rn: “morally logical” (& white poppies)


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,

James Porteous writes:

Date: Sat, 02 Oct 1999 13:41:30 -0400
To: •••@••.•••
From: James Porteous <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: Most of us just don't get it...

Sounds like a pretty damn morally logical reason to me.

At 01:14 PM 02/10/99 , you wrote:
>people protesting the Viet Nam war,
>actually only 20% or so did it for morally logical reasons, rather than
>simply because they did not want to be sent to Viet Nam or to see their
>loved ones sent there.

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Yes, actually, James, I agree that not wanting to go to war is a plenty good
enough reason to not go! It's just that I feel the "moral logic" (to use a
phrase I seem to have invented) can go much further. 

If we do not want to go to war, then we ought to be prepared to live in a
world in which there is no war, and MOST IMPORTANTLY in which we do not
benefit from getting others to go to war for us. The truth is though, that
to be a conscientious objector today requires that we not pay military
taxes, something that very few of us take the trouble to do. 

Here is a quote from Graham Greene (in _The Quiet AMerican_) which says the
same thing:

"Perhaps to the soldier, the civilian is the man who employs him to kill,
who includes the guilt of murder in the pay-envelope and escapes

To my mind, "moral logic" requires also that we do what we can to stop the
"financial warfare" that Michel Chossudovsky and others have described.
Again, very few people make the effort to do that; I think because most of
us are too complacent to really care if someone else's kids are dying from
an unjust economic system, as long as our kids are still ok (and actually
can buy cheap toys made by people who could never afford to buy those toys
for their kids).

See what I mean? Actually, (if my memory is correct) Gandhi supported the
Boer War (!) because he felt that as long as he was agreeing to be part of
the Empire, he had to fight in the Empire's wars. It was only when he made
the step of deciding that the Empire was wrong and that he no longer would
benefit from what the Empire could offer him, that he refused to go to war
for it.

Hmm, James, you have got me going here! I hope everyone will not mind
bearing with me. Let me tell you a story:

When I was teaching in Halifax, a teacher who was a veteral was responsible
for a bulletin board display for the month of November. Predictably, it had
all kinds of articles showing soldiers on the battlefield and this big
caption: WOULD YOU DIE FOR YOUR COUNTRY? ... That question worked on me a
bit and I came up with an answer in the form of a poem/song:

You asked me, 
Would I die for my country?
Let me tell you, 
I wouldn't do it lightly

For my life is precious beyond measure
And my country has borders of convenience
To make money
To keep out.

You never asked me if I'd kill for my country;
Let me tell you
I wouldn't do it lightly

For their lives are precious beyond measure
And their fate is bound up in our own.
Killing them, we licence our own death.

As you can imagine, Remembrance Day is a problematic holiday for me. Yes, I
want us to remember war and to commit ourselves to "NEVER AGAIN". But no, I
cannot sit idly by and let people tell our kids that we owe our freedom to
men with weapons killing other young men hardly much different from them!
And now, when I know very well that we are not only killing each other, but
this beautiful earth, home to many different beings, not just human beings,
I cannot bear to watch either as the official Remembrance Day ceremonies
create heap upon heap of styrofoam wreathes, each in a big cardboard box,
each one solemnly brought out before a bored audience. Garbage! Sacrilege! 

Finally, last year, I hit on a way to try to give voice to my deep feelings
around this holiday, to try to make of it something I can live with,
something I can tell my daughter about.

I found out about this white poppy tradition, which started when a Women's
cooperative Guild in Britain chose this symbol in 1933 to remind us all that
most of the victims of war are civilians, to commit themselves to the
revolutionary cause of working for a better world.

Together with some leaders in the Canadian peace movement, I put together a
press release for the occasion (and sent a copy to this list). 

This year, some of us are already at it again. We're already making white
poppies (mostly out of stuff that would be "garbage" otherwise) and getting
them out to people. Of course, we hope the whole thing will snowball! 

You want to join us in this work? If so, send me your address and I will
mail you a white poppy and let you know how you too can go into production,
if you want!

I would like to do up a new press release for this year, but am not finding
the time to get it together just yet. I'll copy the press release from last
year below, in the hope that it might inspire some of you to come up with
new ideas for a more timely press release for this year.

all the best, Jan
Remembering the Causes and Costs of War

Every year, Canadians remember their "war dead" at Remembrance Day
ceremonies from coast to coast.

Kris Mansfield, co-ordinator of the Victoria-based peace group, Conscience
Canada, will be commemorating Remembrance Day with white poppies this year,
as she has done before. "White poppies are part of an old and revolutionary
tradition dating back to 1933 when the Women's Co-operative Guild chose this
peace symbol. The symbol also has its roots in Flander's Fields - where red
poppies grow," explains Mansfield. "Wearing a white poppy is a way of
remembering not only our veterans and their sacrifice, but also our own
complicity in war and the efforts of people throughout the world to build
peace." Mansfield continues, "The white poppy also reminds us of the true
causes and costs of war: The arms trade, in which Canada actively
participates, flourishes at the cost of empty bellies and displaced peoples.
We need to remember that 95% of the vicitms of war are not soldiers but
civilians. We need to remember also that many of the economic policies our
government pursues create conditions which make war almost inevitable,"
explains Mansfield. 

Eric Fawcett, Founding President of Science for Peace, adds, "Financial
warfare, the deliberate undermining of regional economies,  kills people and
cripples even more lives than the hot wars that inevitably follow."  The
concept of 'financial warfare' refers to the grinding poverty in which
up to half the human race lives in poor countries that are loaded with huge
debts that can never be paid; and now with free market economies being
forced on Asian countries, the former Soviet Union and East Europe, we see
major nations like Russia and Indonesia falling into the same morass.  Johan
Galtung, the world-famous peace researcher, calls this
"structural violence", which destroys even more human lives than the
violence of weapons.

Bruna Nota, president of WILPF (Women's International League for Peace and
Freedom), hopes that the white poppy tradition will help us arrive at a new
way of viewing security. "We are like the people who created a whole science
based on the false premise that the earth is flat.  We are operating on the
false premise that security is garanteed by military forces and
preparedness. In fact only a just sharing of all resources, by the
availability of education, food, shelter, sanitation, health care, by the
full respect of human rights, by adopting practices that ensure the health
of the earth, air, water and all its inhabitants, can provide the security
in which we can care for each other in trusting and responsible communities." 

"I would like for Remembrance Day to become a day for renewing our
commitment to work for this vision of security," says Jan Slakov, a member
of the Voice of Women/la Voix des femmes who has taken up the white poppy
idea for the first time this year. "My hunch is that there are many people
who want to revitalize Remembrance Day and I want to do what I can to let
them know about the white poppy tradition and what it represents."

People can write to Jan Slakov at Box 35, Weymouth, NS, B0W 3T0 or
<•••@••.•••> if they would like more information or a sample
homemade white poppy. 

Tryna Booth, Coordinator
Canadian Peace Alliance/L'Alliance canadienne pour la paix
555 rue Bloor Street ouest/West suite/pièce 5, Toronto, ON  M5S 1Y6
Tel: (416) 588-5555  Fax: 588-5556  E-Mail: •••@••.•••

The CPA/ACP is a member of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear 
Weapons -- (http://watserv1.uwaterloo.ca/~plough/cnanw/cnanw.html)

Le 11 novembre :
Portez des coquelicots blancs pour la PAIX
"En portant un coquelicot blanc, on rappelle non seulement le sacrifice de
nos anciens combattants, mais également les efforts des gens qui, partout
au monde, s'efforcent de bâtir la paix. Le coquelicot blanc nous rappelle
les véritables coûts, les véritables causes de la guerre (...)"
Voir le communiqué en FRANÇAIS
à l'adresse suivante :

* Note *
Afin de ne pas provoquer inutilement des critiques acerbes, il peut s'avérer
préférable de porter un coquelicot blanc  * ET *  un coquelicot rouge...

Pacifiquement vôtre,



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