Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The cost of defending the indefensible

Good article here - the last paragraph especially. Here's an excerpt:
Vietnam was the first war in which it cost $1 million to kill one enemy soldier.

Our alliance with the US is a pressure upon us to arm expensively and inappropriately. It is clear from what is occurring in Iraq that high-tech systems are ineffective when the enemy is elusive. We are also incompetent in the high-tech marketplace. We have submarines which after rebuilding still cannot do the job and we have obsolete navy helicopters purchased as state-of-the-art.

Without counting the surveillance and other aircraft on order, we are talking of spending $22 billion just on new fighter planes. That is enough money to save dozens of our dying country towns. We have lost many of our F111s in training crashes, and the new fighter planes cost about $US170 million apiece: should such high-tech wizardry be out of contention for a nation the size of Australia?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fresh produce

I've become quite the keen gardener. It's all Wendell's fault. Not really interested in flowers and such, I'd much prefer to grow something useful like fruit and vegetables, and so growing fruit and vegetables is exactly what I've been doing. So imagine my delight when my zucchini plant finally yielded results a couple of weeks back. Check this fine specimen out:

Impressive, no? What a marvellous piece of produce. All by the sweat of my brow. What a fine meal that zucchini will make.

But perhaps appearances can be deceiving. Scroll down for a more accurate picture.











Yep, it's miniature. Only about 4cm long, and not getting any longer. Needless to say not too many meals will be gleaned from it. Looks like it's going into the box marked "Simon's failed fruit and vegetable projects". Along with these carrots from a few years ago:

(Actually we're doing quite nicely out of my vegetable patch now, but the tiny zucchini did amuse me)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

April 24

Many of you will be aware that in June 2007, I was involved in disrupting Operation Talisman Sabre, a series of military exercises involving over 30,000 Australian and US troops. Along with four friends (Simon Reeves, Carole Powell, Sarah Williams, Krystal Spencer), I walked onto the Samuel Hill Air Base in the Shoalwater Bay Military Area in Queensland, to invite military personnel to trade in their war games for peace games. After spending an hour and a half with the troops, we were arrested and charged with trespassing (without lawful excuse) on Commonwealth land. More information about our action can be found at http://samuelhill5.blogspot.com/.

Those of you who have been following the (seemingly interminable) court processes will be relieved to know that today the four of us who pleaded not guilty received the date of our trial. We will front the Yeppoon Magistrates Court on April 24th 2008. Having already signed and submitted a formal admission of our presence on the base, we intend to argue that we had lawful excuse for doing so. While the chances of such an argument succeeding are slim, we plan to take the same spirit of transforming hopefulness, joy and peace into the courtroom that we took with us into the military zone.

If you're of the praying persuasion, please pray that the truth would be spoken and known on that day. Pray for boldness and courage, for peace and the presence of Christ in our words and actions.

For those who follow the church year, our trial date falls on the feast day of St Fidelis of Sigmaringen, who paid the ultimate price for refusing to renounce his beliefs (ironically, at the hands of my fellow Protestants). He died praying, as Jesus did, "Pardon my enemies, O Lord: blinded by passion they know not what they do." May we all, like Jesus, have the courage to renounce violence even when threatened, and learn to love and forgive our enemies.

Spare Change: my soundtrack to 2007

(Spare change refers to the fact that most of these songs are from albums I picked up for under $3, but also the theme of a broader type of change, and how I've engaged with it more deeply this year. If you want a copy, email me your address.)

It’s been quite a year – visits from John Dear, Jarrod and Harry from Peace Tree, and Ciaron O’Reilly have inspired and moved me beyond talk of nonviolence to action. The central event of peace games in the midst of war games at Talisman Sabre continues to be a formative experience as we go through the court process into 2008. But most of all this year I’ve learnt to value my family and my mobs: Julie and the girls especially, but also inspiral, Urban Seed and Brunswick Baptist.

1. Something Beautiful – Sinead O’Connor
I picked this up for $3 at a primary school fete. It was an advanced copy of her new album Theology, in which she basically appropriates a bunch of Psalms and sings them out of her own experience. Now I’m not much one for worship songs, but this one captures it pretty much perfectly – not just the usual ‘divine ego-boosting’, but an acknowledgement of our own brokenness, and lament for the brokenness of the world, and the final cry of “Who’ll dress their wounds?” which becomes the exhortation to be “something beautiful”. It’s Sinead’s response to the events following 9/11 and you can’t help but hear the heartbreaking agony when she sings the outro.

I wanna make
Something beautiful
For you and from you
To show you
To show you
I adore you…

They dress the wounds of my poor people
As though they're nothing
Saying "peace, peace"
When there's no peace

And in their want
Who'll dress their wounds?…


2. The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders Pt 1 – The Great Frontier Pt II: Come To Me With Only Playthings Now – Sufjan Stevens
I’d been hearing about Sufjan Stevens and Illinoise since 2005 when Thom Morgan was banging on about him, but I managed to hold out on hearing him until this year. The first time I heard this song was when I sat down on the plane to return to Yeppoon for our first court appearance, and I fell in love with it immediately. Partly because it’s unlike anything I’d heard before – the arrangements are so delightfully lush, and it’s more like soundtrack music than just your average pop song.

I count the days the Great Frontier
Forgiving, faced the seventh year
I stand in awe of gratefulness
I can and call forgetfulness

And when I, and when I call
The Patient, the Patient fall
The Spirit, the Carpenter
Invites us to be with her

3. The Hard Road (Restrung) – Hilltop Hoods with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
When I take kids on an Urban Seed walk, we always finish up with a reflection on the time, with a slide show set to a groovy, contemporary (but relevant) song. For years, it’s been Joel Turner’s These Kids, until this year began and we all said that if we heard These Kids once more, we’d have to do something rather unpleasant to Joel Turner (and most of his Modern Day Poets). So we found another song. And now, after a whole year of it, I’d like to do something unpleasant to the Hilltop Hoods.

Bail me out, a failure out once again,
Next weekend, bail me out, drunk again,
And I never will forgive myself,
For putting you through all that hell,
I went from high school dropout to factory labourer,
Slave to the clock until four, went from sleeping on the floor,
To being out on tour, now no stopping me,
I’ll finish with a bang like Kurt Cobains biography.

Going down the hard road, down the hard road,
Don’t know where I’ve been, and don’t know where to go its like,
Going down the hard road, down the hard road,
Don’t know where I’ve been.

4. Cowboys – Counting Crows
This album’s not out until next year, but since they’ve delayed the release of the album for six months (and because I’ve listened to it enough this year), I reserve the right to release this song right about now. It’s a return to form for what has been my favourite band for many years now.

I’ll wait for you where Saturday’s a memory
And Sunday comes to gather me
Into the arms of God who’ll welcome me
Because I believe…Oh I believe…

And I know I could look at anyone but you now
I could fall into the eyes of anyone but you now
So come on, come on, come on, come on,
Come on through now…

This is a list of what I should have been but I’m not

5. Times Like These – Jack Johnson
The night before we went into the military base we stayed at a local’s house. His support of us was totally amazing, not just giving us a place to sleep, but feeding us too. And then, just because he somehow knew, he put on Jack Johnson. And now Jack Johnson will always be that moment in my mind of perfect hospitality and the way God sometimes makes her presence so clear when you most need it.

There will always be stop and go and fast and slow
And action reaction and sticks and stones and broken bones
Those for peace and those for war
And God bless these ones not those ones but these ones

Make times like these and times like those
What will be will be and so it goes

6. Close to Me – The Cure
Picked up the Cure’s best of album for just $2 at Savers, and it’s been on regular rotation. Close to Me got more airplay than most.

But if I had your faith
Then I could make it safe and clean
If only I was sure
That my head on the door was a dream

I've waited hours for this
I've made myself so sick
I wish I'd stayed asleep today
I never thought this day would end
I never thought tonight could ever be
This close to me

7. Eve of Destruction – Screaming Jets
A sensational cover of a Barry McGuire song written in 1965, this could just as easily have been written last week. Great protest song.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around at your own backyard
You may leave here for four days in space
And when you return it's the same old place
They’re pounding out the drums, the fright and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace
Hate your next-door-neighbor but don't forget to say your grace…

Tell me over and over and over again my friend
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction

8. With My Hammer – Seize the Day
Following the trials and tribulations of the Pine Gap 4 was really inspiring for me, and lots of what was done early this year by the Christian Activist Network was supporting them. This song comes from the album put out to raise funds for their defence, and is itself an incredibly inspiring story about the four women who participated in the Seeds of Peace Ploughshares action, when they disabled an Indonesian warplane bound for East Timor.

With my hammer I break the chains
I will not remain in silence
I will stand and I will defend
My right to fight against violence
No prison can contain the freedom that we gain
When we move through fear

9. This Flight Tonight – Joni Mitchell
I spent a lot of time away from home this year, at least compared to usual. I swore I’d never get sick of flying, it’s too much fun, but there were some times this year when I was done with it. But this song is less about flying than it is about being away from home…from those people and places you love. There were definitely lots of times this year when I missed those I loved, especially because of the geographical distances between us. This is about sitting on the plane and thinking, “Turn this crazy bird around…I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight…”

I’m drinking sweet champagne
Got the headphones up high
Can't numb you out
Can't drum you out of my mind
They’re playing goodbye baby, baby goodbye,
Ooh, ooh, love is blind

Starbright, starbright
You got the lovin' that I like, all right
Turn this crazy bird around
I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight

10. Never Never Gonna Give You Up – Barry White
Picked up Barry White’s Best Of for 50 cents at a Salvos Op Shop, and it’s totally awesome. This is vintage Barry. Barry White always makes me think of my mate Anthony. Not for romantic reasons, just because when I first met Anthony at a nonviolence workshop, we were set the task of creating our ideal nonviolent community, and Anthony decided that in such a community, people would only listen to Barry White. I can see why. How can you fight with music like this?

Never, never gonna give you up
I'm never, ever gonna stop
Not the way I feel about you
Girl, I just can't live without you

I'm never ever gonna quit,
'Cause quittin' just ain't my schtick
I'm gonna stay right here with you
Do all the things you want me to

11. On This Side – Claire Bowditch
Last summer I’d been listening to a bit of Claire and was just loving how local it is. This is just a happy little tune about everyday joys. And that’s what I’ve learnt towards the end of this year – that running around furiously trying to save the world means nothing when you don’t have a healthy home life. I know that now.

It's a quiet night at home now,
Little miracles in bed
And a birdy on my windowsill,
That makes happy happen in my heard.
It's funny all the little things,
So boring to describe,
They taught my joy her roots,
And they brought my life alive.

12. Touch – Noiseworks
Corny? Heck yeah. Overearnest 80’s pop rock? You better believe it. Just let yourself go, get caught up in the soaring guitar riffs and you’ll feel it.

Another day is goin' out, yeah
A sea of faces cryin' out
With all we have today
You think we'd stop and take a look now, yeah
All I want to say
Is maybe that we should reach out

Everybody - reach out and reach out and
Reach out and touch somebody
Reach out and reach out and
Reach out and touch somebody

13. Dogs – Damien Rice
This year I decided I would make more intentional time to be alone, for my sanity. One Monday (my day off) in January I went to a park over in Northcote and laid down in the shade of a tree for an hour and just listened to music. There were certain points when I was listening to this song where it was pure bliss; you’re lost in the feelings the music evokes in you, and it’s nothing but delight.

She lives with an orange tree
The girl that does yoga
She picks the dead ones from the ground
When we come over

And she gives, I get without giving anything to me
Like a morning sun
Like a morning
Like a morning sun
Good good morning sun

14. Impossible – Screaming Jets
My song of the year. Screaming Jets were one of the big bands of my youth, but I somehow missed their strong social conscience. It’s been a theme song the whole year, getting more deeply involved in activism, often against what seems like overwhelming odds. But this song brings home to me that it’s not just about “winning”, it’s actually about the kind of person I want to be. Maybe the end result sometimes feels impossible…but I’m gonna die trying.

You can’t do much about whats gonna happen today
And you can’t do much about yesterday
You can’t say much against some angry individual
You can’t say much against the majority.

Well ain’t it like being impossible
But there ain’t no harm in trying
And I say hell man
Ain’t this like being impossible.
But I'm gonna die tryin’.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"it's not difficult to be magical. do try to keep up!"

Totally amazing article in today's Age about children...read it and devour it. By Barry Dickins, a playwright.
NOT long ago I was in the merry midst of very contented infants for whom I was the guest poet. Children know poetry is for them.

Sometimes I think that's all they know; but of course their wisdom is endless because they swear allegiance to Joy.

Happiness they are good at. Grief they respect. Death they write about.

The children I was with were preps at Saint John's Catholic Primary School, in Clifton Hill. How old are preps? How old is Joy?

I have no idea why they were so carefree that first morning when I started to write verses with them; it was a pretty nice day and two women teachers sat in with us.

The birds whistled to each other and I politely inquired of a pretty little girl of four or so, what she was up to?

It wasn't quite nine in the morning, and we were all sitting on the floor.

"Well," she replied casually, shielding her eyes from the sun in the bright window panes. "At 4½ you are not up to that much."

Another child, so small I nearly trod on him, looked up innocently and said: "I had no idea you were this old."

Well, I am.

We commenced to compose cartoons and draw eagles and cypress trees, that sort of thing.

One boy wept in a perfect fury because he couldn't sharpen his grey lead pencil.

These emotions are understandable in a world filled with frustrations and anguishes.

He sobbed so much his drawing paper submerged beneath his sorrows.

Later we were talking, still on the floor, where it's always best to talk because there are no levels of importance, about drugs and overdoses, for they know everything, children.

A particular North Melbourne AFL footballer had turned up drunk to train at Arden Street Oval, and the media had swooped on him — called him moronic, in fact.

"I think that his mummy should have hugged him a lot more," smiled a young pupil, resting her chin on her fingertips in the most nonchalant way imaginable.

"If she had actually hugged him more he might have been late for training; but he wouldn't have been able to do wrong."

We drew an elephant.

Lately the commentators have been writing most hatefully about the footballer Ben Cousins, calling him everything, including a drug addict and drunkard. They won't be happy until he is dead, I think; then they'll say he is tragically misunderstood.

But kids see all things differently. A tree can look like flames to them.

I asked a child last week at a school what she thought of Ben Cousins. She said she didn't think of him.

I know the reason I work so often in schools is to be taught by children.

They're the future and they trust surrealism. They're interesting. And exuberant.

Just for once it would be terrific if children called the shots, and not the experts, who aren't funny.

Children's molecular structure is comic and indestructible and they know it.

And they are not afraid to draw cancer or write about the end of the world either. Adults are often the end of it.

Each year I work at the Benalla Regional Art Gallery. They employ me to listen.

I listen to the local artists and that includes kids who draw and paint and write poems.

I then do some drawings myself and include snippets of conversations I've been involved in. It's fun. It's beautiful. So free.

Last year I met a tiny girl of three named Maeve. She was putting the final touches on an incredible sort of cabinet that was half-drawn with coloured crayons, yet some of the tiny drawers in it undid and pulled out; it was definitely magical.

I asked the child how she did it, and she grinned at me and said in a whisper, "It's not that difficult to be magical. Do try to keep up!"

I've never forgotten she said that.

Children are a better world. That is all I understand of this bewildering phase of our battered old planet.

They redeem everything that is debauched.

They are rather like perpetual flowers, children, incapable of poison.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fruitful Conversations

Let me recommend Harry's new blog to you. Harry hails from the Peace Tree community in Perth, and there's a lot to like about him and his thinking.

He's a bit of a church history geek (like me, but much more hardcore) but has a mind like a steel trap and articulates like...someone who...someone who articulates stuff...really really well.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Chelsea teacher

Scene: Our front garden; me weeding, Chelsea (3 and a half) watering random things (some of them plants).

Chelsea (pointing to a rose bush): That plant's dead.
(I look around for the dead plant that she's pointing at, and only see the rose bush, which is most definitely alive and healthy. Then I see what she's pointing at; a flower that's well past its prime, drooping and browned off around the edges.)
Me: Oh, right...yes. That flower is a bit brown and yucky isn't it?
Chelsea: It's still beautiful though.
(at which point I'm thinking Heck no, it's awful...but then I think, why do I think it's awful? Because it's no longer what society would recognise as a useful gift? Why isn't a dying rose considered as beautiful as a budding rose? If she can see beauty, who am I to tell her not to? I look at her, appreciating the insight she's just taught me.)
Me: Maybe you're right Chelsea. You're much smarter than me.
(then...wait for it...)
Chelsea: Not smarter. Just a different kind of smart.
(At this point I'm totally astounded. I can't help being gobsmacked by the incredible wisdom of that remark, so much so that I stop what I'm doing and look straight at her. She can see beauty in a dead or dying rose; I can do logic. And she's articulated that perfectly. But then she follows it up with an even more profound insight.)
Chelsea: Sometimes we don't like the things that we see. But the things are still beautiful.

Not preachy. Not self-righteous. Just the matter-of-factness of a child.

I think that may just be my quote of the year.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

inessential weirdnesses

An excellent article unpacking some of the excesses and dangers of professional middle class activism...well worth recognising some of the ways we can unconsciously exclude due to our own cultures, especially our "inessential weirdnesses".

"For professional-middle-class progressive activists like myself, it's easy to understand why working-class people would be alienated by the mainstream culture of well-off people. After all, we tend to be alienated by it ourselves, because it represents values we've rejected, like greed and materialism. But the idea that working-class people would have any negative reactions to our own subculture, in particular our values-based "alternative" norms, tends not to occur to us."

More here.

Wendellsdays

A Wendell Berry quote for every Wednesday...well, if I remember that is.

“We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. And this has been based on the even flimsier assumption that we could know with any certainty what was good even for us...

We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and to learn what is good for it. We must learn to cooperate in its processes, and to yield to its limits. But even more important, we must learn to acknowledge that the creation is full of mystery; we will never entirely understand it. We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence for the world that our species will be able to remain on it.” – Wendell Berry, A Native Hill.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Blessed Franz Jaegerstatter

When I greeted Julie the other day with my hands raised triumphantly in the air, and declaring, "Franz Jaegerstatter! Beatified!" she replied, "I have no idea what you just said." Nonetheless, my excitement over this occasion is unabated. Here is John Dear's article on the beatification of Jaegerstatter:
Blessed Franz Jagerstatter

BY JOHN DEAR

There were many consoling, inspiring, uplifting moments last Friday, October 26th, 2007, in Linz, Austria at the beatification of the anti-war hero Franz Jagerstatter. The resounding applause for his 94 year-old widow Franziska. The reading of the declaration. The unfurling of the 30 foot banner with Franz’s photo and the sight of dozens of bishops and cardinals standing up, looking up--at last!--to Franz. But the most moving was the presentation of his relics. Franziska kissed them, gave them to a cardinal for the Cathedral in Linz, then wept. She knows it now. Franz no longer belongs to Austria. Now he belongs to the world. And his work is just beginning.

This celebration, for me, was one of the best events in the institutional church in recent decades, and one of its most political, daring and hopeful. If the institutional church now says Franz was right, then Ratzinger was wrong, nearly all the Catholics of Austria and Germany were wrong, and the church has the potential to wake up and return to the Gospel nonviolence of its ancient history. Franz he is still a force of controversy throughout Austria, but he is the closest saint in recent centuries to resemble those daring, early Christians. This is exactly what we need: saints who inspire us to follow the nonviolent Jesus, say No to war, resist the culture of war, speak out for peace, work for justice, and combine the full mystical and political dimensions of faith.

The witness of Franz Jagerstatter has been at the heart of my own journey My grandmother gave me a booklet about Franz while I was at Duke University, trying to decide what to do with my life. I was stunned by this story of a young father, husband, and farmer, born on May 20, 1907, who was called into active service by the Nazis in February, 1943, politely refused, was imprisoned in Linz, condemned to death for “undermining military morale,” and beheaded on August 9, 1943. His witness encouraged me to become a Jesuit and an advocate for peace, justice and nonviolence. “Consider two things: from where, to where,” Franz wrote his godson from prison, just a few weeks before his execution. “Then your life will have its true meaning.” I’ve been trying to take his good advice.

In 1985, I read Gordon Zahn’s ground-breaking biography, “In Solitary Witness,” while living in a refugee camp in El Salvador. In the 1990s, I made a pilgrimage to St. Radegund to pray at Franz’ grave and visit Franziska and the Jagerstatters. It was a joy and a blessing to embrace her and her family last week. (We also learned that my friend Gordon, who has suffered for years with Alzheimer’s, just entered a hospice program and may be approaching his last days.)

On the night before the celebration, nearly a hundred Pax Christi members from Austria, England and the U.S. gathered for a meal and reflections on Franz’s life. The two hour Mass on Friday morning was broadcast live on national TV in Austria and Germany. Afterwards, our Pax Christi contingent processed through the streets of Linz, stopping first at the Bishops’ house where Franz went for counsel only to be told to fight for Hitler. (It was there, Franziska says, that he emerged from the building feeling very sad and said, “They don’t dare themselves, or it’ll be their turn next.”) Then we stood in the courtyard of the building which the Nazis turned into a prison, where he was held a few months before being transferred to Berlin. (His cell, on the second floor overlooking the courtyard, is now a business office.) Then we crossed the Danube, took a tram up the mountain to a church overlooking the city and the Alps, and enjoyed a special lunch. Later, many attended the new opera written about Franz, and celebrated a feast in honor of Franz and Franziska hosted by the Governor. A holy day to remember!

Throughout the pilgrimage, I reflected on the famous dream Franz had, which pushed him to say No to war. In 1938, he dreamt of a beautiful train and huge crowds rushing to board it. Then he heard a voice saying, “This train is going to hell!” Next he saw a vision of many people suffering. He awoke terrified and told Franziska, then later wrote about it from prison. The dream, he wrote, was about Nazi patriotism, idolatry and warmaking.

But I wonder if his nightmare was about all patriotism, idolatry and warmaking, our global rush to violence, killing, war and nuclear weapons. His dream describes our quiet, steady support for American imperialism, military domination, war on Iraq and Afghanistan, corporate greed, environmental destruction, and ignoring the cry of the world’s poor. Franz wrote fiercely about the loss of our soul. We are losing our souls and we don’t know it, he said. “I would like to call out to everyone who is riding in this train: ‘Jump out before this train reaches its destination, even if it costs you your life!’”

That is what many of us are saying. Like Franz, we’re trying not to get on the train to hell, even though crowds rush to board it, and we’re crying out, “Don’t get on this train. Don’t support the culture of war. Don’t make nuclear weapons at Los Alamos. Don’t spend your life becoming rich while 900 million starve. Don’t worship the flag of empire. Become a conscientious objector, a nonviolent resister, a public peacemaker, a Christian.”

But what astonishes me most is that Franz didn’t just reason his way to oppose an unjust war (which is what most good people conclude about him: he realized that Nazi warfare was unjust, so he refused to fight, and did the right thing.) I believe Franz went much farther. With Franziska, he climbed the heights of faith, the kind that moves mountains. “He prayed all day long,” one of his cellmates testified. He received daily communion, gave to those in need, spoke out as necessary, tried to teach his priests and bishops, prepared for death and tried to do all things for the honor of God. He became a person of deep mystical prayer, and made the connection between Gospel politics and Gospel spirituality. By the time of his death, I submit, Franz understood that to follow the nonviolent Jesus and give one’s entire life to God meant that you could never kill, support war, or compromise with evil.

“Just as those who believe in Nazism tell themselves that their struggle is for survival,” he wrote from prison, “so must we, too, convince ourselves that our struggle is for the eternal Kingdom. But with this difference: we need no rifles or pistols for our battle but, instead, spiritual weapons…Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us. For love will conquer and will endure for all eternity. And happy are they who live and die in God’s love.”

On the morning of his death, Father Albert Jochmann, the pastor of Brandenburg, visited Franz in his cell, brought him communion and heard his confession. He also offered a Bible. “I am completely united with God and any reading would disrupt my union with God,” Franz said to the priest’s amazement. That day, he wrote to Franziska in his last letter, “The heart of Jesus, the heart of Mary and my heart are one, united for time and eternity.”

Who dares say such a thing? The recent collection of letters by Mother Teresa, which I read on the plane to Austria, testify clearly that she never felt such union with God. Few do. Franz did. It was the natural culmination of his steadfast, wholehearted pursuit of God and God’s reign of peace, which required both nonviolent resistance to idolatry, empire and war, and full-time devotion to prayer, worship and nonviolent love. As the world’s violence worsens, I think Franz will emerge as one of history’s greatest saints.

Franz never gave up on the church, even though every single priest, pastor, chaplain and bishop he knew advised him to fight for the Nazis, for the sake of his wife and children. He held his ground, felt sad, and prayed for them. On the day of his execution, Father Jochmann told Franz about an Austrian priest, Fr. Franz Reinisch, who had recently been executed for refusing to fight. This report consoled Franz a great deal. (Now we know that some 4,000 priests were killed by the Nazis.) Like Franz, we have to reach out and convert every priest, pastor, bishop and cardinal who supports war, nuclear weapons, and patriotic imperialism to the Gospel wisdom of active love, nonviolent resistance and steadfast peacemaking.

Because Franz Jagerstatter broke new ground, we do not have to do this work alone. Yes, we may be harassed, even arrested and imprisoned, but unlike Franz, we will not be alone. We can join and form communities of peace and justice to help each other take a stand for peace, support one another, and speak out in one voice against our nation’s wars and injustices. Together, we can build movements to say our No to the School of the Americas, the U.S. war on Iraq, bombing Iran, and building nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, and like Franz, help one another plumb the mystical depths of Gospel nonviolence until we, too, are completely united with Jesus, Mary and the God of peace.

“We must do everything in our power to strive toward the Eternal Homeland and to preserve a good conscience,” Franz wrote from prison. “Though we must bear our daily sorrows and reap little reward in this world for doing so, we can still become richer than millionaires--for those who need not fear death are the richest and happiest of all. And these riches are there for the asking.” “There have always been heroes and martyrs who gave their lives for Christ and their faith. If we hope to reach our goal some day, then we, too, must become heroes of the faith.”

“If one harbors no thought of vengeance against others and can forgive everyone,” he wrote, “he will be at peace in his heart--and what is there in all this world more lovely than peace? Let us pray to God that a real and lasting peace may soon descend upon this world.”

“The crucial lesson to be learned,” Gordon Zahn declared, “is that, however hopeless the situation or seemingly futile the effort, the Christian need not despair. Instead he can and should be prepared to accept and assert moral responsibility for his actions. It is always possible, as Jagerstatter wrote, to save one’s own soul and perhaps some others as well by bearing individual witness against evil.”

“Through his bitter suffering and death,” Franz wrote, “Christ freed us only from eternal death, not from temporal suffering and mortal death. But Christ, too, demands a public confession of our faith, just as the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, does from his followers. The commandments of God teach us, of course, that we must render obedience to secular rulers. But only to the extent that they do not order us to do anything evil, for we must obey God rather than men.”

“A prophet with a global view and a penetrating insight.” “A shining example in his fidelity to the claims of his conscience.” “An advocate of nonviolence and peace, a voice of warning against ideologies, a deep-believing person for whom God really was the core and center of life.” This is how the Bishop of Linz described our blessed Franz last week.

Let’s hope and pray for more saints, prophets and martyrs like Franz, and try our best to emulate him.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Naivety

Chelsea, Ella and I were standing outside Savers on Sydney Road last Saturday when a guy walked - or rather, hobbled - past us. He had a big bushy beard, wild hair and was wearing a filthy khaki shirt and pants. Tied to his leg with two strips of black cloth was a broom handle - a makeshift splint, presumably. He looked decidedly uncomfortable as he lurched awkwardly along the pavement.

After he was a suitable distance away, Chelsea (3 1/2) said, "That man was funny!" I was a bit unsure of how to respond. "Yeah," I said. "He had a stick tied to his leg!"

"No!" she laughed, amused by my naivety. "He wasn't wearing any shoes!"

to vote or not to vote?

I just wanted to plug a fascinating, exciting conversation that's going on at the Christian Activist Network e-list about the virtues and vices of voting and not voting (or ultimately, what does discipleship look like in the context of our political system?). Rather than rehashing the entire thing over here, I'll just suggest that anyone who is interested in following the conversation, or in being involved in it, subscribe to the e-list (go to http://www.freewebs.com/christianactivistnetwork and click on the Yahoo groups link). But here are a few tasters:

* "Surely the best way to get a better deal for the poor and the oppressed in Australian society is to have people in government whose policies are inclined to favour the poor and oppressed? If those who are on the side of the poor and oppressed don't vote, then politicians with policies that favour those who already have many things will be elected and working for the poor and oppressed will be that much harder."

* "Vote if you want to, for what its worth, but don't get sucked into the myth that you are doing anything very political. Not voting, on the other hand, can be quite political in a country with compulsory voting."

* "Ultimately this [voting] is similiar to the Empires compulsion to burn incense to Caesar. The burning of incense to Caesar was the acknowledgment of Caesars power, and diety. In a compulsory election, you are being forced to take part in a process that hands the authority,
and power to others to take human life, to imprison people, and to continue to see the oppression of others by state decree. By participating you are complicit in the handing over of power over others, to individuals."

* "It's a measure of how much stock we put in the world's power and methods that we're not willing to trust that God will make it come out alright, and that it won't often look like we expect... And that's really the bottom line for me...do we trust in the way the world works
or the way God works in Jesus? Even when it looks ineffective by the world's standards? So I say vote or don't vote if that's what your community has discerned faithfulness to God to be, not because of a perceived outcome."

Also, anyone interested in faith-based refusal to vote can attend a planning meeting tomorrow night (Thursday 25th) at 8pm at the Den (116 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why?

The latest in kids' fashion...

That's right! Rush right in and get your kids some KILLTEC! They're what kids everywhere are dying for...

just another day in brunswick

Julie, the kids and I were sitting in the study the other day when we happened to look out the window at an elderly Italian gentleman leaning on our front fence. There's nothing unusual about this: we frequently have elderly Italian gentlemen leaning on our front fence, because it's not too far from the shops, but far enough away to take a break if you're elderly, and presumably they've leaned on several other fences on the way, and I'm glad our fence can provide this hospitable service. As we watched him, he casually leaned over the fence and broke off a flower from one of the several rose bushes in our front yard. Again, nothing particularly unusual; people do that from time to time, and since we have plenty of them, it doesn't bother me.

But what happened next was definitely unusual. Rather than smelling the flower, or stashing it in his pocket, or engaging in any other manner of flower appreciation, he put the stem between his thumb and forefinger and rubbing it up and down proceeded to denude the entire stem of foliage. Every leaf and thorn was removed, including the flower. Then, with the stem all that remained, he bit into it and began to chew. Casually, like it was a licorice stick or some other snack he enjoyed from time to time. When he'd finished that mouthful, he had another.

Now I don't know if rose stems have some kind of curative properties; I'm no botanist or plant expert of any kind, but I confess I was somewhat dumbfounded and mystified. Anyone have an explanation for this? Has anyone tried rose stems as a snack?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The land of the free...

Seriously America...hang your head in shame.

October 17, 2007 -- Pace e Bene co-founder Fr. Louie Vitale, O.F.M. and Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J. were sentenced today by Magistrate Hector Estrada to five months in federal prison for nonviolent action they took at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, a facility where Army training in torture techniques is carried out.

They began their sentences immediately.

Major General Antonio M. Tacuba, who served in Iraq and wrote a report critical of torture carried out at Abu Ghirab prison, phoned the Franciscan and Jesuit priests the night before to convey his support and to express his belief that "history will honor your actions." Their lawyer, Bill Quigley, shared General Tacuba's words of support with the court.

The judge, who confessed that the case had put him in "an uncomfortable position," meted out to both men three months in prison for trespass and two months for disobeying an office. They will be incarcerated at a federal prison in Florence, Arizona.

Before the sentencing, Vitale and Kelly read a statement to the 50 people who had gathered to support them. As part of their declaration, they said: "We will keep trying to stop the teaching and practice of torture whether we are sent to jail or out. We have done our part. Now it is up to every woman and man of conscience to do their part to stop the injustice of torture."

We pray for Louie and Steve -- and invite people everywhere to follow their conscience in resisting violence and in building a culture of nonviolent options.

Challenging the Politics of Fear

Below is the text of a talk I gave at the recent Pax Christi event "Australia's Security and the New Nuclear Threat", complete with bad jokes and shameless self promotion.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet tonight, the Wurundjeri people, and acknowledge the way in which they have been victims of the politics of fear.

Speaking of the politics of fear, as people about to be subjected to a monologue by a Baptist preacher you have every reason to be quaking in your boots. But in a demonstration that even irrational hope can win over fear, this Baptist preacher has been given 20 minutes maximum. I don’t know if that’s brave or hopeful or just na├»ve. At least it should calm some of your fears.

I want to talk with you this evening about how we might begin to challenge the politics of fear. I’m pretty sure we’re all reasonably familiar with this idea of the politics of fear. It’s a tool that has always been used by governments and those in authority to keep a population under control, as famously observed by the Nazi Reichsmarshall and Chief of the Luftwaffe Hermann Goering in the Nuremburg trials, “The people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. All you have to tell them is that they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” As we have seen here, whether it’s the children overboard, or Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, or more recently Sudanese refugees, it really does work the same in any country. When people are kept in a constant state of fear, no matter how much they are told to be alert not alarmed, they are much more susceptible to control, to unquestioning obedience, and to maintaining the status quo.

But I think we need to acknowledge that it’s not just conservative governments who use fear to keep populations under control, the left uses fear as much as right does – global warming, nuclear power, even dare I say it here nuclear weapons. There’s no denying there’s much to be afraid of, but it’s worth acknowledging that the left is not immune to using the politics of fear, they’re just different fears with different outcomes. Whereas the right tends to use fear to enforce the status quo, the left tends to use fear to undermine the status quo. Both methods, dare I say it, are mirrors of and reactions to each other, a transferral of the same types of destructive dynamics. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the ends of both are, in fact, quite legitimate, but if the means by which these ends are achieved is fear, I believe it’s illegitimate regardless of your motive.

What I want to propose is that not only must we transcend these categories of left and right, but we must transcend fear as a way of motivating people, whether that motivation is designed to sedate or inflame. Gandhi had this idea that means are like the ends in seed form; so in the same way that if you plant an acorn you have to expect an oak tree, if you use fear you have to expect a world of fear. So a world without fear will require different means.

So what I want to suggest is that one of the best ways that we can begin to challenge the politics of fear is to refuse to cooperate with it at all. That is, we must refuse to allow it to control our lives and our decisions, but also that we must refuse to use it ourselves to control others’ lives and decisions. I agree with Thoreau who said, “If you want to convince someone that they are wrong, do right. But don’t try to convince them. People believe what they see.”

Of course refusal to cooperate with fear is not without risks – indeed, the very basis of fear is usually the idea that something we have is under threat. Whether it’s our freedom, or our possessions, or someone we hold dear, we are indeed a people with much to lose, particularly in the West. But if we only fear losing that which we hold on to, then perhaps letting go of all we do not need is the key to freedom. As Aung San Suu Kyi has famously said, “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”

At the heart of Christianity is this idea of the costliness of this freedom – we talk of following Jesus, often somehow conveniently forgetting that Jesus’ resistance to empire and fear led to his crucifixion. The very central motif of Christianity is the cross, the idea that one must lose one’s life in order to save it. So bearing the costs of our resistance should not be alien to the Christian life. I’m involved with a group of Christians who for some time now have been exploring the power of nonviolent resistance to empire, and beginning to recognise the costs associated with that.

We have been greatly concerned for some time about Australia’s increasing reliance on violent military strategies to engage international conflicts rather than nonviolent ones. In June this year 20,000 US troops joined with 12,000 Australian troops in a series of military exercises called Operation Talisman Sabre. It takes place in a pristine wilderness area called Shoalwater Bay, which is about 80 kilometres north of Rockhampton on the central Queensland coast. Talisman Sabre involves live fire exercises which includes bombing and the use of active sonar, which has a devastating effect on the marine life and the Great Barrier Reef. They were practicing, amongst other things, offensive invasion tactics.

And so five of us began our resistance, our challenge to the politics of fear. As part of a wider peace convergence, we headed north to demonstrate that another world is possible. We wanted not merely oppose them, but do so in such a way that our very actions would point the way to a better alternative – in the words of Gandhi, literally be the change we wanted to see in the world. We knew that if the military had any reason to believe that there were civilians in the training area, they would have to stop the exercises, so the best thing for us to do would be to gain access to the restricted military zone and make our presence known.

Inspired by the prophet Isaiah’s vision of a day when people will “train for war no more”, we wanted to see the base transformed from somewhere where war games were played to somewhere peace games were played. And so we brought a frisbee with us. It was a ridiculous gesture, in many ways; walking into the middle of thousands of troops engaged in war games, asking them to stop in order to play frisbee and talk about nonviolence with five Christian peace activists.

We entered the Shoalwater Bay Military facility armed only with a peace flag, a frisbee, and two letters for the generals explaining why we were there. After three hours of walking through the bush, we found the main air force base where the generals commanded their troops and began to walk up the middle of the landing strip, where we could be seen easily, to invite the soldiers to talk. When we found them, we told them we were peaceful, unarmed people, that we wanted them to stop their war games and play peace games instead. Expecting to be told at gunpoint to lie down on the tarmac, we were rather surprised when they agreed not only to talk with us, but to play frisbee as well. At that point they shut down the base, and miraculously we got our wish – for more than an hour and a half we saw the base transformed from a place where people trained to kill those they disagreed with, to a place where people talked respectfully with those they disagreed with. From a place where missiles, bombs and bullets cut through the air to a place where frisbees glided gracefully through the air. When it started raining we were invited into the hangar area where we were given food and drink and talked with the soldiers for about an hour and a half about violence, nonviolence, Iraq, and US foreign policy. Shortly thereafter Queensland police arrived, arrested us and charged us with trespassing on Commonwealth land. Our trial is likely to be around March next year.

For us, this act of noncooperation with fear was deeply empowering. One, we were not cooperating with a system that says you need a violent military in order to be safe. We believe that violence only breeds fear, only nonviolence can breed love and peace. Secondly, we were not cooperating with a system that says do not challenge the status quo. The fences and signs around military bases and threats of legal action are all designed to frighten the average citizen into silence. By refusing to have our resistance dictated by those barriers, we demonstrated in a very small and humble way that it is possible. And thirdly, we were and are continuing to challenge a system that says if you do challenge the status quo, we will unleash sanctions on you that will make you think twice about challenging it again. The whole legal system is designed to intimidate and control you. When we were arrested we were thrown in a large police truck that is designed to cause sensory deprivation – metal walls, and no windows. In the watchhouse there is a total lack of privacy down to the toilet facilities. But the whole time we maintained our joyful attitude. As we sat there making jokes, singing and telling stories one of the policeman said to us, “You guys are enjoying this way too much.” When the system designed to intimidate does not intimidate, it loses its power.

I’m aware that many people think these kinds of acts are strange, but I don’t think they are. Not doing anything is strange. Failing to resist, accepting the way things are, that’s what is strange. Allowing the government to spend $55 million dollars a day on military machinery we don’t use while our own people go hungry and homeless for lack of resources – that is strange. Putting the needs of the economy before the needs of people and the earth on which all of our lives depend, that’s strange. We need to redefine normal back to what is proper for human life and society instead of the economy.

And I think that’s exactly what is at stake here, our very imaginations. Instead of seeing a world that is catastrophically irredeemable, we need to see a world that is pregnant with possibility, ripe for change.

Like I said earlier, that’s not to say that there aren’t costs involved. But if we’re prepared to send our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters off to fight war, how much more ought we be prepared for peace to cost us? And if we are not prepared for it to cost us anything, why are we surprised there is no peace?

The words of Trappist monk and nonviolence hero Thomas Merton have become one of my mantras, “If this task of building a peaceful world is the most important task of our time, it is also the most difficult. It will, in fact, require far more discipline, more sacrifice, more planning, more thought, more co-operation and more heroism than war ever demanded.”

And so with Christian peacemaker teams I want to ask you what it might be like if people committed the same resources to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?

It is this kind of imagination, and willingness to pay the cost that will characterise any effective challenge to the politics of fear. It’s a challenge I would invite anyone to take up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Meryl and Lee's wedding

Well it was quite a wonderful day, though definitely emotionally intense for all concerned. I include here the text of the little spiel I gave, in case anyone's vaguely interested.

Well it’s been quite a journey for both of you to get here. It’s always a bit nervewracking for couples on their wedding day, not knowing what to expect, so Lee you’ll be relieved that Meryl hasn’t gotten on any flights today, and no doubt Meryl you’re relieved that Lee isn’t taking shorthand on the proceedings for Monday’s MX.

But I want to share with you a quote that sums up what I would wish for you both on this day, a quote by a woman by the name of Edith Wilson. I have no idea who she is but what she says here is gold. “Marriage is not a lifelong attraction of two individuals to each other, but a call for two people to witness together to God’s love. The basis of marriage is not mutual affection, or feelings, or emotions and passions that we associate with love, but a vocation, a being elected to build together a house for God in this world.”

A vocation to build together a house for God in this world. What on earth might that mean? Are we talking about building a temple? A church? An ark? A three bedroom brick veneer? Well our traditional idea of marriage is very much as Edith Wilson describes; a lifelong attraction of two individuals, based on mutual affection, feelings, emotions and passions.

The problem with this view is not that it’s entirely wrong, but that it’s incomplete, it’s too small. Because let’s face it, if this is the God of the universe that is doing the calling, then the vision must be for something larger than just you two. If marriage is a vocation to build a house for God in this world, then it’s too small a vision to say it’s just about your love and affection for each other. Besides, any marriage that is built solely on affection, or feelings, is unlikely to last, regardless of what Hollywood will tell you, because feelings change, often several times in a day.

And so this quote refers to marriage as a vocation. The word comes from the Latin word vox, or voice, and vocare, meaning to call. Vocation, then, is not something that happens merely inside yourself, but is a call from outside of you. In the case of marriage we’re talking about a religious vocation, in the same sense as monks and nuns have a vocation (only without the celibacy thing). Marriage is two people who have been called together by God to demonstrate in a particular way what the love of God looks like in the world – to literally be the image of God’s love for others.

Because the God who calls us to love is Herself, love – not the kind of love depicted in a quirky romantic comedy, or the romance in the climax of a fairy tale or even a steamy sex scene. The love we see lived out in Jesus is an unconditional acting in the best interests of the other, a costly love that gives of itself seeking nothing in return. This is an active, creative, transforming love that does not allow suffering or injustice to go unchallenged, a love that looks outwards welcoming all people, especially those who think they’re not worthy, and a love that heals and reconciles brokenness of all kinds.

So your wedding today is not just about you. If marriage is a vocation to build a house for God in this world then marriage is not about you two sheltering each other against the world, it’s about you two working together for the good of the world. It’s about you two mirroring what God is like, and in so doing beginning the work of redeeming the world around you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nonviolence calendar

David Johnson, Quaker and peace activist, has spent a couple of years now compiling a nonviolence calendar. For every day of the year, he has found a story of nonviolence that happened on that particular day. With priority going to lesser known stories (there are many of them that we don't hear about very often! particularly involving women and minorities to whom the recording of history has often been unkind) he has managed to fill all but two days of the year. Each entry has a summary and then the extended story.

November will be available on the Quaker website this November, with the entire thing due out in 2008, but I thought I'd just give a taster he just passed on to me. This is an amazing resource, and I encourage you to seek it out when it is released in its entirety next year.

11th October
Thomas Lurting 1632-1713 British naval sailor turned Quaker returns pirates to their homeland Oct 1663.
Thomas Lurting (1632-1713) was pressed into naval service in 1646 aged 14, and fought as a gunner and boatswain. After contact with Quakers on board he (probably 1654) sighted his gun against the enemy, when "the word of the Lord ran through me - what if I had killed a man?". From that moment he refused to fight. In Oct 1663, ten pirates boarded a merchant ship he was on, and Lurting persuaded the captain and crew not to attack them, and eventually to return them unharmed to their homeland Algiers. His nonviolent response encouraged the pirates to be nonviolent, and they parted the Algiers shoreline as friends. Returning to London a celebrity, Lurting told King Charles II "That I thought it better for them to be in their own Country".

12th October
Elizabeth Fry 1780-1845 Quaker prison and social reformer
Elizabeth Fry (21/5/1780-13/10/1845) was born into a Quaker family, and though a socially active and light-headed in her youth was transformed into a compassionate and tireless worker for the poor and the imprisoned. Initially she found herself fearful and uncertain what to do, but as she followed her leading she was given confidence and courage. Her gift was to bring light and love to all situations. She mixed inspired compassion with hard work and commonsense to became a leading advocate of prison reform, starting her work with women in Newgate prison, London.

13th October
Bob Hunter 1945-2005 Nonviolent environmental activist & legendary Greenpeace leader
Bob Hunter (13/10/1945-2/5/2005) was a Canadian environmentalist, journalist, author and politician. A member of the Don't Make a Wave Committee in 1969 which sailed to Amchitka in 1971, and co-founder of Greenpeace in 1972 with Patrick Moore. Hunter was a long-time campaigner for environmental causes and helped lead successful campaigns to ban commercial whaling and nuclear testing. A highly unconventional individual who pioneered many nonviolent direct actions, such as using zodiac inflatable boats, it has been said "Greenpeace will forever bear the mark of his crazy, super-optimistic faith in the wisdom of tilting at windmills."

Croft Ave

Some images from Croft Ave, just over the road from The Den...




Friday, October 05, 2007

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Now I'm not much one for poetry, but Wendell Berry is absolutely amazing. Enjoy.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

--Wendell Berry

In the laneway

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Blackstump


Went to Blackstump Christian Music Festival for the first time on the weekend, as part of my work with Urban Seed. About 6000 people go to this thing, mainly for the music, but we were there to run some workshops, worship spaces, and participate in panels. As usual then, Urban Seed ended up around the edges…

The highlight for me was just hanging with “the mob” (Kate, Spriggsy, Brent, Emma, Jason, Gemma, Bec and Charlie) and spending time getting to know these people better. Our sessions seemed to go really well too, with me running nonviolence for the first one and Brent, Kate and I sharing the second one. I was on a panel too, talking about politics and faith. I shared the stage with Donna Mulhearn, two guys from the public service (Labor) and a guy from the Australian Christian Lobby. A bit hard to unpack the complexities in just under an hour, but it was good fun to have a rant anyway and challenge some deeply entrenched cultural ideas.

As usual at these sorts of events, it’s the things that go wrong that make for the most amusing and fun moments, so thanks to Formule 1 motels, cranky people and Hugh Evans for the entertainment.

Good too to catch up with Donna Mulhearn and spend some time chatting over the events of the past couple of years (Pine Gap 4, her human shield time, G20, APEC and Talisman Sabre).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pray for Burma

Just received this today via email from Ken Butigan of Pace e Bene:
The demonstrations inside Burma have escalated into a full-scale nonviolent Gandhian revolution.

Yesterday 200,000 monks, civilians, and students marched through the capital city of Rangoon, calling for human rights and democracy. The day before, they forced through barriers on the street outside Aung San Suu Kyi's house to go and visit her. She stepped outside for a brief conversation and it was the first time she can been seen in 4 years. Our colleagues inside Burma tell us that she looked fit and healthy. I am attaching a photo here of her -- you can see her in the middle with yellow shirt clasping her hands together.

When the monks approached her, she started crying as she was overwhelmed by their courage and bravery.

Yesterday, inspired by the strong support from Hollywood actors and actresses, several of Burma's most prominent actors joined the protests and offered alms to the marching monks, a highly symbolic and important show of support.

We have been briefing journalists virtually 24 hours a day as they cover the situation. Tonight we are going on CNN and BBC World. There are over 2,500 news articles on Burma right now -- the #1 story in the world.

Journalists are calling this the "Saffron Revolution", noting the color of the monks robes.

Ominous news is that the regime is shaving heads of some of its soldiers so they can pose as monks and these "monks" can incite military soldiers into a crackdown.

Just amazing to see the power of the human spirit.

Jack and Jeremy


Monday, September 24, 2007

Citizens Against War Crimes

Just received this via email...interesting that all the news coverage of the last sitting day of parliament was centred around the childish bickering of politicians, with no mention of this...
Media Release: (Thursday 20 September 2007; Canberra)

Iraqi deaths due to US invasion - 1,051,145 (Just Foreign Policy, & The Lancel - UK medical journal) "We had to destroy the country in order to save it."

Citizens Arrest of John Howard, Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock, & Brendan Nelson as War Criminals.

"Point of order Mister Speaker: I have a Warrant for the arrest of John Howard, Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock, & Brendan Nelson as War Criminals."

Yesterday in Federal Parliament at Question Time, an anti-war activist confronted the Government with a formal Citizens Arrest Warrant, charging them with various breaches of international law. (see Warrant below)

Peter McGregor, a retired academic from Newcastle, was himself then arrested, & charged with 'unlawful entry on inclosed lands' & taken into custody. McGregor was calling for the Speaker of the House of Representatives to have the police arrest the 4 Ministers. "Just the Howard Government's abandoning of Habeas Corpus should make it a social pariah, especially with those who believe in the rule of law & human rights. Instead of people like me, the Pine Gap 4, the Talisman Sabre Peace Convergence, Rising Tide, Greenpeace, etc. resorting to acts of civil disobedience, it would be preferable if groups like Amnesty, councils for civil liberties, university law faculties, etc. practiced what they preached, and brought formal legal charges against the Howard Government for its War Crimes." "In order for evil to triumph, it is enough for good people to do nothing."

No date has been set for the trial, but McGregor will be pleading not guilty.

Contact: Peter McGregor - mcgregorpeter@yahoo.com.au & 49293587
----------
Warrant for the Citizens Arrest of John Howard, Alexander Downer, Philip Ruddock, & Brendan Nelson: John Howard, Prime Minister; Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Philip Ruddock, Attorney-General; & Brendan Nelson, Minister for Defence are hereby charged, to be trial by the International Criminal Court, with:

(1) Planning, preparing, initiation or waging a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances - VI (i) Nuremburg Principles

(2) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for accomplishment of the above - V (ii) Nuremburg Principles

(3) Participating in the use of cluster bombs in contravention of the AUSTRALIAN MINES CONVENTION ACT, 1998

(4) Participating in the use of weapons of mass destruction in breach of the GENEVA Convention including Fuel Air Explosives which cause death by asphyxiation

(5) Conspiring to pervert the course of justice by
(i) abandoning habeas corpus both in the domestic 'anti-terror' laws & in international policy; &
(ii) covering up or defending the use of torture & over breaches of the GENEVA Convention, the International Covenant for Civil & Political Rights, & the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, against Australian – and other - citizens, at Guantanamo Bay

(6) Failing in its duty to protect Australian citizens overseas, & conspiring to continue the illegal detention of Australian citizens without trial or changes for over 5 years

(7) Demonizing and incarcerating asylum seekers under the policies of mandatory detention and fortress Australia. Such policies contravene the legal principle of habeus corpus and have induced undue suffering and mental illness for detainees.

Dated this Wednesday 19th September, 2007.

Signature(s): Peter McGregor: (mcgregorpeter [at] yahoo.com.au)

Issued & authorized by Citizens against War Crimes

Friday, September 21, 2007

falling

Skydiving in pictures...

The view from the sky over Torquay...magnificent day, about 20 degrees, no clouds and no wind.

This was the hardest part. Not because it was scary, it was just totally counterintuitive to get out of a moving plane. Plus when you're going at several hundred kilometres an hour there's a whole lot of wind going past.

Woo! Nothing but excitement!

Falling away from the plane as quickly as possible...

Freefalling at 220 kph...

Not the most attractive look, but hey, it's pretty hard to avoid.

The magnificent view - surprisingly enough, I was able to enjoy it while falling.

Under the parachute - had a go of steering. No wind meant the landing was very fast, and not particularly pretty.

Back safely on the ground.

...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Guilty! Of trying to see our Senator

So this is John's statement after his trial...
by Rev. John Dear

CommonDreams.org September 9, 2007

On Thursday, September 6th, 2007, six of us were found guilty in Federal court in Albuquerque, NM by a Federal judge for trying to visit the office of our senator. We will be sentenced in a few weeks. The message? It is a Federal crime to attempt to speak to an elected Republican about the U.S. war on Iraq. Don’t visit your senator. Don’t get involved. Don’t speak out. Don’t take a stand for peace–or you too may end up in jail.

It all started one year ago, on September 26, 2006, when nine of us entered the Federal Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and tried to take the elevator to the third floor to the office of Senator Pete Domenici to present him with a copy of the “Declaration of Peace,” a national petition campaign aimed at stopping the U.S. war on Iraq, bringing our troops home, and pursuing nonviolent alternatives and reparations. Over three hundred seventy five similar actions took place across the nation that week.

The Senator‘s office manager came downstairs, said she would only allow three of us upstairs, and after forty five minutes of waiting and negotiations, we nine just decided to go upstairs, figuring we had a right as group of constituents to deliver our petition to the Senator’s office.

As we stepped onto the elevator, a policeman put his foot in the door, and the next thing we knew, the power was turned off. So there we stayed–for some six hours. At one point, a police officer brought over a chair for one elderly member of our group who uses metal crutches. It seemed the officer was inviting us to make ourselves at home. He even said he supported our anti-war stand.

By the end of that memorable day, with over twenty police officers, SWAT teams, and FBI officials standing in the lobby, the Homeland Security director told us we had the choice to be arrested, jailed and tried, or cited and tried. He never gave us a warning, never told us to leave, never read us our rights. We took the citations, and for the past year, have been in and out of court, waiting to testify about our attempt to visit the Senator’s office.

The prosecution would hear none of it. As far as the prosecutor was concerned, we went there to disrupt the Federal Building and shut down the elevator. He seemed to think we liked being in an elevator. He, of course, had been a marine for decades, and now commands a national guard unit, and was just back two days before the trial from directing military operations in Colorado Springs. He called the police and the senator’s assistant to testify against us. They said we had plenty of warning, said we threatened to do a sit in, and said we disrupted the government’s office work.

Then it was our turn. One by one we took the stand–Philip, Michella, Sansi, Ellie, Bud and me. Our excellent pro bono lawyers, Todd Hotchkiss and Penni Adrian, asked us why we went to the Federal Building and what happened. We each testified that we intended to bring a copy of the “Declaration of Peace” statement to the senator’s office, in the hope that it could be faxed to him, that he would sign it, and that he would work to stop this evil war.

During my testimony, I was asked about the lists of names I brought with me that day. I had printed out the name of every U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, and some ten thousand Iraqi civilians killed, and said I thought they would help remind us why we were there, that perhaps we might leave them with the Senator’s staff. The judge interrupted me and asked if I carried those names around with me all the time. While unfortunately it’s now all too common for many of us to spend our time at demonstrations reading the names of the dead, I held back from saying, “Yes, don’t you? Don’t you care about the U.S. soldiers who’ve been killed, and the countless, innocent Iraqi civilians killed?” Instead, I said I always carried with me information about the war and how to stop it.

It was a grueling, exhausting eight hour day. At the end, the judge returned with his verdict but then launched into a speech explaining why he believed the police and the senator’s staff person, and not us, particularly, not me. He said the fact that I carried with me the names of every U.S. soldier killed and some ten thousand Iraqi civilians killed proved I intended to be there a long time, and shut down business in the Federal Building. He basically called us all liars, and defended the government’s evil war.

I’m not so sure that on the day one year ago I did intend to shut the Federal Building down, as noble a nonviolent act that might be in such times. Only a few months before, I brought a group to meet with Governor Bill Richardson, and he received us warmly, and let me speak for twenty minutes about why he should work to end the war on Iraq, disarm Los Alamos and abolish our nuclear weapons, and end the death penalty in New Mexico. I didn’t rule out the possibility that in fact Domenici’s staff might be willing to hear us. In the end, however, the police themselves disrupted business as usual. They turned off the elevator. They shut down the Federal Building. They prevented us from visiting our elected representative’s office.

So what do we learn from this experience? What is the message from Federal Court in New Mexico? I suppose it’s this: Anyone who dares visit their Republican senator to speak against this evil war is liable of a Federal crime. Don’t presume you have any rights in this so-called democracy. Those days are over.

The judge said he would sentence us within thirty days, so there’s more to come. He asked each of us to submit a statement to him. We face 30 days in jail and a $5000 fine, which I certainly won’t pay.

Meanwhile, the real crime continues, and the real criminals get away with mass murder, with the crucial, full backing of our courts. The war goes on, the killings go on, and the lives of our sisters and brothers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere are shattered. Our government, in its race to become a global empire, has sunk to all new levels of corruption, lying, repression, and old fashioned hubris. Our task is permanent nonviolent resistance against the culture of war, nonviolence as a way of life, full-time non-cooperation with violence, war, and empire.

All things considered, then, it’s a great blessing to be found guilty of speaking out against this evil war. I hope more and more people will write their senators and congress people, especially Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, and demand that they end this war; that more and more people will sign up at www.declarationofpeace.org and keep building the movement against this war; that more and more people will march for peace, vigil for peace, organize for peace, agitate for peace, speak out for peace, fast for peace, cross the line for peace, pray for peace, and find themselves guilty of pursuing a new world without war.

In such times as these, there may be no greater blessing.

articulate graffiti

hmm...yes, indeed

Thursday, September 06, 2007

JD faces court...again

Thinking of my good friend John Dear as he faces court on September 6 in New Mexico for a nonviolent action he did last year with 8 others, when along with about 380 other groups around the US, they went to visit their local member. They brought a letter requesting that he agree to work to end the Iraq war, and were stopped in the elevator by security, who held them there for 7 hours. They spent the time reading the names of the Iraqi dead. Because of John's record, he faces one or two months in prison - for going to visit his local member! It's unbelievable what they won't allow in the US now in terms of dissent, and all this APEC stuff is making me realise it's happening here too. It's a kairos time in terms of political dissent in the West - we must hold our own, supporting one another, or we risk losing further civil liberties and freedoms we've previously taken for granted.

So uphold John in your thoughts and prayers, please. He's a remarkable man of peace.

More info here.

The wisdom of Peter Maurin

"The world would be better off
if people tried to become better,
and people would become better
if they stopped trying to become better off.
For when everyone tries to become better off
nobody is better off.
But when everyone tries to become better
everyone is better off."

- Co-founder of Catholic Worker movement

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Check this out...

This video shows three police in Montreal pretending to be 'black block' anarchists at a nonviolent action and how they are uncovered and exposed (with rock in hand!).

Great response and excellent leadership as a union leader stands up to them and defuses the situation, isolating them from the rest of the group and clearly marking them out until they become exposed as agents provocateur. It's blown up on the national news in Canada.

It's been talked about for years that police do this to incite riots - and everyone knows it happens all the time, but it's incredibly hard to prove unless you can isolate them like this and get some kind of proof.

Samuel Hill 5

No, it's not the latest boy band, it's that group otherwise known as the 'Shoalwater' or 'Frisbee 5'. I've just created a website for our little group, so we can all put our musings and news in one central place to direct people to, so head on over there and check it out...there's not much there now but we're all going to add our stuff as things happen.

Friday, August 17, 2007

for the vegetarians among us

Beautifully placed right next to Nando's near my house...someone's put "eating animals" on the stop sign.