progress in terms of world justice, especially for poorer countries who lose out big time in multinationals shifting profits to where they pay little or no tax. As the Financial Justice Ireland website states, “Estimates have shown that developing countries lose more resources to transnational corporations dodging taxes than they receive as development aid, including countries supported through Irish Aid.” https://www.financialjustice.ie/

The Republic is now a wealthy country, not anything like as wealthy as its GNP and all those multinational profits would indicate, but wealthy nonetheless (perhaps ‘middle EU’ in terms of citizens’ purchasing power – it is a high wage and high cost economy). Its continuation of opposition to changes in the international tax system has been a stab in the back for poor countries and a stand for injustice. This far outweighs anything which Irish Aid, the Irish government’s aid agency, could possibly do for anyone anywhere. The same imbalance is also true in relation to Ireland’s dragging its heels on mitigating climate heating.

The Irish situation is not unique and many other countries have similar or special tax deals – e.g. why did U2 move their tax affairs to the Netherlands from Ireland? There is therefore a real need for a level playing field though multinationals will again look for loopholes to exploit.

Current proposed changes will not have the situation sorted but are a big step in the right direction, and a certain amount still rests with decisions to be made in the US Congress. Further work will be needed on an international level to ensure fairness and transparency. The Irish government should be in the forefront of moves to bring about fairness in international tax systems rather than in the rearguard, struggling to avoid change. It is a simple question of justice and the Irish government has been standing ‘on the wrong side of history’ and for injustice. For that we should hang our heads in shame – and pressure for change. Leo Varadkar’s insistence that Ireland would change if it is in ‘our’ interest to do so is a pathetic insult to the world, and a terrible example of mé féinism,

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight:

Dominant views, cognitive dissonance and climate breakdown

It can be said with reasonable confidence that few people are unaware of the disintegration of the bio-world as it has evolved since the last ice age 11,500 years ago. The response to its disintegration caused by how we have interacted with it over the centuries, and crucially since the industrial revolution, varies enormously.

The dominant view, biblical based and integral to capitalism, is that the Earth exists solely to meet the needs and wants of humankind. Other species, and natural processes deemed to have no practical use, or indeed considered impediments to furthering our perceived interests, are relocated, altered, destroyed or extinguished. An example is the building of the multi-billion pound HS2 high-speed train line from Birmingham to London in which every living thing in its path is sacrificed on the altar of economic growth. No amount of financial gain or travel time saved can ever replace felled ancient woodlands, altered river courses and the death of life forms through the loss of habitat.

Another view about the human-induced disintegration of the biosphere, one that is widely held but few admit to, is contained in the phrase ‘it’s no concern of mine’. This view is rooted in our culture of individualism which says one is primarily responsible for oneself, immediate family and close friends. Excluded are other folk, especially those we think of as outside our tribe, and other species. The ‘no concern of mine’ individualism encompasses the welfare of future generations who will have to live with our legacy, which as Pope Francis said is the “immense pile of filth” the “Earth has turned into”.

The trashing of nonhuman nature is based on another deeply rooted view which is that as it has no intrinsic value it is not deserving of our affection and concern. Thus litter, which is a serious hazard to wildlife, is tossed out of car windows, left by picnickers on beaches and dropped by walkers, cyclists and people who fish.

These views, combined with a degree of delusion, help account for the recent figures released by the UN which reveal that none of the commitments the 196 countries made to reduce global warming emissions at the climate change conference in Paris in 2015 have been met. In fact greenhouse gasses are on a trajectory to rise by 16 per cent by 2030 compared with 2020. This it is estimated will, if not reduced, raise the temperature to 2.7 degrees C by the close of the century. As the average global temperature continues to rise the commitments to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, which it is hoped will be underpinned by definite plans at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow in November, are seen as delusionary.

This delusion might well be due to a character trait we acquired to help us to survive. The trait induces us to say what we think others would like to hear and what we think aligns with the dominant political norms, rather than what we actually believe and are prepared to follow through on. The trait also manifests itself in people holding an idealized view of themselves markedly different from the type of person they actually are. This is particularly the case in regard to virtues including those related to living in an ecologically sustainable way. The inconsistency between belief and behaviour is known as cognitive dissonance.

Cognitive dissonance underpins the societal approach to making the immediate and radical changes needed to rebalance our relationship with nonhuman nature. We say that it is imperative that this be done with governments and local councils declaring a climate emergency but act with complacency. Another example is the expression of intent to avoid a sixth mass extinction without doing anything meaningful to prevent it from happening in changing our habits of consumption.

The science is clear about the behavioural changes needed to reduce our global warming emissions and protect biodiversity. At a personal level these include an immediate and steep reduction in the amount of meat and dairy the average person consumes; walking, cycling and using public transport rather than travelling by private car and restricting aviation for leisure purposes. Cognitive dissonance also comes into play when we think that these changes are for others but not us.

For good or ill, governments circumscribe our lives and the options open to us. Their job in the area of ecological breakdown is to pass and enforce legislation that ensures ecologically sustainable practices are abided by in every economic sector. For the legislation to be effective they need to educate, incentivize and deter whilst ensuring that the poor, the vulnerable and marginalized are not penalized but rather, to use the words of the UK government, given the “levelling-up” support they need. Active citizenship involves persuading government to do what we would like them to do, which should be predicated on the common good.

The question is can we, individually and collectively, close the cognitive dissonance gap and cohere around an agreed set of restrictions and innovations to prevent the temperature rising above the 1.5 degree level by 2050 as well as abruptly bringing an end to the sixth mass extinction. With the global temperature now close to 1.2 degree C and global warming emissions continuing to rise this seems highly unlikely. This tragic state of affairs does not, however, release us from our responsibility to live as good eco-citizens and love the Earth as we love ourselves and our nearest and dearest. Any behavioural change that protects our wondrous and beautiful Earth, even by a small degree, is more than worth it.

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Readings in Nonviolence: In the new cold war, we have no future

by Yurii Sheliazhenko

Introduction

Truth may or may not be the first casualty in war but in an atmosphere of perpetual war and rumours of war then truth is extremely vulnerable, and everyone risks being deceived. Perceptions of truth can also be a bit like ‘our’ speaking accent; ‘we’ tend to think we don’t speak with an accent, it is people different from us that have an accent. In the same way, we can be so immune and inured to our own society and its propaganda, so familiar with its ways, that we feel we are presented with the truth, even if nothing can be further from the truth.

Western relations with Russia have been a developing nadir of the post-Cold war period. ‘The west’, particularly by taking NATO to the edge of Russia, has contributed considerably to poor relations between countries and to the development of authoritarianism and xenophobia in Putin’s Russia. Please note that we would be highly critical of Russian repression of civil society internally, and of Russian military actions in the region, e.g. the Crimea (annexation) and eastern Ukraine (disguised attempts at annexation), as well as in Syria.

So it is always a breath of fresh air when we are given an account of situations as they are, free from the blinkered, tinted spectacles of one side or another. This is the case with this report from Ukraine by Yurii Sheliazhenko. Thank you to VredesMagazine and War Resisters’ International/WRI for this piece.

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* A manuscript published in Dutch translation under a title "A pacifist voice from Ukraine: in the hybrid clamp between NATO and Russia" in VredesMagazine, vol. 14 iss. 4, 2021. Vredesmagazine is a joint publication of half a dozen different peace-oriented organisations in the Netherlands. 

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As Ukraine became a battlefield of the new cold war between United States and Russia, our peaceful life was torn apart by militant domestic nationalism and both competing aggressive imperialisms. We should get out from a dead corner of permanent war, economic and democratic decline, but it is not easy to pursue hopeful future.

STUCK IN THE PAST

Many of our troubles are caused by a fact that whole world stuck in the past. This hot summer revealed it vividly.
Summit of NATO, this relict of cold war epoch, positioning itself as the strongest democratic alliance in history and a leading contributor to international security, endorsed new nuclear arms race against Russia and proclaimed opposition to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was supported by the majority of United Nations.
Zbigniew Rau, Gabrielius Landsbergis, and Dmytro Kuleba, foreign ministers of Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, signed a declaration claiming common historical heritage of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It mentions “European identity of Belarusians, Lithuanians, Poles, and Ukrainians” suggesting they fought in the past and should fight again “despotic Russia,” and Ukraine should join NATO.

Then President of Russia Vladimir Putin wrote a long doctrinal article about “historical unity” of Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians as descendants of Ancient Rus, which should stay together against supposedly hostile United States and European Union. He emphasized that those who turn Ukraine in the enemy of Russia “will destroy their own country,” threatening: “we will never allow our historical territories and people close to us living there to be used against Russia.”

Dark histories invoked by politicians weaponize dangerous half-truths. Building the myth of “us” against “them,” high-ranked storytellers try to erase from popular memory biological unity of all humans, intercultural capacities to find common ground, and long historical periods of relative peace when feelings of universal brotherhood and sisterhood were widespread.

ENDLESS HYBRID WAR

Strong rhetoric rooted in violent history always ends badly. When NATO launched missile defense system in Europe and welcomed planted “aspirations” of Ukraine and Georgia to became NATO members in 2008, Russia claimed post-Soviet sphere of influence by military force in South Ossetia and political mobilization of Russian diaspora around former USSR.

People of Ukraine were cornered by these great power tensions and forced to decide what side should we take. Ironically, instead of the dead corner metaphor we prefer to be optimists and call it opportunity for democratic choice, made by public gathering at square (“maidan” in Ukrainian), in particular Independence Square in Kyiv.

In 2013-2014 admirers of Nazi era ideologist of Ukrainian ultranationalism Stepan Bandera in Western-funded right-wing Ukrainian civil society networks, so-called Maidan movement, started series of massive protests and riots against former pro-Russian president Yanukovych, broke EU/Russia mediated agreement about peaceful transfer of power to pro-Western opposition, and pressured for prohibition of Russian language usage in local self-government bodies.

Simultaneously, admirers of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in Russia-backed right-wing civil society networks, so-called anti-Maidan movement, rioted against strengthening pro-Western ultranationalist political elite, supported Russian military takeover in Crimea and hybrid warfare in Eastern Ukraine.

Seven-years’ war in Donbas between Ukrainian and pro-Russian combatants killed and wounded tens thousands of civilians and deprived of home more than two million. Both sides, according to OSCE reports, almost every day violate ceasefire established by Minsk agreements, and Ukraine refuse to negotiate peace with separatists, as Russia demands, claiming they are agents of Russian occupation.

Geopolitical ambitions prevail over concerns about life of people. Consequences are tragic, as in situation when separatists fighting Ukrainian military aircraft with Russian Buk missile system shot down civilian airliner MH17, killed 283 passengers and 15 crew members.

In Crimea seized by Russia people suffer irrespectively of their (non-)allegiance to Ukraine, either from political repressions by de-facto authorities or from international and Ukrainian economic sanctions, including water blockade.

Great powers play with fire, organizing frightening military operations in and around Ukraine. NATO and Russia send troops to secure their interests on the ground, simulate naval war with each other during dangerous drills in Black Sea. In arms race with Russian nuclear-capable navy in Crimea, NATO plans to build two naval military bases in Ukraine.

Each side in the hybrid war tells compelling but yet a half-truth, or, to say sincerely, a false story, why it is “just war” of self-defense. These stories are good illustration of 1921 Bilthoven statement of principles adopted by war resisters: we should not support any kind of war, “aggressive or defensive, remembering that modern wars are invariably alleged by Governments to be defensive.”

MILITARIZATION AND DECLINE OF DEMOCRACY

Hybrid war corrupts and blows up all usually peaceful spheres of life. Ruthless populist networks, far-right sentiments, and propaganda of hatred provoke more and more bloodshed. Neo-Nazis fought on both sides of Donbas war, Russian National Unity and Varyag Battalion for separatists, Right Sector’s Ukrainian Volunteer Corps and Azov Battalion for government. Returning home, they teach kids to hate and fight in militarized summer “patriotic education” camps.

News is not news anymore, media aren’t media; they are Russian or Western propaganda subject to information war and censorship. The same problem with education and science, battle of historical half-truths is good example. Law is turned to lawfare: instead of human rights, we protect politically expedient rights of “our people” and punish “enemies” as severely as “we” can.

Ukrainian civil society was polarized and weaponized by the notions of exclusive identity, awaken by the new cold war. Ukrainian nationalists refuse to tolerate any tradeoffs to Russia, gather rioting crowds against implementation of Minsk agreements, violently silence opponents. There are also right-wing proponents of Russia and Soviet past; formally, they call for peace, but in fact it is call to take side of Russia in the new cold war.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, elected after promising peace, stated that peace should be “on our terms” and shut up pro-Russian media in Ukraine, like his predecessor Poroshenko blocked Russian social networks and pushed official language law forcibly excluding Russian from public sphere.

Zelensky’s party Servant of the People committed to increase military spending to 5% of GDP; it was 1,5% in 2013, now it is more than 3%. With majority in parliament, presidential political machine concentrates political power in Zelensky team’s hands and multiplies militarist laws, such as draconian punishments for evaders from conscription and creation of new “national resistance” forces, increasing personnel of armed forces in Ukraine by 11 000, creating military units in local governments for mandatory military training of millions of people aimed to mobilize whole population in the case of war with Russia.

According to the 2019-2020 EBCO annual reports “Conscientious Objection in Europe,” those who refuse to kill have a little chance to legal recognition and protection of their beliefs during conscription in Ukraine and Russia, not to say in separatist “people’s republics.” Alternative non-military service arrangements are hardly accessible, discriminatory and punitive in nature.

HOPE FOR PEACE AGAINST ALL ODDS

Public opinion polls paradoxically show that majority of people demand peace, but trust Armed Forces of Ukraine more than any of political institutions. Faith in “peace through victory” is result of political illiteracy and lack of peace culture.

Peacebuilding projects funded by international organizations heal some wounds of war, but strategically are focused on social cohesion around militant national identity. Many of them avoid to use the word “peace” itself because of patriotic reasons: right-wing propaganda equates it with “Russian world.”

There is no strong public voice of common sense in Ukraine denouncing in principle and impartially toxic militarist policies and identities, like Stalinist and Banderite, or generally denouncing all war and preparations for war. Main churches, while sometimes praying for peace, made clear unequivocally what side they took in the geopolitical battle.

Consistent pacifists, religious or secular, in our society are tiny minority treated like dreamers, in the best case, but usually as heretics and traitors.

Pacifist Ruslan Kotsaba who denounced mobilization to Donbas war in 2015 YouTube video was jailed for treason, acquitted and released, put on trial again with mobs of haters surrounding the court during every hearing. Recently neo-Nazi assaulted him on railway station, he lost sight on one eye because of splashed brilliant green. Police failed to arrest perpetrators.

Netflix sci-fi war film “Outside the Wire” prognoses endless violence will turn Ukraine into wasteland during coming decades. The only way to prevent such grim future is to learn how to achieve peace by peaceful means, but very few people believe in such perspective and work on it.

Despite challenging environment, we try to build peace in minds and in real life of people on the basis of consistent pacifism, according to War Resisters’ International declaration, using our limited opportunities and resources. It seems that whole worldwide anti-war movement do the same. For progress in this cause, we need to develop and enact universal peace plan more effective and realistic than strategies of the new cold war.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Yurii Sheliazhenko is executive secretary of Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, member of the Board of European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, member of the Board of World Beyond War. He obtained Master of Mediation and Conflict Management degree in 2021 and Master of Laws degree in 2016 at KROK University, and Bachelor of Mathematics degree in 2004 at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Apart from participation in the peace movement, he is journalist, blogger, human rights defender and legal scholar, author of tens of academic publications and lecturer on legal theory and history.

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