Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Military celebrations

posted by Kathy

It sounds as though celebrating the military is to become a compulsory part of life. I've blogged about this, in a personal capacity, elsewhere but I paused before posting to a blog labelled "Quaker".

I haven't read the whole document yet as it's a large pdf file but I've seen a number of the proposals (which havthe e support of the government) which are widely reported in the press. There are, so far as I can see, three categories, although these sometimes overlap.

First there is a concern to make life easier for serving soldiers, particularly serving soldiers in uniform and those returning from war. It wouldn't be realistic to expect this concern to lead the government to disengage from war at once, disband the army and compensate ex-soldiers but I note that there's more interest in homecoming parades (which councils will be expected to organise) and discounts for serving soldiers in uniform in shops and at sporting events. It's disappointing that there's nothing to meet real concerns of soldiers about housing and health treatment - and nothing about the high level of homelessness and mental health problems among soldiers who have left the army. There's a provision which would make it a crime to discriminate against a soldier in uniform that I'll discuss later.

Then there are provisions to celebrate and glorify the army. Soldiers are to be more visible. Military parades, tattoos and so on will become a more frequent part of life and will be covered on television. There will be a new bank holiday (probably in June) to celebrate the armed services and veterans.)

Finally there are the provisions that will affect people's rights, especially the rights of children and anti-war activists. "Military awareness" will become part of the national curriculum and state schools will be encouraged to set up cadet corps for their pupils. No-one is talking about a right of conscientious objection from military awareness courses. Quakers and others may feel worried about the effect of this increased emphasis on the military in schools. It's bad enough already. In addition, we should watch out for the laws which make discrimination against serving soldiers a crime - and the laws which deal with abusing soldiers.

Obviously the first response of Quakers may be to say, "But we'd never do that." Nonetheless, laws are often used against peace protestors in surprising ways. I recall when Lindis Percy was accused of racial abuse for mistreating a United States flag. Will these laws be used against peace protestors. I've stood outside Chetwynd Barracks with other members of Beeston Quakers and anti-war protestors. I've handed out leaflets and spoken to soldiers through a megaphone. Would this be treated as discriminatory or abusive? We won't know until we see the law and how it is used.

The press has, on the whole, greeted the new proposals with enthusiasm and Gordon Brown has indicated that they will become law. These could be difficult days for peace-makers.


bookgeek:rhiannon said...

If they do go for that extra bank holiday, I hope that Quakers and others will be organising peace demonstrations that day.

Anonymous said...

Aren't we lucky we do still live in a society where we can express our right to disagree. Why don't you blog about real unjusts in the world. You should go to southern Sudan (Juba) and see what an opressive 'religion' has done to poor aids ridden christians who need our help but are refused even so much as a mention especially by the most impotent of all - the UN. Or would that mean you'd have to actually do something other than sit in your safe little world in Beeston!? Next women's rights - take that one on instead of sitting outside Chilwell Bks looking like a right bunch of idiots. Do you think there is anyone there who can do anything about it - let alone care - all you do is end up upsetting families who have enough to worry about. Honour killings - mmm let me see that's not terribly peaceful - mans inhumanity to woman! You people are the very worst. YOu sit in judgement in your safe little worlds behind your computers pumping out your drivel - GO INTO THE REAL WORLD AND PREACH - GO SEE MR ARMDINEJAD and tell him your concerns of nuclear holocaust. God why am I bothering with this - impotent bunch of twaddle. Now all these quakers makes me feel like porridge!PS If Mr Yezza was a PHd student in Engineering what a waste to be working as a PA in a language dept - oh well we're all entitled to career changes but seems a bit of waste. I'm sure if his visa papers are in order he'll be fine - I hope so.

Beeston Quakers said...

I have been too busy with work to reply eaerlier. However, thank you for helping me to think through the function of this blog.

It's obviously not a blog about all Quaker activities, and much as I care about many aspects of the world, I blog only about those where I want to communicate something or - on rare occasions - where I think discussion may help develop thought and dialogue. Some posts are just about what's going on and what the interests of the small Meeting in Beeston are.

To take up some of the points you raise, I don't have the knowledge that would help people in Juba and am not sure what effect I can have. I must think about it, and perhaps discuss the question with Quaker Agitator (linked on the sidebar), a North American Quaker who has concerns about Darfur but may have wider knowledge.

I've been an active feminist for most of my life but haven't written about this (yet) on the Beeston Quakers blog. I'm not sure how much blogging about honour killings or other aspects of violence against women would help at the moment. The experience of helping in a women's refuge many years ago gave me some idea of the comkplexity of the problem and I've tried to keep informed about the help that is legally available so that I can pass the knowledge on - but I find that I can do this most helpfully when I talk to someone one-to-one. There is information on the web and I don't at the moment feel inclined to blog about it.

If I were to meet Mr Ahmadinejad or any of the other people occupying positions of power in Iran, I might well offer opinions on some policies I find abhorrent - but I would also need to listen to what the Iranian rulers have to say. I am not convinced that they present a great nuclear threat, though they are threatened by the only nuclear power in the region. I was interested to note that Mr Ahmadinejad says that Islam, in his view, prohibits nuclear weapons. In any case, I think that, as a citizen of a democracy, I have a repsonsibility to speak against what I see as the evils committed by my own government since, as a citizen, I share responsibility for them.

When demonstrating in front of the barracks, I try not to say or do anything that will cause distress to the children of soldiers. However, those children may one day be distressed by the danger to their parents - or worse. One of my aims is to highlight the activities of such organisations as Military Families Against the War and to provide soldiers with information on what to do if they feel unable, on grounds of conscience, to continue their military careers.

I hope this is of some interest to you. Thank you for posting a comment.