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Billy King


Nonviolence News



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

Number 267: March 2019

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Violence and nonviolence, Inhumanity and humanity

A common planning or analytical tool is a ‘forcefield analysis’ which looks at forces for, against or neutral on a particular issue. This can be explored diagrammatically in different ways, including looking at pillars which hold up injustice. However it is important that this is not done in a simplistic way and groups, movements or organisations are not given one label, without further exploration; uniformity of belief should not be assumed in any group or side, and the interest or different interests of those involved need to be taken into account.

Unfortunately we live in a culture or cultures which frequently reward violence or do not take effective action to prevent it or overcome it. This includes belief in conventional economic growth as a panacea since this is a major factor in bringing about global warming. It also includes belief in military protective shields like NATO, or indeed PESCO in the case of the Republic, which actually ramp up the prospect of violence. Psychologists dispute whether violent computer games and the like encourage the individual to be violent (except in exceptional circumstances) but what they do rather more, however, is increase the tolerance for violence and others’ violence, and a lot of so-called ‘action’ films do the same. Being entertained by violence is, quite simply, contrary to humanity. Male violence, arising partly from macho concepts, continues to be a problem at every level from so-called ‘domestic’ violence through to outright warfare.

In building a peaceful society we can be depressed by the extent of violence and its reach culturally. A common phrase such as a parent telling a child “I’ll murder you......” for some misdemeanour may certainly not be meant literally but it continues the pattern of violent threat and illustrates the extent of violent concepts.

But there are other forces at work. It is quite possible for soldiers or bureaucrats to act with humanity, treating others with humanity and concern. There may be allies for us in the unlikeliest places. Then there are organisations in society which are dedicated to philanthropic concerns, mutual aid, and creativity; this includes trade unions, most voluntary groups including community groups, artistic groups and so on. Individuals often go out of their way to assist others with no thought of any reward involved.

An analysis of these positive forces in society can give us a different feel for things, even if most are not on the same wavelength as ourselves. We become aware of the positive approach to life, and the humanity, which is exemplified by these groups and people. Of course we need realism, and not to live in a world where we have a false understanding of what people stand for, believe or will act on. But we also need to be able to call on the best of people.

The recent demonstations by school students or children for effective action on global warming represents a hopeful sign. Saying ‘children and young people are our future’ is a truism which is sometimes part of both a patronising attitude to those same young people by adults, and part of an excuse for inaction. As those concerned in the youth demonstrations said so eloquently, the time for action is now and we adults are holding their future hostage by not acting faster and more comprehensively. Their concern and their humanity resonates strongly in a world which still has not grasped the fact that major changes are necessary immediately, indeed imperative, and, once done, will cease to be an effort or cost, indeed will be beneficial financially as well as ecologically. Hopefully these young people can be a part of ensuring there is a reasonable future for all on this planet.

Our analysis of what factors can count on our side in a struggle also needs to consider what sectors are relatively neutral or even against us but can be turned in our favour. The media are a good case in point. They usually serve their own ends, and that can include backing the establishment and ignoring alternatives. The Dublin media were shocking (but perhaps not surprising) in totally ignoring the important international conference opposing US military bases which took place in that city in November. / and Flickr They do not even have the excuse of not having a hook to hang a story on considering that Che Guevara’s daughter, Aleida Guevara, was there. Presumably their agenda is to back the Irish government’s commitment to PESCO and increased cooperation with EU militarism and NATO, and not to cover alternatives.

But there are two responses possible here. One is to challenge and challenge and chellenge the mainstream media to cover what should be news, and not just their own agenda. The second is to create our own media, and utilise alternative media of various kinds, and obviously this is very possible in the multi-media and social media world of today.

Those who believe in nonviolence and peace, a stable ecological world, and respecting the human rights of all, have many challenges. We can cooperate as best we can with others towards our common goals but we are up against established elites in politics and the commercial world who have state or corporate interests to protect. However one secret tool in our toolbox is surely our creativity and life: Emma Goldman was certainly not nonviolent in all she did but we can fully concur with her statement that "If I can't dance I don't want to be part of your revolution".

If we seek to protect life in all its forms, human and non-human, fauna and flora, then we must exemplify that life, that creativity which is so human. We need a song in our hearts and on our lips. We need a joie de vivre which portrays the best of what life can be. It is, or should be, a joyful challenge and a journey that we can invite so many others to join.

- - - - -


Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

The Question of Security

A common feature of governments and political commentators around the world is that a government’s number one responsibility is the security of the country. Security is understood in terms of governments spending tax-payers money on the military and spying agencies in order to protect the assets of a country and the elastic definition of national interests. This militarist understanding of security is one the public seem to accept without question. The amount of money spent on the military world-wide is considerable. A report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2nd May 2018, informs us that global military spending in 2017 was $1.739 billion. This represents 2.2 per cent of global gross domestic product or $230 per person. Some countries spend more per person on their military than per person on health, education, the police service and the protection and restoration of nonhuman nature.

Viewing security in terms of a military response to perceived and actual threats to a country’s political integrity is a skewed way of viewing what is essential to human wellbeing. The following figures highlight this. The World Health Organization, 13th March 2016, report that 12.6 million people died in 2012 from living in an unhealthy environment. This is an exceedingly high figure in the light of the fact that it means 1 in 4 of total deaths worldwide are from environmental risk factors. These include “air, water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change, and ultraviolet radiation.” Matthew Taylor informs us in The Guardian, 5th February 2019, 40,000 people die from air pollution in the UK every year. This includes 500 people in Northern Ireland. This figure does not include the larger number suffering from chronic illness as a result of air pollution. If 40,000 people in the UK were killed on an annual basis by bombs and bullets, the government, the media and the public would take the issue very seriously indeed. It would be on every news bulletin and discussed endlessly as Brexit presently is.

Another aspect the militarist perspective of security does not consider is how we are pulling asunder the very fabric of the biosphere. This was recently underscored by a study published in the February 2019 edition of the journal Biological Conversation which shows that the rapid worldwide decline in insects is “threatening a catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”. Without healthy ecosystems, humankind, along with other species, starve. The 2.5% annual rate of loss over the last 25-30 years is mainly due to farming practices and increasing urbanization. Climate chaos is another pressing wellbeing concern with scientists recently warning that humankind has until 2030 to become carbon neutral.

In spite of the easily accessible science-based information about the dire state of the biosphere and calls for governments to recognise that this is the ultimate security issue, they, big business and mainstream commenters, act as if urgent action is unnecessary. President Donal Trump, for example, never mentioned climate chaos once in his recent State of the Union speech. The reason is governments and the economic establishment are immersed in a deep paralytic dream unable to conceive of an alternative to the paradigm of continuous economic growth. Anything but economic growth is considered fictional.

Thankfully not all of humankind lives in this dream world. The recently elected US congress woman Ocasio-Cortez has, in alliance with fellow Democrats, formulated a Green New Deal, which along with a host of justice-based aims has the target of the United States getting all of its power from “clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources” within ten-years. This has the support of the main Democratic contenders to be the next president. The UK Labour Party has also unveiled a Green New Deal. (Matthew Taylor, The Guardian, 12.02.2019) These green plans will only have a chance to materialise if both political parties win their elections. In the case of the United States the Democrats would have to win the White House as well as get a majority in Congress.

Another sign of a significant eco-sensitive awakening is the increasing number of school pupils across the world who, following the example of 16-year old Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg, are going on periodic strikes in an effort to get their governments to take climate chaos seriously. Their rationale is they are been educated to live in a world that is doomed unless governments take pro-environmental action now. In her address at Davos, Thunberg said:
“Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.

“Either we do that or we don’t.” …..

“Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”

We all need to panic, to feel the urgency of the global environmental situation and act. The time for normalcy, of believing in the fantasy of unlimited economic growth and basing our identity on ‘having’ rather than ‘being’ is over.

Copyright INNATE 2021