Monday, 30 April 2007

non-violent direct dining

Check out tube dining.

Strikes me if they can get away with that, then a more political intervention would both draw attention (the dining incident was on BBC news) and engage other travellers in the issue. Non-threatening and quaintly bizarre.

active (non) violent museums?

I was in Tate Britain on Friday briefly, and had a quick look at Mark Wallinger's Tate Britain. I've never been quite sure what I think of it... part of me wonders what the point was of replicating all the pieces that were on the grass outside the Houses of Parliament; if he waited a while he could cadge a whole load of originals. (I'm also a bit of a sceptic about Brian Haw, having read an article where he says 'I wish I could just go home to my child and my wife'. Its a valiant protest, no doubt, but then you've heard me banging on about strategic change and the need to be focussed, and I can't see his focus. He's a reminder, sure. Is that enough?) Is it art? (okay, don't answer that. Dull, oft-repeated question).

But seeing the show reminded me of Goodbye Lenin and a spate of books that came out around a decade after the Berlin wall came down about return, and dissadents' experince of dislocation. It was as if, ten years on, history could become culture, we can deal with it on another level - enjoy it as art, somehow unreal. (Though Susanne deconstructed this argument a little on Saturday, reporting that the director of The Lives of Others had struggled to get funding, since people kept encouraging him to tell the story as a comedy. The message of that: Don't take the Stasi too seriously?) So what then does it mean that Brian Haw's presence is in a gallery? Does that ossify it? Mean it is history? What does it mean for us?

I also finally visited my local museum a couple of weeks ago. I have been putting it off for years, partly because it is just too close, partly because I don't want to celebrate these things in boxes. But I figured I need to engage with whatever it is the Imperial War Museum is trying to do. Confusing thing is, I still have no idea what it is trying to do.

You walk in and face a barrage of tanks and an enourmous V2 missile (I now understand why I have an allotment; that great hunk of vile metal hit houses opposite me on Aylesbury Road). They seem to be pointing at you, or rather (since you move) at a tiny dog hanging from a parachute. The little signs are all 'objective', descriptive enough. Each individual piece is not, as far as I can tell, glorifying war, but it's hardly critiquing it either.

Having faced the tanks (and survived), I watched a film on crimes against humanity, and wandered through some of the Holocaust exhibition. It's huge, and made me feel sick (which surprised me, given that I read masses on the Holocaust for my PhD and before, so thought I might be somewhat innoculated). I didn't make it to the small corner that looks at the Gulf War or the Falklands; will go back.

Outside, you meet a piece of the Berlin Wall, and the Peace Garden (ahem, peace is only outside). It's a gorgeous sunny day and you are face to face with two enourmous guns. I stand in front of them and am just bemused; I just don't understand how anyone can see these and not think of the pain/death they cause. I'm losing/lost my ability to empathise with people who 'get' war.

Friday, 20 April 2007


I went to the ENO's Gandhi opera, as I saw it, after the workshop on Saturday. Realisitically it is a Philip Glass opera before a Gandhi one... it is beautiful, simple, sometimes amusing, and very very looong. Three hours, post-strategy and campaigning... Hmm. As the Observer reviewer put it, 'Oh, do get on with it'.

In the words of Anthony Holden, 'As a work of art, this piece undeniably pays due homage to a great man. As theatre, it is intermittently stylish; as a sermon, its precepts are unimpeachable. As music, extremely well performed, it is interesting for 10 minutes, pleasant for another 10, then insufferably monotonous for the ensuing three hours-plus. Some will emerge believing they have seen an inspirational affirmation of the human spirit, others a non-violent attempt to bore the oppressor into submission.'

Is opera in that list of 198 NVDAs?

Monday, 16 April 2007

well, i finally made it into the blog!
i am no expert at this, so realise my identity is fully hidden - wishingchair is sue, one of the facilitators on saturday
greetings to all, will look forward to reading and contributing!

why are you reading this?

Sophie made a beautiful slip of the tongue on Saturday that set me thinking; she said, 'We're going to build up a campaign on the issues that care for us'.

Where would we be, as individuals, without the issues we care deeply about?

Why do we spend our sunny Saturdays in a large room in Euston?

How does this relate to empowerment, and the group/individuals issues that Zaria's playing with below?

(The pictures are of the issues that we hung on our washing line on Saturday, the 'issues that care for us').

One More Step towards Conscience Objection to War

A number of people were talking about peace tax and like-minded things at the weekend, so I thought I'd share this, from my friend Nadine Hoover in the States. It's nearly two months old, but hey.

Early on February 22, 2007, thirty-three Quakers from all over New York, New England and even the U.K. gathered at the Federal Courthouse in Manhattan for a special meeting for worship in preparation for the argument of an appeal by Daniel Jenkins in his case of conscience against the Internal Revenue Service. Dan Jenkins is bearing witness to the leading of his conscience that paying taxes for war is wrong. Following this leading he paid his federal income tax into a special escrow account, refusing voluntary payment until the government agrees to use the money only for non-military purposes. For this, he is being charged not only for the taxes and ordinary penalties and interest, but an additional $ 5,000 fine for daring to challenge the government in Tax Court rather than accepting the penalty assessments.

Fred Dettmer was the lawyer who argued the appeal on behalf of Dan Jenkins. Relying primarily on the US “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), he told the Court that the government can and must find a way to accommodate Dan by honoring his conscientious insistence that his tax dollars not be drafted to pay for war. In this way Dan can meet his obligations to the state, as he wishes to do, without violating the dictates of his conscience. He explained that the RFRA puts the burden of accommodation on the government and the IRS has demonstrated through the campaign contributions that it is able to accommodate. He also presented Dan Jenkins' case that the New York State Constitution Article 9 assures the citizen's rights to liberty of conscience as a critical element of democracy. This constitutional law predates and outweighs the federal powers to tax for war. This is the first time the court will be ruling on this legal argument and there is nothing frivolous about it. A separate brief was submitted by New York Yearly Meeting of Quakers as a “Friend of the Court.”

Following the argument, Friends discussed the appeal and opportunities now being created for others to make formal statements of their own conscientious objection to war taxes. A conference on the subject was also held over the weekend at Purchase Friends Meeting. The conference discussed the possibility of other legal actions advancing similar claims.

One area opening for anyone opposed to paying war taxes is to create a personal statement of conscience. This could also serve as evidence to support a claim that limitation of one’s tax dollars to non-military uses is genuinely based on conscience, something that might serve as the basis to require accommodation by IRS in the event that Dan Jenkins wins his appeal, or Congress passes the Peace Tax Fund bill. These statements are being gathered and maintained by the NYYM subcommittee on Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation comprised of Friends who share a strong leading for “tax resistance” to war and other military expenditures. More information is available from Conscience & Peace Tax International and from the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.

Friday, 13 April 2007

groups, individuals and groups of individuals..the story continues

Dear Tide Turners,

So this is what we missed: 50 - 80 protesters, roads blocked for an hour and a half, eleven arrested after locking on (aldermaston women's peace camp blog:

They also, rather charmingly, did this:

A useful discussion has grown up over the last week, and a series of themes has developed:

DD wants to state 'the obvious', but I don't think your comments are obvious at all, DD, and what is obvious to some is not obvious to all. It was an interesting response to our disappointment/unmet expectations to link to 'Appreciative inquiry', which perhaps we should talk more about as a way to approach protest situations.

Anyone know more about appreciative inquiry?

A thread running through the discussion, however, is the tension between the personal and the group-oriented, as Carl said. Rachel mentioned how protest seems like 'part of the system', which I think is really interesting, and Carl brought up how this 'protest system' is oriented more towards the individual rather than the collective. This perhaps reflects what DD said about self-empowerment through forms of protest. Self-empowerment is admirable but if taken as a basis for a philosophy of protest could it create the kind of chaos which we felt we had encountered last week?

Ok, to push it further: could it be said that some forms and expressions of political protest are mainly aimed at serving the cultural and psychological needs of the protesters as individuals, rather than at truly resolving problems. If, as Kathryn suggested, we/the people in the pictures really did have a dialogue with the nuclear industry, would we achieve more?

Hope thoughts can flow further, obvious and less obvious all's only cyberspace...see you on Saturday.


Monday, 9 April 2007

Dazed and Confused!

Dear Tide turners,

Easter Monday and Carl and I abandoned the delights of the Cotswolds to go to Reading to prepare to blockade Aldermaston. We had debated this, at some length: was it going to be worth it? What would we actually achieve? Was it better to pick a campaign and stick with it? were we going to Aldermaston simply because it was there as a campaign and did we believe in it any more than say, climate change, or anti-consumerism or anti-capitalism? The ideological supermarket is open 24 hours, after all.

We had assumed that we’d find a tight group of seasoned protesters with precision organisation. What instead fetched up in Reading was a very small group of people indeed. We went through some training, which was similar in some ways to the Tide Turners sessions, but more chaotic. We were told of the importance of forming and affinity group: something that we were aware we didn’t have, but given no chance to form one. At no point was the impression of precision organisation given. More random chaos with all protesters deciding what they wanted to do and how. Many protesters seemed to have a few issues with working in groups and deciding on common policies and, apart from anything, there didn’t seem to be any common policies and no-one seemed to have a clear idea of what was going to happen. Or at least they didn’t tell us. On the plus side we were given some very interesting information about the progress of the nuclear project in Britain and some details about how convoys of nuclear material move around, etc.

We had powerful conflicting feelings about all this: to be brutally honest I think we wanted to be impressed and made to feel secure. On the other hand, why should we need others’ guarantees? We wanted to join an organised group who were focussed on achieving things, but there was a strong emphasis on individual decisions and the individual within groups. What also became apparent was that there were admirable and switched-on people doing dedicated research and observation of Aldermaston and their strong work was not reflected in the publicity and wider awareness of the issues. For example, they made that the official secrets act in the UK made it harder to find out information about nuclear material and dangers to public health than in the US, where government strictures on sensitive information are less tight.

The whole experience made us reflect on the further learning we had to do around this issue, and the issue of protesting in general: does process have to reflect content? What is the problem with organisation? Can we find an ‘affinity group’ which is prepared to act, or not act, to some effect? How can people be mobilised in large numbers? Is it necessary to cultivate media relations? Is it ok to doubt the wisdom of actions which appear to merely amuse/annoy passing motorists and not have perhaps much effect on the fearsome development of nuclear weaponry in this country?

Comments very welcome: anyone else had doubts? anyone else been Dazed and Confused?


Challange GUANTANAMO athrough AVAAZ

A new group AVAAZ, which means 'voice' in a variety of Asian, Middle Eastern and European languages, is putting together a global petition to close Guantanamo. There are already 1 million people from 182 countries that form the community. When they have received signatures from every country in the world, they plan to run the petition in key US newspapers. You can sign the petition via

Helen Dymond

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

25 years of Defending the Right to Defend Human Rights: music and photos

For 25 years Peace Brigades International has been sending teams of volunteers to provide unarmed protective accompaniment to human rights defenders all over the world, currently we have projects in Colombia, Mexico, Indonesia, Guatemala and Nepal.

This exhibition has been put together to illustrate the work of human rights defenders and the issues they face. The pictures are a tribute the bravery and hard work of human rights defenders across the world.

The exhibition runs from Weds April 4th to Sunday April 30th at Pogo Café, 76 Clarence Rd, Hackney E5. Contact Lani for more info on PBI's work.

To compliment The Pogo Cafe hosting this exhibition come and see a unique musician play Latin music with a twist, Flakito. Flakito has spent two years working for Peace Brigades International in Colombia. He will be sharing music and stories. Thursday 5th April at 7.30pm with his one man band. Come and find out about the work and listen to some great music at the same time!

I keep thinking of you

Given the various conversations we have had about making or building communities, I noticed that I keep thinking about TTT people as I work on my own understanding of changing the world. Like in a plane from Aceh, reading Lederach's Preparing for Peace, I got to thinking about Rachel's new job, and what potential there is for elicitive conflict transformation workshops (drawing on their existing conflict resolution practices) with local communities in Lambeth and Southwark.

And on the plane back from Indonesia yesterday, watching Freedom Writers, Hollywood enough but also inspiring (based, as it says, on a true story of devastatingly divided ethnic communities and multiple gang deaths). It reminded me of a conversation with Nana, her frustration with her own community. And also of my experience on the way to the RP gathering in Birmingham, where a black and an Asian woman helpoed to break up a fight on the street, and I felt useless because I am white.

And all my god-damn flights in the last three weeks, over an archipelago that stretches the same distance as from London to Baghdad, making me wince knowing Carl's commitment to not taking planes. If there is an eco-footprint hell I've been headed there for years. I can't really make myself repent because an ongoing connection with PBI and peace attempts in Indonesia gives me too much.

So there, you're in my head. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Monday, 2 April 2007

A play which may be of interest...

I friend of mine has put this play on , which looks interesting it's on until 14 April if your interested. I'm going to go along on Thursday 5th if anyone wnats to join me then :)

The Ladies Cage
The World Premiere of a new play by Maureen McManus. Directed by John Terry. Designed by

In a full-bodied attack on conventional wisdom, Scary Little Girls Productions and acclaimed director John Terry strip away the myths surrounding the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland’, the Victorian Irish Nationalist leader, Charles Stewart Parnell, in the world premiere of a new play, The Ladies Cage, opening at the Finborough Theatre on 21 March for a four-week run. Uncovering a forgotten piece of women’s history, the play is inspired by the life of his sister, Anna Parnell, and reveals the pivotal role played by women in freeing the Irish from British rule – and themselves from the “ladies cage” that imprisons them…

Acclaimed young director John Terry, Associate Director of the Finborough Theatre, has directed the sell-out Time Out Critics’ Choice Finborough-commissioned productions of Rolf Hochhuth’s Soldiers and Keith Dewhurst’s Lark Rise to Candleford, winner of the Peter Brook Empty Space Mark Marvin Award. Playwright Maureen McManus is also a published poet and journalist. The Ladies Cage has been written with the input of eminent historian and politician
Dr Margaret Ward, author of Unmanageable Revolutionaries: Women and Irish Nationalism, a ground-breaking reassessment of the role of women in the struggle to free Ireland.

Scary Little Girls Productions is an innovative young production company based in London and Cornwall. Its first show was produced in collaboration with the Bristol Old Vic and recent partnerships include art, drama and film projects with the South London Gallery, Glastonbury Festival and the Curzon Cinema Group, as well as two sell-out London shows – The Kisses in 2003 and Maria Stuart in 2005.

Finborough Theatre, The Finborough, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED
Box Office 0870 4000 838
Wednesday, 21 March – Saturday, 14 April 2007
Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm. Sunday Matinees at 3.30pm.
Tickets £12, £9 concessions. Tuesday Evenings £8 all seats. Saturday evenings £12 all seats.
Previews (21 and 22 March) £8 all seats.
Performance Length: Approximately 2 hours.
The Finborough run is followed by a run at the Manchester Royal Exchange Studio – 27-28 April 2007