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Low-tech, high-impact

Richard Seabury, Shrewsbury

At the RMC, one memorable and seasoned activist took the time to enquire and listen to what was happening in my life. I told her that I had recently become without a home. In order to ease my concerns, she referred to the “loser” cartoon in the latest issue (PN 2538). I admitted that instead of understanding the meaning of the cartoon, it had both puzzled and saddened me.

Hearing this, my new friend recited the poem that had been referred to on the “loser’s” book in the cartoon. The poem was “Leisure” by William Henry Davies. The poem showed how great beauty, strength and nourishment of the mind can be lost in our everyday lives. The cartoon’s modern take on the poem was that we as consumers of information and technology are imprisoned and impoverished.

Later, my new friend later confided in me. Even though she used computers, there was a lot of the technological jargon used at the conference that she couldn’t understand; lamenting that perhaps her usefulness had gone – a great irony as she had played a vital part in the 10-year Afghanistan protest at Downing Street just the day before.

In hindsight, though deeply enjoyable, I feel our conference may have benefitted from including of poets, dramatists, and songwriters: low-tech, inspirational and accessable. In the words of Utah Phillips, “In a mass marketing culture, a revolutionary song is any song you chose to sing yourself. Welcome to the revolution.”

Roll on, 100

Steve Platt

I was surprised – pleasantly! – to see an old article of mine retrieved from the dustbin of history in the last issue. (Riotous emotions, PN 2537). That reminded me that I remember PN’s 50th anniversary, which was around the time that article appeared. So here’s a donation to mark the 75th and I hope we’re both still around to celebrate the 100th!

Viva la pace!*

Franco Perna, Padenghe sul Garda, Italy

Your readers may be interested to know that the Italian section of WRI, Movimento Nonviolento, organized the Perugia-Assisi Peace March on 25 September, along with Tavola della Pace. It was a big success with over 200,000 participants, according to the media, including several TV/radio stations which covered the march live from 7.30am to 6pm.

The event was preceded by a two-day youth meeting at Bastia (between Perugia and Assisi) with some 4,000 participants. I was there as one of the few “1961 young people”, having helped Aldo Capitini to organise the first march (see PN, 6 October 1961), to meet the young people of today. The march, some 15 miles long, reached the beautiful “Rocca d’Assisi” about 2.30pm, but there were people still arriving after 5pm, while many personalities were addressing the masses of people gathered, including Mao Valpiana, president of the Nonviolent Movement.

Thanks and best wishes for your work.

NEAT, NEAT, NEAT*

Sarah Lasenby, Oxford

Following on from the article you carried last month on the manifestation in the north of Sweden, some sobering facts about Sweden, a supposedly neutral country of nine million people. They have the highest percentage of military equipment manufactured per head of population. NEAT, the Northern European Aero Testing range, is Europe’s largest overland test range. It is described as having: “Vast space – Limitless possibilities”. It is nearly as large as Belgium; boasts of being “open 24 hours per day, seven days a week, all year around”; and has “services and infrastructure for testing, evaluating and operating... all vehicle types such as aircraft, helicopters, UAVs [drones], missiles, space systems”.

Last year, NATO used NEAT for trials without the Swedish government consulting their parliament. Along with northern Norway, this area is described by the Pentagon as “the northern flank and of extreme military importance”. The US now has military bases in all the Baltic states and many in the north west of Norway, often referred to as one of the biggest and best equipped aircraft carriers for the United States.

In January this year British prime minister David Cameron hosted nine Baltic countries, to discuss the foundation of a new military alliance. This is an idyllic northern area with magical forests, waterfalls and presumably Father Christmas too, but war certainly does start here and we all need to be aware of the build-up of military bases and alliances.

We must challenge both NEAT and NATO whenever we can.