rn:”Transforming Babylon”/Christmas in the Trenches!


Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance Network,

Richard wrote in his recent posting of dialogue re: Do you still believe in
the tooth fairy?:

Whether or not it [global fascist take-over] can be stopped
 is yet to be seen.  But one
thing is for sure, it cannot be stopped by any external
force.  The Allies stopped Hitler, and in this case there is
no comparable external savior to turn to. [Hmm, of course, as part of that
same posting points out later, it was not just "the Allies" but also the
Resistance, in Denmark & elsewhere...]  Babylon must be
transformed from within. 
Transforming Babylon from within will be formidable.  We
must note that there was very little likelihood of Hitler
ever being overthrown from within.  The Nazi regime might
have changed character after Hitler's eventual death, but in
our case the regime is more institutional, not dependent on
any one personality.

Interesting alright, to compare what we are up against with Nazism.

I think, because we must transform from within, it will not just be
"formidable" but exhilarating. The people who tried to transform Nazism from
within were, for the most part, executed. (I hope their spirit is still
strong among us!; I named my daughter after one of them, Sophie Scholl.)

But, perhaps because the regime would show its "hand" too clearly if it did
so, it is not executing those of us who are denouncing it, at least not
systematically, not yet. 

This is buying us time, time to get at least some of the truth out, to build
networks and, most importantly, I am sure, to "make love real". For I see
our struggle as ultimately not one of defeating or ousting those who hold
power now, but of doing what happened at that church in Leipzig (see
"Beautiful Resistance" posting of Dec. 12): people stop clinging to power
and control when they feel safe to do so. Even people who have been
supporting fascism/human rights violations/war [and that includes all of us,
really, to some degree or the other...]. 

I am excited because I see people changing. I see how a whole variety of
movements and ways of working are contributing to a path that may just lead
towards a healthy, livable world.... I remember, at the workshop we held
near here (the workshop which was the reason for this list coming into
existence) Bruna Nota told us about how despairing she would feel until she
was able to see her work fitting in to a huge web of work being done by all
kinds of different people in all kinds of different ways. When we see that,
then we no longer have to become "perfect" ourselves, for we can allow our
contribution to become perfect by being part of a whole which is perfect,
but which no one person or movement can encompass.

The fact that I got the message below from 3 people, that at least two of us
were moved to tears by it, and the fact that the "Christmas in the Trenches"
song it mentions was played on CBC Radio's _the House_ right before
Remembrance Day... these are all hopeful signs!

all the best, Jan
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2002 09:54:29 -0500
From: Caspar Davis <•••@••.•••> (by way of Mike Nickerson)
Subject: The Christmas Truce and a nascent nonviolent peace army

Hi Again:
        Have you seen this story?  It moved me to tears.

                Yours,  Mike Nickerson
Thanks to Tom Atlee:

5)  The Christmas Truce (a WW1 peace story), and news of a nascent
nonviolent peace army...

This story was passed on to me by David Hartsough <•••@••.•••>
who during 2001 traveled to Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand,
Cambodia, Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador meeting
with peacemakers and human rights workers.  He learned a lot and found good
response to his own project -- a nonviolent peaceforce (NP)
<http://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/>, a plan to build a nonviolent,
unarmed equivalent of a standing army "of several hundred and eventually
thousands of trained skilled nonviolent peaceworkers who can go into
conflict areas at the invitation of local peaceworkers to support their
work and to be the international eyes, ears and conscience of the people
around the world. We want to let the would-be warmakers know that the world
is watching and let the local peaceworkers know they are not alone."

David's holiday newsletter carried the following factual -- and inspiring
-- piece of forgotten history:


On Christmas Day, 1914, only 5 months into World War I, German, British,
and French soldiers, already sick and tired of the senseless killing,
disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with "the enemy" along two-thirds
of the Western Front (in times of war, a crime punishable by death). German
troops held Christmas trees up out of the trenches with signs, "Merry
Christmas."  "You no shoot, we no shoot."  Thousands of troops streamed
across a no-man's land strewn with rotting corpses. They sang Christmas
carols, exchanged photographs of loved ones back home, shared rations,
played football, even roasted some pigs. Soldiers embraced men they had
been trying to kill a few short hours before. They agreed to warn each
other if the top brass forced them to fire their weapons, and to aim high.

A shudder ran through the high command on either side. Here was disaster in
the making: soldiers declaring their brotherhood with each other and
refusing to fight. Generals on both sides declared this spontaneous
peacemaking to be treasonous and subject to court martial. By March, 1915
the fraternization movement had been eradicated and the killing machine put
back in full operation. By the time of the armistice in 1918, fifteen
million would be slaughtered.

Not many people have heard the story of the Christmas Truce. Military
leaders have not gone out of their way to publicize it. On Christmas Day,
1988, a story in the Boston Globe mentioned that a local FM radiohost
played "Christmas in the Trenches," a ballad about the Christmas Truce,
several times and was startled by the effect. The song [given below] became
the most requested recording during the holidays in Boston on several FM

"Even more startling than the number of requests I get is the reaction to
the ballad afterward by callers who hadn't heard it before," said the
radiohost. "They telephone me deeply moved, sometimes in tears, asking, 'What
the hell did I just hear?'"

I think I know why the callers were in tears. The Christmas Truce story
goes against most of what we have been taught about people. It gives us a
glimpse of the world as we wish it could be and says, "This really happened
once." It reminds us of those thoughts we keep hidden away, out of range of
the TV and newspaper stories that tell us how trivial and mean human life
is. It is like hearing that our deepest wishes really are true: the world
really could be different.

Excerpted from David G. Stratman, We CAN Change the World: The Real Meaning
of Everyday Life (New Democracy Books, 1991). Available for $3.00 from New
Democracy Books, P.O. Box 427, Boston, MA 02130.

Christmas in The Trenches
Words & Music by John McCutcheon
c. 1984 John McCutcheon / Appalsong

This song is based on a true story from the front lines of World War I France
that I've heard many times. According to a recent source, Ian Calhoun, a
Scot, was the commanding officer of the British forces involved in the
story. He was subsequently court-martialed for 'consorting with the enemy'
and sentenced to death. Only George V spared him from that fate.  -- John

My name is Francis Toliver, I come from Liverpool.
Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school.
To Belgium and to Flanders, to Germany to here
I fought for King and country I love dear.

'Twas Christmas in the trenches, where the frost so bitter hung
The frozen fields of France were still, no Christmas song was sung.
Our families back in England were toasting us that day
Their brave and glorious lads so far away.

I was lying with my messmate on the cold an rocky ground
When across the lines of battle came a most peculiar sound.
Says I, "Now listen up, me boys!" each soldier strained to hear
As one young German voice sang out so clear.

"He's singing bloody well, you know!" my partner says to me.
Soon, one by one, each German voice joined in harmony.
The cannons rested silent, the gas clouds rolled no more
As Christmas brought us respite from the war.

As soon as they were finished and a reverent pause was spent
"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" struck up some lads from Kent.
The next they sang was "Stille Nacht," "'Tis 'Silent Night,'" says I
And in two tongues one song filled up that sky.

"There's someone coming towards us!" the front line sentry cried.
All sights were fixed on one lone figure trudging from their side.
His truce flag, like a Christmas star, shone on that plain so bright
As he, bravely, strode unarmed into the night.

Soon one by one on either side walked into NO Man's Land
With neither gun nor bayonet we met there hand to hand.
We shared some secret brandy and wished each other well
And in a flare lit soccer game we gave 'em hell.

We traded chocolates, cigarettes, and photographs from home.
These sons and fathers far away from families of their own.
Young Sanders played his squeezebox and they had a violin
This curious and unlikely band of men.

Soon daylight stole upon us and France was France once more
With sad farewells we each prepared to settle back to war
But the question haunted every heart that lived that wondrous night
"Whose family have I fixed within my sights?"

'Twas Christmas in the trenches where the frost, so bitter hung.
The frozen fields of France were warmed as songs of peace were sung.
For the walls they'd kept between us to exact the work of war
Had been crumbled and were gone forevermore.

My name is Francis Toliver, in Liverpool I dwell,
Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well,
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame
And on each end of the rifle we're the same.

Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440
http://www.co-intelligence.org *  http://www.democracyinnovations.org
Please support our work.  *  Your donations are fully tax-deductible.
"Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric..."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay