Talisman Sabre 2007 & 2009

Wherefore the Peace Movement — recollections of Talisman Sabre 07, and speculation about the state of the “peace” “movement”.

by Brian Law

Editor’s Note: This article takes up where “Peace Convergence” left off. In part this is in response to a request from Ciaron O’Reilly [Please note that the comments thread for “Peace Convergence” has been closed and any further comment can been placed here].

image The Pine Gap 4 were sentenced in Alice Springs on 14 June 2007, and I’d been expecting to spend some months in prison. Instead we got fines, and time to pay, so I travelled down to Rockhampton and Yeppoon for the Peace Convergence just to observe what happened and offer limited support to Adele, Jessica and June – and their friends.

Jessica and June had been at our trial, and were planning to enter the exercise area and try to curtail parts of the exercise through their presence on site.

By the time I arrived there were perhaps 80 activists at Yeppoon, and 8 of them had entered the site on the morning of the day I arrived. The mass activities were planned for the weekend in four days time, and each day more people were arriving. Busloads were coming on Friday. Maybe 700 had arrived for the Saturday.

PART A – THE “MASS” PROGRAM

1/ I’d only followed the organising process vaguely, because I was caught up in the PG4 trial preparations, but I recall the dates of the convergence were chosen to fit in with University holidays – and thereby boost the numbers of students who could catch the buses from Sydney and Brisbane.

I was shocked when I arrived at the Rockhampton Airport, and checked out the temporary Australian Army base on Western Road near the airport, that all of the materiel needed for the exercise (tanks, trucks, artillery, personel) had already been moved from the temporary base to the exercise area – leaving no easy and visible targets for blockade action during preparation for the wargames. Given that the convergence would be ending three weeks before the wargames, this severely limited the availability of direct actions in which significant numbers of people could participate.

This was the first weakness that I spotted. A focus on “mass” participation had been allowed to set a timetable which didn’t incorporate opportunities for strong direct action.

2/ I also noticed when I arrived that there were plenty of US servicemen at the Rockhampton Airport hanging out at the cafes and shops ‘cos it was close to the Western Road camp, within walking distance. The only other US personnel I saw during the week were officers staying at the Capricornia Resort (where I also stayed). There was no discussion about talking with/leafleting service personnel during the exercise, I think because the focus was on the Shoalwater Bay Training Area – and this was reinforced by the strong attention on environmental issues rather than peace issues.

While I understand this emphasis – and it is appropriate to a certain degree (both inherently and because local support in Yeppoon, Bifield and Rockhampton is itself strongly environmental) it meant that valuable opportunities were passed up. (Rockhampton Airport, Capricornia Resort, and Gladstone Port where US ships docked and off-loaded).

3/ There was no analysis of the goals of the mass action, apart from a vague notion of media coverage and winning general community approval for peace actions. The organising centrepiece in Yeppoon was an “embassy” set up in a local shopping centre which was meant to become an organising hub and meeting place for action, education and public relations.

Local activists spent enormous energy and funds to get this centre up and running, but it wasn’t very effective for reasons both within and without their control.

A central failing was the lack of telephone lines, because Telstra was just unable to provide them in time. So media work and internet work was hobbled somewhat.

Another was the noisy nature of the space which made conversation and organising very trying, and led to lots of hairy people milling about in the corridors, which brought serial rebukes from the shopping centre operators.

The embassy was a central place to meet people, but having met them I did all my business elsewhere. I had some money so I shouted the media team a hotel room with a dial-up internet connection so they had somewhere quiet to work.

It has to be said that a small core of local organisers did outstanding work arranging venues and facilities for the public meetings and rallies conducted in Yeppoon.

4/ A central ongoing weakness lay in piss-poor organising and facilitation processes for those who travelled to the Convergence. Organisers from Brisbane facilitated everything in one big group so that there were meetings of more than 100 people trying to discuss crowded and complex agendas with insufficient time and attention.

Undisciplined egos threw many spanners in the works at these meetings, and facilitators would delay starting times to allow stragglers to attend without missing anything. Twice I witnessed groups of 100 being asked to wait one or two hours while a “busload” was on its way. It amounted to an abuse of many folks time and energy.

The ideas of task groups, small groups, and spokes and wheel decision-making has been around for more than 30 years, but it’s clear that peace organisers in Brisbane have never learned them or skilled up in using them.

5/ There were two set-piece “mass” “actions” – a gathering at the green gate on Saturday, and a march through town to a concert/speak-out on Sunday.

The gathering at Green gate was affected by advance notice which allowed Police to establish a road-block some 8 kilometres from the actual gate, and there were no convoys of war machinery to address. Nevertheless some 100 folk made the long walk against Police direction to the gate where they attacked the wire until calmed down by police liaison and nonviolent activists. The Police allowed them to be bussed back because of exhaustion, and participants felt good to have defied the police and made the journey, but there was little real intervention.

The march and concert on Sunday was carnivalesque and a successful feel-good action. Very colourful, with some excellent speakers, and the first warm sunny day of the whole affair.

As well there was a public meeting which I missed, filled with academic and movement speakers along with indigenous speakers from Guam and Hawaii who addressed the impact of US militarisation on their home Islands. There was also participation from local indigenous representatives.

Finally there was a concert on the Saturday night which I also missed because I was picking up and driving home some of the direct activists who’d trespassed in the exercise area and been arrested.

SUMMARY

The mass program dominated proceedings, and made for a busy time for both the local organisers/supporters, and anyone who came for the convergence.

The timing of the Convergence ensured that most attendees would not have a chance to experiment with direct action. There was no place established for training in or discussion of direct action, and I take some responsibility for that and intend to correct it somewhat in 2009.

I suspect that the mass program attracted so much organising energy because it was assumed by key leaders to be central to social change, although it didn’t feel very purposive or powerful to me. The Mass program had significant direct impact on Yeppoon and Bifield in that it created a presence and a talking point across the community.

Given travel costs and other expenses for out-of-town participants, I have questions about how cost-effective the mass program was. I think that public meetings and rallies in the Capital cities and regional centres people came from, along with affinity group actions, could have been more effective in spreading the word and building resistance nationally – and some of that was done in Brisbane and Sydney in advance of the Convergence.

PART B – THE SMALL GROUPS PROGRAM

There were a half dozen or so affinity groups that took autonomous action during the Convergence.

Two of these were support groups that enabled better functioning of the Convergence as a whole:

The street theatre/Chai tent that provided colourful banners, costumes and set-dressings as a part of every action/public event. Bennie Zable was instrumental in this group, and;

Food Not Bombs which provided cheap nutritious hot meals for Convergees.

Four were direct action affinity groups. Two groups of four medium term trespassers, One group of five short-term trespassers, and a group associated with the cultural group Combat Wombats that locked onto a US truck at a major intersection in Rockhampton.

The first three groups were either explicitly Christian or heavily influenced by Christian values. The Samuel Hill 5 designed an action to re-inforce the two medium term groups. The fourth was independent and, so far as I guess, secular.

In terms of media attention the action groups commanded the lion’s share, for considerably less expense than any of the mass actions. Personal costs were higher.

There was room for improvement in the medium term trespass actions. One group got wet in 1 degree temperatures. There was no prior liaison with ADF or Defence, and the Army’s first reaction was to label the actions a hoax and proceed regardless. A senior bureaucrat in Defence Brisbane was contacted a day later, and began inquiries to determine risk to activists. He asked for evidence that anyone was in the exercise area and was supplied with video from David Bradbury and the actual undeniable presence of the Samuel Hill 5. Which, along with a missing person’s report to Police, changed the dynamic of trespass and got the Army as well as Police actively involved in a search.

All offenders have now been tried. Four of the Samuel Hill 5 were convicted on 24 April 2008, had many nice things said about them by the Magistrate, and were given 6 month good behaviour bonds, in default $500.

PART 3 – THE THIRD WAY

Call me prejudiced, ‘cos I only saw them in meetings, but there were 120 or so semi-feral Convergees who organised pickets and other symbolic protests, including symbolic trespass, around nearby fences and gates attended by Police, and generally with the Army well out of sight.

These people have a resistance to Capitalism and oppression built in to lifestyle. They also have an impulse to “one big organism”, so that everyone joins in one big action. It does however have to be one big action which is convenient to them. Not too early in the morning, not too strenuous, low risk, and with lots of counter cultural elements. Lots of Chai and heroism. Like I said, I didn’t get too close to these people. None of them stayed at the Capricornia Resort.

WHY THE PRESENT FAILINGS?

I think Ciaron’s criticisms of David Bradbury and the culture of celebrity are partly valid, but drawn too harshly. In part Ciaron has a distracting emotional involvement that leads him to condemn David Bradbury in particular, and makes him unavailable for problem solving.

Rather than condemning celebrity in particular, I think the key problem is mired in how “leadership” is seen and articulated in the peace movement, and how diversity and conflict is handled.

Because so much of the “mass” movement is composed of white middle class folk there’s an unquestioning acceptance of white middle class leadership. So that David Bradbury’s call for marchers to wear their “Sunday Best” in an attempt to structure media coverage is actually taken seriously instead of being simply disregarded.

The social system we have is by and large successful for the white middle class. They are well housed, fed, educated and included in mainstream political processes, and so it looks straightforward to them that the simple expression of political opinion will be effective if it is substantial and widely publicised.

Moreover the role of the middle class is to police and regulate the social norms, so that working class and underclass folk are held to behaviours which will not threaten social stability.

So my experience in Cairns in 2003 was that Margaret and I and friends and colleagues ran an 18 month preparation program building knowledge and tactical analysis of the coming war, and preparing for direct action and resistance when, as we predicted, majority public opinion was disregarded as the state went to war.

We encouraged those folk who wanted symbolic only action to organise independently, and in late 2002 a group emerged calling itself the Cairns Peace Coalition. That group took it on itself to condemn and interfere with our program because it was “too radical”, and didn’t show sufficient “respect for the troops” (although we had a dialogue with service-men and women and they didn’t). Apart from attacking and splitting us, nothing that group did achieved more than an isolated newspaper story, and six months after the state went to war they ceased to exist or operate. They served the Labor Party well.

I see the same kind of people active in Brisbane and Sydney Peace Groups, and certainly among the academic institutions of “Peace Studies”. These people assume they ought be in charge of a “movement” and tend to monopolise microphones wherever they are found. (alright, I’m still pissed off at being attacked by gormless fools).

I’ve learned that direct confrontation with these people is counter-productive. Similarly, but for different reasons, with the “one big happy family” lifestyle resisters. In a space like the convergence these people will organise the activities they’re happy with, and there’s no real need to challenge or criticise them for it. The “make love not war” debacle was at worst a minor blip.

The challenge is to carry out actions beyond the symbolic so as to inspire more and more people to stretch in their peace-making work. Successful nonviolence creates a tension which engages people in their spirit and emotions, not simply in their intellect.

The Pine Gap 6, the Samuel Hill 5, and the future groups at Adelaide this year, and Talisman Sabre next year, are operating with a drive and integrity that is spreading in Australia and winning more acceptance and converts. The Christian Activist Network is the most exciting nonviolence group in Australia.

It’s important to operate in some way in relation to events like the Peace Convergence. It’s essential to avoid being attacked by the middle class leadership because the resultant tension splits rather than builds a movement. We need to extend tolerance for lower order activities while continuing to demonstrate the kind of nonviolent actions that work better, and to reach out to those who are interested in becoming more powerful.

It’s a slow process. We’re starting from a position of weakness, but we are growing in numbers, sophistication, and effect.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

On a tactical level the Convergence functioned more or less effectively across all levels.

There is much room for improvement in organising. There is much room for improvement in movement building. I’d suggest that we could easily make a four-fold increase in “productivity” in 2009 for the same kind of investment, and without asking anyone to change their plans or analysis.

My thinking is to establish a nonviolence presence at Yeppoon a fortnight or so before the exercise begins:

Create a training/discussion/action centre at a Holiday House or retreat centre or other facility close to transport. Encourage affinity groups to take some supported actions as targets become available. Assist with organising intelligence, networking, media, legal, training, accommodation, and follow through.

Hold regular information and video sessions for Convergees who’d like to learn more about nonviolence. Conduct panel discussions on organising and strategic issues featuring in the Convergence.

Cheers

Bryan

15 responses to “Talisman Sabre 2007 & 2009

  1. As someone who was at most of the Peace Convergence, I agree with most of Bryan’s analysis of its strengths and shortcomings. Having said that, I wasn’t at any of the gate actions, preferring to focus on making my own intervention as effective and consistent as possible. Timing (or lack thereof) was clearly a key issue, as was the lack of resources. Too few people were left having to organise masses of people who were ultimately ineffective in terms of strategic goals, and those people are now largely burnt out and not up for 09 involvement. 09 has to do more with less, and my sense is that it is possible given the resources of (in particular) faith-based activist communities that I know of.

    I guess the environmental aspect depends on your passion; personally, having spent a fair bit of time now in the Byfield area and growing to love it through personal connection I can’t help seeing it as absolutely central. I also believe, contra Ciaron, that the environmental issues are core to broadening the base of opposition to these exercises, as everyone I talk to about it is less concerned about Australia and the US training together than they are about the US bombing our coast, particularly as it is so close to the Barrier Reef Marine Park (although I acknowledge that in 07 it may have attracted a bunch of hippies, which says more about who it was advertised to than it does about the environment as an issue). Beside that, as I argued in my own defence, war and earth issues are deeply (though often unconsciously) connected (“There is a profound connection between the way we treat each other and the way we treat the earth” – Wendell Berry) – what affects one affects the other. Having said that, I agree that DU (through DB ;)) hijacked the real agenda – it was never a real issue, it was always an anti-war/earth protection one, and I’m more than happy to sit with, and have my heart broken by, both sins as a privileged white Western male Baptist minister.

    Ironically, the activist having the most impact on the bombing was Migaloo, the white whale who somehow (seriously, can anyone deny there is a God?) managed to time her run up the coast in such a way as to interfere with TS07’s most destructive plans after all the people had packed up and gone home. I found that profoundly humbling, and goes beyond class, gender or race arguments. How does the earth critique our power, strategies and ideologies?

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  2. Thanx Brian for a well written piece.

    I guess we can take it for granted that the whole emphasis on depleted uranium in organising around OTS 07 was a distraction, possibly knowingly deceptive, to push a DVD doc and hype the fear factor. Those with an emphasis on uranium now have a multiple targets in terms of mines with the Rudd/Garret sell out and government. So maybe they will be organising aound uranium mines rather than OTS 09. In organising around OTS 09 the broader issues of militarism and the specific ongoing Australian/U.S. joint hot operations in Iraq and Afghanistan should be the focus.

    Beyond the issues and directives of “haircuts and sunday best”, the pre-OTS demonstration in Brisbane celebrating the “good war” (WW2) and marching away from U.S. troops staying at downtown hotels was also a serious error in terms of raising the tension. It seemed also to display political naievity and cluelessness about how you raise the temperature with limited numbers. Such conservative leadership from the peace convergance celeb and underlings was too politically conservative and introspective. It militated against a broader engagement in the ongoing U.S./Australian hot war involvements (Afghanistan and Iraq) and an expansive spreading of opposition to the OTS 07 exercises across the country.

    As you say the focus on the environment of the Shoalwater area led to a NIMBYism and likewise lack of expansiveness. From memory, there was more of nationwide coordinated opposition during Kangaroo 95 (involving Indonesian and U.S. troops) in remote training areas.

    The dates for the convergance seemed poorly selected with the limited opposition peaking and disappearing before the exercises were underway or completed. Those OTS organisers concerned with projecting their media profiles were unwilling to take an arrest so could hardly lead from the front. Some of these people were willing to engage in NVDA in th ’80’s and ’90’s but now seem unwilling. Given this was there primary organising focus for 2+ years – if they weren’t willing to take a minimal risk here, the assessment of Lou Reed “Stick a fork in the ass and turn them over, their done!” might be applicable in terms of NVDA potential come from these folks. If thy project themselvs into positions of leadership for OTS 09 that will have consequences. Of course celebs in Australia rarely risk arrest – no cameras in the clink etc

    The broader issues of celeb leadership dumbing down the movement were evident in the anti-G8 Gleneagles scene where Bob and Bono weaved their magic to have hundreds of thousands marching in FAVOR of the G8 (and what it could do) after several years of militant direct action movements against the G8. Bob and Bono played the conservative and media game censoring any demands in terms of the war – the war of course came home to London on the last day of the G8. Leaving them, their leadership and phenomenon sidelined with nothing to say – due to the lack of principled opposition to the war and soft support for the G8.

    The class issues you raise are significant. Not only the middle class leadership in the Australian peace movement, but also class issues of NGO/ cleb careerists and the exploitation of feral canon fodder shockingly evident at the Jabiluka Blockade and aped here to a certain extent.

    There seems to be a recent gust of the spirit in terms of radical nonviolent faith based resistance from the PIne Gap 4 to the Samuel Hill 5 to the Raytheon exorcism and the Wahopai Ploughshares – all in action within th past 12 months. This movement is not only a geographic development from the efforts emmitiing from the Brisbane Catholic Worker extended scene over the past three decades – it also is cross denominational. It involves people from Catholic, Baptist, Salvationa Army, utopian Christian groups. This is exciting and holds promise for OTS 09. Hopefully anti-war resistance in Australia will spring from other sources as well.

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  3. You clutch at straws a little bit of gnosticism, a little bit of situationism
    ……….astonishingly enuff, given your gender and ethnicit,y a little bit of feminism and black power.

    You’ve gone wild at the salad bar of ideology. It’s an eclectic mess. Your inaction around Australian militarism makes your input irrlevant, a distraction in service of the state. You can try to reduce the life of Christ and humble attempts to follow as spectacle…you line up with the establishment on that one.

    You weren’t at Jabiluka. You weren’t OTS 05 or 07 and you won’t be at 09. You seem to have plenty of time to play on the internet and distract any serious discourse amongst those who remain active happening here.

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  4. Bryan,

    My comments about the construction of spectacle is my response to your proposals for Peace Convergence.

    I am saddened by your conversion to the gods of rome.

    Ciaron,

    Your court case finished a long time ago and your legal sensitivities are now a tired excuse for dismissing critique of your mode of activism. Tell me where I am wrong if I am wrong rather than just springing to the defence of the honour of your movement.

    It is interesting to hear your various explanations of my criticism of you , Brian and Gary. In all cases the issues I have raised have been ignored and you have simply sprung into personal attack mode like an ill treated dog.

    Such defensive closed mindedness is the mark of the beast, the consciousness of the gods of rome. Perhaps you have your own demons in need of exorcism.

    Your perception of the superiority of your own “rich intellectual tradition” is the essence of racism and white power. You claim at comment 7 that you are confronting your own racism. Only when you make real steps towards reconciliation with the Mirrar and their rich intellectual tradition will you begin to understand your own racism. Discussing the issues with your mates is a self serving illusion.

    My irrelevant babble is far from self refferential. Just because the great spiritual, political and philosophical movements of the worlds poor are not those into which you were socialised does not mean that these intelectual traditions do not exist.

    Here is where some of my intelectual tradition comes from, in all cases I have had personal friendships with these people, some long, some short, some ongoing. In all cases I have engaged in some form of action (with a much broader definition than the catholic anarchists)

    – the Late Reverend Doctor William Jones Junior, associate of M.L. King, who explained to me the difference between white christianity and black christianity in the U.S. and opened my eyes to the same deliniation here..
    – Lorenzo Komboa Irvin, former Black Panther and Anarchist expelled from Oz during a speaking tour.
    – The late Babi Wawu, member of the secret council of Cape York Chiefs and, at the time I lived with him, the oldest Murri on Cape York, who showed me the bible through indigenous eyes while participating in traditional Aboriginal business.
    – The Late Oodgeroo Noonuccal
    – The Late Harold Hopkins, Wakka Wakka Elder and previous boss of Musgrave Park.
    – Qawanji. Cape York Law man,
    – Bejam, son of Oodgeroo

    Working with these people has involved the deepest and heaviest of conversations with Aboriginal law men and women around Australia, in and out of prison, in the bush and in the city as well as participating in and experiencing the spirit that manifests in such gatherings.

    I do not claim that any of these people would agree with anything I say, just that they are where a substantial part of my perspective comes from.

    I say these things not to defend my own personal integrity, for that I care little. I say this simply to assert that my political and spiritual critique is not born of any egoic resentment as you suggest but on an even more rich, intellectual tradition than roman imperialism or the history of symbolic confrontation. This “other” perspective that you have demonised, not just in my case but particularly with regard to Jabiluka is worthy of your and other B.T. readers consideration beyond a kneejerk villification.

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  5. As Ciaron notes, most nonviolent direct activists spend the majority of their time in building community, in one form or another, and addressing all the interpersonal and community dynamics involved.

    The recent action at Waihopai base in NZ has created a significant national debate in which the prime Minister and senior defence bureaucrats are required to publicly defend a policy which has, until now, gone largely without question.

    I’m particularly interested that the state, clearly embarrassed by their own intelligence and security failures, are contemplating charging the activists involved with sabotage.

    The activists, held in custody, are escalting the stakes (and the impact of the action) with a hunger strike. The action has motivated a range of supporting actions and organising by several peace groups within NZ, and has attracted comments in Moari language, as well as support from and for Maori activists.

    http://news.google.com/news?q=anzac+ploughshares&rls=com.microsoft:*&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&um=1&hl=en&sa=X&oi=news_result&resnum=1&ct=title

    Sam Land visited Australia in 2006 to connect with the Peace Tree community in Perth, with Ciaron O’Reilly, and with the Pine Gap 4. What I notice is that Christian activists are available for network building, for community building, and for shared action in a way that secular activists are unable to be.

    I don’t see how John Tracey can dismiss this as mere “personalism” (whatever that means).

    I’m also a bit offended John that you imply I somehow dismiss the Greens, when really it’s the other way around. Three years ago I applied to join the Greens, and faced the most extraordinary personal attacks made upon me by two prominent Greens in Cairns – one of whon levelled the most serious criticism at me that “you are not Jesus Christ” (something that I and everyone else already knew to be true). I withdrew from the conflict rather than increase bitterness.

    I recently re-applied, and the two Greens in question took that as permission to start the attacks up again in just as virulent a manner. I notice that the Greens proclaim adherence to “grass-roots democracy” and “nonviolence”, but in Cairns they are overtly hostile to both.

    In contrast I go to church and notice a broad and deep community of faith where notions such a peace and social justice are taken seriously in the context of daily life practice.

    As a result I’m now in the process of joining the Catholic church and expect spiritual and political rewards from that, while the Greens offer exclusion and meaningless dispute over theory and ideology – while failing to mobilise sufficient numbers to win a Senate seat after 15 years of failed ideas.

    Like Ciaron I recognise that waiting for a perfect moment, or a perfect movement, before acting is futile. I act with the resources and ability I’m able to command, and I find those actions to be much more effective than blither.

    Why don’t you respond John to my proposals for improving the Peace Convergence in ’09, and indeed participate in some cutting edge nonviolent activism. We’ve moved on from the 70s.

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  6. http://www.ploughshares.org.nz

    At 6am this morning 30 April (2008 ) three members of a Ploughshares team entered the Waihopai Spy Base and used sickles to deflate one of the two 30 metre domes covering satellite interception dishes.

    The members then built a shrine and prayed for the victims of the war with no end – the so-called ‘War on Terror’ led by the United States Empire which also controls the NZ taxpayer funded Waihopai base.

    More details on the website above including profiles of the team members: Adi Leason, Sam Land and Father Peter Murnane.

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  7. “with specatacle politics.”

    To remind you this is the definition both the prosecution and you use to describe our direct nonviolent resistance.

    I have had issues with you on this site before that you service the prosecution when attacking anti-war resisters before the courts. You share the same perspective as our prosecutors.

    Fortunately the jury in our case after hearing all the evidence did not share your and the prosecutions perspective.

    Your constant attacks on your ’70’s contemporaries – myself, Bryan and Gary – may spring from some mainstream media jealousy but such attention is never a motivation in our resistance. It is usually dealt with as an issue of damage control.

    We are locate din a rich intellectual tradition, you are lost in self referential babble constantly moving the goalposts and the themes of threads on this site.

    Your contributions in terms of resistance at Talisman Sabre 07 09 -the topic of this thread – are irrelevant.

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  8. Ciaron,

    Mary M.’s story is tragic and, observing from a different place and time, it seems that perhaps some of the problem lay with Mary herself and not exclusively with the priests of the movement as Mary seemed to believe. She seems to have lost hope and direction which is as much a personal matter as a political one, especially for those of a spiritual persuasion.. Before Catonsville 9 Mary was an experienced community organiser in poor communities and this option was never closed to her after her dissilusionment with specatacle politics.

    However, I believe her experience on the run and the lack of support she got during that period is an important dynamic to consider. The spectacle of the priests continued with the attention of the media and movement organisers focusing exclusively on them, leading to the spectacular arrests of the priests but Mary was forgotten, even by the FBI as her own personal resistance became irrelevant to the ongoing spectacle of the priests.

    Mary’s story is as much about the futility of personalist resistance as of the nature of spectacle.

    Back in Oz….

    It should be no surprise that the main proponents of a christian construction such as non-violent direct action might be christians. It is wrong however to suggest that this specific mode of action is the only manifestation of, or remnant of, a broader resistance movement. Others who resist such as Murris, movement bureacrats, mass march organisers and Green party members have all been systematically defined as “other” by the christian movement – or “secular” as Bryan would say, defining the broad movement in terms of its difference from the christian one.

    Catholic worker and plowshares movements may well be a work in progress, but they are a creation of, and for the purposes of a particular religious tradition, not a movement or tradition for structural change that is owned or directed by oppressed groups or even by “the people”. It is, by its own deliberate design, a parrallel movement.

    Which brings me to the role of the sacraments.

    I am curious to see if you have a response to my comments on exorcism on B.T. or the orthodox Roman Catholic comment on the Ireland indymedia.

    I have been critical of Ched Myers position on public sacrament as resistance since I met him here in the early 80s, as I believe you met him too?. The Sojourners model of political action was experiments with Myers’ idea at the same time we were being politicised through street marches. Back then I had concerns, in particular Jesus’ comments about praying in public in the beattitudes. The discussion amongst Concerned Christians (earlier) lead me to that issue.

    The post-constantinian church has reduced god’s law about how we should live day to day into a series of choreographed rituals to be performed at special events. The very notion of a church service is a Roman construction. Sacred ceremony in the bible is a matter of festivals that continue for days and even weeks, as with the sacred ceremonies of this Aboriginal country. In both cases a spiritual calender links all the ceremony into an ongoing, every day spiritual disciplne and consciousness which is simply not embodied in “liturgy”.

    What is prayer? The Romans have made it a ritualised obligation and the evangelical protestants have said it is a royal telephone to their personalised god.

    In the bible, prayer is one of two things 1/ A constant state of being after (adult) baptism or before that, after the scapegoat sacrifice ceremony – a consciousness. Paul talks of this. and 2/ A deep meditative state whereby social illusion is abandoned such as Jesus time in the desert with satan, in the garden of gesthemine or while hanging on the cross about to die, or before that Moses on Mt. Sinai. This mutated consciousness, often referred to as gnosis, is central to Jesus teaching, and is the essence of his clash with religious orthodoxy who maintained that righteousness was earned through participation in ritual. Gnosis is the same meditative state as the hindu and budhist traditions, which is not surprising as Jesus got his teaching in India before his indigenous ministry. Gnosis is the expulsion of illusion and historical thought, what is left is not a vacuum (as the budhists suggest) but the very space in which god exists and can be known. The old testament says we cannot speak gods name, this is not a matter of it being a sin for which we might be punished like swearing. We cannot say gods name because the reality of god is beyond the capacity of language to describe, any attempt to describe the god experience by way of spoken prayer or theology is a construction within the limitations of the human mind. (including this rave here)

    Romanised Christian ritualism and especially christian prayer is a pavlovian reinforcement of illusion, brain washing, that is a pscychological obstacle to expelling illusion and experiencing god.

    Gnosis has been demonised by the Roman church since Constantine. The prayers of the pulpits, tele-evangalists and blood throwing anarchists are constructions of the concept of god created by the emporer, not radical consciousness shift facilitated by Jesus the Christ and John the Baptist, nor of the consciousness shift mechanisms and teachings inherent in the law god gave to Moses, nor of the death and rebirth of Aboriginal sacrament.

    According to Genesis, original sin was/is eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The christian church and all its tentacles including the radical christian resisters have a world view based solely on the knowledge of good and evil. The egoic perceptions of righteousness or guilt and shame are the consequence of the consciousness of sin – the knowledge of good and evil. When Jesus’ opinion was asked about the sins of the woman at the well he said let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Sin manifested equally in the righteous accuser as with the guilty and shamed accused, both shared the consciousness of sin which was dispelled by Jesus’ intervention.

    The CAAT exorcism and your own history of excorcisms on the other thread clearly indicate an adherence to and a preaching of the knowledge of good and evil, the sinful paradigm itself.

    Jesus mode of healing and confronting evil spirits is to confront this very phenomenon, to free the human mind from the knowledge of good and evil in order to be able to know (gnosis) god instead.

    You should re-read the gospel of Thomas and the other gnostic gospels uncovered last century – unedited by the Roman authorities. The archaeologists only found them because they were hidden from the Romans who tried to destroy all the scrolls of the Jesus movement in the process of crushing the resistance and constructing and authorising the Roman canon.

    Irish Catholocism has been no refuge from the theology of Rome despite its various nationalisations. Ever since St. Patrick extinguished the rainbow serpent, Irish christians have been worshipping the God of Rome.

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  9. The article about Mary was about her tragic death and life post prison release. It raises serious issues about the personal costs of such serious resistance, community formation for such actions (ANZUS Plowshares had 6 months), Pitstops (8 Days and a legal process that went 3 1/2 years), Raytheon 9 (a couple of public meetings and personal introductions once they got into the office), solidarity from the broader movement (or the lack of it) and life in the underground not being freedom (Mary self surrendered after many years, Phil caught after 8 days by FBI raiding a church, Dan under for approx 3 months).

    As you point out the most direct nonviolent resistance to OZ/NZ militarism is now flowing out of radical christian groups, the emerging church, Catholic Worker & Plowshares legacies are in the mix. We are a work in progress – addressing our complicity racism, ageism, sexism, classism as we go. We look forward to nonviolent resistance to the war coming from you and others springing from other traditions and praxis.

    We don’t buy waiting for the perfect world or movement or even personal perfection before we act. Community is always a struggle…full of intimacy and betrayal as Myers commentary on the last supper discourse reflects. We have internal criticisms, processes of confrontation and reconciliation to keep us on the road. I find the sacrments helpful is sustaining community.

    Harry Browne’s forthcoming book on the Pitstop Ploughshares to be published by Counterpunch in the coming months will be a good resource for future groups and resistance communities to draw upon in the coming years.

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  10. The broader context of the Mary and Dierdre references include scathing critique of internal processes of the activist groups. I focussed on the issue of media to generalise the discussion to a particular mode of action that, I suggest, includes such things as CAAT, Shoalwater, frisbees and David Bradbury.

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  11. Seems like your on the ropes their John

    Nice critique of the media says nothing of our movement….Deirdre, Mary quotes you lifted from broader contexts all speak of media presentation. The main prosecution arguments in our Shannon case was our action was not a direct attempt to save lives in Iraq but a media stunt with a broader agenda orchestrated by the Masonesque moi. The jury didn’t buy it from him and hopefully readers won’t buy it from you here.

    To sustain such illusions requires not having encountered the strong Catholic Worker women a movement started by Dorothy day, the Pitstop and many other plowshare women and Lisa Bridle in this case.

    Good luck if you encounter them, i don’t think they’ll be buying what your selling.

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  12. Brian,

    Yes, and the Brisbane action features Lisa too and the Shannon campaign featured Mary Kelly. But in these cases too, leadership, or at least community profile is created through a public spectacle within male (and white) dominated media, both mainstream and alternative. The spectacular action is unavoidably pre-packaged in the terms of the media worker/institution’s world view before it is presented to the public.

    As a result, the deeper issues, be they an analysis of male power in war, colonisation capitalism, imperialism or the deep embedding of Raytheon and the Haliburton network in the Australian economy are simply not raised, nor are local issues such as ecological protection of Shoalwater Bay or the disposession of the Arrente, all blanketed by the talking heads and spectacle and its minimalist, one dimensional representation of the issues by way of exorcism, citizens inspection, frisbee throwing etc. and of course arrest.

    In a patriarchal (and white) sociology, women (and murries) in the media will be packaged and percieved within male (and white) frameworks. Lisa and Donna’s Roman Catholicism, as did Mary Moylan’s Catholocism dovetails neatly to dominant paradigm as does the Catholocism of the men of CAAT and the priests of Catonsville 9.

    Leadership and organisational habits developed through feeding the media and public”s hunger for spectacle is not the sort of leadership and agenda that creates real power on the ground in real communities, nor does it provide real education about the depth and breadth of the issues beyond a slogan or platitude..

    Spectaclism may enhance the group dynamics of the spectacle generators, but in Mary Moylan’s case at least, the internal dynamics have also been problematic. But the detatched spectacle simply reinforces passive information consumption on the ground, today much more than the early days of television, the vietnam war and Catonsville 9. Perhaps the tales of extraordinary people doing spectacular things gives the media audience something to discuss at dinner parties or at work or to put in their blogs but it stands beside Big Brother, murder rape and robbery, state of origin football, cats stuck in drains, the olympic games and of course the bodycount in Iraq and Afghanistan in the conversation – all prepackaged spectacles too.

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  13. Hi John, you’re right in a general sense. All I can say in relation to the Pine Gap 4 is that we were gender balanced, and Donna Mulhearn was our preferred spokesperson for national media.

    Adele Goldie and Jessica Morrison played very important roles, and have gone from strength to strength in pursuing their own peace, political and personal interests.

    Here’s an url for the ANZAC Ploughshares, which has connections with the PG4
    http://ploughshares.org.nz/images/

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  14. Don’t know where the smily face thing came from but it was meant to say nineteen sixty eight.

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  15. Hi Bryan,

    You said… “Because so much of the “mass” movement is composed of white middle class folk there’s an unquestioning acceptance of white middle class leadership”.

    This may well be the case and I agree that the peace movement’s leadership is indeed very white, but perhaps you have created an non-existent deliniation between the “working” class and the “middle” class? What is the different styles of working class and middle class political leaderships? Why is the middle class not working class?

    However, what is glaringly absent from your analysis (beyond the implications of the white bit) is the domination of male culture and modes of leadership.

    Consider the similarities of the tragic story of Mary Moylan of the Catonsville 9 (1968) and the reflections of Deirdre Clancy of the Pitstop Ploughshares.

    From a eulogy to Mary Moylan
    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_n4_v32/ai_17883936

    “In October the nine were tried and convicted, events that Dan Berrigan would make memorable as both a book and a play. All the attention was focused on the famous brothers, especially on Dan, so powerful in his ability to translate their deed into dramatic prose and poetry. For the Catholic peace movement, they were heroes, martyrs of our time. But for Mary, her membership in the Catonsville Nine became increasingly enraging. She saw rampant clericalism and patriarchalism in the way the Berrigan brothers were the center of attention. She was angered by lack of equal regard for others, especially women like herself, who had taken the same risks but who remained in the shadows.”

    From Deirdre Clancy’s analysis of “Route Irish”
    http://www.indymedia.ie/article/85706

    “This gender bias and personality-based focus has been typical of the left-wing media from day one – and I think I’m qualified to make a few observations on this in general. Even journalists who supported the Pitstop Ploughshares, for instance, just assumed Ciaron O’Reilly and Damien Moran were the spokespeople for the group, even when it was made clear that there were actually no appointed or elected spokespeople. The three women were largely (though not always) silenced and voiceless in the movement for most of the few years of our legal process, by all left-wing media-oriented people without too much exception.”

    After 40 years, the radical christian resistance movement (as well as heaps of others) is still struggling unsuccesfully with this most basic issue.

    As long as the focus on action is symbolism and spectacle, the status-quo sociology will interpret and redefine even the most radical action into its own racist and patriarchal norms, even with radical media. Leaders will emerge based on their visibility in the spectacle.

    The real process of social change is the deconstruction of relationships of domination, e.g. rich/poor, man woman, black/white, etc. Such redefinition of relationship in small groups, mass movements, local communities, national movements and international relations is not a matter of sensation, spectacle and symbolism but much harder day to day things relating to, as Krisnamerti would say, a mutation of the mind.

    High ideals of peace or anything else channelled into temporary spectacle will manifest only as media fodder reinforcing preconceived social relationships, in particular the norms of white male leaderships.

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