Friday, August 28, 2009

Acts of Peace: Resistance, Resilience and Respect

Next month a historic event will take place on Guam. A gathering of women activists from ten different regions, (Guam, Okinawa, Japan, US, Puerto Rico, Philippines, The Marshall Islands, Belau, South Korea and Australia) will take place from September 14-19th at the University of Guam. This gathering will be the 7th of its kind, and brings together activists who are working with each other and within their regions to mitigate existing negative impacts of militarization and decrease its influence in the world. The name of this gathering in Chamorro is "CHinemma’, Nina’maolek, yan Inarespetu para Direchon Taotao" which in English translates to, "Resistance, Resilience, and Respect for Human Rights." The link to the conference blog is here.

For those of you who don't know, militarization, as it sounds can refer to a process through which a place becomes inundated with military, power, technology, influence. Guam, since World War II has undergone generational periods of militarization, with huge spikes in US military presence coming every few decades, and then declining. Right now, it is in the beginning stages of a huge wave of militarization, with the 8,000 Marines + 9,000 dependents from Okinawa, only being the opening act.

So although militarism and militarization most commonly refers to the physical moving and increase of military presence, it can also refer to how a society relates to military or to a particular presence. So a militarized society is one which prioritizes war and those who make wars. It assumes that it is natural for the military to receive the largest part of a budget, that the military should be accommodated in whatever way it needs to be, and that military values, are universal values and should be accepted and celebrated by all. So militarism is also a social/political ideology, and one which doesn't see the military, as just another part of society, but a central one, and thus tends to view the world (especially those places outside of its borders) as something full of places that need to be policed, controlled, dominated and neutralized.

In both of these senses, Guam is a very militarized place. Guam "hosts" a lot of military, and rather than their presence being seen through some objective lens, it is seen through visions of liberation from World War II, the hand that feeds Guam, and fears of being called anti-American, despite the fact that Guam is barely considered American anyways. The United States military, its interests tend to dominate Guam and how it can see itself, or understand itself. And for every Senator in the Guam Legislature, who talks tough to Navy Commanders about the military buildup, you have two Senators and probably five thousand people on the island who say that the Navy and the military should be given whatever they need and be allowed to do whatever they want.

Although Guam is unique in many ways, it is hardly unique as being a place which is struggling under the heavy weight and pressure of US militarization. The communities which are all attending this conference, all have contemporary and historical relationships with the United States military. They are sites of awful and horrifying military contamination, they are places whose existences are kept on tight leashes because of their strategic military importance, they were testing grounds for military weapons, they have people, survivors who represent the horrible legacies of war, the violence against women and the displacement that always takes place. Some however are not just dealing with US forms of militarization, but their own postcolonial nation's attempts to militarize their societies.

In the Philippines for instance, there has been some very violent repression of democratic and grassroots activists. In Japan, the government has been long trying to get rid of Article 9 of its Constitution, which is known to some as the "peace article" or the "peace clause" and prevents Japan from creating a standing army which could be used for antagonistic purposes.

The actual text (translated into English) reads as follows:

ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

For any nation which wants to prove its first-world status today, a hi-tech, massive army that it is not afraid to use is a must, and the inability to build this in Japan is a source of constant frustration to Japanese nationalists.

When I attended a meeting with CODEPINK Osaka last month, one of the campaigns that they have taken on is the theme that Article 9 must be saved, as it is a "world treasure." The campaign is an important one, because the spirit of Article 9, or that military should be defensive in nature and not offensive, is one which is lost today, especially in countries such as the United States, who seem to casually assume an imperial consciousness, where the world is theirs to intervene into. When taken into account alongside another historic constitutional element, the nuclear-free clause of the original Palauan Constitution, both of these are truly historical and important acts of peace, meant to provide a foundation from which humans as a species , or a particular community, could start to step back, and away from the potential global doom and current violent chaos that he tends to cause (and is nowadays adept at exporting to other peoples' backyards).

The acts of war, that nations and armies take are always violent, loud, and brutal, they are meant to be a spectacle to strike fear into both those who are causing the violence and those who are receiving it. It is meant to make cower and submit those who are its recipients, but it is also meant to make weak and fearful those who are dishing it out. It is meant to make them dependent upon it, feel that they must have it, that if they are not oppressing someone, not militarizing somewhere, not taking over someone else's land or dictating how they live their lives, they can never feel safe. Without that violence, they feel helpless, as if their whole world could easily be stripped away or shattered. The safety or sovereignty that this violence enables is of course an illusion. You can lose the world over night or in the blink of an eye, no matter how many thousands you slaughter, millions you conquer, or billions of shoes you make people take off in airport security lines.

Acts of peace, are by their nature, more subtle, quieter, less perceptible. But as I see it, the upcoming conference is precisely about things such as this. Forming community across boundaries, building solidarity. Working towards peace, working towards justice. Finding ways to heal old wounds, heal the very soil which sustains us, and finding ways to confront past and current oppressors. They don't provide any lasting security either. They don't guarantee that you won't lose anything, that you won't be hurt, but they are instead acted based upon a very different impression of human beings, and one that takes the risk, that although anyone, from your closest friend, to your own family can be your potential enemies, it is a life far better lived, which trusts first, than strikes first. Which tries to build first, before it destroys.

I'm assisting with the conference in terms of online support, by setting up and helping update its blog. I've already pasted the link above, but just in case here it is again. Genuine Security.

There will be more updates on the blog as we get closer to the conference date. In the meantime, there are some links, info and images you can check out. For those of you who might be interested, I'm looking for writers (old and young, professional or non-professional) to help by attending the conference and writing about/covering the proceedings. If anyone is interested in this, you can send me an email at, or leave a comment on this post.

Lastly, the delegation from the United States which is attending the conference is having a fundraiser in a few days, on August 30th in the Bay Area. If you know people in the area, spread the word and pass along the info below. If you live in the area, consider coming to the event to help support these important efforts of activists working towards international solidarity, peace and demilitarization.


Please come out to support a 6-women delegation to Guam for the 7TH MEETING OF THE INTERNATIONAL NETWORK OF WOMEN AGAINST MILITARISM.

The meeting is entitled "Resistance, Resilience, and Respect for Human Rights". More info about the meeting is included below.

Women's Resistance, Resilience and Respect for Human Rights
Fundraiser House Party
1607 Sonoma Ave. Albany (home of Debbie Lee and family)
Sunday August 30th 2-5pm. Short program at 3pm

Events include:

*Deserts by Jonas Low, Pastry Chef at Gary Danko

*Lindsey Kerr trio
*Preview clips of WGS film, "Along the Fenceline: Women's Voices for Peace and Security" by Lina Hoshino
*Silent auction
*Activities for children

Driving directions:

From Highway 80, take Buchanan Street/Albany exit. Turn right and continue east on Buchanan/Marin Street. Turn right on Peralta. Left on Sonoma. Enter through pathway to the backyard garden.

Need a ride from North Berkeley BART? Call: 415 312-5583

Tax-deductible donations should be made payable to the Agape Foundation and earmarked “WGS.” For online donations, visit our website. We can also accept donations payable to WGS. Please mail checks to WGS, 965 62nd Street, Oakland CA 94608

About Women for Genuine Security: We envision a world of genuine security based on justice, respect for others across national boundaries, and economic planning based on local people’s needs. Our shared mission is to build and sustain a network of women to promote, model, and protect genuine security in the face of militarism. We are part of the International Women's Network for Peace. The International Women's Network started in 1997 and links women activists, policy-makers, teachers and students from Guam, Hawai'i, Korea, Okinawa, mainland Japan, the Philippines, Puerto Rico,and the United States to share information and strategize about the negative effects of military operations in all our countries.

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