Saturday, June 24, 2006

Protesting the World "Peace" Forum

This morning Vancouver saw a different kind of Peace Protest than it's been accustomed to: a modest stand for realistic peace, protesting the standard Utopian "peace" protestors.

Utopia–seeking delegates attending the morning presentations of the World Peace Forum at Vancouver’s prestigious Orpheum Theater will hopefully have been tainted by second thoughts for their dogmatic belief system, courtesy of three simple souls daring to think differenly from them, and to say so in the street, in public, with signs.

Dag, frequent commentor Truepeers, and your humble correspondant planted ourselves outside the World Peace Forum’s venue this morning, carrying signs with various slogans, and had quite a memorable time engaging curious (and not so curious) delegates in dialogue that ranged from pleasant to antagonistic. The most offensive person we met was probably the guy who hit my sign. Then in descending order of negativity: slurs and insults, sneering condescension, sympathy for our pre-supposed mental retardation… the real dialogue ended up being with people who were genuinely curious about how we could be apostates to their utopian religion, and politely asked legitimate questions to which they patiently listened to our point of view. If any of you are reading this, thank you for your civil debate; we may agree to disagree, but I certainly respect the courtesy you granted my perspective, and I hope I matched it as I listened to yours.

The looks of amazement we got from so many of the delegates suggest how rarely they must actually encounter alternative points of view challenging their agenda. Growing up in Canada, we've had more than enough occasions to get used to hearing their view passed off as *the* view, but seemingly they've never heard ours, so we must come across as mysterious aliens from another planet. I can sympathize with their puzzlement, for I find myself as completely baffled by the world view that they painted for me, as they likely were by my recounting of current events as I see them.

Trying to encapsulate three hours of experiences like this morning's, into a tight little blog post is daunting. I'm going to tackle it in two posts, this one in more stream of consciousness fashion, then hopefully find the time to write a second one seeing the day from a more detached perspective.

First, meeting the various delegates. The three of us engaged in a series of dialogues with Israel-hating jews, business-hating wealthy suburbanites, anti-american americans, and a certain lady whom I shall always remember for sincerely describing to us how the New York Times is a terribly Right-Wing media outlet. She also went on to confess to having killed “one million Vietnamese”, and I-can’t-remember-how-many Iraqis. “America killed them, in my name, so I killed them”, was her heartfelt explanation.

When Dag offered her our blog address in order to read a differing point of view to hers, she stopped him in mid-sentence to honestly admit she wasn't interested in reading anything we might have to say. (Yet we are the ones who are "close-minded", you see.)

This was the first time I had ever done any protesting or picketing of any kind. Even during my (short-lived, thank goodness) rite of passage as an anti-American Canadian, I never did anything like I did this morning. No wonder the left do these things so frequently, it is definitely an exhilarating experience. In retrospect, I realize I wasn’t prepared to engage in such basic debate and dialogue as was required. I’m not in practice anymore at explaining why Bush isn’t evil, for instance; that caught me a bit off-guard, and so I regret I may have fluffed my response once or twice.

What made the morning so fascinating, however, was the number of average people just passing by on the street on their way about town, who read my “God Bless America” sign, stopped to thank me, and explained why they agreed with me. Their simple eloquence, mixed with gratitude for my sign's sincere statement, really made my day; and unlike the activist delegates quick to brandish their “peace studies” university degrees as their rationale for their point of view, the pro-US Canadians passing by on the street managed to briefly phrase the common sense of the common man in a way that has truly inspired me. What a thrill it can be to meet like-minded people sometimes. Just one of the approving smiles I got from these fellow citizens more than made up for having to wake up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning to talk to so many grumpy people wearing name tags.

Looking back, it was interesting how those talking to us expected us to be in absolute lock-step in our philosophy, chanting mono-syllabic verses just like in the usual left-wing protests nowadays, whereas in reality we were all there for somewhat different reasons. We are three distinct individuals, with sometimes radically different beliefs on certain issues, yet we can readily come together around a common idea and find a way to negociate through each other’s differing points of view, to act in united partnership towards shared objectives. (hm, kind of reminds me of a country I know...) We seemed to be encountering people who were more used to protestors incapable of holding a range of motivations and belief systems, and it probably led to quite a bit of unintentional confusion. (I noticed a particularly confused expression on one delegate’s face as he read my “God Bless America” sign while listening to Dag’s atheistic justification for intervention in the Middle East.)
It was genuine fun seeing how surprised the peace activists were by Truepeer's articulateness, I don' t think they were expecting that degree of intellectual firepower from "conservatives". Many would start off talking to us as if we were children; one sentence from Truepeers would usually put an end to that kind of tone.

Final thought for now... from the dozens of chats we had today, a comment echoing in my memory comes from the first half of our morning, as a loudly sarcastic peace activist established her math skills by revealing that there were only three of us, compared to "four thousand" of them, as if that in itself should disqualify our existence. So symbolic of the left: undisguised contempt for the value of the individual, despite all the rhetoric of valuing "diversity".
Madam, sometimes it only takes three people to make a difference.
Sometimes it just takes one person.
You should try it sometime.


truepeers said...

Charles, I have been sitting here collecting my thoughts on the day and doing a little research to serve in writing up a post. I found out about the funding and budget of the WPF here. While the Canadian tax payers, though various governments, are the biggest contributor, there is one donation from a private foundaiton that matches that of the Federal Government - $350 000. THis is from the Simons Foundation of Canada - a family foundation headed by a peace activist and local academic, Jennifer Simons who has been active, among other things, in the movement to ban landmines.

I also found this article from 2000 by Simons. If this weren't a wealthy woman who has been able to make big donations to local universities, gaining her status (and perhaps positions) in the academic community, I might hesitate to link it and say how embarrassingly naive it is. For example:
I think if I had to broadly define Western Culture, I could, without hesitation, say that we live in a war culture despite the fact that the majority of the members of civil society are not interested in being warriors. In the twentieth century alone, in the neighbourhood of "two hundred million people have been killed, directly or indirectly, in wars" - over twenty million directly in wars - in man-made violence.We live in a world where, at present, there are about fifty small wars taking place - a situation that is likely to multiply as populations expand, resources shrink, or are destroyed.Even though, western culture has a history of democracy originating with the Greeks, war has always played a defining part.However, I am not suggesting that violence or aggressionare innate in humans, but violence and aggression may be culturally determined. (Bookchin, 110, Weeramantry, 11)

-the west is guilty of being war like
-they must be particularly guilty because violence is not innate in humans, though it may be culturally determined (i.e. particularly a western thing)

While our (western) capacity for violence is indeed a great problem that we must continually mediate, if one is going to do this it would help to know some basic anthropology. For example, does this woman know nothing of primate biology, of how aggressive our Chimp cousins can be? Does she know nothing of how human culture works? In what sense can anything be said to be "culturally determined"? Isn't it the case, rather, that culture is the medium of human freedom (and order) and as such it "determines" rather little - other than what is minimally necessary for any cultural scene/representation to emerge (one might say, e.g., that culture, since it is inherently scenic, determines that human culture is fundamentally scenic, but that's a bit pointless...)? Of course we are in many ways the products of our culture, as is our society as a whole, but this is not to say culture "determines". Rather, we make ourselves, through our cultural articulations, albeit with a capacity for both true or faithful and heretical articulations.

But in showing no hint of understanding of how culture first came into existence in order to defer or mediate the violence that was indeed innate to our pre-human forebears who became human through the emergence of our unique culture - which surely first emerged (whether as human self-creation or as gift of God) out of a need to replace an animal pecking order that had broken down precisely because of the innate aggression and mimetic desire of our prehuman forebears - Simons is able to scapegoat (western) culture as warlike, apparently unaware that the western capacity for war is precisely commensurate with the great capacity of western culture to defer its own violence. A wealthy, productive, and orderly society will also be, if it so chooses - and human necessities usually force the choice - a society with relatively high capability in war.

In other words, the culture that keeps us orderly is also the culture that allows us a capacity for war. The more free and open a culture, the more it can defer its own violence and the more it can organize itself to wage war.

To understand this, one must open oneself to the paradoxical nature of the human. If, on the other hand, one's religion is the victimary religion that scapegoats western success in the name of "peace", one is going to get quite lost.

To some extent I feel sorry for the people we met today, because they are a little lost and holding on to a religion that will disappoint them the more it is unveiled, an unveiling to which we, with no great pleasure, felt compelled - in the name of human freedom and security - to contribute today. If it weren't for the fact that our culture is so polarized, that the victimary religion makes it impossible to talk rationally about the best means to defer violence (e.g. by committing the lesser evil) I would leave these people alone. But I think they are not simply a danger to themselves but also to the future of western culture and the six billion + people who depend on the global economy that western culture leads. We can resent this fact and point fingers of blame at western culture. It might make us feel righteous, but how will we feel if we help kill reason in the west, and we end up with resentful chaos and then a return to a medieval economy that can only feed one billion? Will they volunteer to be the first to go?

Charles Henry said...

Truepeers, to me the whole point of western civilization is to undertake the lesser of two evils. To humbly recognize that perfection may be a noble goal, but it is unattainable, and that we must learn to compromise for a prize outside of absolute perfection.

Settling for least evils seemed to be a choice unimagined by many we met today, convinced as they were that there is no such thing as a moral order to be drafted for any of our possible choices, no "betters" and no "worse", just all bad, and one good. That one good, the utopia of no war and everlasting peace, seems to involve a different understanding of humanity than the fallible two-legged beings I've grown accustomed to interacting with on a daily basis these past few decades.

Who argues that "peace" is an unworthy goal? It's the means to the end that are in doubt, and the fact that the delegates today view western civilization as the barrier to progress, rather than the means to that end, was probably the main area of disagreement.

Jordan said...

Excellent post and thank g-d you were there to bring a little friendly discenting opinion into the frey!

I am liberal, but I have had it with the estreme left. "Peace at any costs" should not include tyranny or slavery. Incedently, have you read the Euston Manifesto? It allows me to retain my progressive ideology without having to sympathize with terrorists and jew/american haters (pretty much the same thing these days) nor does it force me to practice the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Jane said...

This Forum, which gave a platform to apologists for terrorism, is now part of the track record of Jinny Sims, President of the BC Teachers Federation. And it should surface like a pop-up message when she asks for public support during the next teachers strike.

Sims' slightly loony track record was being established before the Forum when she publicly linked herself to the legacy of Rosa Parks. While leading teachers into an illegal strike several months ago and risking jail, she likened herself to Rosa Parks.

Now, as Sims threatens to lead teachers into a follow-up strike, she has seen fit to link herself to another female activist: al-Rubaiee al. Under Sims’ leadership, the BCTF formally endorsed the Forum despite the fact that it would give a platform to the bloodthirsty al-Rubaiee al of the Iraqi Patriot Alliance:

"The Iraqi resistance was able to cause a high number of casualties in material and soldiers among the occupying forces," al Rubaiee al boasted on the al-Basrah website. "The resistance fighters were able to liberate 30 cities, creating a suitable environment for the resistance fighters by forming a death zone for the occupying forces and their agents."

Sims, who is of Pakistani descent, was aware that the Forum would be stacked with people with views like al-Rubaiee al.

Next time Sims pleads for public support during a teachers strike -- The "Teachers Care" strike ads are beginning already -- and presents herself as being of the same ilk as Rosa, she should be interrupted: “No Jinny, you’re of the same ilk as Nada. Nada’s the one you used union dues to give a voice to.”

Charles Henry said...

Jordan, thank you.
" 'Peace at any costs' should not include tyranny or slavery."

This was almost word for word a statement I made to a journalist that spoke to me about my sign. They had no idea what I was talking about, students as they are of the CBC, BBC and NPR. A problem that was revealed to me yesterday, in stark clarity, was the length and depth that any meaningful discourse will need, since there is so much that their side do not know about our side of the issue. We'd have to begin merely defining our mutual terms, as their definition of "defense" or "war" is different than ours, as is their definition of "peace".

Increasingly I begin to call myself "liberal", since I believe in liberty, and that we must change the order of things by liberating fellow human beings currently enslaved by religious ideologies and political systems designed to conserve slavery and servile status. Maybe mutually defining terms like "liberal" and "conservative" should actually be the first point of departure for any meaningful dialogue that is to be above childish name-calling?

Charles Henry said...

Jane, you reminded me of an important detail that I forgot to include in my post.

Many of the attendees had no idea of the vile nature of several groups or guests participating in their forum. Dag and Truepeers would frequently question them about how they reconcile the presence of this or that attendee at a "peace" forum, and the common response was "I don't know anything about that".

The delegates were quick to shackle modern-day 2006 America to dishonorable acts in its past, yet they reserved the right to remain totally distant and unconnected to any racist or violent elements that may have been in attendance as full partners at their conference. Why not grant the US the same slack that they allow for themselves? Last time I checked, Kennedy and Johnson weren't dictating American foreign policy anymore; it's a different country today. Your example reveals the self-delusion required to sleepwalk as a leftist these days.

dag said...

The Left is so intellectually degenerate today that they are embarassing to discuss with. The level of debate is so low one is reminded of kindergaarten. Childish and disgusting to witness in the person of adults, the Left is finished, terminal, and still clinging to life and delusions of grandeur. The worst is that many are afraid to point out to them the obvious.

Lefties, you are over.

And yet there are some among them who are in fact decent people, those who will in time come to reality and live as decent people once they realise they are followong a programme they have not clearly examined for flaws. Those are social and decnet people who haven't yet realised the problems inherent in their ideologies. They are susceptalbe to reason, and they welcome it, it seems, if given the chance.

It is our duty, and some fun, to provide sensible alternatives to the Left. Most have never considered that European imperialism, for example, is one of the best things ever to happen in Human history. It drops some jaws to speak so. And it's nearly painful to watch the light of reason enter the minds of those who otherwise would not have it. They walk away in a daze. Some. Not that damned mayor of Burnaby, he who depends on his ideology for his suits and limo rides. Normal people have normal sense, and they will come to see reason if we give them the chance to confront their own assumptions. It's a positive experience for most us, and for me a lot of fun.

maccusgermanis said...

You all are certianlly inspiring. I'm glad to hear about your outing.

Concering labels, such as liberal or conservative. Labels, being of most use to others, I find it most useful, to await to see what label is assigned me. This deferment is, often surprising, and always revealing of the labeler.

Ralph said...

Well a great day to be in the
Sun shine. " even if you did not
have phamplets of your arguments "
that may help the inquieres of you sign have some clarification rather than a sardonic stare.
I am not sure if you have elequently stated you point here.
so be it, so many sods get into the act like half made up clowns.

Charles Henry said...

Forgive me Ralph, I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you saying we are sods for not making pamphlets to accompany our protest? We all work for a living, we don't exactly have the time to spend making a big production out of these things. (two of us went straight back to work following the morning's action, as well) I'm sure in the eyes of the professional protestors who have had union seminars on how to conduct themselves during such affairs, we probably did look amateurish. That is because we are new at this, being working folk. However, I had the distinct impression that our very amateurishness felt like efrontery to the professional protestors, who did not relish having roles reversed and having to justify themselves for a change.
Anyway, it must have been effective to some degree if it bothered you enough to post a comment. Thanks for your imput even though it sounds like we are on two different sides of this issue.

Maccusgermanis, thank you. Considering all the times your efforts to hold your own meetings out your way, have inspired me, let's call it even..!

dag said...

I have to wonder what's become of people in this part of the world regarding the "peace movement." Today a book dealer who makes a substantial amount of money from me got so anrgy that he invited me to exit his shop because I ventured to suggest that he might like to actually read Hayek and Sowell rather than just sell the books; and furthermore that he might consider shelving the Che bio.s currently in the window display somewhere in the curtained-off porno section in the back by the ally. I suggested that rather than sell books glorifying Che he might be happier selling books on William Walker, an American featured here many times, who attempted to enslave the population of Central America, which would have had great merit today to the citizens of those unfortunately independent republics in that they would now be full American citizens rather than victims of death squads and those like Che would attempt to enslave them for the glories of the socialist revolution.

No, going against the common thoughts of the intellectual classes, regardless of the sense in it, is dangerous, even when dealing with a book seller.

Most people do not think critically, not even the vast majority of our intelligentsia, the parrots of fashion. I am particularly pleased that ours do and that we did stand up to the dhimmi morons and spit metaphorically on their Guccis.

Ralph, I would like to respond to your message but I haven't got a clue what you're on about, the reasons being that your message is incoherent and even illiterate. You are making me think you're the "journalist" who spoke at us during our orderly protest against the Hate Hippies last day. If so, you would be the one I suggested knows so little about journalism that I offered to spell the word for you. Ah well, your reading skills are likely no better than your writing skills, so let's let it pass till we meet again.