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Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in Blogs

Unconventional Wisdom: A World WithoutWar

Unconventional Wisdom: A World WithoutWar

Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga

Mother’s Day Service, 9 May 2010

Janis Alton /

 

 

THANK YOU FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY TO BE THE SPEAKER ON THIS MOTHER’S DAY. AS YOU MIGHT SUSPECT MY TALK MAINLY CONCERNS WOMEN AND BEGINS WITH A WOMAN ABLE TO “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX” – JULIA WARD HOWE. SHE WAS WITNESS TO THE TERRIBLE SUFFERING OF SOLDIERS DURING THE US CIVIL WAR AND CRUSADED FOR YEARS TO ESTABLISH A MOTHER’S DAY FOR PEACE. IN 1870 SHE PENNED HER POWERFUL FEMINIST CALL AGAINST WAR, READ THIS MORNING BY DOUG. BUT…  IT WAS NOT MUCH LAUDED AT THE TIME.

 

TODAY, THE CELEBRATION OF MOTHER’S DAY IS A HUGE COMMERCIAL SUCCESS STORY WITH SOARING SALES OF CARDS. FLOWERS AND RESTAURANT MEALS,  NOT A DAY TO HONOUR MOTHERS WHILE EMBRACING PEACE. US PRESIDENT WOODROW WILSON GOT THIS REVISED IDEA UNDERWAY IN 1914.  BUT… IN OUR TIME, THE USA-IRAQ WAR DEFINITELY REVIVED INTEREST IN JULIA WARD HOWE’S UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM.  MAYBE YOU WERE AMONG THE UNPRECEDENTED MILLIONS THAT MARCHED IN THE STREETS IN 2003 IN TORONTO TO DEMAND THAT THE US NOT ATTACK IRAQ?  I HAVE A POWERFUL, INSTRUCTIVE 14 MINUTE DVD WITH ME TODAY FROM THE UK “WAR NO MORE”. I WAS AMAZED (AND HEARTENED) TO SEE IN IT THE   MASSIVELY CLOGGED PUBLIC ARTERIES IN  LONDON AS PEOPLE POURED INTO THE STREETS  HOPING THEY COULD DO SOMETHING TO PREVENT THE THREATENED BLOODSHED.

 

 IT’S BEEN 140 YEARS SINCE JULIA’S PLEA AND WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED, IF ANYTHING?  WE HAVE LEARNED THAT WARS ARE NOT INEVITABLE; VIOLENCE IS NOT IN OUR GENES AND THAT CONFLICTS – NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL – CAN BE SOLVED IN OTHER WAYS. INDEED IN THIS NUCLEAR AGE THEY MUST BE SO SOLVED IF THE HUMAN RACE IS TO SURVIVE. IT HAD BEEN JULIA’S THOUGHT THAT WOMEN COULD DO SOMETHING FOR A WORLD WITHOUT WAR. HAVE WOMEN PLAYED A ROLE?  IS THERE SOME DIVERSE MOMENTUM TO AVERT WAR? CAN WE PUT WAR ON THE SHELF OF HISTORY?

 

 I’D LIKE TO VERY BRIEFLY EXPLORE THESE QUESTIONS FROM MY KNOWLEDGE OF THE PEACE MOVEMENT. DOWN DEEP I WONDER IF I WILL TELL YOU ANYTHING WHICH WILL SET YOU IN MOTION FOR A WORLD WITHOUT WAR ?  I WELL REMEMBER LISTENING INTENTLY, SOMETIME IN THE LATE 70’S, TO PAT ALCOCK, AND HELEN TUCKER OF THIS CONGREGATION, DESCRIBE AN EXHILARATING PEACE MARCH IN NORTHERN IRELAND. THERE, THEY LINKED ARM IN ARM WITH PASSIONATE, COURAGEOUS  LOCALS, LED BY MAIREAD CORRIGAN & BETTY WILLIAMS, CO-FOUNDERS OF THE FLEDGLING  INTER-RELIGIOUS – THAT IS CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT – “PEACE PEOPLE” MOVEMENT.  IT WAS A STIRRING ACCOUNT OF HEARTFELT ACTION TO PUT AN END TO THE USE OF VIOLENCE AND ACTS OF TERRORISM AND TAKEN IN THE MIDST OF DEEP PERSONAL GRIEF. HEARING OF IT PLANTED A SEED IN MY PUBLIC NURSE’S MIND THAT I SHOULD SOMEHOW GET INVOLVED, TOO.

 

 I CAN STILL HEAR THE MOVING TALE DELIVERED IN PAT’S QUIET, STEADY VOICE AND HELEN’S UNEQUALLED ENTHUSIASM. [ I OFTEN WISH THAT THE TAPE OF THIS SERVICE WAS STILL AVAILABLE.]  LITTLE WONDER, THAT BEFORE LONG, THESE WISE IRISH WOMEN WHO SHOWED US WHAT ORDINARY PEOPLE CAN DO TO PROMOTE THE CAUSE OF PEACE AND RECONCILIATION WERE AWARDED THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE IN 1976.  THESE TWO WOMEN WHO SHARED THE PEACE PRIZE SIMPLY ACTED. THEY NEVER HEEDED THE DIFFICULTY OF THEIR TASK. 

 

THIS LEADERSHIP FACT WAS FORGOTTEN BY THE NORTHERN IRELAND EX-IRA GUIDE, NOT A YOUNG MAN, WHO TOURED DOUG & ME AROUND JUST LAST FALL IN HIS SHINY BLACK CAB TO SEE THE HUGE POLITICAL  MURALS STILL LINING THE DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT NEIGHBOURHOODS OF BELFAST. BUT… THESE WOMEN BEGAN A MOVEMENT OF MEN AND WOMEN STILL IN EXISTENCE TODAY WHICH HELPED MOVE THE NORTHERN IRISH PEOPLE TOWARD A PEACE PROCESS, AND THE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT.

 

JUST YESTERDAY, WE WERE REMINDED OF THE SETTLEMENT OF VIOLENT CONFLICT WHICH ONCE INFLAMED ALL OF EUROPE. MAY 8TH MARKS VE DAY ( VICTORY IN EUROPE) 65 YEARS AGO.  FOR MANY OF US  WORLD WAR II  IS A PERSONAL MEMORY OF SUFFERING WELL BEYOND THE NUMBERS OF THE US CIVIL WAR OR THE “TROUBLES” OF NORTHERN IRELAND.  THE NUMBERS KILLED ARE DIZZYING . MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS. AND MOST CIVILIANS.  THE BALD FIGURES TELLING US HOW MANY KILLED OR INJURED DO NOT BEGIN TO DESCRIBE THE LONG- DRAWN-OUT SUFFERING OF THOSE BEREAVED, PHYSICALLY OR MENTALLY DAMAGED , MADE HOMELESS OR FORCED TO BECOME REFUGEES.

 

MANY OF YOU WILL RECALL THAT HELEN TUCKER WAS KEY TO THE INCEPTION IN 1960 OF VOICE OF WOMEN (VOW, FOR SHORT) AND BECAME ITS FIRST PRESIDENT.  IT WAS THE FIRST PEACE ORGANIZATION TO SPRING UP IN CANADA IN RESPONSE TO CONTINUED GOVERNMENT TENSIONS IN PEACE TIME, FOLLOWING WORLD WAR II.  THE COLD WAR, GRIPPING MUCH OF THE WORLD, ADDED THE THREAT OF ANNIHILATION BY NUCLEAR WEAPONS.

 

 NOW 50 YEARS OLD, AND CALLED CANADIAN VOICE OF WOMEN FOR PEACE, THE ORGANIZATION BELIEVES THAT WAR IS NOT A SUITABLE RESPONSE TO CONFLICT AND THAT EVERY PERSON HAS THE RIGHT TO LIVE WITHOUT THE THREAT OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS. AND TAKING JULIA’S CALL FOR WOMEN TO GET INVOLVED A STEP FURTHER, FROM  THE BEGINNING, VOW CALLED FOR WOMEN’S EQUAL INCLUSION IN DECISION-MAKING, AT ALL LEVELS, FOR PEACE.  IN THE YEAR 2000, WE AND OTHERS, ACHIEVED THE HISTORIC BINDING COMMITMENT

(SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 1325) OBLIGING ALL UN MEMBER STATES TO INCLUDE WOMEN IN ALL ASPECTS OF PEACE BUILDING – FROM PREVENTION TO POST-CONFLICT RECONSTRUCTION!  MOSTLY LIP SERVICE, SO FAR. 

 

 WE JOIN WITH OTHERS  TO SOUND THE ALARM THAT THE BURDEN OF WAR AND PREPARATIONS FOR WAR THREATEN EVEN THE SUSTAINABILITY OF OUR EARTHLY HOME.  ONE YEAR OF THE WORLD’S MILITARY EXPENDITURES ( USD 1 TRILLION, 464 BILLION – 2008) IS EQUIVALENT TO 700 YEARS OF THE UN REGULAR BUDGET OR ALMOST 3,000 YEARS OF THE NEW UN WOMEN’S AGENCY.  THERE IS THE THREAT OF THE NORMALIZATION OF PRE-EMPTIVE WAR AND, THE REALITY OF THE BREAKDOWN OF INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN NORMS INCLUDING CRIMES OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRL CHILDREN AS DELIBERATE MILITARY POLICY. WE HAVE MADE MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS TO THE UN.  EACH TIME WE RAISE THE NEED FOR UN CHARTER REFORM AND DOMESTIC ARRANGEMENTS TO PROHIBIT ENGAGING IN WAR. [SEE HANDOUTS.]  VOW FEELS A RESPONSIBILITY TO CALL FOR DE-LEGITIMIZING WAR.  WE ARGUE THAT WAR IS A FAILED HUMAN INSTITUTION AND MUST BE PUT ON THE SHELF OF HISTORY LIKE COLONIALISM, APARTHEID, SLAVERY, DUELING AND THE ALMOST UNIVERSAL DELEGITIMIZATION OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT.

 

 THIS FALL, IN TORONTO, WE WILL HOST AN INTERNATIONAL PANEL ON STEPS TOWARD DELEGITIMIZING WAR COUPLED WITH INSIGHTS INTO THE SUCCESSFUL FORCE OF NON-VIOLENCE IN THE MIDST OF 20TH CENTURY TYRANNY ( INDIA; SOUTH AFRICA, POLAND, CHILI, DENMARK, US CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, THE STUDENT MOVEMENT IN SERBIA WHICH OUSTED PRESIDENT MILOSOVITCH, AND MORE. ) 

 

THERE ARE SO MANY EXAMPLES OF CIVIL SOCIETY PEACE PROMOTERS I COULD CITE.  IN 2005, A THOUSAND  WOMEN WERE COLLECTIVELY NOMINATED FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE. THEY MADE THE SHORT LIST! THE PEACE WORK OF ALL THESE 1000 WOMEN FROM 150 COUNTRIES WAS GUIDED BY NON-VIOLENCE. ITS IMPORTANCE CONFIRMS WHAT WE ALL SENSE: THAT MAINSTREAM POLITICS ALONE DOES NOT BRING ABOUT PEACE. NOR CAN PEACE BE ACHIEVED BY ACTING ALONE:  WOMEN GET TOGETHER IN NETWORKS, IN GROUPS, IN ALLIANCES.  AROUND THE WORLD, THEY SEE IN THEIR DAILY WORK THAT PEACE IS MORE THAN THE ABSENCE OF WAR, VIOLENCE AND ARMED CONFLICT. WOMEN NEGOTIATE BETWEEN ENEMY GROUPS; THEY REPORT ON THE ATROCITIES OF WAR, AND REBUILD WHAT HAS BEEN DESTROYED. IN AFRICA, THEY FIGHT AGAINST GENITAL MUTILATION OF LITTLE GIRLS; IN SOUTH AMERICA, THEY SEARCH FOR LOVED ONES WHO HAVE DISAPPEARED; IN ASIA, THEY DENOUNCE POVERTY AND CHILD LABOUR; IN EUROPE, THEY STAND UP AGAINST SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.

 

THEY SYMBOLIZE THE MANY WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD WHO WORK TO COMBAT ABUSES AGAINST OTHER WOMEN IN PRISONS; WHO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE ABDUCTION OF CIVILIANS AND THE CRIMINAL TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS; WHO PROTEST TIRELESSLY AGAINST POLITICAL ASSASSINATION AND ALL FORMS OF AGGRESSION. THEY ARE THOSE WHO CONDEMN VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND TORTURE; THOSE WHO ENGAGE IN SILENT PUBLIC PROTESTS AND SEARCH FOR WAYS TO COUNTER THE DEVASTATING EFFECTS OF WAR.

 

THE CREATIVE SWISS MOTHER-DAUGHTER DUO WHO LAUNCHED THE 1000 PEACE WOMEN PROJECT DID SO WITH MUCH ENTHUSIASM AND LITTLE MONEY TO THROW MORE LIGHT ON THE PEACE WORK OF WOMEN.  IT WAS ALSO CONCEIVED AS A CREATIVE WAY TO HONOUR BERTHA VON SUTTNER, THE FIRST WOMAN TO RECEIVE THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE 100 YEARS EARLIER, IN 1905. “LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS” WAS BERTHA’S ROUSING SLOGAN. 

 

BERTHA, LIKE JULIA, USED THE POWER OF HER PEN TO TRY TO EFFECT CHANGE.  AND SHE DID. HER BOOK BECAME A LINGERING BEST SELLER IN EUROPE.  I  HELD IT IN MY HANDS IN THE ROBARTS LIBRARY DURING THE COURSE OF MY POLITICAL SCIENCE STUDIES. IT WAS A NOVEL SO THOROUGHLY MOVING IN ITS DEPICTION OF THE CARNAGE OF WAR THAT IT INFLUENCED TZAR NICHOLAS OF RUSSIA TO CALL A PEACE CONFERENCE OF GOVERNMENTS IN THE HAGUE IN 1899.  IT WAS TO ABOLISH WAR. UNFORTUNATELY FOR HUMANITY, THE GOAL BECAME CORRUPTED.  BECAUSE OF THE OBJECTION OF SOME GOVERNMENTS, IT FOCUSED INSTEAD ON CRAFTING THE RULES OF WAR. BERTHA WENT TO THE MEETING AND, ALMOST ALONE, LOBBIED TO TRY TO REVERSE THIS. 

 

BUT KEY STEPS WERE ACCOMPLISHED.  EARLY MULTINATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE WAS LAID DOWN FOR A PERMANENT COURT OF ARBITRATION  OF CONFLICT,  AND  A  SEPARATE PERMANENT COURT OF INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE WAS PROMOTED  – BOTH TO BE BASED IN THE HAGUE.  BERTHA, A PRODIGIOUS AND TIRELESS UPPER CLASS INTELLECTUAL ALSO PARTICIPATED IN EVERY MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE BUREAU, A BAND OF  PEACE MEN AND WOMEN, FOUNDED IN 1891. DOUG MENTIONED THIS IN MY INTRODUCTION AS I AM LUCKILY PART OF ITS CURRENT INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL, AND VOICE OF WOMEN ONE OF ITS MANY AFFILIATES – APPROXIMATELY  300 (AND ALWAYS GROWING) IN 70 COUNTRIES.

 

 ITS RECORD OVER THE YEARS SPEAKS OF 13 NOBEL PEACE PRIZE LAUREATES AS PRESIDENT. GIVEN OUR PATRIARCHAL WORLD, EVEN IN THE PEACE MOVEMENT, BERTHA WAS NOT ONE OF THESE. TO MARK THE CENTENARRY OF HER AWARD, THE AUSTRIAN GOVERNMENT STRUCK A

 2 EURO COIN DEPICTING HER. I’VE BROUGHT ONE WITH ME TODAY. {HOLD UP]  SHE WAS AN UNDER-VALUED RESOURCE IN AN ERA WHEN WOMEN WERE  STILL STRUGGLING TO GET THE VOTE. [THIS TOOK NO LESS THAN 80 YEARS IN THE UNITED STATES; SOMEWHAT  LESS IN CANADA!]  HER DEATH WAS ONLY DAYS BEFORE THE OUTBREAK OF WW1. SHE WAS GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. 

 

WITH THE ERUPTION OF WAR, 1200 WOMEN FROM ALL SIDES STRUGGLED TO COME TOGETHER   IN THE HAGUE TO TRY TO STEM THE FURY. ANOTHER JULIA, JULIA GRACE WALES, A CANADIAN, SOON DEVISED A CAREFUL PLAN OF OFFERING CONTINUOUS MEDIATION. IN MEETING AFTER MEETING WITH HEADS OF STATE, THE POPE, AND KINGS, THIS CREATIVE IDEA WAS  REJECTED . “THE WAR MUST RUN ITS COURSE”, THE WOMEN WERE TOLD, “TO ENSURE THE BEST PEACE TERMS.”    

 

BUT BERTHA’S STORY BUBBLED IN AN UNDERCURRENT OF WIDESPREAD NEW THINKING ABOUT SECURITY.  (IN 1993, THE UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT AGENCY, UNDER EGYPTIAN LEADERSHIP RE-DEFINED IT FORMALLY. IT LOOKED MUCH LIKE WHAT VOW HAD SAID IN 1985 – DEFINING SECURITY FOR THE FIRST TIME AS  HUMAN NEEDS BASED. VOW WENT FURTHER, ADDING THE NEED TO WITHER THE MILITARY SYSTEM.)  IT SURFACED IN THE FORM OF A MAMMOTH INTERNATIONAL PEACE CONFERENCE IN THE HAGUE IN 1999, A CENTURY AFTER THE FIRST. TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE CAME! THE THEME OF THE CONFERENCE “DELEGITIMIZING WAR-LEAVING WAR BEHIND”  WAS TIMELY AND NECESSARY TO END THE BLOODIEST CENTURY IN HUMAN HISTORY ON A NOTE OF NON-VIOLENCE.

 

 IT WAS INTENDED FOR CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPANTS AS GOVERNMENTS OF THE UN REFUSED TO HOST IT BUT WITH ITS STRONG SUPPORT FROM CIVIL SOCIETY GOVERNMENTS SOUGHT OUT INVITATIONS. IT SET THE STAGE FOR NEW PARTNERSHIPS – GOVERNMENT WITH CIVIL SOCIETY – DUBBED “ THE NEW DIPLOMACY. ” KOFI ANNAN, QUEEN NOOR OF JORDAN, ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, AMONG OTHERS,  SPOKE WITH GUSTO.  THE OUTCOME “APPEAL” – A 50-POINT PLAN TO ADDRESS SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CHALLENGES FACING HUMANKIND AS IT EMBARKED ON A NEW MILLENNIUM WAS ADOPTED BY THE UN!  WHO LED THIS GIGANTIC EFFORT?  CORA WEISS, AN ENERGETIC AND ARTICULATE PEACE WOMAN FROM NEW YORK.  

 

WANT AN EARLY INVITATION? COME AND HEAR CORA, VOICE OF WOMEN’S   KEYNOTE SPEAKER NOVEMBER 12, WHEN WE CELEBRATE OUR ORGANIZATION’S 50TH ANNIVERSARY?  THIS  DATE, CLOSE TO REMEMBRANCE DAY IS QUITE DELIBERATE. 

 

 

CONSIDER THAT WE JUST COULD BE IN THE MIDST OF A NON-VIOLENT TRANSFORMATION:

 

BELGIUM, NETHERLANDS AND POSSIBLY GERMANY ARE SAYING “NO! “ TO US TACTICAL  NUCLEAR WEAPONS ON THEIR SOIL;

 

 AGAINST STRONG US PRESSURE, JAPAN HAS HUNG ONTO ITS ARTICLE  9 PROHIBITING IT FROM GOING TO WAR. COSTA RICA & PANAMA HAVE JOINED THIS CLUB. BOLIVIA, TOO?  IT MAY BE IN THEIR NEW CONSTITUTION;

 

 DESPITE A US DELEGATE TO THE UN SAYING  “PEACE SHOULD NOT BE ELEVATED TO THE CATEGORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS, OTHERWISE IT WILL BE VERY DIFFICULT TO START A WAR!” EFFORT TO ACHIEVE THIS AS A NEW RIGHT IS WELL UNDERWAY;

 

THE “OBAMA MOMENT” TO SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE NUCLEAR WEAPONS  IS GIVING NEW HOPE FOR THE ABOLITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS;

 

THERE IS GROWING TALK OF RE-DEFINING GLOBAL SECURITY IN TERMS OF SUSTAINABLE, COLLECTIVE HUMAN SECURITY;

 

AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS GOVERNMENTS HAVE ADOPTED A PROGRAM OF ACTION FOR BUILDING A CULTURE OF PEACE;

 

 LAST JUNE OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SURPRISINGLY PRONOUNCED SUPPORT FOR A CROSS-CANADA INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE, SEPTEMBER 21! THIS CAN BE USED TO PUT EMPHASIS ON PEACE STUDIES. 

 

 

IN LARGE AND SMALL WAYS, FROM ABOVE AND BELOW, WE SEEM TO BE SUCCEEDING IN A GRAND AND PROFOUND REVOLUTION THAT CONFRONTS MILITARISM. ONE IN WHICH WE ARE LEARNING THE WAYS OF PEACE.  DOUG ROCHE, FORMER CANADIAN MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT, AMBASSADOR FOR DISARMAMENT, SENATOR AND AUTHOR OF MANY LEADING EDGE  BOOKS, INCLUDING BUILDING A CULTURE OF PEACE  SAYS “IT WILL LIKELY TAKE MORE THAN A GENERATION.”  I THINK SO.

 

 HELEN TUCKER, UNTIL HER DEATH CALLED ME REGULARLY. “ARE WE DOING ENOUGH?” SHE WOULD ALWAYS CHIDE.  “SO MANY AT SO MANY LEVELS ARE ENGAGED,” I WOULD CONFIDENTLY REPLY NOW.   IF JULIA WARD HOWE WERE AMONG US TODAY, SHE WOULD SEE THAT THE SEED SHE PLANTED WITH HER MOTHER’S DAY CALL HAS  ROOTED.   NON-VIOLENCE IS THE NEW FORCE IN MANY SIGNIFICANT WAYS.

 

MY READING IS THAT WE ARE ABOLISHIG WAR