Poynted remarks

IssueOctober - November 2023
Comment by Claire Poyner

There’s one thing which really irritates me (what do you mean, just the one thing?). It’s when people say ‘that person/organisation is silent on the issue of….’

Often, that person/organisation isn’t silent on that issue and it doesn’t take long to find out just what they’d said on the issue, particularly if it’s an organisation with a website.

For example, some years ago, when there was a terror attack by a Muslim fundamentalist, someone said: ‘UK Muslims are silent on this terror attack’. It took me just a few moments to go to the website of the Muslim Association of Britain to find, on their home page, a condemnation of that act of terrorism.

I have occasionally read (or heard) ‘feminists are silent on female genital mutilation’ (FGM). Yes, really.

Of course, many feminists from North America and Europe agree that they shouldn’t be dictating to women in the Global South how they should campaign against FGM. But I promise: there is not a single feminist on earth who wouldn’t condemn FGM and would say so if asked.

The reason ‘X has nothing to say about Y’ is often that the person making that claim hasn’t bothered to find out if X has actually said anything about Y. I think some people take the attitude: ‘If I haven’t seen it, experienced it or read it, it didn’t happen’.

Sometimes, though, it’s because X isn’t involved in campaigning on Y and would prefer to leave comments to those who are working on that issue.

That doesn’t mean they’re not concerned about that issue.

It’s rather like criticising the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for not being more vocal on the plight of the snow leopard. Although, increasingly, the RSPB have been campaigning on wildlife in general in the UK, because birds do not occupy a niche in the ecosystem on their own. The population of small mammals directly affects the wellbeing of raptors, for example.

But I wouldn’t expect the RSPB to be involved in campaigning for animals outside of the UK.

Recently, following on from a post from Greenpeace (I forget the exact topic), someone commented: ‘Greenpeace have nothing to say about the war in Yemen’. So I went to their website to check.

There was actually something on Yemen. But it’s about the environmental problems caused by the war, among other things.

It seems that Greenpeace does oppose war when it’s affecting the environment. Which would be all wars in fact, without singling out any one particular war.

I pointed out that Greenpeace, despite having ‘peace’ in the name, is actually an environmental organisation. And, yes, they do campaign against nuclear weapons, but because nuclear weapons do damage the environment. I certainly don’t consider Greenpeace as part of the peace movement, but that’s not to say they’re not for peace.

I don’t think I convinced this person. He appeared to believe that all progressive movements should campaign on all progressive issues, at all times. Many of the organisations and groups I know of struggle to find enough volunteers to work on their core issues....

Another time, I had an online discussion with someone who maintained it was pointless to campaign on nuclear weapons because there are non-nuclear weapons around. He said such weapons are now so sophisticated they make nuclear weapons obsolete. I don’t disagree with this. I have long thought that nuclear weapons states would get rid of their nuclear weapons when they find better, quicker, cheaper ways to kill more people.

However, nuclear weapons do exist, and anti-nuclear groups quite rightly campaign against them, their threatened use and their possession.

This does not mean that anti-nuclear campaigns support the use of conventional, non-nuclear weapons. Some individual members of these campaigns might, but most, I would hazard a guess, do not.

So, it’s no surprise to see that anti-nuclear groups like CND and Christian CND have been involved in protests at London’s big arms fair in Docklands. It’s also understandable why peace groups work alongside environmental campaigns. As Bruce Kent used to say: ‘war breeds climate change, climate change breeds war’.

Just don’t expect the RSPB to spend time actively involved in arms fair protests.

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