Tag Archives: Bilbao

Cool, unexpected things

25 Nov

I wrote my previous post just before going to War Resisters’ International‘s annual council, which this year was in Bilbao. It was a great experience: I met inspiring and friendly anti-militarist activists from four continents, who gave me some good ideas for my work.

The trip was the first of several very cool unexpected things that I have done so far as a Quaker peaceworker – things that weren’t mentioned in the joint peaceworker bid that WRI and Forces Watch (my other placement organisation) wrote; the bid which led me to chose to spend my year working for them. It seems that some of the most exciting things just can’t be foreseen.

At first I was disappointed to learn that Italian – my second language – isn’t one that WRI use in their international network. But actually this prompted me to enrol on a Spanish evening course, which has been good fun and I’ve improved noticeably. I’ve also been in touch with WRI’s Italian affiliates, and it looks like at least one of them will be more actively involved in the network in future, so I’ve been able to use my Italian too.

The other cool, unexpected thing happening at WRI is that we’ve bought a wormery! I was keen to avoid our food waste (we eat lunch together most days) going to landfill, and a wormery seemed ideal for our roof, where we’ll be able to use the compost and nutrient-rich liquid it produces for our plant pots.

And these novelties aren’t limited to my two-and-a-half days a week at WRI. For Forces Watch I’ve: written two blog articles. The first was on two plays I saw (for work) in the West End, both portraying the armed forces pretty critically. The second, which will be posted this coming week, is on the BBC series Our War, which shows Afghanistan from the perspective of young British soldiers and officers.

I’ve also got really into looking into the links between the military and UK universities, which wasn’t one of the projects mentioned in my original brief. There are several concerning ways in which the military exerts influence over universities and university students, and Forces Watch will be publishing something on this in the next few months. I’ve been in touch with students through Campaign Against the Arms Trade‘s universities network, and I attended their yearly gathering yesterday, in Sheffield, which was very useful in terms of hearing what these students think are the most objectionable aspects of the military-universities nexus, and what they would be interested in taking action on.

I’m sure the other peaceworkers are having cool, unexpected experiences of their own, and I hope it continues.

Owen.

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Why I’m taking a day off after only eight days in the new job

13 Sep

Dear readers,

In the first post of our joint blog last week Rhiannon said that she was leaving you in my ‘capable hands’. I  think that at the beginning of our two-week peaceworker preparation period we were all a bit anxious about living up to expectations over the year – aware of the Quakers’ investment in us. But after the friendships I made in those two weeks, perhaps the most important thing I took away was the confidence that we would do ourselves justice, and knowing how supported we were. So I’m not going to worry about my hands not being capable enough after Rhiannon’s great start!

I’m placed with two organisations: War Resisters International (WRI), and ForcesWatch (FW). WRI (est. 1921) is a network of people from around the world who refuse to take part in war or the preparation for war. It promotes nonviolent action against war’s causes.

FW challenges the ethics of military recruitment and questions the climate of uncritical national pride in the armed forces. 

War Resisters and Forces Watch made a joint bid for a peaceworker because the work I’ll be doing for each has considerable overlap: it’s all about the militarisation of society (and especially of young people). In the UK the armed forces are becoming increasingly visible and influential in so many parts of our lives – from television programmes to workshops in schools – and this raises some big ethical questions, partly because it will probably facilitate recruitment, and it may make going to war more acceptable. 

The specific projects that I’ll be working on over the year are yet to be finalised, but the proposals are exciting. Dividing my time between the two organisations won’t be difficult, because they’re based in the same building, the aptly-named Peace House on Caledonian Road.

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And why am I taking the day off in my second week? Because tomorrow I’m going to Bilbao for WRI’s annual Council meeting, where I’ll get to meet some of the members of the network who are working for peace their own countries and supporting each other internationally. I’m there until next Wednesday, and so this is a concerted effort not to get into the bad habit of letting TOIL (time off in lieu) build up!

Thanks for reading. Please tell anyone you think might be interested to follow our blog.

Owen Everett, War Resisters International and ForcesWatch.

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