Gavin’s poetry

One of the guys I know from a boarding house a few doors down writes poetry. In fact he talks with rhymes (the most frequent one being ‘may your familEE be healthEE for eternitEE’). Anyway, I came across this one from him today:

A good man’s steps are ordered by the Lord
And he will never live by the sword
And we all could be one accord
As we follow Jesus our Lord
That much we can afford
Don’t live by the sword
Love the Lord.

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More John Dear gold

John’s been on a roll lately in his NCR column as he does his book tour around the US…here’s just a couple of selections…click the links for the whole article.

I’ve encountered many activists over the years, and a good many seething with anger. And who would blame them? But I’ve learned that in the end, anger consumes our heart’s energies and can lead us to abandon our work for justice and peace. We saw this in the 1960s when many young people railed against the Vietnam War and their anger erupted in violent protests. Because they did not go beyond their anger into the spiritual roots of peacemaking, I think many gave up the journey to peace.

My own experience seems to bear that out. The more you learn about injustice, war and poverty, the more overwhelmed you can get. Things are far worse, you discover, than you first realized. Anger is often the first emotion on the scene. But anger doesn’t sustain you for the long haul work of lifelong peacemaking and nonviolent resistance.

And this:

Everywhere I go, someone asks, “Are you saying we cannot use violence any more?” Yes, I answer. “How then do we defend ourselves from someone who intends to do us harm? How do we defend ourselves from terrorists who want to hurt us? How do we defend ourselves from other nations?” “Nonviolently!” I answer.

It sounds foolish, of course, but I point folks back to the nonviolent Jesus and suggest that he teaches a whole new way of life..

We’re so used to violence. We easily believe the myth of redemptive violence, the lie of war, the false spirituality of violence, the misguided notion that might makes right, that war is justified, that our weapons protect us, that violence works. I suspect we don’t trust God, don’t think God can protect us, don’t take Jesus seriously. In the end, such questions reveal our lack of faith. Do we believe in the God of peace or not?

Defence White Paper public consultations

Eight of us from inspiral went to the Defence White Paper public consultations last night. Submissions were overwhelmingly for more peaceful means of defence and security. This is the verbal submission I made on behalf of Urban Seed.

Thankyou for this opportunity to voice some of what I believe about defence and security. As someone who has committed his life to pursuing peace and justice through the method and lifestyle of nonviolence, it is all the more important that we hear alternative voices to the increasing reliance on violence, alienation and threat power that characterises most foreign policy these days. Once again we must listen to the voices of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Thich Nhat Hanh, voices for creative nonviolence.

I know a bit about defence, security, and safety, from working for an organisation called Urban Seed. Much of our work takes place just around the corner from here, in Baptist Place, which Urban Seed has called home for about 15 years. Every day we welcome some of the city’s most marginalised people into our homes and lives, mostly through sitting around a lunch table enjoying good food together. We call it Credo Café because it expresses something of what we believe about the world. Those who come for lunch at Credo are largely people whom the average citizen feels threatened by – the homeless, the mentally ill, those with drug and gambling addictions, people who have often led violent lives. In such a place, security becomes particularly important, especially when it is not merely a workplace, but a home. But what we’ve discovered is that safety based in threatening or excluding or hurting others is not safety at all. If security is to be real, it must be mutual.

And so we’ve been experimenting with nonviolence – not a mere refusal to act violently, but a creative, active power that sometimes aggressively and provocatively, but always lovingly, confronts situations of violence or oppression. Nonviolence is transformative of conflict because it does not seek to dominate or threaten the other, but to win them over by confronting them with the injustice of their actions. It is this kind of creative, self-giving love that characterises the safety of Credo, and it’s a safety that extends out into the surrounding neighbourhood. By welcoming people rather than shunning them, by extending active love rather than threats or violence, people are invited to respond in kind. Often we have people over for lunch who might ordinarily feel they have nothing in common, such as lawyers and homeless people, and as they sit around a table together, understanding is fostered, and friendships are formed. Sometimes when they leave Credo, potential enemies have become friends.

What happens on this local level can and should happen on a global level. Unless we extend active love to those we believe threaten us, the cycle of violence will continue.

And so I call on this committee to reject the logic of violence, which yields only bitterness and hatred and further violence, for the creative, powerful force of nonviolence. I call on you to equip our brave defence forces not with more weapons to kill, maim and destroy, but weapons of love that will build our nation into something we can be even more proud of, that will be of benefit to even our enemies. I call on you to transform our army, navy and air force from a domestic defence force to an earth defence force, which takes seriously the greatest threat to our existence, which is not terrorism but global warming. I urge you to stop buying weapons of mass destruction and instead use those billions of dollars to lift those in our own country and overseas out of poverty, to feed, clothe, heal and educate. By demonstrating such love we will have no enemies, no need for defence, and the only real security that exists.

an eventful week

so this week was rather eventful for me, all stemming from a 2 minute incident at 12:45pm on Wednesday.

Basically (to make a long story short) I witnessed an altercation between a young man (18ish?) and an older man (mid 70’s?) outside the front of my house. I didn’t see what started it (although I later discovered the young man had asked the older man for money), but I did hear them swearing and yelling at each other before they began fighting, and watched from my window as the younger man picked up our wheelie bin and brought it crashing down on the old man’s head before being chased away by the older man.

I won’t go into the ensuing details of police reports and investigations. Suffice to say I was the only witness to the event, so I was quite popular with the boys in blue for a couple of days. : D What strikes me most as I replay the whole situation is how this kind of thing happens. What could possibly have transpired for an exchange between two complete strangers to escalate to the point it did?

Let me start with the older man. It was his angry voice I heard first, and believe me, he was giving at least as good as he got. The only reason I can think of for him to react so angrily and aggressively was fear. He wasn’t exactly a frail old man, but I imagine he wasn’t in the prime of his life. To have a young guy come and ask you for money (I don’t know how that happened, whether he demanded it forcefully, or just requested it) is confronting, particularly if you feel threatened. The second you feel threatened or fearful, you feel defensive, and react defensively. I think the likelihood is that his defensive reaction was offense.

Then there’s the younger man. Obviously I don’t know his situation, but I do know that this occurred just 20 metres from a piece of graffiti that reads (somewhat like a disclaimer), “If youth allowance wasn’t 52% of the poverty line, I wouldn’t have to steal.” Teasing out the issues involved in that sentence alone could take days (eg/ why write that unless you are genuinely apologetic?). But clearly this kid is not alone in his desperation for that which most of us take for granted – a means to fulfill our most basic needs. No-one begs for money as an entrepreneurial venture. Maybe I’m assuming too much about a situation I barely know anything about, but it makes me feel at least as much sympathy for this kid as for the old man, both caught up in a society of fear. That fear alienates that kid, and it only perpetuates a system of inequality and alienation.

And then there’s me: why didn’t I go and put myself in the situation? Why did I watch it escalate to its conclusion from the safety of my darkened window? Well the answer to that is fear too. Not for my own safety – goodness knows my instinctive reaction to things like this is to act without thinking and jump in aggressively (demonstrated not once, not twice, but thrice) – but for my family. To intervene, I thought, would be to invite the wrath of the young man upon my house; and that meant my family. I still don’t know what to make of that, whether I did the right thing or not. But I acted out of fear, and that alone is, at the very least, sad.

I don’t know what to do about it, I just keep looking at this whole incident and thinking how it’s just a tiny, tiny microcosm of the sadness that is allowed to go on in our society, perpetuated by “a current affair” and our pm and others. I don’t even know how to end this post. I’ll pray for them.