Green Party MP Caroline Lucas gave this year’s Movement for the Abolition of War lecture at St John’s in Waterloo.
The theme was ‘Active Remembrance and Waging Peace Together.’
In this centenary of the WW1 Armistice, she reminded us of the importance of remembering actively and informing ourselves, rather than a passive remembrance. Passive remembrance, she warned us, can lead to an airbrushing of war’s realities, so that we become less likely to rise up and prevent it.
Europe and peace
Caroline’s focus for much of the talk was the part the European Union has played in maintaining peace in Europe since WW2, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. She did not gloss over its failures, like its hostility to refugees and supporting NGOs, and its punishment of Greece, also pointing out that Greece had itself forgiven Germany’s debts after the 39-45 war.
All this is true, she said, and yet…
While we mustn’t forget the negatives, we must never lost sight of the positives. Caroline recalled her time working as an MEP, appreciating the courage, ambition and vision of the Parliament. Anything so ambitious, she said, will be imperfect. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
So what we can do?
We need to strengthen our narrative of hope and reach out.
How many Remainers are reaching out to Leavers? She reminded us of the truth that climate breakdown, the refugee crisis and gross inequality are better solved together.
A takeaway action she gave us is to talk about these benefits of EU membership; talk about the People’s Vote; reach out to the Leavers. We can all, she said, be a better version of ourselves. No one is all good or all bad.
Sharing reality is something we need to do more of. Terrorism and repression feed off each other in a continuous cycle. As Remembrance Day approaches, Caroline’s comment that weapons can move freely and go anywhere, but that refugees are vilified, and compassion chased out of town, was particularly sobering.
We don’t have the moral high ground over, say, North Korea. 120 states support the nuclear ban treaty – the UK is not among them. Rather than more WMDs, we should focus instead on crime, terrorism, cyber warfare and endemics. Even the Pentagon recognises the threats of climate change and conflict.
But we can protest and mobilise to ask our government to get on board too. Remember what we have achieved. She reminded us of history’s positive moments: the aversion of full-scale war between India and Pakistan; Harold Wilson’s refusal to send troops to Vietnam; the banning of biological and chemical weapons and landmines.
Remember, learn, make a difference
Caroline pointed out that we are the first generation to know what we’re doing to the planet, and the last to be able to do something about it. To feed our lifestyles, we’ve stolen from the future, and from other countries. Despite the IPCC special report, and the WWF species extinction warning, the government has gone ahead with fracking.
Even her resolve to find hope was tested, conceded Caroline.
But then she reminded us that Spain is going to close its coal mines and instead invest money into early retirement, training for the young and reskilling. In the past, the Lucas Plan made a similar transition.
The important thing is to unite our campaigns. The Stansted 15, food banks, fracking… at the heart of all these different groups is the question of how we live on our planet. We need to reflect on who we are and the world we want to build; we need to talk about sufficiency, not efficiency. A total and rapid reversal is needed.
In the 12 years we have, the global economy is set to triple. This calls for changing the logic: less disposable and more mendable consumerism; more sharing; usership not ownership. She talked about other principles, too, from contraction and convergence; ato a GCSE in Natural History. Could we, she asked, come up with our own Citizens’ National Security Strategy which addresses climate breakdown? Could we come up with a new Lucas Plan, with a conversation about energy at its heart?
We should not sacrifice our principles, but build on our strengths. She name checked pinoeers like Bruce Kent, in the audience, Paul Rodgers and Deborah Johnson.
Is hope naïve, or something strong? She quoted Rebecca Solnit: hope is not a lottery ticket you sit on the sofa and clutch, but a force that shoves you out of the door. To hope is to give yourself to the future.
Article by Libby Ruffle