Bruce Kent: As I please

IssueDecember 2017 - January 2018
Feature by Bruce Kent

ImageAt this end of the year, the conflicts of the world can be seen in our small north London back garden.

The birds are hungry and our swinging seed feeder is getting a lot of attention. But then comes the arrival of the large and powerful – the green parakeets from Hampstead. Colourful they may be, but greedy they certainly are. The small ones – robins, wrens, finches, and the like – get driven off. Or they would get so driven if I did not rush out and intervene noisily.

In our global world, it is not so very different. The bullies and the selfish are still hard at it. Tears nearly came seeing on TV the young man from Afghanistan who made his way to Finland, where he watched racists shouting in the streets against immigrants, and learnt that probably he was going to be sent back to his country, where death threats awaited.

Thankfully, the annual Peace Diary and World Peace Directory from Housmans shows us that with others, there is something we can do.

Its two best features are the significant past dates and the listing of organisations worldwide. I always find both an inspiration and an encouragement.

The history is a reminder that we are only a small part of an ever-flowing river of peace and social justice. That there have been failures as well as successes is all too obvious. But previous centuries would have been astonished that we now have an international organisation – the United Nations – whose first aim is to end ‘the scourge of war’ and that we have an International Court of Justice as well.

This pocket-size diary and directory contains 58 pages of organisations, international and national, working for peace and justice. British organisations take up nearly 12 pages. It’s a wonderful directory. I have no doubt that some organisations listed are dormant, or under government control, or are one-man/woman bands. So what? It’s a messy world.

But good news. ICAN has just won the Nobel Peace Prize and three cheers for that. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has worked effectively and co-operatively and the prize recognises the hard work of individuals and groups. I salute in particular Fredrik Heffermehl, the lawyer from Oslo, who has made getting the Nobel prize awarded to the sort of people for whom Nobel intended it almost his life’s work.

Use the diary to plan your peace activism for the coming year. In February, CND will mark its 60th anniversary – in ideal occasion to point out that we still have to achieve the nuclear disarmament envisaged by its founders. Each year in April (not in the diary), there has been a week of action on military expenditure. 15 May is International Conscientious Objectors’ Day, with a growing list of events round the country. In August, of course, we commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki Days. The UN International Day of Peace in September will be celebrated with the first Peace History conference to take place in Wales. Expect Sunday 11 November 2018 to be a Remembrance Day marked by peace vigils and banners offering an alternative message: ‘No More War’.

Let’s use every opportunity to change public opinion. You know how as well as I do: street stalls, letters to the press, public meetings, lobbying, peace trails, film, drama, music, dialogue, resistance and celebration.

So, get yourself a Housmans Peace Diary with its directory and check the list of dates and events. Network with others round the globe. There is lots for all to do in 2018.

Topics: Culture
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