World Beyond War: A New Climate for Peace- Recap
On Saturday July 8, 2017, I attended the World Beyond War Conference as a guest of Roger Cole. I went along to see the other sides of the peace movement and to watch Roger give his speech. Some background knowledge of me to set some perspective, is that I am an American studying political science and communications, doing an academic internship with PANA, and more specifically Roger.
The conference was held out in the country, in the town of Cloughjordan at their Eco Village. The establishment was nice and the amount of people attending were small, but there was no lacking of character in the room. Voices were strong and opinions were stronger. Diversity in movements is a key factor to broadening the spectrum in which a movement will attract a following. To some degree there was a diversity. People came from different backgrounds socially and educationally, but other than that the ideas in the room were all vastly similar.
Roger often tells me that if you are talking politics with someone who agrees with you that it is just boring to reassure ideas off of each other. To say the least, this was mostly the case at this conference. Most people had the same ideas and would repeat them to each other all day long. In my opinion, that does not create momentum in a movement or even a think-tank at best.
Roger’s speech differed from the opinion of many in the room because he is not a pacifist, he just believes that Irish troops should not be dying for a cause unrelated to them. His speech went in to the history of this concept and why the Irish defense force should be separate of the EU. The clear knowledge Roger has on this movement is evident by the history he speaks of, and the policies he informs the audience on.
He gives examples of modern day problems facing Irish Neutrality in conjunction with the historical factors involved. It is clear Roger is speaking on a well researched idea and not just going on whim. Due to the well established research, he has a plan and knows how to get it done. This is a trait that didn’t prevail in many of the other people at this event. Uncertainty of how to move forward was more than prevalent for many activists in the room.
Peace is not a new idea, and neither is demilitarization. You do not need to explain to people what peace is, rather you need to explain what the benefits are and how it can be accomplished. Throughout our time at this conference, the same ideas of “how can we get the word out?” was a common theme. Some people had more scholarly ideas like pushing bills and lobbying. Where as other ideas stemmed from demonstrations and marches.
It is was very much obvious that I was the youngest person in the room, but there were a few others close in age as well. The whole time I couldn’t help but think of asking people what their numbers were of people affiliated through social media. How much traction are you getting?
There are two types of media in this day and age; Traditional- newspapers, major cooperate media, and magazines or tabloid. The other is Social Media- facebook, twitter, blogs, and anything user generated.
Most people were leaning towards how to get in to the traditional news to get publicity on their demonstrations. Maybe I am critical because I am young, but movements don’t start in traditional media any more. They start with everyday people exposing the issues via social media. Then the traditional media gets involved when the conversation has already been established.
The sponsor of the conference, World Beyond War, is a new idea. They combine the ideas of peace with the affects that war has on nature. This was an interesting new concept to me that I found to be momentous and appealing to multiple groups of people. It combines the peace movement with climate change. Two compelling ideas that I believe should continue to work together to make change.
What I didn’t like about World Beyond War at the conference, was the director, David Swanson. He couldn’t make the conference but instead sent a video to address the people who were there. He started the video stating that he didn’t make it to the conference because he essentially thought that for how much it would cost to get there, the fifteen minutes to speak was not worth it. This clearly made sense, but still put a bad taste in my mouth to start the video. Either way I moved on and listened to what he had to say.
He has a background in the area of peace and climate change, and there is no doubt about it that he is more than qualified for this position given his history and experience. On top of that, he seems passionate and driven to further this movement. I believe it is safe to say that he is doing a swell job, as his facebook page for World Beyond War itself has over 30,000 likes.
That being said, mistakes such as fact checking should not be missed. A growing organization needs to be as credible and reliable as possible in the stage of growth, and from the little research I have done, David Swanson had what seemed to be a fabrication of a story, simply to create an opportunity for himself to bash President Trump.
He claims to have met and spoke with retiring Irish ambassador to the United States, Anne Anderson, when she spoke at the University of Virginia in late April of 2017. In my own paraphrasing, he said he asked her why she has not done anything about American troops landing in Shannon Airport. Swanson said that Anderson’s response was that she had spoke with top officials of the United States which had told her this was legal and did not affect Irelands neutrality.
Swanson used this chance to assume, wrongly, that Anderson was alluding that she spoke with President Trump, and that Trump had lied to her. It was clear after a small amount of googling that Anderson has not met President Trump himself while being in office and that the last President there are Pictures or stories of her with, are ones with former President Obama.
She did in fact meet with Vice President Mike Pence in March at his residence, joined by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Mike Pence would be considered to be a top official in the US Government, but that is not who Swanson had claimed the information was coming from.
It is very plausible that there is more to the story that he did not mention, but from what I heard and what I have researched, I found this information to not be credible and therefore gave me a less than favorable opinion towards him.
On a lighter note, there was of course some speakers that positively stood out to me and made good points besides Roger.
Ed Horgan was one of the speakers at the conference who made one of the best points I heard all day. He talked about how as a peace movement we should be looking at the Pros in the world, not all of the Cons that we hear about. It was a statement of optimism which I felt was powerful, and in the right direction of success. Optimism is what is lacking in the world, and the power of it is of no less value than it ever was. Mr. Horgan seemed to have the right balance of academia and social determination needed for the movement. A balance that I find much needed in an area where individual countries government’s role, is just as important as the citizens of the worlds role to mobilize for change.
The last speaker I will touch on was John Maguire. For starters, John was on a short list of people who made an effort to talk to me. Instantly I felt his kindness and his intelligence. We had a brief conversation during one of the morning breaks where I learned that he had taught political science and we had a few things in common in that field of interest. Besides being kind and intelligent, he was well spoken and easy to listen to. When it came time for his speech I was all ears. He was clearly one of the people in the room knowledgeable of politics and history. And that was what his speech was on. As every person who studies politics knows, history can often be a good indicator and influence. Because of this, his speech was enriched with power and connection to his audience. He added influence to the group that I think a few of the speakers did not. His speech was more academic than some of the other speeches, but being the realist that I am, knowledge is power in these types of movements for change. Demonstrations often are not the reasons people change their minds.
John, Ed, and of course Roger all had speeches stemming from policy and academia. That was the common theme that spoke to me, and maybe it is because of my interest in that area, but also because I believe that is how steps are made and things get done. Everyone has their opinions on what works and what doesn’t, but again this was my recap.
There were plenty of other speakers that I did not touch on but these were the opinions of mine that stuck out as I was leaving the conference.
All of the speakers made good points on peace and climate change and that is not to be taken away from them. Nothing is perfect, but I believe World Beyond War has some work to do in the future if they want to make change in the world.
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