What is this blog?


The purpose of this blog is to allow me to record my journey, the formation of the No New Wars organisation (whatever form that may take), the Eleven Eleven Twenty-Eighteen campaign and the supporting resources and networks of people and organisations.

This idea crystallised for me in 2012 when I decided it was not enough to be angry about wars being started in my name (that is, by my government) that I could not prevent.  Instead I would do something.  Not march with a banner, or send a letter to my MP, or write to the embassy of the enemy state, but instead stop the war in the first place.

I realised that I could not stop foreign countries starting wars.  But I can do something to influence my own government.  I could start a movement that makes it clear to our politicians that we do not want war, and that we will make them pay if they start one.

In a democracy we have only one tool available: our vote.  If enough of us pledge to remove our vote from any politician promoting an unjust, illegal or unnecessary war and to instead give that vote to an opponent, then we can make the politicians and major political parties too frightened to want to start a war.

It does not even need many of us to sign up to this.  In many constituencies it would only take about half of the MP’s majority to take the pledge to make the MP realise their next election might be their last.  And if people who do not vote – which is most of us – sign this pledge saying we will turn up and make a protest vote, it will make the political parties sit up and think about the consequences of the actions of a few war mongers.

I haven’t done the sums in detail, but if this campaign had been in place by 2003 when the 2nd Gulf War started, and if just 1% of the electorate had signed this pledge, then 170,00 non-voters voting against Labour plus 1% of Labour voters voting for either of the other major parties, would have resulted in Labour losing the 2005 General Election.

Between 750,000 (Police figures) and 2,000,000 (organisers’ figures) people marched in London alone to protest against the 2nd Gulf War.  Just 400,000 registered voters making a pledge would have more effect.

We actually can stop wars from starting by targeting the real cause: politicians who want to start a war.  By telling them we as voters will end their political career and wreck their party’s future prospects of power at the same time.

Would you consider war prevention a big enough cause to change your vote, or to make you go out and vote?

MA application done and sent

I have received two excellent academic references from my two Level 3 Open University tutors.  I am very pleased with them.  I’m considering framing them!

I have sent these, along with my application form, to Liverpool Hope University asking to join the MA in Peace Studies starting this autumn.

Well done me.

I’m very excited.  🙂

American gun jokes

Thank you America, for just creating a whole new genre of jokes. The rest of the world can now go from crying for you, as we were when the children were marching in protest against guns, to laughing at you.
– – – – –
Q. What do you call a blonde who doesn’t know how to use a gun?
A. An American. Probably a Cop. In a classroom.
– – – – –
An American suspects her boyfriend of cheating on her. She goes to his apartment and finds him in the arms of a redhead. She takes out her gun and points it at her own head.
The boyfriend yells, “No, honey, don’t do it.”
“Shut up,” she says. “You’re next.”
– – – – –
Q. Where do Americans learn how guns work?
A. In school. Briefly.
– – – – –
Q. Why did the blonde take a gun to the wedding?
A. She was told to hold up the bride’s train.
Q. Why did the American woman take her gun to the wedding?
A. She was American.
– – – – –
Q. What do you can an American with a gun?
A. A danger to themselves.
– – – – –
The NRA has declared today the first annual Gun Appreciation Day. So don’t forget to set your clock back 200 years.
– – – – –
Thousands of dead fish have washed up on the coast of South Carolina. The NRA said that this wouldn’t have happened if those fish had guns.
– – – – –
Try putting a teacher in every gun shop.
– – – – –
Q. How many NRA spokesmen does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. More guns.
– – – – –
The one country in the world where even the gun-trained people are too stupid to own a gun, is the one country in the world where everyone is stupid enough to own a gun.

Finally found some wise words on Facebook

I can’t work out how to embed a Facebook post properly.  I was hoping to get this post to show all the text, but failed.  It says:

Apparently, if you want to have a failed policy on an issue or more of something, you should declare war on it.
War on drugs created more drug addicts, war on terror helped create ISIS which makes Al Qaeda look like kindergartners, war on poverty has led to the greatest imbalance of resources in the history of America.
Perhaps we should have a war on common sense, a war on love and a war on education so we can have more of these.


The USA is happy with itself as it is: frightened

Having wasted most of the weekend online arguing with pro-gun people in the USA, I have given up.  I have tried this before and keep coming to the same conclusion: they are happy as they are.

They believe the level of violence and gun-related deaths is quite low compared to other causes of death, and so is quite acceptable.

They believe there is a huge threat to society waiting to get them and, unless there is a ready civilian militia armed to a military standard, it could get them at any time.  They need to be ready.

They believe that people being armed is why their society is so peaceful, that it is only unarmed people that are victims of crime, and it is their own fault for not being armed.

It is a belief system.  Facts and statistics are immaterial and disregarded.  You cannot argue using logic against a belief system.

Essentially what they have developed is a Gun Faith.  Guns are worshipped, adored, protected by the constitution and idolised.  ‘Idolised’ being the operative word.  Some people carry a St Christopher, some wear a cross, some carry a picture of Mary and some wear a birthstone crystal.  In the USA people carry a gun for the same reason: faith it will protect them.  Despite the factual evidence to the contrary.

A funny thing about religions is how people take it to extremes to prove their faith: growing a couple of locks of hair really long, totally covering their women, refusing to shave.  In the USA Gun Faith the extremists carry semi-automatic rifles simply as symbols of devotion.  The NRA is the church of this religion.  I get all that now.

That’s why people have started referring to the pro-gun lobby online as The American Taliban.

Would an anti-apartheid style campaign work regarding guns?

I’ve just been cheerfully posting this in various groups’ pages on FaceBook:

Idea: someone maintain a site of what international companies support the NRA so those of us in the rest of the world can boycott them in our countries.
We’re sick of this insane gun mentality too – what starts in America usually spreads elsewhere and the insane gun-worship mentality needs to stop.
So let’s start an international NRA boycott campaign like the anti-apartheid campaign!
We just need to know who to boycott, starting with any of this lot with overseas divisions:

Those companies are, of course, all arms manufacturers or retailers.  Yes, the NRA really is the marketing and political arm of the arms industry.

Talk: Russian-Ukrainian conflict: An ‘unexpected’ crisis

Today I attended a presentation at Liverpool Hope University’s Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies entitled ‘Russian-Ukrainian conflict: An ‘unexpected’ crisis‘.  One guest and two staff speakers for about an hour then 20 minutes of Q&As.

The main talk was by guest Dr Vsevolod Samokhvalov (university lecturer, research fellow at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, policy analyst and journalist).  He told us about the two main narratives: the Russians invaded or it was the West’s fault.  Both are reductionist; he said the real situation is messier than messy.  He went on to explain the cultural history, how the Ukraine, Belorussia and Russia are closely related – “One nation divided by history” to use Putin’s words.  Sevastopol is culturally important to Russia as part of the Black Sea Region going back to ancient Greek times.  The region is ethnoculturally nationalistic Russki.  What the Russians really want is recognition by Western Europe.  The revolution in Ukraine was inevitable; the invasion of Crimea was an opportunity albeit “worse than a crime – a political mistake“.  Vsevolod gave us reasons for why this occurred, but this is a summary, not an essay.  Buy his book.

Next was Dr Natalia Vibla (Lecturer in Criminology at Liverpool Hope University).  She spoke of the human rights tragedies: over 10,000 killed (a quarter of them civilians) and 25,000 injured since 2014.  Some 25,000 people have been displaced.  There are hundreds in captivity and torture is being used by both sides.  Potential objectors are being accused of terrorist plots and typically get 20-year sentences.

Finally was Dr Taras Khomych (Lecturer in Theology at Liverpool Hope University).  He gave us the history and structure of the Orthodox church in Ukraine and the reaction of the various sections: unity, with the exception of the Orthodox Russian Church.  It has been a strongly religious country since post-Stalin.  The churches supported the protesters, as did the Jewish and Moslem leadership.  Protesting was seen as a pilgrimage from Russian fear to Christian dignity.  Many Russian Orthodox Church members left, and a number of Russian Orthodox Church parishes changed to other sections of the Eastern church.  Tartar Moslems offered the use of their mosque to Orthodox Christians, which was accepted.

Much of the following Q&A was about Russian fears and intentions.  Also questions about whether this was a new or continuing Cold War.  I think the consensus was Putin saw the opportunity to re-unite Russkis as part of his right wing ethnocultural nationalistic agenda and no further expansion was likely.

This morning there was a report on the radio about the armed forces needing more money to face the Russian threat.  BBC: “Army chief calls for investment to keep up with Russia“.  Telegraph: “Britain cannot keep up with Russian military advances, head of Army to warn as he makes case for more funding“.  In the context of today’s talk, that seems to me either the armed forces or NATO asking for funding for themselves.  Scaremongering to supplement the arms industry and their own ends.

The Guardian seems to agree in their analysis: “Does the UK really need to increase its defence spending?” – no.

Personality profiling tests

I am not a fan of personality profiling tests.  For anyone who says they are: go and do five minutes research on them.

Are you back?  Yes, sorry, you fell for the marketing, didn’t you?  Never mind, many do.

Anyway, I don’t think they like me either:

Dear Simon
SJT Test feedback
Thank you for completing the Situational Judgment.
You scored better than 0% of people who previously completed the test.

I don’t think I’ll be getting an interview!

I have a problem with Max Weber

Max Weber, an influential German sociologist, said in 1918:

the state is a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.

This statement is used as the argument for policing, criminal justice, prisons, war and all manner of violent acts initiated by the state that cause harm to its people.

Note that he said ‘territory’ not ‘people’, and that he said it immediately after Germany lost the Great War.

Weber, a Prussian by birth, was raised by a strict pro-Bismark politician and a strict puritan Protestant and grew up in Berlin surrounded by the political elite that were promoting the development and growth of a united Germany on the world stage.  He was a strong proponent of liberal imperialism: imperial expansionism that would allow Germany to compete with France and Britain.

He had identified a strong correlation between capitalist success in Germany and Protestantism.  This he attributed to predestination associated with protestant puritanism that was elsewhere suppressed by the Catholic Church.

During the Great War, Weber argued for strength and unity for Germany.  In 1916 he said the conquered nations of Europe should, in Germany’s long-term interests, remain as independent political countries within the greater German economy.  In 1917 he was one of those advocating ceasing the war, when Germany put the proposition to the Allies to leave the boundaries at their new positions based on the front line, that is, accept Germany had won.  This would allow the extended Germany to keep Belgium and other territories gained in the war to that point.  Unfortunately for Germany, the Allies decided to fight on.

During the Great War, Germany had committed ‘the Rape of Belgium’.  This was the taking from Catholic Belgium – at that time one of the world’s largest and most modern industrialised economies – of its machines and resources.  Its male population was transported to Germany to provide forced labour for the German war industry.  Belgium was stripped of its factories and experience and has never recovered from what Germany did.

After the Great War, discussions took place in Paris about what reparations Germany should be making for what it did in Northern France and Belgium.  It was during these discussions that Max Weber, pro-German, anti-Catholic, pro-capitalist gave his speech about the state being entitled to use violence within its territory.  That is, that Germany was perfectly entitled to do what it like to Belgium as it was German conquered territory.

That his quote “the state is a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” is still used today as an excuse for police brutality, the death penalty and genocide is beyond my comprehension.  Max Weber was an apologist for this worst atrocities Germany committed in the Great War and his defence of Germany in the context of a horrific war in which war crimes and genocide occurred is being used today in modern democracies to excuse immense social harms committed by states upon their citizens.

And yet he is considered a founding father of modern social science and this quote appears in text books as an essential foundation for functioning societies.

Some more of his statements from that period of the post-war German revolution:

The decisive means for politics is violence.


the world is governed by demons and that he who lets himself in for politics, that is, for power and force as means, contracts with diabolical powers and for his action it is not true that good can follow only from good and evil only from evil, but that often the opposite is true.


Whoever wants to engage in politics at all, and especially in politics as a vocation…lets himself in for the diabolic forces lurking in all violence.

Punishing people of conscience

Governments say we are not allowed to kill people.

Then the government of Country A decides it wants some people killed in Country B to achieve regime change / combat terror / deal with a drugs problem / whatever.  The nation is merely an intangible social construct with no means to do anything meaning it requires people to do its work.  So the government orders its people to kill some people in Country B.  But some people who agree with the government that killing is wrong refuse to go and they get punished by their government, sometimes by killing them.

So the government is run by people in power who say killing is wrong and these people in power are ordering its citizens to kill other people – meaning the people in power have the power of life and death over the citizens of other countries and also the power to decide when killing is illegal or killing is a good thing and in the national interests.

Meanwhile the government and people of Country B who also say killing is wrong, including their own citizens being killed by another country.  So the people in power in Country B respond by telling their people to go and kill people from Country A.

So now both countries’ citizens – whose governments claim they are there to represent, protect and nurture their people – are killing one another on the orders of the people in power.

But the citizens of both countries are not allowed to kill anyone when they want to, merely when they are told to.

And yet those who stick to the original principle of killing being wrong are themselves made to suffer harm because they won’t participate in the killing.

This does not make any sense.

Cultural imperialism and Christmas

Last Tuesday, on the 17th of December, we went to Lidl’s for some bits and hot cross buns were for sale.

Every year for the past decade or so I have this moan about supermarkets selling ‘traditional’ hot cross buns at Christmas.  That (and calling every kind of cheese in existence ‘Cheddar’) really pisses me off about supermarkets beyond any normal level of annoyance.

Although raised in a Christian tradition, I’m not a believer so I’m probably not entitled to care, but it feels like cultural vandalism.

– – – – – – –

Good Friday comes this month: the old woman runs.
With one a penny, two a penny “hot cross buns”.
Whose virtue is, if you believe what’s said,
They’ll not grow mouldy like the common bread.

Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1733.

– – – – – – –

It is a centuries old tradition to have hot cross buns at Easter.  Not Christmas.  As you can see from the above quote, older than some references claim:

– – – – – – –

Throughout England, special buns, marked with a cross, were made on Good Friday and eaten toasted for breakfast; they were referred to as ‘Cross buns’ or ‘Good Friday buns’.  There are references to the custom early in the 19th century, so phrased as to imply that it had been current for several generations (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 177).  The modern unvarying phrase ‘hot cross buns’ derives from the 18th-century street vendors’ cry:

Hot Cross Buns! Hot Cross Buns!
Give them to your daughters, give them to your sons!
One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns!

A Dictionary of English Folklore, 2003.

– – – – – – – –

It does leave me wondering why I am so annoyed about it if it is not my problem.  But it does give me some empathy for those who don’t want soul-less and capitalist cultural imperialism thrust upon them, telling them their values, beliefs, traditions and way of life are wrong because some foreigner or rich corporation says so.  If I am so grumpy about this, what must it be like when your entire way of life is being challenged?

I have no faith, I am not religious, but I don’t think commercialism should be allowed to steal my Christmas, nor other people’s traditions.