From Warwick to Waffles via War.
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Martin Luther King
This was quoted twice at the Quaker Yearly Meeting Gathering at Warwick University as part of the exploration of the theme ‘Living out our faith in the world; working with others to make a difference.’ We were thinking particularly about movement building, hence – working with others. One of the favourite sayings of Quakers is “Speaking truth to power.” But if those who hold power already know the truth but keep on abusing their power then what do we do? Do we speak truth with power – take direct action? If we are to act then it often takes grit and determination and a mass movement to make a difference.
Quakers are known for their stance against war and violence. They were part of the movement that brought a change in the law allowing conscientious objection. They are still working for the abolition of nuclear weapons, including Trident and an end to child soldiers. The UK is one of several countries that still recruit at 16. There is also a programme of armed forces presence in schools which Quakers are campaigning against. This resistance to the culture of war may take generations to achieve if it ever is achieved.
This stance of non-violent action is even more relevant given that we are remembering the hell of the battle of Ypres a hundred years ago, and the anniversary of the dropping of the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima on 6th August. One of the activities on offer during the week at Warwick was making white poppies, promoted by the Peace Pledge Union one of the allies we work with in the movement to end war. Another was a Turning the Tide workshop offering tools to bring about change in non-violent ways.
I returned home to welcome my two youngest grandchildren for the weekend. Learning how to live together and share is something that they, aged four and nearly two, are already struggling with. Parenting in ways that show examples of tolerance and kindness is not easy. Some parents still resort to slapping their children, which in more and more countries is illegal, but is permitted even now in the U.K. Being imaginative in finding ways to resolve conflict is something that not only parents need to do, Governments also need to use all the skills of diplomacy to defuse confrontations. There are several situations in the world where such imaginative initiatives are urgently needed.
However, my weekend was not filled exclusively with tussles over toys. It did include breakfast with waffles – a first for me. Recently a cafe has opened near us called the Cod and Waffle, so six of us enjoyed breakfast together, with waffles all round! Some had vegetarian options whilst others had sausage, bacon, eggs and beans! It is a real joy to eat, play and talk with small children. One of the highlights was building a marble run, a birthday present for the four-year old.
Fitting the pieces together then finding where the marbles would end up was fascinating. It was a three-dimensional, complex, engineering project! But even the two-year old could say “I did it.” when she dropped the marble in the top and it ran the circuitous route to the bottom.
Learning through play is one way to discover the futility of war and the joy of co-operating. I remember the horror of watching the film ‘The War Game’ produced by the BBC. The more humorous film ‘War Games’ ends happily, but only just when the computer learn about a zero-sum game. Wikipedia says this, “In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of utility is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the utility of the other participants.” This idea played a critical role in the film ‘Arrival’ which I watched at Warwick. The arrival of aliens almost provokes a destructive violent response from the nations of earth.
When will we realise that violence begets violence and the only way to peace with justice is to learn to live together and resolve our differences through diplomacy, talking to one another, trying to understand one another and building bridges of love and trust? Eat waffles together, not wage war!