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The Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation

Resistance is Creative: False Options and Real Hope

Draft for speech by Theresa Wolfwood, at Resisting Global Militarism conference, Victoria, BC, Canada, Sept. 27-29, 2001

This summer I was driving behind a tourist bus here in Victoria with a big AD for McDonalds potato chips which said, “Resistance is Futile”. I was so angry that I nearly went off the road. How dare they steal and corrupt our slogans? I went home and made the banner that says, “Resistance is Fertile”. Now we need that resistance more than ever. (And the need is urgent as we bomb, as predicted and feared, the suffering people of Afghanistan -added post Oct.7)

Today we are facing in this terrible global situation a polarization of false choices that leaves out the possibility of democratic civil resistance. We are told we must support the military terrorism of USA and its allies, including Canada. If we don’t the USA President says we are supporting this unnamed, unidentified terrorism of the tragedy in the USA. Those are false options which can only lead to more violence.

They remind me of the cold war when again we were told to support the militarism of our side, state capitalism, against the militarism of the other side, state communism. In those days peace activists were harassed and investigated, ridiculed and called reds or commie sympathizers. During the FLQ crisis in Canada, ( Quebec Liberation Movement in 1971) the War Measures Act was used as an excuse to round up intellectuals, workers and artist who wanted peaceful change. It is happening again, this year special police and spy networks were set up to track anti-globalization activists and these networks will be directed against all of us. We can expect opportunists, provocateurs and spies. So we must be very clear and open about our work at all times. And we need to form affinity and support groups for those who are most likely to be the focus of attention.

Globalization, the power of a few enormous corporations to exploit the world, can only flourish with the military force of the world’s richest nation and its sycophants. In post-cold war politics, the Pentagon stated in a policy document that its role is to defend the USA’s economic superiority, the world’s only superpower. Now as the economies of globalization, the G-8, are failing their own agendas of growth and power, the City of Calgary wants $18 Million to protect itself from protestors next year who plan to question this failed agenda in public. In USA military stocks rise as that country prepares for war. {The economies of the Minority World are all in recession -just like 11 years ago when we had the gulf war}. Let us face it, war is good for business, it has always been the panacea for bad economics.

Peaceful resistance to the evils of any kind of terrorism, by states, groups or individuals, is all that will save the world. Violence is elitist, anti-people and shows a lack of trust in humanity and lack of faith in collective social change. We have a big task to challenge these death ideologies – but we have a big movement. We will expose the lie that there are good and bad kinds of violence and that we must choose between them. As Bill Phipps ( moderator of United Church of Canada, at Resisting Global Militarism Conference) told us on Thursday, now is the time, we must seize the day, the global powers are in disarray. We reject all violence that kills innocent people wherever they are. 90% of the victims of modern state military warfare are unarmed civilians. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer -everywhere. 80% of the earth’s resources are consumed by 20% of its population. Starvation, homelessness, grinding poverty and landlessness are also forms of violence.

Resistance is more than protest. Resistance is a locally rooted, globally connected life time project that seeks and speaks the truth about evil and violence. Resistance unites diverse people in the work for peace and justice. Resistance makes the connections between military oppression, the rule of elites, the oppression of the poor and dispossessed, the consolidation of power in international alliances like NATO, WTO, FTAA and the destruction of our planet’s biodiversity.

Our lives are filled with the culture of consumerism and the glorification of violence. We must take back our space and fill it with hope. Our task is to overcome the brutal injustice and appalling inequality that the ideologies of death have wrought. We will have to reject, unplug, turn off the corporate media of advertising, manipulated news, violent and mindless entertainment. This is how they obliterate creativity, memory and discernment.

We need to create and strengthen our own means of communication, with each other and the world, take the time, as Rosa Luxemburg ( German socialist, in early 20th century) said, to find new forms and new language. { And I wish resisters would not use words like ‘march’ and ‘target’ and we need to reclaim ‘security’ from the military and talk about real human security}. To do that we need to reclaim the space in our minds, senses and lives that have been jammed full with the trivialization of consumerism and violence. Jose Bove, the French activist, told me this year that one of the great dangers of militarism is that it is used to impose the standardization of the culture of the strong on the weaker. We see today the results, everywhere, of that imposed oppression. Let’s overturn it, overcome passive alienation and let’s create a culture of peace.

Our resistance is creative. We take the inspiration of the Zapatistas, { I use them because I was a human rights observer in a village there, a few years ago} peacefully creating local autonomy in Mexican villages, growing their crops, using their own languages, true to their non-commercial subsistence life, even as the military returns to their homeland. Their uprising started the day NAFTA came into force, the day the indigenous people would lose their communal land and be forced by the military to leave their subsistence farms. Their resistance grows -can we do less?

Creative resistance is the wisdom of saying many ‘ NO’s’.

No to Nuclear testing in the South Pacific

No to Genetically Modified Organisms

No to Oil exploration on sacred or ecologically sensitive lands

No to the trade agreements that favour and strengthen the military industries and forces.

No to speculation on the stock market – where military stocks soar

No to the loss of civil liberties everywhere

No to intolerance and violence against different ethnic and religious groups

We have many NO’s, but only one YES, as the Zapatistas say. YES to peace with justice!

We need to root our YES in our own community. Build bridges with people in poverty. Support native land claims. Shut down Nanoose Bay Testing Range ( USA military test range for maritime weapons systems, near Victoria, BC). End USA military tourism and adventurism in our ports and waters. Connect with the local environmental movements, war is the greatest destroyer of our planet. Paving paradise is a precursor to bombing babies. The global can undermine the local – biodiversity is threatened on every level. Let us work in solidarity with groups in struggle against oppression around the world. In the words of Kay Macpherson, (late Canadian feminist/peace activist), ‘when in doubt, do both’.

Again, we need to be creative about our response to media manipulation. Not only what we see and read, but why some stories and not others. We should question and doubt everything we are fed. The images of September 11 will stay with us, not only because the events were so terrible, but because 80% of the world’s media repeated and repeated the images of the events.

But I want to tell you about some images that are burned into my brain.

On September 11, 1973, the democratically elected government of Chile was overthrown and President Allende was assassinated. Thousands of citizens were herded into a stadium by the military. The popular singer, Victor Jarra, was among them. He started to sing, was ordered to stop, he continued, they cut off his hands, bleeding, he sang until they killed him – and thousands more.

In Baghdad this year, I stood in a children’s hospital ward, filled with still, silent little bodies, grasping for life. The doctor said to me wearily, “They will all die.” Indeed 5000 of them die every month.

I just received a photo from my friend, Wanjiku Kironyo in Kenya. She runs a refuge for women and children in need. The photo showed two forlorn children, AIDS orphans, abandoned on the doorstep of her already bulging building. Thousands of children die in Africa everyday – from the diseases of poverty.

I ask – why aren’t those images beamed around the world?

In the creativity of resistance, ‘ we can be our own media’, as Rosalie Bertell (Canadian scientist and anti-nuclear expert) says. We can choose and seek to know what is important to us, and support and participate in our own independent media and networks.

In creative resistance we examine in our own lives – personal and local violence and inequality. We can plant our creativity in our homes, workplaces, school and churches. These are still influential institutions where ideas and attitudes are born. When we oppose nuclear pollution and radioactive contamination, we say that all the people of tomorrow are carried by in the eggs of women today. We can also say that all the ideas and inspiration of tomorrow are also in hearts and minds of people today. Birth and life are creative!

In our personal, community and global reality we will have to address the appalling inequality between men and women – in life conditions, wealth and freedom. And we must question the differences in values between men and women. Violence is glorified in sport and entertainment, an almost total male monopoly. Women and children are the main victims of domestic violence. Women own 10% of the world’s property, produce 70% of our food and do most of the work. Another image I see in my mind, the streets of Managua, Addis Ababa, Manila, many cities, are filled with idle men. Women are invisible -they are working or confined to home- to work there, also.

The global factories that produce our cheap clothes, computers, weapons systems and toys are staffed by women – abused, raped and harassed by a few male supervisors. The sex trade exploits millions of women. They are trapped in their need to support whole families. Those idle men on the streets lack status, work and self-worth. Violence is often their only means of self-expression. They are ripe easy picking for ideological, ethnic and civil wars. Give them a uniform and a gun – and they are someone. Here too in Canada, the military lure the unemployed into the killing life. Our society and men, especially, must recognize the particularity of violence against women. Men do most of the killing -women do most of the dying. Yet all research shows that women, even in hawkish England, are less likely to support war and violence and more likely to care about the victims of violence. Where are the women’s voices in this war situation? Why are the commentators and speakers usually men? Men and women everywhere need meaningful and dignified work. This is project for our creative resistance -even as we examine our own relationships within movements. The resistance movement can become a microcosm of the world we build together. Gandhi said, ‘we must be the change we want to see in the world.

Resistance is an open borderless country which we can only create if men and women are equal, a community where people of all colours and backgrounds are at home, where nature is respected for its abundance, where we ‘put life in the centre’, ( Maria Mies, German author-activist) and where creativity blooms in everyone. A collective and united resistance liberates from our fears. We are not trapped between the terror of a great power and the terror of rage against that power. Pessimism is not an option; despair is a useless luxury. As Swiss anti-NATO activists say, solidarity, not war. Happiness is the best revenge for violence and hatred.

Resistance nourishes us and gives us a place and a purpose in life. We create that country by walking there together, smoothing the roads for those who come after us.

Resistance is creative, fertile, fruitful and ‘resistance is the secret of joy ‘. ( Alice Walker, Afro-American writer.)

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