Comment

11 December 2020 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Birth partners aren't mere 'visitors' argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

I was in the room when, at 12.33am on 7 September, my godson Nathaniel Thomas Riches was born.

It was one of the handful of moments in my life that I will never forget. Due to COVID-related restrictions on ‘visitors’, I wasn’t able to be there as his mother, my best friend of 25 years, Ellie’s labour was being induced.

It had felt entirely alien to leave her after I visited her in the hospital grounds when she was having relatively mild contractions four hours earlier.

I…

11 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist on those who believe that 'charity begins (and ends) at home'

When the phrase ‘charity begins at home’ was first coined, the definition of ‘charity’ was a little different.

From Roman times up until recently, ‘charity’ wasn’t necessarily about giving alms. It was more of a state of mind, a mentality of kindness and benevolence.

The word ‘charity’, and the more general ‘love’, are both translated from the Greek word agape.

The point being, when people first started saying ‘charity begins at home’, what they were trying to get across…

11 December 2020 Milan Rai

Racism and colonialism are at the heart of the peace movement's main issues, argues Milan Rai

Imagine that you’ve just packed a whole lot of people into a crowded hall for a public meeting you’ve organised.... And then you get the feeling that behind you is yet another person who wants to get in, who you’re somehow going to have to squeeze into standing at the back of the room.

Imagine a situation when you realise that, actually, this extra person who you sensed was there – an indigenous woman from Indonesia maybe, perhaps an Iraqi man from the southern marshes, someone of…

9 December 2020 Cath

Our Leeds-based co-operator savours the joys and frustrations of conducting 70 interviews in just 3 weeks

‘So… er… Rita, why do you want to live in our housing co-op?’. Eight down, three to go and I’m valiantly keeping hold of the differences between all the applicants.

The strange rituals of recruitment are pushing us to categorise, compare, assess this parade of complex, unique, incomparable, creative humans, whose hidden facets of darkness and lightness make a nonsense of the idea that we can judge who would best live with us.

It’s a process that requires us to acknowledge the…

9 December 2020 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

We need a National Care Service argues Rebecca Elson-Watkins

The UK is facing a health and social care emergency, and COVID-19 has made it painfully obvious that this government couldn’t care less for those who require full-time residential care.

It is estimated that, despite care home residents being only one percent of Britons, they account for approximately 40 percent of UK COVID-19 deaths.

Researchers at the LSE calculated at the end of June that you are 13 times more likely to die of COVID-19 in a care home here than in Germany.…

9 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist muses on UCL's ban on romantic and sexual relationships between lecturers and their students

A 2018 survey by the 1752 Group and the NUS found that four out of five university students said they were uncomfortable with staff having relationships with students, which they described as ‘predatory’. (The 1752 Group is a research and lobby organisation working to end sexual misconduct in higher education.)

When I was an undergraduate (in a London polytechnic), I remember one young woman in my year forming a relationship with a lecturer within weeks of starting there.

9 December 2020 Penny Stone

We have no place sharing songs from other cultures if we're not also actively seeking to work against racism, argues Penny Stone

In my singing and teaching community, there has been increased exploration of what cultural appropriation means in the current global context.

I’m delighted that so many of us are prioritising these conversations that have been ongoing for many years.

I have, of course, been reflecting on my own practice, my privileges and how I can use my voice to uplift and empower others most effectively. This is, as it should always be, an ongoing process.

A useful framing can be to…

9 December 2020 Milan Rai

The forgotten story of what happened after VJ-Day.

On 15 August, we will be marking VJ–Day. The end of the Second World War is part of a soothing national myth of the triumph of good over evil.

The British do not like to be reminded that we were party to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 75 years ago. Churchill agreed to the attacks in principle in September 1944. A British general, Henry Wilson, gave Britain’s official consent to the bombings in Washington DC on 4 July 1945, a month before the bombs were dropped.

This…

9 December 2020 Nu'man Abd al-Wahid

British warmongering today is rooted in British history argues Nu'man Abd al-Wahid

Perennial warmonger and Rupert Murdoch hack, David Aaronovitch continues kicking away at the now-defeated Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to take charge of the British state. The Johnson-Cummings duo routed Labour more than six months ago in an electoral landslide which on paper guarantees a Tory government for at least the next five years.

But old habits die hard and Aaronovitch not only wants Corbynistas defeated but well and truly buried to the extent that such an egalitarian threat never…

9 December 2020 Various

UK campaigners on the books, films and plays that inspire them with their visionary ideas.

For all its horrors, the coronavirus pandemic has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a shift to a more equitable, socially just, climate-resilient and zero-carbon world – if we can grasp it. But to do this, we need to co-create and share inspiring and visionary ideas of what that better world might look like and how we might get there. In words of Raymond Williams, ‘to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing’.

PN approached activists and campaigners from…

9 December 2020 Milan Rai

We need to remember the real history of Britain's nuclear 'deterrent' argues Milan Rai

There is a powerful taboo in British culture around the connection between nuclear weapons and intervention in the Global South.

There is no official ban on discussing this link, but historians and journalists censor themselves, as predicted by the Chomsky–Herman Propaganda Model of the mass media and Western culture more generally.

Unfortunately, this taboo also affects the British peace movement.

I don’t think that the peace movement here has even begun to digest the…

9 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist vents on the Covidiot-shaming, statues and more.

If I read one more Facebook post complaining about #Covidiots and people ‘flocking to beaches’…

I’ve had the argument online. You cannot tell from a sideways-on photograph just how crowded that park is. An overhead shot might give you a better view.

I arrived at my local park a couple of weeks ago thinking it looked packed, but was pleasantly surprised to find everyone there behaving themselves and keeping their distance. But if you took a photo by the park gates, you could be…

8 December 2020 Justin Collicutt

Magellans roll back gas price rise 

GOALS: To create dialogue with government and stop the increase of natural gas prices in the region.

SUCCESS IN ACHIEVING SPECIFIC GOALS: 5 points / 6
SURVIVAL: 1 / 1
GROWTH: 2 / 3
TOTAL: 8 / 10

For Chileans living in the southern Patagonia region, natural gas is crucial for heating their homes, most importantly during the frigid winter months.

The Chilean government had been subsidising natural gas up to 85 percent for all people in this region because…

8 December 2020 Penny Stone

It's too important not to sing just now, says Penny Stone

When the world is in such a turbulent state, it can seem hopeless to ‘just’ sing songs.

I am a great believer in music and action working together, but it is also true that simply singing songs can help to change ideas and perceptions (for better or for worse!).

Music is powerful – if singing songs wasn’t a powerful human act, then governments and dictators wouldn’t bother to ban them.

To give a few of examples, Edwin Starr’s ‘War – yeah, u-huh, what is it good for?!…

8 December 2020 Pat Gaffney

Pat Gaffney reviews the new biopic of Franz Jägerstätter

It is not often that we see our peace heroes on the big screen. It can be a source of great joy or a complete disaster. So it was with some anxiety that I watched A Hidden Life, written and directed by Terrence Malick, telling the story of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife Franziska (‘Frani’).

The name may be familiar to readers. Franz was an Austrian conscientious objector who refused to serve in Hitler’s army and who was executed in Brandenburg an der Havel in 1943.

8 December 2020 Cath

Our Leeds-based cooperator questions her grasp on reality

As I started writing this diary yesterday, I found myself unable to focus on any particular thing, but just spewing cynicism, resignation, frustration and despair onto the page.

These have been my baseline emotions for several years now and the mainstream narrative of a ‘climate emergency’ isn’t helping.

People are a bit more concerned, some people are getting really quite active, but the majority are carrying on as normal – which is to say generally increasing their levels of…

8 December 2020 Rebecca Elson-Watkins

Where were the 'adults in the room' on 3 January?

There is one thing to be said for Donald Trump: he keeps international relations ‘interesting’.

That is not a compliment — I use the word ‘interesting’ in the supposed curse sense of the phrase ‘may you live in interesting times’.

We are living the chapter of the history books that the school children of 2100 will find both interesting and baffling.

For anyone who avoids traditional media, early January involved a drone strike, threats of war crimes against cultural…

8 December 2020 Claire Poyner

Our columnist turns her attention to racism and royalty

I’ve just had an interesting correspondence on Twitter. It’s about the royal family. No, bear with me.

I am not a supporter of royalty myself, I’d prefer a more democratic head of state.

So the latest buzz in social media is: ‘Harry and Meghan, is it all Meghan’s fault?’ Or is it racism? And that is why I have been following this story.

The Twitter feed compares and contrasts press stories reporting the actions of Kate (a white English duchess married to one of the queen…

28 September 2020 Michael Randle

What can Extinction Rebellion learn from the experience of the Committee of 100?

The spectacle of thousands of predominantly young people taking to streets in nonviolent protest against the threat of climate catastrophe is reminiscent of the mass demonstrations and sit-downs of the anti-nuclear Committee of 100 in the 1960s.

Like Extinction Rebellion (XR), the Committee – as indeed the broader anti-nuclear movement – was a response to an existential threat to civilisation, possibly even to human survival.

Like XR, the Committee was committed to using mass…

28 September 2020 Jonathon Pope and Bob Edwell and Lynette Edwell

WW2 conscientious objector who played important role in the campaign to remove US cruise missles from Greenham Common

Leslie Selwyn Pope was an extraordinary ordinary man whose work was instrumental in the campaign to remove US cruise missiles from Greenham Common, stop the further military development of the base, and return the common to the people of Newbury.

Leslie and his wife Wendy both registered as conscientious objectors during the Second World War and continued working, him as a civil servant and she as a teacher. They married in 1945.

After the war, they went on the Aldermaston…