Archive | March, 2013

Anti-this, anti-that

30 Mar

In January I had a very interesting email correspondence with Ruby, one of War Resisters’ International’s volunteer translators. One of the great things about someone who isn’t part of the WRI network helping us with translation is that they are (perforce) reading things that we are publishing, and will hopefully engage with our work (and perhaps even become a supporter of it) as a result.


Unlike my other placement organisation, ForcesWatch, which is critical of some military recruitment practices and wary of the military’s growing influence in society without being expressly anti-military/anti-militarist, WRI is a pacifist network opposed to all militaries, and all wars. So I end up using the word ‘anti’ a lot on my WRI days.

Ruby sent me the text she had translated (by Red Antimilitarista y Noviolenta de Andalucía – Antimilitarist and Nonviolent Network of Andalucía), and added this: ‘One thought I had whilst translating this is that I wondered whether the groups involved in RANA/WRI are aware of the following concept: if you are ‘against’ something eg war or poverty, then the conscious and the universe don’t see the whole part, but, in this case, only the war or poverty. It is more effective to work with positive statements eg peace/abundance for all.’

I replied ‘Thanks very much for the translation. You’re right. I rarely think – let alone remember – to frame things in that much more positive way. Peace work often feels like a massive and constant struggle – I guess we tend to end up using language that reflects that, such as anti-militarist.’

Ruby responded: ‘It is tricky when we are trying to turn something through 180 degrees. We have to understand the opposite of what we want in order to be in a place to bring it to where we want it, and that means becoming embroiled in what we don’t want. Returning to the centre, to our starting point, regularly keeps us in mind of what we are working for. Whilst we may not feel that we are making much progress or perhaps we find it difficult to recognize that we are in fact moving forward, keeping focused on our own everyday world, and bringing the qualities we desire for the world, eg peace, into it is in fact the only thing we can do. We may strive to make other people aware of our cause or point of view, but until they are ready to listen, they will not respond. As we hold peace, or love, or joy in our own hearts and in our own lives, then that radiates out from us to touch those nearest to us and we impact people through our own integrity and example. Of course, we want everyone to wake up to the effect their actions have on others and to take responsibility for themselves, and in time they will.’

Me: ‘Again, I think you’re right, and I really appreciate having this articulated – something to refer to and be mindful of.’

Whilst I haven’t stopped seeing my work as focusing on challenging militarism (particularly as it especially affects young people), those two emails from Ruby did have a significant impact on me. I think I now better recognise how interconnected my work is with so many other good campaigns – getting rid of the military alone won’t bring about true peace: there won’t be peace for all because there won’t be abundance for all, and for many other reasons. And I do like the idea that the huge universe is the wholeness that we should try to connect with – I went to a sound bath (where you lie with your eyes closed whilst someone moves around playing a variety of instruments, including a large gong) with my oldest sister in Bath a month ago, and the intention I brought with me and tried to hold onto during the powerful experience of those reverberations was to see my peace work as part of a much bigger whole, that needs us to try and love others, including those we seem to be up against.

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A Note from Brussels

1 Mar

Dear readers,

It’s great to have the opportunity to contribute to the PO Box Peace blog, which we’ve been enjoying following for the past few months. We wanted to offer you a taste of the work that goes on in the beautiful, art nouveau Quaker House in Brussels, where we work as Programme Assistants for the Quaker Council for European Affairs.

After finding the light switches (which are hidden away so as not to spoil the illusion of being back in the romantic fin de siècle gas light glow) and tuning the house piano, we have moved on to navigating the labyrinth of the European Parliament, deciphering Euro-speak at conferences, and delving into the issues of peace, criminal justice, and environmental sustainability. Our advocacy work on these issues is inspired by the Quaker testimonies of peace, simplicity, integrity and equality, and it is communicated along two main channels. Firstly we seek to convey our advocacy messages to policy and decision-makers in the European Union, Council of Europe, and NATO, with a view to influencing policy. Secondly, we aim to inform the global Quaker community of relevant European developments, so that they may better understand, engage with and participate in the decisions made here in Brussels.

Here are some thoughts and comments on the issues that we’re passionate about at the moment:

A note from Bethany – Sustainability Programme Assistant
Before starting work at QCEA, I supported the notion of the green economy in principle, without really questioning its finer details. The world is suffering from economic and environmental crises, and the green economy seems to offer a solution which rightly recognises the fact that the two spheres are interrelated. But lately I have been considering what the phrase actually means. Is it a whole new approach to economics, which puts the planet and human well-being first? Or does it mean funding a few extra wind turbines, which will bring about a handful of green jobs and contribute X percent to economic growth? Is it a symptom, or perhaps a cause, of the financial sector’s increasing dominance over the natural world? And what implications does this have? Whilst I do not have all the answers, I’m enjoying exploring these issues and putting the questions to decision-makers in the hope that it will encourage them to consider the pros and cons of what many people see as a panacea to the most pressing problems faced by the global community. 

A note from Chris – Peace Programme Assistant
It’s difficult to find people who think peace is a bad idea. We can (most of us humans) agree that it would generally be a good thing if we all stopped fighting and started working together. Conflict would exist, yes, but we’d manage it without violence. What is more contentious is how we get to that point where conflict is managed without violence; is armed conflict a way to win peace for example? I’ll tell you a little more about my work on that issue here in Brussels. The European Union (EU) has a foreign policy (just about) and, if the Member States agree, the EU can, for example, deploy military missions abroad under its Common Security and Defence Policy. If the EU is to become this ‘global actor’ (jury’s out) then, so the story goes, the Member States must cooperate more on defence and military issues. More specifically, they must work to make their militaries more compatible; they must all collectively spend more on defence; and, perhaps most importantly, they must develop and then put in to action a joint global strategy. These developments might be both welcome and worrying, so it’s our job to keep an eye on what’s happening at the European level, and make sure that peace remains at the heart of what the EU is about.

A note from Imogen – Criminal Justice Programme Assistant
I have just returned from the annual ‘Quakers in Criminal Justice’ Conference which took place in Swanwick, UK. This conference was extremely useful for my programme area in criminal justice, as I have been working at QCEA for less than two months. The conference highlighted the successes of Friends’ active work in criminal justice, and, for me, it brought abstract European institutional policy work down to a more practical level in the UK. The restorative rather than punitive outlook of Quakerism towards the criminal justice system, where the prisoner remains a person, offers a more positive outcome than punishment of the offender within the penal system. It is clear from my brief insight into UK Quaker criminal justice work last weekend, that Quakers are passionate to reform an entrenched and punitive system. I am excited to think that I also have the opportunity to influence change at the European level.

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