Found “This Evil Thing” in the priory

I needed to get away from my desk.  I wandered round to the Lancaster Priory and had a look around.  I had not appreciated it is a parish church, which explains the bell-ringing at funny times in the week: weddings!

I mostly studied the history of the place which is fascinating. But I also went through the notices and leaflets, as is my wont.  And amongst them I found something I had not seen in the Tourist Office or museum.  A show called This Evil Thing to be performed in Lancaster in a few days.

Poster for Michael Mears' play This Evil Thing

Poster for Michael Mears’ play This Evil Thing

It is a one-man play about conscientious objectors in The Great War.

But since I spent so much time sitting quietly in a pew, I think I needed some quiet, some solitude.  However, I intend to see this play.

The Woman-Power Debate, March 1941

In learning about the workforce requirements of total war, specifically the debate in the House of Commons about conscripting women to work on the land and in munitions factories in March 1941 Britain during World War Two, I saw a quote which gave me pause.

Agnes Hardie MP was arguing that “it has been a tradition for generations that war is a man’s job and women have the bearing and raising of children and should be exempt from war“.  I bet that comes up a lot in the gender studies modules of Peace Studies degrees.  (Hansard, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 376 (1941–1942), Parliamentary Debates November 12–December 19, 1941, Debate on Maximum National Effort 2/12 (1941), col. 1,079.)

While one side argued in the Woman-Power Debate that female war work was heroic and liberating, this was countered with concerns that increasing state management of women’s lives threatened to undermine both family life and femininity.  Agnes Hardie argued that mothers were “doing a far more important job for the future generations…than filling shells with which to kill some other mother’s son” (Hansard, vol. 370 (March–April 1941), Woman-Power Debate, cols 351–3).

As King Baudouin I of Belgium said: “It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him”.

Note for later: I wonder if the Bill to conscript women permitted the the right to conscientious objection, like the Miltary Service Act 1916 did for men?  I think it may have been the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939, but there’s also “In December 1941 Parliament passed a second National Service Act. It widened the scope of conscription still further by making all unmarried women and all childless widows between the ages of 20 and 30 liable to call-up.”  If so, I think it permitted them the right to object to military service, but does that include filling shells?  They did, however, get the choice whether to work in factories or on the land.

Re: I feel depressed because of war

A discussion on the forum of The Student Room started like this:


[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60094763] I can’t stop thinking about what children must be going through in their war-torn countries and witnessing their parents shot and stuff. All these graphical images/videos on Facebook and it all makes me sad  🙁 They were born in the wrong place at the wrong time they don’t deserve to go through all this. I can’t stop over-thinking and getting all sad and stuff. I try to avoid news and facebook and sh*t but that’s not helping :/ [/QUOTE]


There are things one can do.  Here is the reply from yours truly:


[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095245] It’s impossible for the an average person to change the world. [/QUOTE]
It is that belief that makes you feel depressed about it. But that belief is not entirely accurate. Every change that has ever occurred started with someone thinking “I want to do something about this“.

[QUOTE=PrincessZara;60095325] No, I’m not going to sit back and watch people die [/QUOTE]
Good. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.

You could support Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières. They help the victims of war (amongst others) and, given they’ve just had two hospitals destroyed by airstrikes lately, they could do with some support. (Wouldn’t it be nice if the USA had said “Oops. We’re not taking responsibility, but how much $$$ do you need to replace that hospital?“)

You might want to learn more about The Movement for the Abolition of War. They are an organisation of volunteers with a huge dream trying to make a huge difference. Their web site has links to lots of similar organisations.

War Resisters’ International are a pacifist activist group. Perhaps you would be proud to be a War Resister. They are active in all sorts of areas to try to prevent violence and promote peaceful alternatives.

You may be more interested in the Peace Pledge Union. Would you sign a peace pledge to ‘renounce war and never again to support another‘?

If you want to not pay for war, there is a Peace Tax bill going before the government next year, which, if accepted, would mean you can say you want your tax money that would have gone on military activity (about 10%) to go on peace-making work instead. Conscience Taxes for Peace not War are leading on this. Writing to your MP to say you support this would help. There’s a news article about the bill here.

Conscience and Peace Tax International is UK based but campaigns globally for the right to legally object to paying for armaments or war preparation.

There are numerous religions groups too, if you are that way inclined, not just Anglican but especially the Quakers.

Do any of those float your boat?

Searching for peace sector jobs

It can be difficult finding jobs in any sector, but searching for those relating to peace has extra problems.  For example:

  • Just what is the sector called?
  • What qualifications can one search for?
  • What licensing requirements can one search for?

A search for ‘peace’ on the UK government’s job web site Universal Jobmatch highlights these problems for those wanting paid work working for peace:

  • Agencies who include ‘peace of mind’ as boilerplate text in every advert such as:
    • Our aim is to ensure that people have a job that is satisfying and rewarding, which in turn gives clients an enhanced service, as well as total peace of mind” (for a Healthcare Assistant role);
    • Our 20 year “Total Peace of Mind”guaranteeprovides a unique offering and we have RECC membership, MCS accreditation and a financefacility” (for a solar panels sales role for a company that cannot find the keyboard’s space bar);
  • Arbitrary use of ‘peace’:
    • Northampton is a thriving, colourful and developing town that offers affordable housing and is situated in Northamptonshire, and offers the restful peace of the countryside” although how a city of ¼ million people counts as ‘countryside’ I don’t know and there hasn’t been any affordable housing in Britain for over 30 years;
    • Youll be at peace developing cross-browser AJAX web applications” for a ‘C / ASP .Net Software Developer’ meaning the candidate will be told to do stuff they are not qualified to do but won’t complain;
  • Using ‘peace’ to mean the opposite of peace:
    • Ministry of Defence, Unit Photographer.  Provide photographic images to support, enhance, train and protect the unit’s reputation during times of conflict and peace” (note I had to correct the grammar in that advert);
    • WTF is a ‘Protection Insurance Adviser‘?  Isn’t that what the Mafia use to run their protection rackets?  “As a Protection Adviser you will be on hand [fist?] to recommend the very best suite of protection insurance products to our clients to give them peace of mind“;
    • For the peace of mind of our customers and our colleagues, we will carry out screening checks as part of our recruitment process” when they really mean their own security;
  • ‘peace’ in the recruitment agency’s name, such as Peace Recruitment who work “within the construction, property and engineering sectors” — so why are they called Peace Recruitment? (they currently need bricklayers in Edinburgh, BTW);
  • employers with ‘peace’ in the name such as GreenPeace who are recruiting door-to-door fund-raisers (“FULL INSPIRING TRAINING GIVEN“, poor sods) and chuggers which, in my book, is about as peaceful as a smack in the mouth;
  • companies oddly using WW2 to define their age:
    • a bus company: “through wartime and peace, we have improved the day-to-day lives of generations of people” !;
  • roles requiring a Moslem and so tangentially refer to ‘peace’, such as:
    • Imam.  Provide Islamic guidance according to Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)“.
  • roles with a peaceful environment, which are a nice distraction to read about, such as:
    • Greenkeeper.  For those seeking peace and quiet, the site also offers solitude and privacy” – lovely;
  • recruiters such as Leah Peace who have ‘peace’ in their given name, with which I cannot get upset;
  • jobs where the word ‘peace’ does not appear anywhere, which are just a mystery.

But most of them are sales jobs selling insurance as ‘peace of mind’, meaning ringing people up and frightening them until they give you money.  How is that promoting peace in society?

It seems the people who want to be associated with the word ‘peace’ in their advertising do so because they are so far detached from the concept.

Of the 584 jobs returned today, two are actually related to peace: a lecturer and a research analyst.

From the above analysis one can assume that if you want to work in the peace sector, the odds are over 200:1 against success when searching for ‘peace’.  So a bit like real life, then.

Albert Einstein quotations

“I would absolutely refuse any direct or indirect war service and would try to persuade my friends to do the same, regardless of the reasons for the cause of a war.”
—Albert Einstein — From Die Friedensbewegung, ed., Kurt Lenz and Walter Fabian (1922)

“He who cherishes the values of culture cannot fail to be a pacifist.”
—Albert Einstein — Quoted in Die Friedensbewegung, ed. Kurt Lenz and Walter Fabian (1922) 17.

“I am not only a pacifist, but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace…  Is it not better for a man to die for a cause in which he believes, such as peace, than to suffer for a cause in which he does not believe, such as war?”
—Albert Einstein — From an interview 1931. Reprinted in Einstein on Peace, 125

“We must… dedicate our lives to drying up the source of war: ammunition factories.”
—Albert Einstein — Published in Pictoral Review, February 1933. Quoted in R.W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times

“The goal of pacifism is possible only though a supranational organization. To stand unconditionally for this cause is… the criterion of true pacifism.”
—Albert Einstein — To A. Morrisett, March 21,1952. AEA 60–595

“The more a country makes military weapons, the more insecure it becomes: if you have weapons, you become a target for attack.”
—Albert Einstein — Quoted in interview with A. Aram, January 3, 1953. AEA 59–109

The long term effect of airstrikes

When the airstrikes begin, such as they did at the start of the second Gulf War, and as is desired by US, UK and French leaders against Syria, large numbers of government buildings are attacked, resulting in the deaths of large number of civil servants in the country being attacked.

(The legality of targeting civilians is another question worth considering another day: link1, link2, link3, link4, link5, link6.)

The elimination of these civil servants has the desired effect of damaging the military organisation of the target country: supplies are not ordered, shipments are not arranged, payroll does not happen, communication is disrupted: information does not get escalated and orders do not get distributed, intelligence is not analysed.  In this way the machine of war is halted despite the troops and armour being intact because the troops have no food or bullets, the guns have no shells, the tanks have no fuel, the aircraft have no targets.  It is a seemingly ‘humane’ way of disabling an opponent or one party in a civil conflict.

The reality is, the combatants are left intact while the civilians are killed, maimed or forced to flee, adding them to the numbers of refugees.  Amongst those refugees will be the pacifists, the civil rights specialists, the conscientious objectors and the fearful who left the country during the crisis.

How very ironic is it that those who speak for our armed forces say killing civilians instead of soldiers is more humane?  That makes it quite clear where their allegiances lie.

If the external influence is effective, and the targeted government falls, then who will form the civil service of the new administration?  Certainly not the corpses and the cripples and the refugees of the deposed government.

It will be recruited mostly from the victorious liberating army, that group of ‘rebels’, ‘terrorists’, ‘insurgents’ and ‘insurrectionists’ that became redefined as ‘freedom fighters’ because their winning suited our political convenience.  An army including reactionaries, the vengeful, hot-blooded young anarchists, psychos, criminals, malcontents, sufferers of post-war stress syndrome and anyone who decided to pick up a gun and kill their police officers, armed forces members and government officials despite them being fellow citizens.  It is from these ranks the new government’s officials will be constructed.  Those who can answer the questions:

What did you do in the war, Daddy?

and

How many did you kill?

Experienced administrators from the previous government, those who left because of their conscience, the displaced – these people are least likely to get their old jobs back.

So is it any wonder that when we interfere with another country by applying airstrikes that the incoming government is itself full of turmoil with police recruits shooting their colleagues, suicide bombers, corruption, instability, ongoing car bombs and ultimately another revolution?

Perhaps if we stopped killing their filing clerks, accountants, data analysts, IT staff, secretaries, junior supervisors, PAs, human resources officers, trainers, typists, middle managers, and office cleaners then maybe their future governments might be competent, organised, capable and stable.

The outcome of using airstrikes are:

  • the deaths or injury of many fit, intelligent, taxpaying, civilians;
  • the armed forces and their matériel are left intact;
  • ongoing national incompetence for many years;
  • the need for greater external influence in maintaining stability;
  • those who may have a bias towards peace and reconciliation become personae non gratae;
  • a continuation of civil disorder and violence;
  • the likelihood of major armed conflict in the future.

So what are the real agenda when airstrikes are used?  Anyone would think it was advantageous foreign policy, commercial interests and the maintenance of the arms industry.  It certainly is not humanitarian reasons.

When did you become a pacifist?

I have been asked a few times what happened last year that made me decide to become a pacifist.  What a strange question.

Well, I do recall that about 1974, aged 9, I suggested to my little friends my brilliant idea for global world peace: that we should nuke any country that attacks another one.  If everyone agreed with this plan, nobody would start a new war.  That is, if some country invades or attacks another, everyone else nukes the first country off the face of the planet.  Completely and utterly.

It seemed like a good plan at the time… to me.  I can’t remember if it was Saul or Neil who said “But what if we want to start a war?” which rather put a spanner in the works of my plan to start a global juvenile peace movement mobilisation.  I assumed that the rule should apply to us, too.  Also, Jason objected to the killing of all the innocent civilians, but I suspect that was because he was thinking of a few countries that we needed to give a good warring to.

In college, about 1983, aged 18, the Social Sciences lecturer (I think his name was Plank – at least, that’s how we referred to him) gave us a hypothetical question: the government has declared war on some country, what are you going to do?  I said “Protest”.  Over the next few lectures he added to the scenario until, after about three weeks, we got to the point that conscription had been brought in and the Military Police were coming to collect me at mid-day.  (By this point everyone else had attended the sign-up offices as their registered letter had told them to.)  I said I’d be a conscientious objector; he said the government had made that illegal.  “Fine, I’ll go to prison.”  He said that wasn’t an option: ‘conshies’ were being put in uniform and sent to the front.  “I’m still not going.  I won’t wear the uniform.  I won’t pick up the gun.”  So he said I’d be shot as a coward.

“In that case, I still won’t fight.  I won’t kill people on behalf of a government that says they will kill me if I don’t do it.  That kind of government is not worth fighting for.

A society that kills its own people for refusing to kill other people they have never met, is exactly the kind of society we should be fighting against.

He went ballistic with me, calling me a coward and a bad citizen and that I was letting down all my peers and how I was an example of why social science teaching was essential – presumably to indoctrinate young people into cheerfully killing strangers to order.

(The expression “I voz only following orders” was still common parlance despite the Nuremberg War Crime Trials having finished 34 years earlier, and I have never quite understood the difference between shooting a civilian and shooting a conscripted civilian in an scratchy uniform.  If “I was only following orders” was not a valid defence then, why should it be now?  Since I cannot differentiate between a civilian and a conscript, I can shoot neither.)

When I was nine years old, I thought it was OK to kill innocent civilians for living under a bad government.  Then I grew up and realised it is the bad governments we should fight, not the poor souls that have to live under them.

So it’s not so much ‘when’ I became a pacifist as having changed my views on ‘how’ I should be a pacifist.