This was shown at the PLC 2014 gathering in Las Vegas, near Newe Sogobia, when the PLC did 4 vigils in three days!
Categories: Deserts, Education, PLC Report, Reflections
Tags: creech afb, drones, nevada desert experience, Newe Sogobia, nnss, nts
Tags: Gandhi, Lorin Peters, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Resistance, Pacific Life Community, Peacemaking
After participating in last month’s Pacific Life Community demos in Las Vegas, Lorin Peters spent some time in reflection and wrote the following essay from what he likes to think of as his “Gandhian” point of view.
Lorin has been a long time participant in Pacific Life Community. He has taught Gandhian nonviolence (and high school physics) 1972-present in a Catholic HS in Oakland, Ca, served in Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams the summers of 2002-2009, and in Thailand with the Asian Muslim Action Network the springs of 2011-present.
Opening Warrior Eyes
Lacksana and I are on our annual retreat at my brother’s place in Eagle, Idaho, reading by the fire, and reflecting and writing. OK, we are recreating a little, too – Lack downhills, I telemark. The two swans on my brother’s pond occasionally chase and harass certain of the geese. When they have successfully driven a goose away, they celebrate – flapping their wings powerfully, and “standing” on the water, then bobbing their heads up and down in unison. My brother’s wife calls it their “we bad” act.
Some of my thoughts here have been about our Pacific Life Community demonstrations. At some risk of coming across as a “we bad” actor, I would like to share some of my reflections.
Father Louie says, “If a house is on fire, we are obligated to try to rescue the people inside.” Dorothy Day says, “Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”
From a Gandhian point of view, the objective of an obstructive action or resistance is to “open eyes” and hearts and minds. Including our own (assuming we already have the whole truth is the fundamentalist error.)
I believe that ‘one-person demos’ are more helpful than larger demonstrations. People recognize the courage it takes to stand alone, especially when opposing the state. Fifty people can demonstrate in 50 different places. A single demonstrator is approachable for a discussion or debate – a mass of demonstrators are intimidating. Marketing studies suggest that when people see the same message in three different places, they begin to remember and/ or consider the message (Jay Adkisson).
So I would encourage us to stand alone, or in pairs if you feel you need support. Space ourselves along a road or highway so drivers have maybe 10 seconds to read and react to each message. On a 60 miles-per-hour highway, 10 seconds is about 300 yards apart.
If a pedestrian passes, offer a friendly greeting. If anyone engages in dialogue, ask them what they think or believe, then listen. If we must speak, speak to their concerns.
For those who ‘cross the line,’ we might cross in small enough groups that each resister is engaged by a separate officer, for one-on-one conversations. In other words, don’t cross in groups that prevent individual interactions (unless you need the security of a partner). Then see if the officer is willing to engage in dialogue, eg, “What do you think about ….?” “What do you believe about …?” Then listen. Again, if we must speak, speak to their concerns, not ours.
Consider educating and preparing ourselves for dialogue with our opponents. Some time before a demonstration, write down the pro-war arguments we might expect. Then prepare specific responses to each argument. Historic examples and stories generally are more helpful – people can remember stories better, and people know they are true.
This is also a good discipline before writing or selecting our message posters. Our messages need to address people where they’re at, not where we’re at. So I have spent several hours this week thinking about what Americans believe, and then brainstorming about what they need to hear.
Americans who believe “violence is necessary” perhaps need to hear:
“Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” – Jesus
Canada won independence without a war
Denmark stopped Hitler without violence
Those who believe “violence is redemptive” may need to hear:
“He who conquers 10,000 others only makes 10,000 enemies” – Buddha
160 million died in the 20thcentury wars – Is the world safe yet?
Sending our ‘boys’ into other countries makes friends, or enemies?
Those who believe “our military makes us secure” probably need to hear:
What is the Dept of Defense defending in 130 other countries?
Is our military for securing us, or our empire?
Is it “Dept of Defense”, or still “Dept of War”?
Those who believe in “peace through strength” might need to hear:
Do we trust Canada? Why?
Lasting peace comes from positive relationships
Strength creates fear and enemies
Those who believe in “keeping the peace” perhaps need to hear:
British bobbies carry no guns – what’s wrong with US?
What comes from the barrel of a gun – peace, or more war?
Are you keeping the peace, or an empire?
Those who believe in “enforcing the law” may need to hear:
Is the law about control, or truth and justice?
Which is better – punishment, or restitution and healing?
Can we arrest conscience – Can we imprison truth?
Those who believe “America is a democracy” probably need to hear:
Many Americans are not Republican or Democrat – who represents us?
If 51% gets into office, and 49% gets nothing, are the 49% represented?
Why do the rich now spend a billion dollars on each election cycle?
What happens to politicians who do not serve money?
Does Congress represent people, or money?
Those who believe we need ‘nukes’ to deter ‘rogue’ nations might need to hear:
What makes a nation ‘rogue’?
– violating international laws?
– threatening other nations?
– invading other nations?
– possessing nuclear weapons?
Does this ‘rogue’ shoe fit US?
“Judge a tree by its fruit” – Jesus
Those who believe warriors are courageous perhaps need to hear:
Nonviolent warriors are courageous – they “glory in fighting alone” – Gandhi
Those who believe warriors are disciplined may need to hear:
Nonviolent warriors are disciplined – they listen to their enemies
Those who believe warriors are strong probably need to hear:
Nonviolent warriors are strong enough to “love their enemies” – Jesus
Well, these are some of my thoughts and suggestions. I pray they stimulate some of your thoughts and discussions.
Categories: Nonviolence, Reflections
2014 Jan 29
Ban Lao was a traditional village in Northeast Thailand. Like most Thai villages of that era (1965-69), it had a Buddhist temple, and an elementary school, but its roads were dirt (the “highway” was gravel), and it had no running water (the system I helped them build was only the second in any village in Thailand). Due mainly to unsanitary conditions in the village well, infant mortality was 50%, as it was in most villages. People went to the provincial hospital only to die; otherwise they consulted the local spirit doctor.
More affluent than most Thai villages of that time, it had one pickup truck, and limited electricity several hours each evening, but no television (there were no TV stations within range). There were high schools 10 km down the road in the provincial town, but no one had ever passed the national matriculation exam. It was affluent because a number of the villagers worked in the provincial offices, or as teachers in other villages.
In India, after the Salt March and the Salt Works Raid (1930), millions of Indians realized they were free to ignore the British colonial power. But Gandhi realized they were not ready for freedom. Many wanted to become capitalists or communists, and replace British domination with their own domination over each other. So Gandhi retired from the independence movement and devoted his next 12 years to developing a culture based, not on power, but on swadeshi (self-reliance, including cooperation and sharing).
He understood that this is the real revolution, not just changing the faces in government. Civil disobedience and defying the government is exciting. But it does not change the culture of domination. Changing culture is not sexy or exciting. But it is the real work of revolution. He developed a comprehensive 18-point “Constructive Programme” to create swadeshi, self-reliant villages which could not be controlled or exploited by any system of colonization or centralized domination, foreign or domestic.
Ban Rai Gong King is a smaller village of 1200 souls near Chiang Mai in North Thailand.
When the Thai economy collapsed abruptly in 1997, due both to irresponsible lending within Thailand and to financial manipulation by foreign investors (see “A Siamese Tragedy” by Walden Bello), many government-financed programs shut down. Most of the villagers lost their jobs. All the local banks, from whom the villagers had always been able to borrow money, immediately stopped lending also.
Then something extraordinary happened in Ban Rai Gong King. The villagers decided to pool their resources and set up a community fund, under the leadership of their headman, Somsak Inthachai, and his wife, Suphaan. I do not know of this happening in other Thai villages. Somsak (Thais always use first names) and Suphaan appear to be college-educated, and to be deeply respected and trusted by their fellow villagers.
The villagers’ goal is a self-sufficient village, including growing and threshing rice, growing vegetables, raising livestock, farming fish, and processing their own agricultural products. They followed a community development approach based on participation by every household and every villager, beginning with community analysis through meetings, agendas, presentations and brainstormings. They identified eight “development areas” for a holistic village (not quite Gandhi’s eighteen), for each of which they created an independent committee and funding scheme. All programs are community initiated, and mostly community funded.
Gandhi’s programme began with khadi (spinning of cotton thread and weaving of homespun cloth) to provide employment and modest income for every family, and freedom from English cloth mills. Ban Rai’s first development area is economic planning, to provide modest income, and freedom from centralized debt institutions. They created a “Village Fund Network Office” where the villagers pool their “savings funds,” and which manages and administers those funds. Fifty percent of the dividends go to the fund members. Fifteen percent go to administration. But the other 35% go to welfare, including the disabled and the underprivileged, health services, scholarships, sports programs, children’s activities, the elderly and the environment.
A second part of Gandhi’s programme was village improvement. Ban Rai’s second area is village environment, including planting trees, sweeping and washing their streets, and restoring their creeks. They promote village pride with the slogan “Love your birthplace.” They organize festivals, tour groups, youth groups, and teenager groups.
A third part of Gandhi’s programme was health education. Ban Rai’s third area is health screening and early detection, including blood pressure and blood testing, body weight and waistline charts, and vision testing.
Ban Rai’s fourth area is classes in health, safety of food (preventing food-borne diseases), baking, and local cuisine. They offer help with newborn children, the injured, the handicapped, the elderly, and hospice.
Ban Rai’s fifth development area was constructing a health service center, in 2007. The center includes maintaining an exercise chart for each villager, a number of treadmills and other exercise machines, a sauna, a number of massage beds, and health foods and medicinal herbs sections. They also sponsor football (soccer) teams and other youth games.
Other sectors of Gandhi’s programme include the eradication of social evils, especially of untouchability, of alcoholism, and of leprosy. Ban Rai’s sixth area is the eradication of vices, especially drugs and alcohol (mostly men), and gambling (mostly women).
Two more of Gandhi’s sectors were uplift of women, and adult education. Ban Rai’s seventh area is social safety, including domestic violence, bodily assault, and theft, and also automobile safety, including traffic rules, seat belts and “driving under the influence.”
Three more of Gandhi’s sectors were uplift of peasants, development of cottage industries, and labor unions dedicated to the well-being of all, including owners. Ban Rai has set up savings groups for those who process herbs, make artificial flowers, make food safe, do composting and organic farming, or Thai massage. They have community funds for wholesale buyers, and for other occupations. They have support groups for those raising cattle, or pigs, doing agriculture, alternative energy (biomass), or developing their own health products, eg, honey shampoo, lemongrass oil (mosquito repellant), butterfly (purple) tea.
Gandhi’s final sector was communal unity across religious lines, especially Hindu and Muslim. Ban Rai’s eighth area is psychological well-being, including emotional, spiritual, and cultural well-being, including their folk music. They have set up groups for grandparents to share their wisdom with the young, for education in democracy, or in traditional medicinal herbs, for training in community leadership, or in “worshipping” (respecting) their monarch. When there is a dispute in the village, they use mediation, not the courts. They use community rehabilitation, not prison.
Except for being located in a tropical forest, Ban Rai could be anywhere in America. Everyone has running water and electricity. The streets are well-paved and clean, the houses are neat and well-maintained, the trees and yards are green. I saw only one old gray house, but the unpainted teak was more than a century old, and the roof tiles were far more subtle and beautiful than any roof tiles in America. Everyone has a cell phone, most have computers, the village has its own website.
As I was admiring one man’s elaborate fence this morning, he came out to greet me. But he was French, not Thai. This is his paradise. If I could handle the Thai seasons – hot, hotter, hottest – I too would consider moving to Ban Rai.
At the end of Headman Somsak’s presentation to our field trip, I said to our whole class, “You have just seen Gandhi’s dream of swadeshi, of self-reliance! This is exactly his vision, what he tried to create, to prepare his people for freedom from exploitation, both capitalist and communist.” Somsak was grinning widely – he spoke to us only in Thai, but he obviously understood my English.
Categories: Nonviolence, PLC Report
Tags: Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Nellis Air Force Base, Nonviolent Civil Resistance, Pacific Life Community
An affirmation of love and life while vigilant against nuclear weapons at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas,Nevada by members of the Pacific Life Community.
Categories: Upcoming Events
Tags: Transform Now Plowshares
Yesterday’s sentencing of Greg, Megan and Michael, the three members of Transform Now Plowshares, was the culmination of the government’s collusion with the Nuclear Industrial Complex. It is collusion in the sense that the government is breaking many laws, including international humanitarian law, in its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the courts cannot help but see and uphold established precedents, including the Nuremberg Principles. Supposed justice was “blind” to the wrong things in this case, and essentially every other case of this kind.
There is no lack of irony in the timing of yesterday’s sentencing. Seventy-one years ago on February 18, 1943 Sophie Scholl and other members of The White Rose were arrested at the University of Munich for dropping leaflets protesting the evils of the Third Reich. Click here for an article on this piece of history. Sophie, her brother, and the other members of The White Rose clearly understood the consequences of their actions, should they be caught.
Greg, Megan and Michael also understood the probable consequences of their actions, and took their action with joyful hearts, fully prepared to accept those consequences. Judge Thapar gave all three significant prison time – Megan 35 months, and Greg and Michael each received 62-month sentences. The judge’s intention by giving such long prison terms was to dissuade others to engage in such actions and instead to pursue “legal” means.
Of course, those of us pursuing nuclear abolition clearly understand the futility of legal means, which we have all tried over and over. As Felice and Jack of The Nuclear Resister said in a recent post about the Transform Now Plowshares sentencing: “YOU CAN JAIL THE RESISTERS BUT NOT THE RESISTANCE.”
Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sister in resistance on the next stage of their journey.
Categories: Upcoming Events
Tags: Pacific Life Community, PLC 2014, PLC Retreat
Dear PLC folks,
The 2014 Pacific Life Community retreat takes place from Friday, March 7th to Monday, March 10th.
The Las Vegas Catholic Worker is taking care of Housing and Food and Transportation for the retreat. Other people are co-coordinating the event schedule and it will be available soon. The event will start with dinner at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 7 and end Monday. We look forward to seeing you.
We need your help to help us provide hospitality to everyone who is coming. Please download the registration form, fill in all the information requested, and return it to us as soon as you can.
You can either e-mail to email@example.com or mail to 1420 West Bartlett Avenue, Las Vegas, NV 89106-2226.
Peace and blessings, Julia Occhiogrosso and Gary Cavalier
Editor’s Note: The October 21st Federal trial of seven of the PLC 2013 resisters is a now a memory. I summarized the trial in a previous post. Mary Jane Parrine prepared a statement of her intentions to present to the court, and she provided a copy that I share with you here.
MJ Parrine’s statement on intentions, March 4 2013. Oct. 21 2013 Federal Court, Tacoma
I begin by saying that I am guilty. Guilty of not standing up sooner against nuclear weapons. I’ve come very late to the harvest. While hundreds of resisters have been working in this field since the 1970s and earlier, I was silent, comfortable with my moral disapproval, but not acting. I didn’t try to inform myself further about costs, environmental risks, or international law.
Last night I this hit home to me as Ray McGovern told us about a man who followed his conscience to the extreme. Ray knows from his own experience what this means. Maybe he would have used the story in his testimony, if Fr. Bix Bischel had been allowed to call him as a witness. The story was about a German man who was imprisoned for resisting the Nazis. He was told to confess, admit to a crime. He refused and was killed. Later the executioners found a note in his trousers’ pocket stating something that I realized is true for me. As part of a poem, he had written those words: Yes, I confess. I am guilty of being so late to do this.
Now a quick word about how my background affected my thinking on March 4: I’m retired since 2004, but continuing with another form of work that began when I was a family caregiver for many years. Now for the past 9 years as a healthcare advocate for elders and for 14 years in hospital chaplaincy, I know how hard it is to get proper treatment and care. I see face to face how vulnerable each of us is to the effects of stone wall limits set by the healthcare industry and meager government assistance. Any of us can be financially wiped out by illness. At any age we can be warehoused in custodial care, with only minimal therapy, from an accident or a war related traumatic brain injury. Our country’s inadequate healthcare is weakened further as safety net funding is sucked away to support the excesses of the military-corporate complex. Much of that excess goes toward nuclear weapons.
My training and work as a historian also influenced my thinking on March 4. In earlier years I focused on poverty, crime, and criminal justice, but lately I’ve looked at how non-violent resistance – citizen intervention—can be effective. Past gains are well known: securing women’s suffrage, ending slavery, and stopping segregation and Jim Crow laws. In recent years I’ve been inspired by the HIV-AIDS activists who have won disability designation and better care at Kaiser. It continues in other ways, other places. So many of these movements have been successful that they give me the courage to go on.
Just before March 4 2013 we had been on retreat for 3 days, in a community that comes together every year to strengthen resistance to nuclear weapons. We spent time in prayer, meetings and meditation, leading up to a final public event that Sunday night. Among the speakers this time was Captain Tom Rogers, a former submarine commander who now works with Ground Zero Center for NonViolent action. He and others at the retreat reinforced my conviction.
Now on the day itself: Many of us stood on the sidewalk with banners that faced the naval base and the entrance area. When some of us walked out onto the street I was struck by the power of this changed position where we held our banners and signs facing outward from the naval base, standing with all those in the base, praying that our message could influence a conversion away from a course that threatens us all. A line in the road did not make a difference to me at that point. What mattered is that the 14 of us who had just walked out, plus the six who had gone before, were together in this common spirit of peace. That spirit extended as well to those who work with the weapons we oppose.
You probably want to ask: Why not stand on the sidewalk to make a statement? Yes all witness is vital in its persistence and presence. It is worthy wherever and however it is done. At times, though, it has to leave the safety of the sidelines. I regret that our action may be misunderstood or be a source of resentment in some quarters. Our intent was not to break a law or to initiate criminal proceedings. We sought only to manifest the urgency of our message. For me, it was the best way at that time to express what I know to be the truth.
Something that stays in my mind about this need to speak the truth is an account from the early days of Christianity as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John had been arrested and are appearing before the Sanhedrin. They would be set free with a warning to stop speaking about this Jesus and his new teachings. Their reply was a statement that says it all: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (4:13-21)