Editorial: Moving out of the "comfort zone"

IssueDecember 2001 - February 2002
Comment by Ippy D

So, what hasn't been said? And who hasn't yet said something, anything, however repetitive, however vacuous, however well-meant, about the war in Afghanistan? Suddenly we are all commentators, suddenly we all decide we oppose war, and suddenly we are all interested in the experience of Afghan civilians.

But the number of words spewed about the crisis reveals a desperate scramble to find higher ground. For many, there is a well-rehearsed, reflexive response to conflict, and in particular to US-led - or sponsored - violence. Both the actions of 11 September, and the inevitable US response to them, highlight how little the international “peace movement” (a vague term for a vague collective identity) has moved on since, say, the Gulf War.

That' not to say that we haven't all been busy working away at some worthy tasks, but we need to take a long, hard look at where all this expended energy has actually taken us.

Diversion ahead!

Is the war on Afghanistan more objectionable than other modern wars? Maybe. There are certainly few comprehensible reasons for why it is taking place, either politically or militarily. And, worse still, while everyone is staring, mouths open, watching the drama and crisis unfold, the worldwide purveyors of war, violence, oppression, torture, corporate greed, and just about every abuse of every kind you could imagine, are laughing! Look, over there!

Opposing all war

This brings us round to the point that, while many of us will undoubtedly expend energy in opposing this war, particularly those of us who live in Britain and the US, we must all remain unswervingly focussed on the fact that war is a product. It is the product of a militarist mentality, of a series of inherently oppressive power relationships, of a desire to maintain or advance a political ideology, to reinforce the belief that extreme violence can provide political solutions and perhaps, in this specific instance, to remind us all who's boss.

So, we must continue to speak out and to take practical and effective antimilitarist action, against not just this, but all war and violence, and to dedicate ourselves to bringing about a massive shift in both thinking and action, for ourselves and within our communities.

Would we tear up the railway tracks on the route to Auschwitz? Would we cut the ropes of the lynch mob? Would we obstruct the B52s and sabotage the submarines? Are we prepared to use our personal power to interfere with the smooth workings of the war machine? Can we move out of the “comfort zone” and into majority reality?

Making our voices heard

While being critical of how some of our thinking is manifesting itself practically, we do have something to offer that great swathe of people who do not support war and violence, but are equally unsure of what the alternatives could be: hope, and the knowledge that the power of one is the power of the many.

But our concerns, our alternatives, and our strong antimilitarist voices need to be heard above the simplistic and agenda-related chanting. And we must behave in ways that inspire and empower others to act to resist militarism. If we fail to do this now, in a time of heightened public awareness and debate about the nature and meaning of war, then we truly have no claim in representing the future.

Topics: Afghanistan
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