Wednesday, July 27, 2011

News from the International Peace Bureau

The International Peace Bureau (IPB) sends out a newsletter every month, recounting its member organizations’ activities and especially significant developments in the world that reflect the prospects for peace. You can read them at Here are some of the events that have been mentioned during the last few months:
  • Several of the items dealt with the arms trade. For example, in March it was noted that Myanmar’s new budge allocates nearly 24 percent to defence, but only 1.3 percent to health. At about the same time, China announced that it was raising its defence budget in 2011. It was noted elsewhere that that arms sales, especially by Russia and China, are continuing to penetrate Latin America. On the other hand, these are not the most militarized regions in the world. Instead, the Bonn International Center for Conversion, which publishes a Global Militarization Index, declared the Middle East to hold that deplorable record, while India is the world’s largest importer of arms according to SIPRI, and Sweden tops the lost of arms exports per capita in 2010 ­even higher than Israel and Russia.
  • Although the Nobel Peace Committee maintains strict secrecy about its nominees, the Norwegian lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl stated that four Americans (Richard Falk, David Krieger, Betty Reardon, and Gene Sharp) and one Canadian (Douglas Roche) are among the ten he considers eligible to be shortlisted. He also made a list of persons he considers ineligible—though his criteria are apparently not the same as those of the committee that awards the prize. IPB itself nominated Douglas Roche, so we are certain that he is on the short list.
  • April 12 was the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. IPB co-organized the world-wide event along with the Washington, DC-based Institute for Policy Studies. Here are some of the actions: The Foundation for Peace in Barcelona produced a powerful video on military spending versus the Millennium Development Goals. Activists in Medellin, Colomia leafleted subway stations, while in Athen, protesters invited passers-by to indicate where they would spend government money. The Japanese NGO Peace Boat docked in the Philippines, where atomic bomb survivors held events with local groups on the costs of war. In London, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade did a die-in at the steps of the Treasury building. In Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, activists did a walk for peace through a community devastated by cuts in social spending. In Corvallis, Oregon, Veterans for Peace set up in front of the library and asked people to indicate their own budget priorities. The indie pop group Peachcake composed a song for the day.  The Toronto event was a Science for Peace-sponsored forum in which Professor Sergei Plekhanov of York University, Bill Robinson, and John Siebert discussed the trends and Canada’s own military spending habits. Reports of these and many other events are available on the IPB website,
  • The International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms met with the Simons Foundation in Vancouver in March and produced the Vancouver Declaration, which affirms that nuclear weapons are incompatible with international humanitarian law. They cannot comply with fundamental rules forbidding the infliction of indiscriminate and disproportionate harm.
  • A large najority of the 28 NATO nations supports the withdrawal of American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, or will not block a consensus decision on this issue. Only three NATO-countries (France, Hungary and Lithuania) say they oppose withdrawal.
  • The IPB network held a meeting in Dublin in April, calling for international days of action against the wars in Afghanistan and in Libya. It was decided that more attention needs to be directed to the role of NATO in the global South and in the Arctic.
  • A new organization, the Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (APLN) was launched in May. It comprises 30 former senior political, diplomatic, and military leaders from 13 countries in the region. See its website,
  • IPB will collaborate in a new online human rights training course for members and volunteers from European youth organizations. See
  • In May over 2500 peacemakers, educators, and community organizers met in Newark New Jersey for a three-day summit on peace education. Three Nobel peace laureates were on the program: the Dalai Lama, Shirin Ebadi, and Jody Williams. Alyn Ware’s report of the event is available at and Metta Spencer’s report is at For additional information see
  • The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its yearbook, which showed the continuing cuts in US and Russian nuclear forces are offset by long-term force modernization programs.
  • June 25 was the Global Day of Action for Nuclear Abolition, coordinated by ICAN. More than 140 actions were registered in 25 countries, such as flash mobs, protests at nuclear weapons bases, public forums, art activities, and street theatre.
  • In June Nobel Peace Prize nominee Douglas Roche carried out a three-week global speaking tour, which convinced him that “the world is moving into a new stage in the long quest to eliminate nuclear weapons....In the discussions surrounding my lectures to university students, think tanks, and civil society groups, it became clear to me that the intellectual case for nuclear deterrence is crumbling.”
  • David Vine’s new book, Island of Shame, reveals the way the United States conspired with Britain to expel Diego Garcia’s indigenous people and deport them to slums in Mauritius and the Seychelles, where most live in dire poverty to this day.
  • The annual IPB conference will take place in Potsdam October 29-30, 2011. On the 29th there will be a special day with speeches and discussions especially honoring the centenary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Alfred Hermann Fried (1864-1921). The event will be held in German and English with interpretation. If interested in attending, contact Reiner Braun at

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Games, Theodicy, and The Tree of Life

Yesterday I got into an argument with a woman friend, whom I'll call “Aysa.” We were in a restaurant with another woman friend, who didn't get into the dispute, partly because she had not seen The Tree of Life, which had set Aysa and me off onto our dispute.

We both loved the film, about half of which was a tour of the cosmos—gorgeous images of galaxies, volcanoes, dinosaurs, cells, and blood flowing through capillaries, The rest of the movie was an astonishing exploration of theodicy: the theological effort to justify God's ways to humankind. We hear the thoughts and overt interactions of a Texas family as they try to make sense of life's vicissitudes.

There is love, cruelty, and death. Aysa thought that the film's message was Christian, but I thought it was universal, addressing the questions that everyone considers—at least everyone who tries to believe that the universe has meaning and that it's run by a beneficent god. One of the family's three sons even flings the same insult at God as the biblical Job had uttered, saying that God is not good, so why should He be obeyed? And the film’s reply, I think, was the same as Jehovah had given to Job as a voice from the whirlwind; Where were you when I created the stars, the mountains, the volcanoes, and all the creatures? I think He meant: Do you dare to question me, the author of the universe! You could not understand if I did explain myself. You must simply trust me. In the story, nevertheless, God does not punish Job for his audacity, but prefers his bold approach to that of the visitors who come to see Job and invent lame excuses for the Almighty, unfairly blaming Job for his own misfortunes.

I have always accepted only half of God's reply. Surely it was wrong of God to let Satan put Job through all those horrible tests just to prove that one man—and perhaps only one man, Job--would remain faithful however much he suffered. That seems deeply wrong to me. But the rest of the speech from the whirlwind made perfect sense to me. If God has a huge beneficent plan in the works that will take eons to complete, surely it would involve having certain things happen now that would seem unreasonable to us in terms of our own limited vision and intellectual capacities. If I am going to see this universe as benign at all, run by a well-meaning God, then I must accept the whole of it, not just the pleasant parts, And I must simply trust that there is a good reason for the unpleasant parts which I cannot fathom. I can't be grateful for the sweet unless I accept the bitter too.

The film shows the cosmos and makes us awed by the majestic intelligence managing it. The whole thing is so magnificent that we must recognize ourselves humbly as fully as wondrous an invention as the dinosaurs and feel grateful for being a part of it, even for a short time. We are part of nature, part of the plan, and we can never know where the whole thing is going or why. Just trust it.

Or don't trust it, if that's your preference. Aysa chooses not to trust it, reverting to the same objections that other non-believers always do: the argument about evil. If God were good, he would not allow the horrors of X to exist, (Fill in X with whatever unpleasantness bothers you most. To me, X is birth. Even animals must suffer terribly in birth.)

To Aysa, X was the Dalits of India. She had gone to a slum in Delhi and had seen “Untouchables” living under bridges, drinking water polluted with effluent from the latrines up above them. Initially she adduced this as proof that God is not good. But soon she changed her interpretation, saying that it was not God who had created the horrors of the caste system and poverty, but human beings.

I replied that God had created human beings too, and had made us stupid enough to need a lot of improvement. It makes no more sense to blame humankind for the evil of caste and poverty than to blame God for making dinosaurs that eat other animals.

Does that sound as if I endorsed the perpetuation of evil? Did I seem to be saying that, because caste and poverty exist, we should accept them instead of trying to overcome them? I hope not. I explained that I see those social evils as problems and I believe we must each choose certain problems as our own and devote ourselves to trying to solve them. I spoke admiringly of my friend Jean Dreze, an eminent economist who lives among the poorest people of India. He shares what he has with them, and works to overcome their poverty by legislative lobbying. His campaign has succeeded in getting laws passed guaranteeing each family the right to a paid job a certain number of hours per year. Now he's working to guarantee everyone the right to enough food to survive, no matter what. He has chosen a wonderful problem to address. Aysa herself has also chosen an urgent problem – to overcome violence against women. And I have a great problem too: overcoming war.

But, I proclaimed, I thank God for my problems! In explaining, I recounted one of the most vivid memories of my childhood.

My grandmother was our Sunday School teacher that day. One of the other kids asked her what heaven was. She replied: “It's a wonderful place where you can go after you die, if you have been very good. It is perfect and it lasts forever. You will get anything you want without having to work or make any effort. There will be no struggle, no difficulty, no problems.”

I decided immediately: I refuse to go there. it would be hell! Nothing to do, no problems to solve. Never! I want lots of good, interesting, important problems to work on, whether I succeed in solving them or not. I’ve never changed my mind. But how many problems do we need? And how difficult or easy should they be?

Aysa saw my basic point and agreed that we might want to have a few challenges to keep life interesting, but certainly not such horrible ones as the misery of the Dalits. Their suffering still proved to her that God must be cruel.

To me it only proved that the universe is a marvelous game. The definition of a game is that people choose particular obstacles and try to overcome them. They adopt specific problems. In this universe, there’s a wide variety of problems—some chosen voluntarily, others inflicted on you. Some are easy, others hard. While you’re working on a problem, you don’t usually feel joyous, but considerable stress. The mountain climber whose rope is fraying feels terror, I suppose, but it’s a challenge she has chosen voluntarily.

The most useful course I ever took was from Karl Popper. He said that the progress of science (actually, even the arts, and certainly human society) involves continuous problem-solving in which you never prove what is true, but only disprove what is false, one theory at a time, eliminating errors and thereby getting closer to the truth. You never reach the truth, but just keep getting closer by finding crucial problems to solve. A genius, he said, is someone with an excellent nose for problems.

But you’d think that problems were scarce, considering how many people pick small, puny ones. Crossword puzzles instead of eradicating poverty or war or violence against women. People say they want to get away and avoid problems by traveling abroad, or lying on the beach. What a meaningless life!

My favorite theologian was not a religious writer at all but the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, he never referred to “God” at all but said that “Life” gives unique duties to each one of us. We can look for them eagerly and take them up voluntarily, or try to avoid them. Meaningful living is the avid quest for the special problems directed to us, moment by moment by “Life.” The amazing thing is that one can be satisfied working on such problems even in the worst circumstances imaginable. Frankl had spent the war as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, and he took his responsibility to be that of helping others find the meaning of their own lives, identifying the challenges that they were supposed to take on. Of course, everyone knows how horrible the concentration camps were, but Frankl recalls periods of serenity or even exaltation there. Sometimes the only option is to suffer. Then just suffer willingly, as well as possible. I remember when I was giving birth to my son. The only thing I had to do was painful, so I remember saying, “Okay, God. Bring it on. I will see how well I can do it.”

That made it a “game”: choosing the obstacles to work on. It was not fun, of course, but the best games are hard. Often life imposes them on us, but we can choose them anyhow. So long as we can’t get out of a concentration camp, we can choose it as a problem to address with all our heart.

The Dalits are not just passive victims either. They are working on problems too. Doug Saunders, the Globe and Mail correspondent, writes about them in his book, Arrival City. The slums of Delhi are terrible, but better, he says, than the rural villages from which the inhabitants migrated. Moreover, slum dwellers all around the world don’t stay in the same slum forever. They go back and forth to the countryside, they send remittances to their families, they find better jobs and better houses, and they bring their relatives to live with them. The Dalits are on the way up, albeit living for the moment under the bridges of their “arrival city.”

But slums present a fine problem to anyone else who chooses to work on improving them. Caste and poverty are horrible and, as Aysa insists, they are made by human beings. Ignorant human beings.

So our job is to fix ourselves and to repair other ignorant human beings too. We all require improvement. Social problems are the best challenges. Thank God for my superb problems! And there are plenty more to go around. Help yourself to a few.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

After the G-20, Re-Thinking Turmoil

Metta Spencer
At a meeting tonight on bad policing at G20, I rudely noted that demonstration organizers also had duty to make all protesters pledge nonviolence. This was not received well. They said it was up to the cops to make people behave. I said it's up to all of us. Gandhi stopped all demonstrations for a year after protesters acted up. His satyagrahis had to be EXTREMELY disciplined. Everyone tonight considered it impossible to keep order.

Janet Vickers and CF like this.

Robin Collins
Good for you.

Metta Spencer
Hi, Robin. Of course, I wasn't defending the crimes of the police, but it's a matter of doing more than blaming them.

Robin Collins
We should remember that the initial criticism was of the cops in the first day(s) for letting people run around doing silly (destructive) things; then the police were brought in and apparently were instructed to respond with a heavy hand. Isn't there something in-between?

Metta Spencer
Good question. The speaker tonight was Peter Rosenthal, the lawyer for Jaggi Singh in this case. Of course there is plenty of room to criticize the cops but we can't make them responsible for keeping everyone from breaking the law. Actually, I didn't speak up much until the end because I didn't go to the G20 marches and don't know enough about them.

Good for you. The peace movement and anti-globalist movements have lost all crediblity precisely because its members refuse to renounce the use or advocacy or condoning of violence. The appalling moral slide of the human rights movement in the last 10 years is to blame as well, with its indefensible notion of "defensive jihad" and support of various victims who advocate warfare and excuse terrorism. The flotilla movement has also been provocative and knowingly inciting violence to make a point. The old movement concept of "direct action" versus "non-direct action" has been utterly eroded. You don't have to have gone to the G20 marches to see the reckless disregard for non-violence principles and the cynical indifference to the problem of violence in general -- I had many Twitter debates with Canadian radicals at that time.

Andrew Bartholomew Chaplin
I have special admiration for real anarchists: nothing is more difficult. If you are a true anarchist you govern yourself and expect to others to do the same. If people govern themselves, there is nothing to worry about. Hope isn't just a town in British Columbia.

Wodek Szemberg
The truth not addressed is that—as any experienced and dedicated demonstrator knows—no demonstration has ever been successful unless it has been violently broken up by the police or it has managed to undermine public order in some manner. I wasn't there but I just have a sneaking feeling that many of the people who were wrongly arrested, have and will retell the story of their arrests at many dinner parties. And will wear the memory of their participation in the G20 demonstrations as a badge of honor.

Metta Spencer
I have to wonder what you mean by "successful," Wodek. Would you say the G20 demonstrations were successful? Or that Gandhi's demonstrations were unsuccessful? What do you suppose people are trying to achieve by demonstrating? Even Rosenthal agreed that the whole reputability of the G20 demonstration was blackened by the Black Bloc. I don't think the demonstrators required for their own "success" that the G20 disband or change its policies that weekend, so I'm not sure what success is to them either, but surely I don't know what you mean by it.

And in a sense I agree with Andrew. What I was calling on people to do was to monitor each other and manage the civility of our own activities without having to be controlled by the police. You could see that as anarchism, though surely the history of anarchism is dominated mainly by violence. Rosenthal says that Jaggi Singh is an anarchist, which explains why he has acquired several criminal convictions, I guess.

Robin Collins
I doubt much was achieved by the group of violent demonstrators -- what was their objective? It wasn't in revolt against a Nazi state. Was it to "prove” the state was violent by its response to their own provocations? Nobody believes that story, even when the police overdid it. There is more ego in the bandana boys than politics, methinks.

Metta Spencer
Yes. I think probably what Wodek means by "success" is getting media coverage. If that is the only name of the game, then he is right — but only because the media only cover shocking things. If that is success, then it comes at a terrible price — that the demonstrators put moral principles aside in order to get attention. That's not what I want to accomplish with a protest movement.

Francisco J. Wulff
I strongly agree with CF above. I don´t believe in going to the police and picking a fight as a form of protest, or burning cars in the street or destroying private property. What is the substance of such actions? How does that contribute to building a better society? Same with these fleets of "humanitarian assistance" going off to Gaza, hoping to be "attacked" by the Israelis. Is that the best we can do to make the points of humanitarian causes???

Anyway, thank you, Metta Spencer, for bringing up this issue, which has been bothering me for a while. I have not yet seen anybody else arguing your point, which is a shame.

Diane Katz
Couldn't agree with you more, Francisco.

Metta Spencer
Actually, I see the flotilla as a truly nonviolent activity. I know people who are on it, and they are trying to bring things into Gaza such as wheelchairs. I do not believe they are trying to provoke the Israelis into attacking them, and if they are attacked, the people I know certainly will not respond with violence or destructive behavior at all. So I see them as truly Gandhian in their mission.

Diane Katz
If the flotilla movement really had humanitarian assistance at its heart, rather than just making a political statement, they would be sending aid to Benghazi instead. But the sad fact is violence works, at least as far as getting attention goes. If there is a quiet, peaceful demonstration, the media aren't interested. They thrive on confrontation. Quite depressing, actually.

Metta Spencer
I didn't say they weren't trying to make a political statement. I think they ARE. But when injustice is going on, then a peaceful demonstration as a political statement is a good thing. That is not the same thing as attacking anyone or inviting attack. A couple of weeks ago at an arms bazaar in Ottawa my friends lay down on the pavement at the gate to try to prevent traffic going in. The police there were friendly and arrested no one. That's the way a demonstration ought to go. And in my opinion it is entirely justified. Money spent on weapons in the world would EASILY meet all the millennium development goals if diverted to civilized, humanitarian purposes.

Francisco J. Wulff
I'm sorry Metta, but I think that they are either very naive or worse. There is an open way to deliver real assistance to Gaza without this drama, but it has to go through Israeli checks (or through Egypt, which apparently is quite an open border now). What Israel won't allow is a direct, uncontrolled supply, because they fear it would be used to smuggle weapons. Although the Egyptian situation makes this whole thing a moot point, I can understand the Israeli concerns. And I don't understand why decent humanitarians would not be willing to go through a checkpoint.

Metta Spencer
Sorry, Franicisco, but that's not accurate. Not everything the Gazans need is allowed in, even at checkpoints. Cement, for example. Previous deliveries of wheelchairs have still not reached their destination, but are impounded somewhere unknown. The ocean is not the property of Israel and it is illegal for anyone to blockade Gaza. I think if you look more deeply into the true circumstances, you will conclude that Israel is perpetrating far more injustice on the Palestinians than vice versa. Because of that, I am supporting the flotilla myself.

Diane Katz
There was only one boat where there was violence, where there were the Turkish militants. I found out later that Ivan's cousin’s boyfriend was the first attacked, beaten, and thrown overboard. (He was in the IDF.) He had multiple fractures and spent several months in hospital and rehab. Why? Anyway, Israel said repeatedly that if the flotilla docks in israel, they will inspect the cargo and then send it straight to Gaza. I don't have a problem with the flotilla, if it's nonviolent, even if I don't agree with the necessity if it.

Francisco J. Wulff
I think the peace movement loses credibility when activists forget basic common sense. Lying down in an Ottawa street to protest an arms bazaar is great; attacking police officers at the G20 and spray-painting ther helmets and visors is stupid. Delivering humanitarian assistance in conflict areas is an act of great courage and self-sacrifice; choosing the most dangerous way just to make a debatable political point does not seem like a good idea.

Metta Spencer

I believe in civil disobedience as a political action when it involves disobeying an unjust law or custom. As Gandhi said, "Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good."

Diane Katz
With your recent demonstration, I think that's great. Wouldn't it be great if nonviolence was contagious? If people actually listened to the other side and heard other voices? But I'm afraid that's La La Land.

Francisco J. Wulff

I fully agree with that!

Metta Spencer
Look at the history of Gandhi's Quit India movement, or at the US civil rights movement. They both involved civil disobedience designed to expose the injustice of existing laws. Sitting-in at a segregated lunch counter, for example. Yes, the protesters could have found their lunch someplace else so why did they offend people by insisting on sitting at the whites' lunch counter? Because they wanted to expose the injustice of segregation and the violence that was used to enforce it.

Francisco J. Wulff
Yes, but I really don't believe that is comparable to the Gaza situation, where the wrongfulness of the law is far less clear to me, and where there are many other legal avenues still open and untried.

Metta Spencer
And, Frank, I agree that the "peace movement loses credibility when activists forget basic common sense." The trouble is, it is not the "peace movement" that broke windows or set cars on fire in Toronto. It was thugs from outside, and they did destroy the credibility of the peace movement, There were many thousands of peaceful marchers that day, whose actions were made to look violent because of 75 Black Block thugs. The organizers of the demonstration should have made if abundantly clear from the outset that anyone participating must agree to certain rules of nonviolent, nondestructive behavior. That is my point: that the organizers bear some of the responsibility for the blackened reputation that came out of the day. They accepted the principle of "diversity of tactics,” meaning that every contingent of demonstrators could decide for themselves what tactics to use, including damaging property.

As for Gaza, I don't think you're very well informed, Frank. The abuses are vastly disproportionate. However, I don't think we're going to reach an agreement about the facts via Facebook. I think you've not questioned as much as you might.

Diane Katz
Actually, the Israelis do have a right to inspect the ships, and they certainly have a duty to protect their citizens. The cement is prevented because they use it to build tunnels to smuggle weapons. Unfortunate because it stops needed construction. Have you any idea how much stuff is confiscated by Hamas and how much they control the supply of goods?

If Gaza wasn't controlled by Hamas and other militants things would be vastly better. You need to put a lot of blame on their leadership. Things are much better in the West Bank. Not as good as it should be, but still a big improvement.

Metta Spencer
Today's Globe and Mail has a big piece on the flotilla, interviewing one of the participants. I happen to know some of the others and would have gone along too if I were 20 years younger and in better physical condition. I recommend this article:

I am no expert on international law and I know the question is disputed as to whether Israel has a right to inspect the ships. Here is one article a week ago on it: However, I consider it an injustice and, even if it is legal, it is wrong — so cooperating with it would be wrong too. I would never vote for Hamas — but I don't know of any party in the Israeli government that I would vote for either. Certainly Diane is right that everything would be better if the antagonists would listen to each other.

Diane Katz

I think one of the most courageous people I've heard of is the doctor from Gaza (who now lives in Toronto) who lost three of his daughters during the war in Gaza two years ago. He worked in Israel, did some of his training there, and has many Israeli friends. Instead of hating (which would be totally understandable), he wants to heal, and build bridges to peace. All strength to him.

Allison Lee-Clay
That was why I walked away from the Legal Observers project: nobody would talk about a pledge for nonviolence, there was too much glee about confrontational non-productive mayhem, I was told to sign a weird silence doc & I was informed I ...wasn't there to testify about crimes I saw on both sides.

The icing on the cake was that we were there to protect the demonstrators, but not the Public & nobody would guarantee that the Legal Team would actually do *anything* for volunteer observers. Really soured me on the whole process.

Metta Spencer

Wow, Allison. What's really shocking. I'm forwarding this conversation to Peter Rosenthal. He ought to hear this one!

And Diane, I too admire that doctor from Gaza. He lives in Toronto now and I ought to interview him. However, he is suing the government of Israel and someone asked him if that was consistent with his decision not to hate. He said yes, that people must be held accountable for their actions, and that has nothing to do with whether your love them or hate them. I think that's right too. Actually, I should add that I never heard his statement myself and am only reporting hearsay. My statement would not be acceptable testimony in a law court. I think I heard it right, but who knows?

Diane Katz
I agree. The government should also apologize, which it has not yet done. However the citizens of Israel should also be free to sue Hamas for their persistent rocket attacks into their towns, but what would be the point? It's not like they have a credible legal system. At least the doctor will get justice. The courts in Israel regularly find against the government and for the Palestinians. He would probably get an Israeli lawyer who will take the case pro bono. He's got plenty of support.

Metta Spencer
Glad to hear good things about the Israeli justice system.

Diane Katz
The justice system is much more liberal than the government. Plenty of Israeli Arab judges, too. It won’t surprise you to know that Israelis don't think much more of their government than you do. But they do love their country, warts and all. (big generalizations here)

Martha Goodings

Metta, i totally agree, although it is not a popular view. Thinking it is up to the cops to make people behave is an idea that not even worthy of kindergarden students

Allison Lee-Clay
I tried starting 'Pacifist Pledge' idea a while ago, which would include a clear-to-draw-and-identify logo that one could (like a Peace sign) apply to one's garment at a demonstration. Along with signing up on Facebook, it could help register one's nonviolent & community-respectfully non-destructive intentions. I got hung up on whether the logo should be a peace sign with wings or something clearer and more creative.

Peaceworks Canada
Some of the media has seriously distorted the picture about what went down concerning the inspections of these boats last year. My fear is that if allowed to land, in reference to Diane's earlier comment, the story will become one-sided. That would not serve the cause for peace now, and never has. The CBG committee has tried every possible avenue available to them to have the Tahrir inspected and sealed, both before setting sail, and later upon arrival, without success. They have even invited Israeli inspectors to come and have a look. There were some frivolous legal attempts made to stall the departure of the boats but so far the participants in the Flotilla have done, and have sworn to do, nothing illegal—please see the oath they took— 'The Red Line' on Bob Lovelace's postings from the boat. Blame is not the answer, a nonviolent action of civil disobedience, which comes from moral indignation at a given set of circumstances however, allows individual citizens to respond from their truest selves. That is why civil disobedience is so successful. We are all (most of us) at heart, caring beings. I will post Bob's blog link later

Metta Spencer
There’s excellent news! Egypt will help the Gaza flotilla.

Allison, I think it's an interesting idea—to wear a badge showing that you're committed to non-violence. Still, I'm not sure I would wear one. At least, I'd have to attach some footnotes. That is, while I am 95% committed to nonviolence (well, close to it!) there are times when I would use violence to protect life. For example, I was in favor of the No-Fly-Zone in Libya, though not in favor of bombing the airfields first and not in favor of fighting the rebels' war for them. I would have favored putting peacekeepers between the two sides and warning both sides not to fire on the other. That would have given an opportunity for negotiations to begin. It might have involved shooting a few people, though. It would, however, have saved citizens' lives, especially in Benghazi, where Gadhafi had promised to go house to house, killing everyone.

Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan

I used to do peacekeeper or marshal training for mass demos. It was the way our movement kept its 'nonviolent contract' with the community, since we always had people joining in (we encouraged it), but who may not have reflected well on how they would act if violence broke out. We always maintained a link between organizers and police, and had legal observers too. I don't know if these systems were in place at G20. It would be good if organizers understood the importance of having an integrated entity ready to deal with 'black blocs' counter demonstrators, and any of the many forms of violence which can occur in crowds. We constantly did scenario development and trained for it, it was a real discipline.

Metta Spencer
This is SO important, Yeshua. Thanks for sending it. I will forward it to Rosenthal, who may have some influence with the organizers of such events. I certainly don't have any myself, for I don't think the Toronto people are serious about nonviolence at all.

Allison Lee-Clay
I wasn't informed about nonviolence/pacifism training: in fact I was highly disappointed that I heard nothing about it and I got huge scornful or sneering earfuls about my lack of respect for the 'importance of violence' and 'diversity of tactics' (which I consider a misuse of the term 'diversity'). Moral relativism and equivocations about how 'smashing up somebodys's storefront isn't "violence"! makes me sick with disgust. I can't figure if they're ... stupidly childish remedy-tantrum fits, or just social-psychologically PR-naive assholes.

Somehow the Black Bloc managed to make violence sound as 'morally upstanding' as abortion killings to the ears of their admirers. It does Canadians and our causes no service to let Black Bloc push us out of the press and into the fringes.

Failure to plan is planning to fail. I would enjoy taking a pacifism course & it would feel more morally uplifting than the complete downer I got from the Legal Observer G20 training day.

Robin Collins
We were watching Woody's Allen's new film Midnight in Paris last night. Good film, a lot of fun.... There's a sequence in the film that refers to one of film-maker Bunuel's films
in which the characters cannot leave a room. The sequence is a metaphor for the
confines of Franco Spain (the time of Bunuel's film), but also the resistance
many of us have (some more than others) of getting out of our convenient lives
and standing up for principles, i.e. the inconvenience of "just walking out of the
room". It doesn't matter the nature of the politics.

Today, my thoughts shot back to you, Metta, and your observations at the meeting the
other day when you found yourself virtually alone among activists when you
raised the problem of motives or appropriateness of actions of some people at
recent protests (G20). Your even raising the issue was heresy to some folks.

I've been in similar situations over the years. And my observation is simply
this. While I once sat on the "radical left" side of things, and I don't put
myself in that basket any more, still I don't feel that my basic assumptions
have changed much—but now I am more self-critical, I think I am more careful
in my thinking, and I am critical of tactics employed or knee-jerk thinking used
within the "left" or "peace movement". I am surprised to find that many within
these groups or that stratum often take very reactionary positions on
critical issues. That's maybe what has struck me most, recently. From another
era, people would have difficulty distinguishing some of these views from
extreme right-wing views. Many have abandoned democratic principles in order to
defend or embrace politicized positions based on an "anti-imperialist",
"anti-globalist" point of view. The result is a sympathy, in practical terms,
for dictatorships, or for defending them. (As a former Maoist in the late 70s, I
am aware of how that works! Enemy of my enemy is my friend...)

Even on the Rwanda genocide, which I think is a great barometer for
distinguishing political views, I find there are surprising assessments made, in
retrospect, about what should have been done. Many of the more radical seem to
argue that nothing could be done (because it should have been "prevented"...),
and relying on US troops to stop the genocide could never be justified (because
of US ulterior motives). Outside of these groups, of course, that would be
considered insane. In truth, it's the politics of "anti-imperialism" writ large.
And it's because anti-imperialism is dogma -- it is not a coherent rational
explanation that is particularly useful in solving or even explaining much about
current problems, at least in practical terms.

[I remember a breakthrough for me many years ago was when I stood at a
microphone and criticized some intervention (I can't even remember which one,
probably NATO/Serbia) and Geoffrey Pearson, who was on the panel, said back to
me: "That's fine, but would you DO?" I was very flustered, and I remember
answering that his answer "wasn't fair"! I always appreciated him for
humiliating me, and we became pretty good friends over the years.]

Now dictators and thugs are assessed on the basis of their relationship to the
US or other powers—but mostly the US— (Gadaffi is "OK-ish" because he was
once a Soviet ally, and anti-US.) The Tunisian and Egyptian rebellions were OK
because the regimes [they overthrew] were pro-West regimes. The Libyan situation must be a sign of imperial ambitions, not defence of civilians in Benghazi. All manner of effort
is employed to prove that oil is behind the conflict, and that it has nothing to
do with the Arab spring. There is a ton of retrospective analysis that is
fundamentally nonsense. (I am not diminishing the problems that have arisen
since NATO has decided to remove Gadaffi, likely outside of the UN mandate.)

And there is this effort to "explain" the evils of imperialism to people who
doubt these assessments are legitimate (a laughable, patronizing use of time).
Or worse, to launch ad hominems at critics of the "anti-imperialist" analysis.
It's as if there is this room that a large number of peace activists cannot bear
to step out of. When raising objections, more often than not, critics of the
mainstream leftish approach have been asked to shut up.

I have had a large number of discussions off and on-line with people on both
sides of this debate. Outside of the radical left (whatever that means) I don't
think that very many people actually embrace the "anti-imperialist" analysis.
They at least temper their assumptions about US motives with some doubt.

But you, someone who seems willing to step outside the room without much
hesitation, must have noticed the same problem over the years. Any thoughts? Is
it worse now than, say, ten years ago?

Metta Spencer
As to whether these tendencies are more common nowadays, I can't be sure. i'm not in public gatherings as often now as I probably was 15 years ago. However, Ken also read your letter and thinks that "anti-imperialism" peaked ten years ago during the biggest anti-globalization struggles. Of course, it isn’t surprising that it revives whenever there is an anti-G20 demonstration.