Posts Tagged ‘non-violence’

Don’t Cross The Line – Review

Monday, May 9th, 2016

Gecko Press‘ latest picture book is that rare beast, a message book that also entertains – it’s also artfully designed with eight blank pages and sixty characters! In Don’t Cross the Line by Isabel Minhó Martins, an army general orders a guard to keep the right-hand page of the book blank. But a crowd of people build up on the border, desperately wanting to use the space. What can the guard do? People power succeeds in the end. It’s those eight blank pages that will speak to all ages about freedom:  children see an empty space and want to play in it; teenagers ask why it’s forbidden; and adults see the injustice in it. A wonderful concept with lively illustrations by Bernardo Carvalho. (Read about Peace books for children here)

Don't Cross the Line_Cover_med


Rainbow Warrior Interview

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Thirty years ago today, French spies attacked the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour. It was on a voyage around the Pacific, relocating islanders from radioactive areas and protesting against American and French nuclear weapons. One of the ship’s engineers, 25 year old Hanne Sorensen, describes what happened that night:

“I had been working on another protest boat during the day doing some gas welding. That night I decided to go for a walk – I just had this urge to get off the Warrior…I can’t explain it. I came back at midnight and was stopped by police on the wharf who said there’d been some explosions. I thought, ‘Had I forgotten to turn the gas off?’ I didn’t even realise the Warrior had sunk at first. The crew were all huddled in blankets on the wharf and I still didn’t realise what had happened even though they all told me. It wasn’t until morning when I saw the boat that it really hit me hard.The first bomb blew a huge hole in the engine room – you could drive a car through – and the crew scrambled ashore as the boat sank. The next bomb exploded on the propeller shaft, close to my cabin. It was then we realised that the ship’s photographer, Fernando Pereira, was missing. He had returned to his cabin to get his camera and was drowned.
These people were my friends, like family…we’d all been through some intense things and trusted each other with our lives. Now they’d sunk our ship and killed one of our friends. After the bombing, the Greenpeace office was flooded with clothes, sleeping bags, and offers of homes to stay in. You couldn’t have had a stronger expression from the people of the world. Our aim back then was to save the world – not thinking that fifteen people on a boat could save the world, but that this was our little piece in a big puzzle. It matters what every single one of us does.”  (Extract from my book, Peace Warriors).

rainbow warriorPhoto by permission of Greenpeace, NZ

Brave Students

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Thousands of unarmed students in Hong Kong are currently standing up for democracy by taking to the streets. It’s often students who lead the way in peaceful protest movements:

  • 1943: The White Rose group were university students in Munich who distibuted thousands of leaflets exposing the Nazis’ crimes and encouraging people to resist. They were executed.
  • 1957: The Little Rock Nine were high school students in America who broke through the race barrier by enrolling in the local all-white high school despite threatening mobs.
  • 1986-89: University students in China protested to demand more freedom, culminating in Tiananmen Square with half a million Chinese citizens. The government crushed the event.
  • 1988: University students in Burma led massive street marches against the military rulers. The army killed hundreds but Burma eventually got free elections.
  • 2000: Students in Serbia led a non-violent protest to help oust a corrupt government.

War is old

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Alice Walker’s picture book Why War Is Never a Good Idea begins with the bright, comforting colours of a book for young children, but as War devastates the land the images become grim. It’s a scary message and parents will have to judge if it suits their children. The illustrations by Stefano Vitale are evocative and Walker’s words are true:

Though War is old

It has not become wise.

Though War has a mind of its own

War never knows who it is going to hit.

Walker comments: ‘War attacks not just people, “the other,” or “enemy,” it attacks Life itself … It doesn’t matter what the politics are, because though politics might divide us, the air and the water do not … Our only hope of maintaining a livable planet lies in teaching our children to honor nonviolence, especially when it comes to caring for Nature, which keeps us going with such grace and faithfulness.’

Denmark – People Power

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

The Danes challenged the most barbaric regime of the modern period and did so not with troops or tanks but with singing, striking, going home to garden, and standing in public squares. – Peter Ackerman

flagofdenmarkDenmark’s resistance of the Nazis is one of the finest examples of people power. The Germans occupied Denmark during WW2 and took over industry and agriculture to support Hitler’s war machine. But the Danish government found ways to sabotage the Germans without waging war. In 1943 and 1944 they organised nationwide strikes. The Nazis threatened them with tanks and guns, cut off water and power, but the strikers held on and the army backed off. They succeeded in frustrating the supply of war materials to Germany.
Ordinary people also resisted the invaders: by non-cooperation, marches, students refusing to speak German; and communties holding ‘Songfests’ to celebrate Danish culture. When the Germans ordered the arrest of all the Jews in Denmark, people sheltered Jews and smuggled them out to Sweden. They saved almost all the Danish Jews – 8,000 lives.

Weapons of Mass Instruction

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Imagine a world where instead of weapons of mass destruction, governments made weapons of mass instruction. Instead of spending $1.5 trillion a year on lethal weapons they could spend it on books. Here’s a better invasion strategy: Literacy Drones fly over villages and identify those without libraries; vehicles called Book Tanks (photo) move in to give away books to children; finally Seuss Troops visit schools to read aloud to them. Delivering books instead of bullets to children is a more effective way of fighting terror and raising living standards. Artist Raul Lemesoff already has a prototype Book Tank delivering free books all over Argentina, including to rural areas where there are few schools. Read about him in English or visit his Spanish website.

Anything is possible

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

This is the beautiful Burmese name for Aung San Suu Kyi who is giving the 2011 Reith Lectures (listen here); recordings smuggled out of Burma. Her wisdom, determination and sense of humour come through in these talks. When asked how she lives with the likelihood of being shot, she says ‘that’s always a possibility, but on the other hand there’s always the possibility that you might be knocked down by a bus…’ The programme includes an audience discussion of ways to approach Burma; engagement and targeted sanctions seem to be the favoured options.

My very top priority is for people to understand that they have the power to change things themselves.Time article

Nicotine Bees

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

The home garden supplier, Yates, advertises a handy spray-can of pesticide as ‘low toxic to beneficial insects’ and ‘soft on beneficial insects’. Lies. The pesticide is extremely toxic to the world’s most beneficial insect, the honey bee – a nerve poison 7000 times more lethal than DDT. The pesticide (Confidor) contains nicotine-based poisons which are now banned in France, Italy, Germany, and Slovenia, because of links to massive bee deaths.

These nicotine pesticides (‘neonicotinoids’) are widely used on NZ crops and are now available to the public. Labelling them ‘soft’ on pollinators is biting the hand the feeds us. Bees have been our partners for ages– our important foods need bee pollination. Neonicotinoid pesticides are systemic – the whole plant remains toxic right through to flowering. If spray drift doesn’t kill them, bees could be poisoned by pollen, nectar, and drinking water. Even sub-lethal doses weaken bees’ reproduction, immune systems, navigation, and memory.

Government agencies are not restricting neonicotinoids, so we all need to act: suppliers can label honestly; garden shops can warn customers; and gardeners can avoid ‘handy’ poisons.  Neonicotinoids are in these products: Confidor, Advantage, Merit and Admire (what shameless names).

Evidence: Scientific studies/reports; Nicotine Bees (movie); UN Bee Report; EPA Memostudent journalist challenges Yates.

Brilliant film-making

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

The world didn’t end yesterday as predicted, but one thing is for sure, we’ll all die one day.  Of Gods and Men is a powerful movie about facing death and questioning one’s purpose. This story of monks  caught in the Algerian civil war has 2 stunning scenes: the monks facing down the guns of extremists armed only with their convictions about peace; and a meal where they agree to face death together.  Peter Bradshaw says this scene  ‘is an overwhelming fusion of portraiture and drama, and perhaps one of the most sensational things I have seen on the big screen’ (read review). I agree, it’s a riveting moment of film-making. (I’m biased – the monks were beekeepers).


People Power

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I admire the courage of the people power movements in Egypt and Tunisia in facing their military rulers. As Tolstoy said,

For us to struggle (the forces being so unequal) must appear insane. They have millions of money and millions of obedient soldiers. We have only one thing, but that is the most powerful thing in the world: Truth.’

The ‘truth’ here refers to peace and non-violent protest. Non-violent action has been successful in bringing political change. It even worked briefly against Hitler when much of the population of Denmark resisted the Nazi occupiers. Danish workers organised large-scale strikes and succeeded in slowing the supply of war materials to the German army.

People power has blossomed over the past fifty years. In the 1970s the military rulers of Argentina were confronted by a group of mothers who’d lost children in the ‘dirty war’. Their protest drew the attention of the world and the government fell. And don’t forget the massive strike by Solidarity workers in 1980 leading to  democracy in Poland; and tens of thousands of civilians who deposed a dictator the Philippines; the wonderfully named ‘Singing Revolution’ (1987–1990) restored independence in the Baltic States; peaceful protests in Chile in 1988 helped to remove Pinochet; and 100 000 people gathered in Wenceslas Sq to end communist rule in Czechoslovakia in 1989. There’s been social change too, such as civil rights movements in the US and South Africa.

But any confrontations between civilians and the military state are a ‘slippery zone’. So to quote our Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, I hope that Egyptians continue to ‘express their views non-violently’; and ‘the authorities exercise restraint’.