We will continue to fail in our ability to love until we recognize that it is the personal responsibility of each individual to learn how to love…
Love must be an integral part of all areas of our society, so that it can halt the march of isolation, separation and a hostile social order…
Petra Kelly (1947 –1992)
Considering this Saturday’s wide-spread peaceful protests against the new American Trump administration, activist Petra Kelly’s essay below on Social Defence written 25 years ago, still sing true today.
Petra was born in Germany in 1947. Her step-father was an American army officer based in Germany, although Petra remained a West German citizen. The family returned to the United States in 1959. Petra was active in the civil rights movement during the 1960’s. During Robert Kennedy’s bid for the US presidency she was a campaign organizer.
After studying political science at the American University’s School of International Service in Washington, D.C., Petra returned to Europe. During the 70’s she worked on Public Health Issues and Environmental Protection in Brussels for the European Community Commission. Later,
Petra Kelly was a leader in the peace and anti-nuclear movements when I heard her speak in Vancouver in the mid 1980’s. She was also deeply involved with ecological and human rights issues, helping form the German Green Party and becoming among the world’s first green parliamentarians in 1983. In the late 80’s and early 90’s she helped organize support for both the Free Tibet Movement and the Chinese Democracy Movement.Tragically, she was murdered in 1992.
Listen up! Here an excerpt of her life-work.
On Nonviolent Social Defense
Social defense is practical and pragmatic. It requires excellent preparation, organization, and training; a courageous, creative, and determined citizenry; and a radical commitment to democratic values. Independent, resourceful, freedom-loving people that are prepared and organized to resist aggression cannot be conquered…
In the 20th century, we have seen several examples of the effectiveness of nonviolent social defense. The home-rule movement led by Gandhi mobilized so much grassroots pressure that the British were forced to withdraw from India. The civil rights movement created profound changes in U.S. society. Philippine “people power” overthrew Marcos non-violently. And in Eastern Europe, it was citizens’ movements, not political or military powers, that toppled the state security systems.
Full demilitarization can only come about in a society in which power is shared at the grassroots. In the nineteenth century, Henry David Thoreau called upon free citizens to engage in civil disobedience and nonviolent actions whenever there is an injustice. Civil disobedience and nonviolence are an integral part of any democratic society. Even in Western democracies, the state seems invincible, and as individuals, we often feel powerless, unable to have much effect. We must remind ourselves that the power of the state derives solely from the consent of the governed. Without the cooperation of the people, the state cannot exist. Even a powerful military state that is nearly invulnerable to violent force can be transformed through nonviolence at the grassroots. Noncooperation, civil disobedience, education, and organization are the means of change, and we must learn the ways to use them. Direct democracies will come into being only when we demand from our leaders that they listen to us. This is fundamental to Green politics. Power is not something that we receive from above. To transform our societies into ones that are peaceful, ecological, and just, we need only to exercise the power we already have.
Like the militaristic mode of defense, social defense demands courage and the willingness to place the interests of the community ahead of individual self-interest, relying as it does on well-organized, tightly bonded affinity groups in every neighborhood prepared to conduct acts of nonviolent resistance on short notice. Every neighborhood must know how to conduct resistance and subversion. This method of democratic security requires little material apparatus but a lot of organization and training…
Faith that we have a natural disposition to love, that we are possessed of moral conscience, and that all life is sacred, are at the foundation of nonviolent action, and we can see their power in practical application. The political techniques of nonviolence — noncooperation, civil disobedience, grassroots organizing, fasting, and so forth — derive their power from the faith and confidence that through the integrity and self-sacrifice of our actions, we can awaken our opponent’s conscience and bring about a change of heart. Gandhi was uniquely creative in applying nonviolence as an effective force for political and social change. For him, nonviolence was always active, powerful, and dynamic, and had nothing to do with passivity or acceptance of wrongful conditions. He acknowledged the influence of the nineteenth century Indian women’s movement in the development of his approach. Because women’s contributions to nonviolence are often unrecognized, this influence is especially encouraging. He was also directly influenced by Jesus’ gospel of love and the writings of Tolstoy, Emerson, and Thoreau.
Violence always leads to more violence, hatred to greater hatred. Nonviolence works through communion, never through coercion. We must win over, not defeat, our opponent through openness, dialogue, patience, and love. Our real opponent is not a human enemy, but a system and way of thinking that give some people the power to oppress. Each struggle is part of a larger vision, one of building a society dedicated to the welfare of all. Gandhi felt that India could only become healthy with strong, politically autonomous, economically self-reliant villages. He was critical of industrialism for dehumanizing workers, splitting society into classes, and taking work from humans and giving it to machines. And he saw that any centralized production system requires a state that is restrictive of individual freedom. To him, the spinning wheel represented the dignity of labor, self-sufficiency, and humility needed to guide the people of India in the work of social transformation. Gandhi’s influence runs deep in the Green movement. Satyagraha and all it implies have inspired and informed our vision of nonviolent change.
All forms of structural and institutional violence — the arms race, warfare, economic deprivation, social injustice, ecological exploitation, and so forth — are closely linked…
A nation’s policies, values, institutions, and structures comprise the preconditions for violence or for peace. Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is the greatest force (hu)mankind has ever been endowed with. Love has more force than a besieging army.” Martin Luther King, Jr. added that this power of love is physically passive but spiritually active — that “while the non-violent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive towards his opponent, his mind and his emotions are constantly active, constantly seeking to persuade the opposition.” Nonviolence is a spiritual weapon that can succeed where guns and armies never could. “Democracy can only be saved through nonviolence,” Gandhi said, “because democracy, so long as it is sustained by violence, cannot provide for or protect the weak. My notion of democracy is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest. This can never happen except through nonviolence.”
Excerpt from Thinking Green (1993), by Petra Kelly
In this world there is nothing softer or thinner than water.
But to compel the hard and unyielding it has no equal.
That the weak overcomes the strong, that the hard gives way to the gentle :
This everyone knows, yet no one acts accordingly.
This past week Francis and I returned from Christmas with our family in Alberta. I haven’t flown for a good decade and you can see the return flight to the Pacific Coast was beautiful – though I used up so much carbon credit, or love miles as George Monbiot calls such a trip.
As always, Francis has some wonderful holiday reflections and photos on her blog and you may find it enjoyable to check out about High River Alberta. We made the headlines in their local newspaper, so read on. To each of you, please take care in 2017. Peace and fellowship – Bruce.
Grandkids change so fast. The opportunity to reconnect with where they are in their lives is a precious one. We took Emma and Brit on a snowy outing to the High River Cemetery. More about why in a later blog. Emma was so excited to run between the gravestones and brush off the powdery snow so she could read the inscriptions. She is at that wonderful stage when the ability to read has clicked and she can’t wait to decipher the written word anywhere she finds it. The day was quite cold and when Brit headed back to the car, Emma looked disappointed. She told me, “I don’t want to leave.” I told her we would come back in the summer and spend as much time as she liked. She said, “Can I wear a dress?” I felt that would be perfectly fine.
A couple of snow angels visited…
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A year ago at Christmas I read the book The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring on the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World published in 2011. The unusual title caught my eye, although I hesitated checking it out. The Birth of a New World part of the title won me over. I took notes and here is my report.
The author, Paul Gilding tells us early on: “It’s hard to hold paradox in our heads – that things are desperately dangerous and urgent but we must act positively and full of hope.”
He warned the reader not to be disheartened by The Great Disruption the earth is currently going through. Covered in the 1st half of the book, this section details how humanity has screwed the planet up big time.
What the world is experiencing in The Great Disruption is like a death or loss, with its five stages of grief (the Kubler-Ross model) – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.
Gilding says that “grieving is an appropriate response” for the world we’ve destroyed and the resulting pain, “but sustained despair is not.”
And then, like taking a breath of fresh air, the 2nd half of the book shifts to a new paradigm of opportunity, hope and love. Gilding calls this the The Great Awakening.
“We all know what we need to do,” Gilding writes. “Shop less, live more. Build more community… Make our lives more connected… Make good companies better, make bad companies go broke… Elect good political leaders and throw out bad ones. Roll out technologies that work and phase out those that don’t.”
The Great Disruption initially gives a bleak prognosis of the current climate crisis and what it means for the world. The resources of the planet are finite and the present model of economic growth is unsustainable. Even the notion of sustainable growth is at odds with itself.
Gilding compares the situation today (of climate change) with World War Two. Much of the world was in denial of the military build-up and expansionism of Nazi Germany and other Axis powers. However, upon long overdue realization the allied Nations rapidly mobilized against overwhelming odds. People joined together and made incredible sacrifices because there was no other choice. Paul Gilding says the world is in that situation again. Except today, the enemy is us.
He asserts that “most of all, we need to stop waiting for someone else to fix it. There is no one else. We are the system, we have to change.”
“My notion of democracy,” he affirms, “is that under it the weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest… No country in the world today shows anything but patronizing regard for the weak… Western democracy as it functions today is diluted fascism… True democracy cannot be worked by 20 men sitting at the center. It has to be worked from below, by the people of every village.”
If I remember correctly, it was about midpoint of the book that it shifted as thus. I was amazed and excited, turning page after page of innovative and practical examples and solutions, happening now and rapidly expanding. The list is long and encouraging.
Here is a small sampling:
Networking and Social Capital to build resilient community through bartering, car sharing, community vegetable plots, street parties, and free-cycling, to name a few.
Another example is recycle banks (like recycling loyalty programs), where companies measure the amount of recycling with electronic tags and then homeowners and businesses are credited accordingly. These credits are used by individuals to cover the cost of different fees in the local municipality. Everyone benefits from reduction in wasteful landfill costs and recycle banks have had excellent results.
New models of financial institutions that use transparent and Ethical Banking, investing only with companies that have sustainability, social accountability and climate solutions at their core. For example, Tridos Bank in the Netherlands has a mission statement that says in part that they “seek to help create a society that promotes peoples quality of life and has human dignity at its core.”
They have an active international department, supporting microfinance and fair trade initiatives across the developing world. Tridos returns are so consistent that they limit what percentage any one investor can hold to reduce the risk to their stated mission. Mid 2016 assets were 12.6 billion Euro (13.1 billion U.S.)
An example of an NGO that uses microfinance as a tool for change and social justice is kiva.org which is a simple way for individual to lend or borrow money. 907 million dollars have has been loaned by 1.6 million people to 2.2 million borrowers in 82 developing nations, with a 97.3% repayment rate.
Re-emergence of co-operatives like Fonterra Dairy which accounts for 7% of New Zealand’s GDP. Or Sweden’s Sodra with its 52,000 forest owners – they recovered so much waste energy from their forestry and pulp operators they now produce more energy than they use, in synergy with wind turbines on their forest lands.
World energy savings of upwards of more than $100 Trillion by 2050 according to the International Energy Agency. One example of this is the company Easy Being Green. In one year its 200 employees installed more than 5 million free energy efficient lightbulbs and water saving devices by generating and selling carbon credits that reflected the energy saved. This prevented 4 million tons of CO2 entering the atmosphere and homeowners now have lower energy bills.
Gilding points out, “The main message here is not the many exciting ideas but the extra ordinary capacity of human ingenuity… to take these solutions to scale at an amazing pace.” He believes that “Companies will respond when consumers and investors change their demands.”
And in speaking of investing and in particular the amorality of money, Gilding reminds us that although it has been used for bad, it also can be used for good.
As The Great Disruption winds up its final thesis, the author posits the following scenario:
“For the immediate future this will be our most important task. We will have to roll out new technologies on a massive scale to prevent the climate from tipping over the edge. We will mobilize mindboggling amounts of money, people and focus to this task… as fast as we possibly can. This will be seen as a massive economic transformation… But it will not be a true transformation. That genuine transformation will start at the same time but build more slowly… a steady state, sustainable economy built on the pursuit of quality of life, a more equitable sharing of the world’s wealth, and learning to operate in harmony with the ecosystem’s capacity to sustain us. We will build an economy around a simple idea – having happier lives… and of a life being well lived.”
Gilding asks “Will we succeed?”
His answer: “Yes, if we decide to.”
After reading this book I actually felt happy and encouraged, something everyone needs. It presents a realistic viewpoint that the current Great Disruption will lead to a Great Awakening. Although this transition is not without incredible sacrifice and suffering, it is also full of promise and hope. I highly recommend the book, as a signpost to this new era.
A global climate crisis and with it, the end of economic growth – is no longer avoidable. The Great Disruption began in 2008, with spiking food and oil prices alongside the starkest evidence yet of dramatic ecological change. The mess were in, however, is not as simple as fossil fuels and carbon footprints. We have come to an end of a world economy based on consumption and waste where we lived beyond the means of our planets resources.
The Great Disruption is a bracing, honest look at the challenge humanity faces, but it also offers deeply optimistic message. The coming decades will see loss, suffering, and conflict as our planetary overdraft is paid. Yet they will also bring out the best humanity has to offer: innovation, compassion, resilience, and adaptability. The crisis will inevitably change our economic model and the way we live our lives.
Paul Gildings tough minded, truly big picture view reminds us that our greatest triumphs have always come at our darkest times.
Paul Gilding is a member of the core faculty for Cambridge University’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership. He has served as the head of Greenpeace International and advised both fortune 500 companies and community based NGO’s.
In his masterwork, Don Quixote, Cervantes wrote, “Maybe the greatest madness is to see life as it is rather than what it could be.” Moving beyond the environmental and economic crossroads where humanity stands today requires shaking this madness and giving birth to a common vision of a world of sustainable peace and justice and equity. . .
Elk herd on Northern Vancouver Island, Dec. 8, 2016
Some of the most basic elements of creating a common vision rest on new conceptions of security built on a strong foundation of human security. Human security is based on meeting the needs of people and the planet, not one that focuses primarily on the often aggressive framework of the defence of the apparatus if the state – at huge costs to humanity and the environment.
Tackling that outmoded worldview must be the collective action of civil societies and governments. No one changes the world alone. Alone, thinking about all of the challenges in today’s world, can be completely overwhelming and, worse, disempowering. But when we choose to work together in coordinated action toward achieving the common goal of sustainable peace on a sustainable planet, there is little we cannot accomplish. . .
Our sun tempered cabin and wind turbine, Feb. 4, 2004
Creating change is hard work; it is not impossible work. It takes all the elements of the global community working together in a strategic, coordinated action to a make a vision a reality. Change does not happen simply because we wish it would. It is the result of the hard work of millions of people around the world – every single day.
It is a wondrous adventure that we must all be part of to turn our vision into sustainable reality.
~ Jody Williams ~
Beaufort Mountain Range and North Vancouver Island forest and snow, Dec. 5, 2016
Jody Williams is an American political activist known around the world for her work in banning anti-personnel landmines, an important new horizon indeed. She is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and she has chaired the Nobel Women’s Initiative since 2006.
Cheers from the North Island
~ Bruce ~
Restoring and preserving humanities contemplative spirit –his and other peoples; restoring what flows from the human spirit –what we create from our ink, crafts and artwork; and restoring and preserving the earth.
On Nov. 5, 2016, more than a dozen people addressed the gathering at St. Patrick’s Church in Campbell River, British Columbia.
Those sharing their gratitude and acclaim for Fr. Charles Brandt included a journalist, a psychologist, a nurse, a carpenter, as well as community activists, local parishioners, scientists, 2 Bishops and the leader of Canada’s Green Party.
It was late in the evening by the time Fr. Charles Brandt spoke. Here are his full notes of what he touched upon during his animated talk. The nature photography is also by Charles.
~ CHARLES BRANDT SPEAKS ~
Between 375 and 425 C.E. there were over 5000 hermits living along the Nile River, in Palestine and Syria. After the Peace of Constantine in 313 one could live the Christian life without offering incense to Caesar. Those who wanted to live as Christians found that the city of Rome was too corrupt so they fled to the desert. Among these were the first hermits. When a hermit would meet another hermit he would say: “Brother give me a word”, seeking some Spiritual wisdom from the other hermit.
My word to you is: “Only the sense of the Sacred will Save Us.”
93 years is a short span of time considering the planet earth is 4.5 billion years old. The Universe is 13.7 billion years old. Eternity is not long, it is UNENDING.
The 7th century monk Maximus of Constantinople and the 21st century monk Thomas Berry both said that Creation is the Primary Revelation.
The beginning is smaller than a teardrop or an electron. Expansion is just right. A billionth of a second faster, there would be no galaxies –and slower, it would be black matter. The Universe is still expanding. It’s speeding up.
Our milky way galaxy has 300,000 stars and we are l8 light years from centre. We thought we were the only galaxy but the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered others, over a trillion galaxies!
During the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) the Monastic Community of the Christian Church discovered our roots as hermits. We became interested in Hermit life since that was real McCoy!
The hermitage of St. John the Baptist was founded on Tsolum River in l964. It was the same time the mine site went in on Mount Washington that decimated Tsolum River (see part 2 of this series –these fish, this water, this land). No one knew locally about the hermitage, but the whole monastic world knew.
Montestella Sanctuary, Hermit of Santa Maria della Stella, Italy – photo, compliments of Antonio Viola
It was a simple life, one of pure prayer, and before the age of the computer; living the contemplative life, a care-free but responsible life, awakening to the presence of God in the human heart and in the universe around us.
Thomas Merton was a mentor to this movement.
He said we need contemplation as a basis to preach the gospel and for transformation of Consciousness.
I arrived March 1965 and built the hermitage and book bindery, then later moved it to Oyster River.
Thomas Berry tells us that only a sense of the sacred will save us.
He is speaking of our relationship with the more than human world. His statement applies to humans as well.
Aldo Leopold came to realize that community by extension includes the Land: for example, the water, soil, plants, all sentient beings plus the atmosphere. This is the more than human world.
I am making a plea for the poor non-human (or other than human) creatures of the earth that to a certain extent have lost their dignity through our doing, through our disparagement of them; a plea to reaffirm their dignity so as to liberate their special powers so that they can promote the common good.
The notion of poor has been developed with the focus on material privation, for example, what is your family income.
Thomas Clark, dialoguing with Thomas Berry suggests that the heart of poverty is not necessarily material privation, but what he calls “cultural disparagement.”
By this, he means one human group saying to another human group, “you have no worth, you have no value, you have no dignity.” This idea can be applied to race, sex, sexual orientation.
It can be the status of the laity in the church, our dealings with First Nations People, and with women.
So, if cultural disparagement as the denial of dignity constitutes the heart of poverty, therefore God’s preferential option for the poor consists in the reaffirmation of the dignity of the poor, the dignity of the disparaged.
Beyond that, there is the recognition that there is a special power in the poor to promote the common good. I think that that is part of the biblical insight. Somehow the power for the redemption of humanity has been placed within the poor.
Our call is to enlist all of our energies to liberate that power so that the disparaged and the despised of the earth now become the ones who carry God’s power for the common good of all people.
Now, the point here is that the notion, which has been limited to the human species (not coming into contact with the ecological movement) helps us look at the cultural disparagement which we have been directing to other species of the earth.
For example, the Tsolum River, we say it has no worth – or the thousands of streams that the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would cross and then barging the oil from the port of Kitimat to the Ocean.
And the damage that will be done (like the lose of wild salmon).
These are the poor of the earth, and just like poor humans we need to reaffirm their dignity, because there is a special power in the poor of the earth to promote the common good. Not just a collection of objects but a communion of subjects to be communed with.
To see that the earth is more than a gravel pit or that forests are more than lumberyards – we have to see differently, we have to change – enter into the Great Work.
Our society has to change from having a disruptive influence on the earth to one of having a benign presence.
That is our Great Work.
We make this transformation by experiencing creation with a sense of wonder and delight, instead of a commodity for our own personal benefit.
We experience a sense of wonder and delight when we fall in love with the natural world.
It is only when we love someone or something that we will save them.
And we can only love someone when we consider him or her as Sacred.
Charles is a leader of Christian Mediation. He lives in a rustic hermitage overlooking the Oyster River on Vancouver Island. Much of the lower floor is devoted to a modern, state of the art book bindery and paper conservation laboratory.
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1) REMEMBER OUR VOWS
2) PRACTICE PATIENCE
3) REFRAIN FROM OUTRAGEOUS BEHAVIOUR
1) SUSTAINABILITY - For at least seven generations
2) GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY
3) SOCIAL JUSTICE & RESPONSIBILITY - personal & global
4) NON VIOLENCE - a call to arms is the last choice
5) DIVERSITY - biological, cultural & spiritual
6) POST PATRIARCHAL CONSCIOUSNESS
7) SEXUAL & RACIAL EQUALITY
8) DECENTRALIZATION - of energy, politics & wealth.
9) ECOLOGICAL WISDOM