What is this blog?

Featured

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?

Is a PhD a possibility for me?

So I am preparing for my Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at Lancaster University and reviewing my plan.  My intention was to get a Peace Studies MA then a job in conflict prevention somehow such that I could do my bit to stop the UK starting any new wars by providing evidence-based arguments that there are better alternatives.

A few people have – in jest? – asked if I am intending to do a PhD or suggested I do one.  Having looked again at the university I have chosen – a “triple top ten university” with a joint top best research library and one of the top 3 research universities in the UK – and it seems I have chosen well.  One that prides itself on the quality of its research.  I wonder if that applies to the social sciences too, specifically the politics and international relations?  If so, I would be in the right place.

I had an idea the other day regarding modelling of the kind done in IT, physics and maths: are there models for conflict resolution?  If not, fame and fortune awaits if I invent the first.  If so, there is the opportunity to learn about them and apply them in the workplace.  But an academic view might be to review them, compare them, evaluate them – that could be what I do with this MA.

But there is a further opportunity. I am a practitioner by nature, not an academic.  I have been seeking ‘the learned journal for peace’, the professional body for peacemakers, the text books, the methodologies, the best practice for the people working in the field.  Do these things exist?  If not, they need creating and there is the scope for a PhD.

If I could create or document a framework for peacemongery such that practitioners could take it off the shelf and use it, that would be a heck of a legacy.  If I could form a ‘professional body’ or a methodology, that would also be a great contribution.  Even creating something so that when someone says “There is no alternative to war”, I can say “Yes there is, I wrote the book!” would be an immense move forward.

I shall keep pondering on this idea…

 

Empowering nonviolence – so much to learn

I need to read more information from War Resisters’ International.  They have so much useful information on nonviolent campaigns in opposition of war, that it is overwhelming, so I have not looked at it at all.  It is hard to know where to start.

Web sites:

Books:

Loads of articles:

Potential employers for me:

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

Protecting jobs does not seem to matter in any other sector.  Why should defence be different from other sectors such as health, social services or education?

The defence sector comprises private industry, other government spending is mostly public sector.  Why should private industry jobs be protected by the government when public sector jobs are being cut?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

It is illegal under European law to prop up a filing industry to make it competitive.  This has been applied a number of times, for example to stop the French government propping up French airlines.  Counter argument: Why is the defence industry being propped up with government money?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

The UK defence industry is hailed as a great success as it is our biggest exporter.  If it is so successful and bringing in so much money, Why does the defence industry need propping up?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

If the purpose of defence spending is to protect jobs, why not give them jobs in another useful sector, working in a constructive way, such as civil engineering, major environmental projects, improved land management, improved water management, pollution control or research?  Why should they continue to work in the arms industry and not something else?

“We need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs”

It’s not really jobs that matter to maintain votes, it is standard of living.   If the purpose of defence spending is to keep these people in a manner to which they are accustomed, pension them all off.  Sell off their places of work, stop buying raw materials, stop using energy making stuff for the sake of it and stop producing unnecessary products that will require careful storage and subsequent disposal.  Why not save money by paying those people to stay at home?

Claiming “we need to maintain defence spending to protect jobs” does not stand up.

What do you think?

“Let Us Begin”, John Denver

In June 1986 John Denver released the album One World which has the track Let Us Begin, an anti-war song, which had been released as a single.  On this day of that year, 30th July 1986, his record label, RCA, pulled the single.  RCA had been acquired by General Electric, a major arms manufacturer, and they did not like this song with its lyrics of feeding the war machine but not babies.  Thus the powerful, who get rich from making killing devices, get to silence the pacifists to protect their profits.

A video John produced to go with the song, with a short introduction from him, is here on YouTube.

The lyrics.

This is simply the best piece of work that I’ve done in my career.

John Denver, 10th December 1987

Source: www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=10947# amongst others.

“Trump urges NATO members to double military funding target”

BBC news story “Trump urges NATO members to double military funding target” – Link.

Currently, NATO members are required to give 2% of the entire country’s Gross Domestic Product to the arms industry, with the non-democratic body NATO dictating what they have to spend it on.  This is so NATO can defend Western Europe from a Soviet invasion by the Warsaw Pact.  That’s the Warsaw pact that was dissolved in 1991, some 27 years ago.

That means the arms industry is given, each year, the entire productivity of much of Europe and the USA and other countries for one week.  We don’t do this for education, health, homelessness or all manner of socially good things – just the means to kill people.

But now President Trump wants that doubled – doubled! – to 4%.  He says one 25th of all production in every sector of society should be given to the arms industry.

The Cold War ended over half my life ago.  Why are we still funding it at all?

Why should we cut health provision, housing, education, social welfare or anything else to pay for the tools and means to kill people?  It is insane.

Unless he’s a puppet of the arms industry.  Happy to take their money and doesn’t care what the cost will be to the world.

It was this kind of uplifting of military expenditure prior to the Great War that, arguably, helped lead to it occur.

 

Abhorrence of state violence

From my most recent module of my Open University degree, DD301 Crime and Justice, there is an entry that caught my eye.

The paradox, as Penny Green and Tony Ward put it, is: ‘If states depend on a monopoly of organised violence … but cultivate an abhorrence of violence, why does this not lead to abhorrence, or at least a deep unease, at the state’s own practices?’ (2009a, p. 236).

(Green, 2010, p. 218).

I have issues with the concept of the state having the monopoly on violence (Weber, 1991 [1921], p. 78) and have written about it in a number of essays disagreeing with the claim.

But their point about state terror applies to war too.  If the state says it is wrong to kill, why do people accept the state sending them off to kill?  It is a paradox, a cause of cognitive dissonance.

More research is required…

 

References

Green, P. (2010) ‘Chapter 7: The state, terrorism and crimes against humanity’, in Muncie, J., Talbot, D. and Walters, R. (eds) Crime: Local and Global, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 209-45.

Green, P. and Ward, T. (2009a) ‘Torture and the paradox of state violence’ in Clucas, B., Johnstone, G. and Ward, T. (eds) Torture: Moral Absolutes and Ambiguities, Baden-Baden, Nomos.

Weber, M. (1991 [1921]) ‘From Max Weber’ (ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills), London, Routledge.

Who looks after the peacemakers?

When there is a conflict, people flock to one side or the other to support them, be it a divorce or an international conflict.  For those working with those parties trying to find an amicable solution, there is an expectation to empathise but not judge.

Listening to people who are angry, hurt and confused is hard without joining in.  To listen properly one must let them speak, put one’s self in their position, feel what they felt.  But to help fix the problem, one must not agree with everything they say as one would to a friend.  This means inevitably internalising all their emotion.  Then, when listening to the other party, doing that again.

I have found it is incredibly tough to do this, especially when over an extended period of weeks.  It is amazingly draining, not physically or just mentally, but emotionally and something else too.  There is something drained internally leaving one unable to make decisions or think of anything.  It becomes all-absorbing and nothing else gets in.

There must be techniques to prevent or reduce this, or to alleviate it.  Presumably those who conduct sessions at Relate or ACAS or in peace negotiations have tools and methods that mean they can keep working without exhausting themselves.

I have tried searching online to find out what these are, but without success.  Perhaps it is part of conflict resolution training or mediation training.

Having recently spoken to a GP and a policeman about this, I find neither gets any form of training or support to deal with the emotional consequences of their work.  People dying, mangled bodies, dealt with as part of their jobs, and no support.  How poor is that?

Memorising names and dates for an exam

tl;dr: I ‘cheated’ in my final exam.  I took in a crib sheet.  I smuggled it in, hidden in my short-term memory.

The Problem
I cannot learn names or dates, or quotes.  I have known that since secondary school.  One of the first homeworks we got was to learn a very short poem and I could not do it and got a detention for failing to do so.  I dropped English Literature at O level during the final year because I could learn the stories and what happened but not who the people were.  I frequently lose track of who is who in films and books and just enjoy the story, sometimes wondering why someone said or did a certain thing because I could not work out who they were.

Trying to Learn a Poem
In English Language there was a poem, The General, on a poster in front of my desk.  Every English lesson for four years I practised learning that poem.  I must have read it at least 400 times, probably over a thousand times.  I can recite it fairly accurately, but only because it has a story and I visualise that, plus it is timed to match a marching step, which helps get the words in the right places.

Left, right, left right.

“Good morning, Good morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on the way to the line.
Now the chaps that he spoke to are most of ’em dead
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.

“He’s a cheery old card” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both with his plan of attack.

Left, right, left right.

But I cannot tell you who wrote it nor in what year, despite that being clear on the poster.

It’s funny what I can remember.  I know scientific terms based on names such as Boyle’s Law, the unit called the Newton, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but they are not names of people, just words.

In history O Level we did global exploration and the conquest of the Americas.  I am confident I can still re-tell most of the story about the spice islands, piracy, the involvement and achievements of the Portuguese, Italians and Spanish, the discovery of the Americas, trade, some of the adventures, the treatment of indigenous people – all manner of stuff.  But I am not sure what centuries in which this happened and can only recall Elizabeth, Drake, Magellan and – for some reason – Quetzalcoatl.  That meant I could not do History O Level because it is all about names and dates.

A327 was seemingly a history module, but was all about the debate about what happened, not who did what and when.  No need at all to learn dates or names, amazingly, and so that went fine for me.

Consequences for My Degree
So when my tutor – who had been an exam-marker for some years for the module – said one cannot get beyond 65% in the DD301 Criminology exam without inline references in the exam essays, I was gutted.  That would mean a Pass 3 for the module and a 2:2 for my degree and failure to get to do a Master’s as planned.  I need 70% in this final exam to get a 2:1 for my degree.

What I Tried
I had been using Quizlet all year to produce flashcards to help me learn the subject: my DD301 set.  I enhanced that to focus on names and dates.  It didn’t help.

I also used a timeline tool called TimeLine for visualising when things happen and thereby learning the steps between them.  Here is an A327 example I had used the previous year for its intended purpose:

I tried using that to visualise developments in criminology writing to see if that helped.  It didn’t.

DD301 TimelineI asked on the module forum for advice on learning techniques but got no useful advice from the tutors.  The only student suggestion was for Quizlet.  I asked my tutor for advice, his conclusion was I should get the names tattooed onto the inside of my eyelids!  I have a few books on learning, study and revision but they all have generic advice and not how to deal with specific problems.

Searching online for advice got me nothing other than flashcards (for which I was using Quizlet) and reading out loud to a mirror.

So my carefully constructed revision plan of learning standard paragraphs, practising writing essays, laying out the standard arguments and so on all went by the wayside as I spent the entire time trying to learn names and their significance.  It wasn’t working since just a few hours after learning one, it had gone from my head.  This was despite going over them scores of times, some of them for months.  It was the same as The General poem above: I know the subject but not who wrote it or when.

What I Needed to Memorise
What I needed to learn was the names of the authors of five chapters from the text books (each one a multi-author chapter), plus a selection of theorists, what they said, and the dates of publication of their books.  At this moment I can recall Muncie (2001), Talbot (2010) [wrong, forgot two other authors], Mehigan (2010) [wrong, forgot two other authors], Green (2004) [wrong, forgot the other author] and Cohen (some time in the 1960s) but not what they said.  That is the entirety of a year’s trying to memorise them – I needed many more than that.  I had tried to learn 27 names and dates.

The Day Before The Exam
I finally found a solution on the day before the exam, by accident.  I was thinking – yet again – about why I could only hold the data in my short-term memory and why it could not be transferred to the mid-term or long-term memory.  That is, I could spend a couple of hours going through the flashcards over and over again and eventually get almost all of them right, but just another two hours later and I could only get a handful right.  But there’s the answer: use my short-term memory.

So I wrote out a few hand-written lines like this:

Book 1, chapter 1, crime, Muncie, Talbot & Walters
Book 1, chapter 5, corporate crime, Tombs & Whyte
Book 1, chapter 7, state crime, Green
Book 2, chapter 1, justice, Drake, Muncie & Westmarland
Book 2, chapter 7, human rights, Mehigan, Walters and Westmarland

for the key chapters I would be using in the exam.  Any reference to criminal theory and I could add “(Muncie, Talbot & Walters, 2010)” with confidence it would be from that chapter in the text book, or refer to “human rights are contestable (Mehigan, Walters & Westmarland, 2010)” and I’d probably got that right.

I also wrote a number of key concepts and theories:

Michael & Adler, 1933, Black Letter Crime
Tappan, 1947, crime requires a guilty verdict
Quinney, 1970, crime is defined by the politically powerful
de Haan, 1990, crime is a distraction from real harm
Reiman, 2007, Pyrrhic Defeat Theory in “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor get Prison” (vital to learn this one title)
Hillyard and Tombs, 2007, the social harm approach
Whyte, 2009, corporates and governments make laws to protect themselves
Muncie, 2001, “a conception of crime without a conception of power is meaningless” (vital to learn this one quote)

From those a number of arguments can be constructed.  I know the material pretty well, just not who thought it up and wrote it down.

I then hand-wrote those lines out over and over and over again for the rest of the day.

The Day of the Exam
I got dropped off at the exam centre two hours before the 10 a.m. exam.  I sat in Reception for 90 minutes copying the lines out again in an A4 pad, exactly the same, for another six A4 sheets.  At 9:30 I closed my eyes and fell asleep!  At 9:50 they called us in.  At 10:01 I started writing those lines out on the first sheet of the answer booklet from short-term memory.  I then spent until 10:30 writing down every name, date, quote, concept and theory name I could think of, joining them up where I could.  In 30 minutes I had ¾ filled an A4 side of chapters and concepts with most of their names and dates.

I then looked at the question sheet and spent the remaining 2½ hours of the exam actually doing the exam, with my very own hand-made cheat sheet on the desk.  And all perfectly legitimate.

The Result
So I used my short-term memory to visualise about 15 or 20 lines of text and took that mental image into the exam.  It cost me about 30 minutes of the three hour exam but meant I included 11 references which I was sure were correct, plus two more I think were right and a couple more where I said (either Bloggs or Jones, 2001) or (Green and someone else, early 2000s).  I also nearly got the Muncie quote right – I wrote something like “You cannot have a conception of crime without a conception of power” which is near enough, I hope!

I wrote two essays, each with an essay plan, a proper introduction, a critical argument and a proper conclusion.  The second essay referenced the first (since you can’t use the same arguments twice) and came to a conclusion critical of the first essay’s conclusion!  With 11 inline references, a quote and an explanation of the significance of a seminal book on the subject, I am quietly confident I ought to get the 70% I need.

The Outcome
I won’t know for another five weeks…

I have completed my undergraduate degree

Today I sat the exam for the final module of my undergraduate degree.  So that is the first step complete in my career change.

Because of how the degree marking works, if I get 70% or more in this exam (not terribly likely), I get a 2:1 for the degree and get to do a Master’s Degree, otherwise a 2:2 and I’ll need to re-think my plans.

Another way to inconvenience spammers

Two posts in particular on here receive almost all the comment spam.  I have changed them both to say “Do not post comments here, they will be spam-trapped” which should prevent mortals falling foul of the mechanisms attached to those two posts.

I tried an experiment the other day and made them password-protected.  So the link the spammers use to get to those pages still works, but they cannot post anything.  This has – for the time being – stopped much of the spam.

I expect in due course they will just pick another ppst and target that instead.