Archive for the ‘peace’ Category

Linguistic Accommodation

June 3, 2007

In May each year the number of people staying at our place each month (bednights in George Fox House terms) drops off. Most traveling YFs have gone back home, generally to their northern hemisphere summers.

Each year we get to meet new people, and get to know them pretty well. There’s something about inviting people into your home, feeding them, having them there when you get up in the morning and get back home from work at night. Depending on their inclinations they play games with the kids, read them stories, put new software on our computers, help in the garden or the kitchen, watch youtube and DVDs with us. They become part of the family for a few nights, or a week or two. Often they’ll go traveling round the South Island then come back for a few nights before they fly out. We miss them while they’re gone, and welcome them home when they’re back.

I like the notion from the early days of Quakers, when if a Friend was traveling in the Ministry, and requested to stay, you had to let them. I travel a lot for business, and I feel totally comfortable asking Friends if I can stay with them. I encourage traveling YFs that we meet at Summer Gathering and other places to stay with us when they’re in town. Somehow, on some universal scales it feels like this is ‘balancing the books’. I hope those that stay with us will feel more inclined to welcome other people into their homes sometime in the future.

The only thing that really makes me in any way glad when people leave, is my tendency towards ‘linguistic accommodation’. This is a term that explains the natural human capability of adapting one’s speech to those around them. It’s the way accents work. It’s the way that ‘speaking the lingo’ allows one to be accepted within a community. Mum came out from England when she was 11. She had hardly a trace of an English accent, except when she was on the phone with her mother, when it came out quite strongly. I notice my speech changing the more I’m around people with other accents. When Carrie and Matt were here, I found myself developing an American accent, and using more Americanisms. It was unconscious and unintentional, and I felt a bit self conscious about it once I noticed. I guess though, that if you open your homes and your hearts to people, you become a little more like them. Something of them rubs off on you, and to me that’s not such a bad thing. The more we’re willing to share of ourselves with each other, the greater chance we have for peace.


Hands and heart

April 1, 2007

The flower arrangement at Meeting today was a combination of nerines and five finger. Nerines are a South African flower, and five finger (pseudopanax) is a New Zealand native. The person who had brought the flowers explained that they could be seen as a symbol of harmony, of the possibility for peace. In the 1980s New Zealand and South Africa were in conflict over a rugby tour where many people in New Zealand protested about the continued oppression of apartheid.

I liked the symbolism of the green five fingered pseudopanax as hands, and the bright nerines as hearts. When hands and heart are separated, at odds with each other, terrible things can happen. When they are aligned, in harmony there is the possibility for peace and beauty.


October 11, 2006

In Buffy the Vampire Slayer there is a character called Willow. She starts off as a stereotypical bookworm geek at school, but after becoming one of Buffy’s sidekicks she starts learning magic. Over several seasons she becomes a very powerful wicca. Eventually she gets addicted to the darker magics. When her lover is killed by a stray bullet she becomes overwhelmed with grief. Fueled by a spiral of rage and loss she consumes more and more power on her path to revenge. In consuming increasing amounts of power from the primal forces of the world she becomes more connected to the pain and suffering of all humans. To try to silence this anguish she attempts to end the world using magic.

She is saved by love. Where everyone else is trying to use power to stop her, her best friend Xander tells her that he loves her. He keeps telling her as she slashes him and burns him and hits him. He keeps telling her until her hair turns from black to red, and she breaks down crying, her power to harm exhausted.

This morning when I went running around the river, there were many willow branches on the ground. This often happens when there’s been a big wind. Some of the branches were just small twigs. Some were huge, a quarter or third of a whole tree. But we never seem to run out of willow trees. The wind blows down many branches, but the trees still grow.

To me, this is the spirit of non-violence. The trees do not try to fight the wind, they just bend before it, and sometimes they break. But always they grow. The immutable, irresistable power of love is expressed in the growth of living things, in the unconditional care of a friend in the face of grief, in the willingness of a people to reject violence and stand for a deeper truth.

I want to live in a world where…

July 6, 2006

Thomas’ question about our vision for 2050 has got me thinking further than just the environmental/sustainability frame he posed it in.

In 2050 I will be 78. I fully intend to be alive, healthy and active.

I want to live in a world where going to war to solve our differences is considered as pointless and barbaric as making human sacrifices to the sun god to try to influence the weather.

I want to live in a world where using crippling debt to keep third world nations politically compliant to the whims of first world powers is seen as as unjust as indentured servitude and human slavery.

I want to live in a world where exploiting the earth’s resources unsustainably for reasons of commercial gain is perceived as foolish and shortsighted as introducing stoats to New Zealand to control rabbits.

I want to live in a world where deciding whether to consider the rights of indigenous peoples, homosexuals, disabled people, or any other minority group is as academic a question as whether to give women the vote.

I want to live in a world like this, and I intend to do what I can to help create it.

Rage and Anger

March 12, 2006

Yesterday morning I read Anna’s post about the death of Tom Fox in Iraq. I have been struggling very hard not to feel angry and outraged about this. It’s the first time the war in Iraq has affected ‘one of my own’. I never met Tom Fox, but I know people who worked and trained with him.

Even more so than Harmeet Sooden who is a New Zealander, I seem to be affected by this happening to a Quaker. The threat of a similar fate befalling Harmeet also weighs heavy on my heart.

During the controversy with the Danish cartoons, I had my first stirrings of anger. Previously I had considered the Iraqi’s the ‘innocent oppressed’. But to see people killing each other, and reacting so violently, to what seems to us in the west just some cartoons, I found very difficult. It just seemed so ludicrous, such a ridiculous overreaction. It made me really start thinking about the harm we can cause by assuming that everyone thinks the way we do.

I was horrified to hear that Tom Fox was tortured before he was killed. In wanting to find out more, I googled ‘Tom Fox tortured’. The first result was from Tom’s own blog Waiting in the Light. It described the torture of four palestinians by the new Iraqi secret police. In reading this my anger abated. It seems so clear that the cycle of violence is so intertwined, feeding on itself, and consuming all in its path in its rage and anger. That Tom could still speak to this issue, could speak to my condition even though he had passed was a true wonder to me.

I think I now understand the Quaker Peace Testimony better. I found this statement on peace from NZ Quakers to make a new, deeper kind of sense to me.
“We totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances: no end could ever justify such means. We equally and actively oppose all that leads to violence among people and nations, and violence to other species and to our planet.”

I was also heartened by Tom’s own words, and felt them softening my outrage:

“We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.”

I see that this path we as Quakers and peacemakers choose has no guarantees, it might not even work. It might be slower, or cost more lives in the short term than going to war. But it is the only way that is right. I am convinced it is the only path that will lead to peace. If we have the courage to keep following it perhaps we can turn rage and anger into love and light.