Archive for the ‘The Arms Trade’ Category

Gordian knotIt’s not my place to expound on events such as the Connecticut school shootings where so many innocent people died last week. I’m not qualified, and although I have an opinion about it, as we presumably all do, opinions, least of all mine aren’t going to help anyone. But I will voice an opinion, helpful or otherwise, about something I saw recently, coincidentally on the same day that those shootings took place.

Spaghetti Western

The trailers to the new Quentin Tarantino movie Django Unchained, two and a half-minute packages of graphic violence in word and deed are now available for all to enjoy on various websites. Of course there may be more to the movie than can be gleaned from watching a couple of trailers, but having seen something of that director’s work in the past I rather doubt it. However well dressed up, the movie will essentially be about individuals experiencing traumatic injustices and/or gruesome conflicts all of which will sooner or later be avenged by the use of an arsenal of assorted weaponry, in this case mainly handguns. The characters will be believable and the dialogue edgy and sardonic. As an audience we will root for the good guy however flawed, and come to despise the bad guy for his misdeeds. But never fear – revenge will be sweet and death will come swiftly to those who stand in the way of vengeance blah, blah, blah. In short Django Unchained is a Spaghetti Western with brains and apparently, in its use of certain characterizations, with 2012 sensibilities.

 peacemediaThe Acceptable Face

While my opinion about Tarantino and his work is that it would be better for everyone if he would confine his psychosexual fantasies to the psychiatrist’s couch (preferably while locked away in a remote mental asylum) it goes without saying that his work is by no means the worst of what’s out there. What it does seem to be, judging by the critical reaction to his movies is the acceptable face of extreme violence, made stylish and attractive by the use of hip dialogue and the sharp character definitions so beloved of film critics everywhere. Seen in this light ultra-violence is almost a desirable lifestyle choice and its practitioners trendsetters.

I abhor violence in whatever form it presents itself but I believe that I’ve come to a degree of understanding about particular aspects of it. I understand, for example, that certain people while living safe, secure, but tightly structured lives can become fascinated by the decisive act of violence as a way of cutting through confusion and complexity. I also understand its seductive power as a simplistic means to an end, and even as a form of self-expression when all else fails.

As a very young soldier I experienced the powerful effects that both random and organised violence can have on individuals, groups, and societies. There is an intoxicating sense of liberation when our flimsy social structures fall away and life becomes a matter of striking first and hardest. All questions are answered and all doubts silenced in such moments. Caught up in that delirium consequences are for others to worry about, a dangerous illusion so insidious that otherwise sane and grounded people can easily be swept away by it.

One thing leads to another - Nadeem Chughtai

One thing leads to another – Nadeem Chughtai

From a Distance

The cowardice that lurks at the heart of the use of guns is carefully masked by the technical and cultural blarney that surrounds it, but it comes down to this: The ability to strike decisively from a distance simply by choosing to do so allows a level of dissociation from the consequences of the act and requires a lesser, meaner kind of courage than, for example, the courage of the boxer who steps into the ring to go nose to nose with his opponent. This same detachment allows soldiers in helicopter gunships to massacre innocent people gathering in the street below, allows for the use and justification of robot drones to bomb and kill at the touch of a distant button, and allows politicians to send generations of youngsters to do their dirty work for them. If on the face of it these actions may seem to have little connection with one another, I’m utterly convinced that in essence they are one and the same thing.

From my personal experience I know that nothing, not my upbringing, not the endless hours of training, nor my knowledge of, and confidence in the piece of technology that I held in my hands prepared me in a fit way for the moment when I had to decide whether or not to pull the trigger on another human being. This was the crucial piece that was missing I realised much, much later – an ability to grasp the full consequences of what my training and clever technology had made me capable of doing.

Conspirators at Sunset - Chrissie Park Macneil

Conspirators at Sunset – Chrissie Park Macneil

Links in the Chain

Maybe it’s because these days I tend to see things from a holistic point of view rather than grouping causes and effects into separate, disconnected boxes that I’m unable to make a clear distinction between the man who designs, manufactures, and sells the weapon, and the man who carries the process to its logical conclusion and uses it to commit an act of violence. To me the designer of the landmine for example, safely out of sight in his workshop, is no better than the man who deploys the device with the intention of blowing another human being to bits. The person who then produces a work of pop entertainment that normalizes, justifies, romanticizes or glorifies that act is just another culpable link in the chain, no better than the arms trader or the psychotic who closes the circle.

This should be the clearly recognised and acknowledged chain of culpability, beginning with the bright spark who designs and markets the weapon, via those who through various ways and means legalize, promote and profit from its use, to the poor fool who pulls the trigger. Surely it must be obvious by now that those who have to deal with the consequences are the victims of a collective effort channeled through a well-defined, well-worn trajectory.

lgph0330+make-peace-dalai-lama-posterLevel of Consciousness

Attempting to fight gun crime or bring about peace by the use of more and more weaponry is a lunatic philosophy worthy of the cancer cell. Calling for the banning or restriction of arms sales to private individuals while at the same time indoctrinating young people in the advantages of their use and flooding the world with weapons of every possible description is nothing but the most cynical hypocrisy, in my opinion. But the arms industry and certain sections of the entertainment industry, amongst others, have a vested interest in keeping people at a level of consciousness that facilitates hatred, violence and warfare as means of dealing with our fears and uncertainties.

Tarting up extreme violence in a slick hi-tech package and selling it as a “game”, a cool fashion accessory or a  must-see movie doesn’t make it ok. It’s not a useful contribution. At best it is deluded self-indulgence, and at worst an act of predatory capitalism with a nasty little ulterior motive. Neither does it confront us with “reality” to any useful extent or offer a valuable insight into the human condition, whatever critics and other media types might say ad nauseam. That particular piece of insight, however cleverly disguised in psychological hocus pocus has literally been done to death.

What it does do is keep us scared and stupid. Scared people, given the opportunity, go out and buy guns to make themselves feel safe, then sit at home nursing their insecurities until something has to give. Those who are scared and stupid go out and use them.


Campaign Against the Arms Trade

Media for Peacebuilding

The Common Ground Blog



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Here’s another opportunity to see three articles that jumped out at me from the media avalanche last week. It’s very much a case of “here today, gone tomorrow” with much of the information we receive, but that shouldn’t necessarily devalue the content nor undermine the fact that some things need to be seen and understood.  

greedy duck

It's all his

The Guardian, Wednesday 14 December

Revealed: huge increase in executive pay for America’s top bosses

Exclusive survey shows America’s CEOs enjoyed pay hikes of up to 40% last year – with one chief executive earning $145m

Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America’s top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.

Read the full article here:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/14/executive-pay-increase-america-ceos



Nothing personal you understand

New Internationalist Magazine issue 448

The shadow world: corruption in the arms trade

Show me who makes a profit from war, and I’ll show you how to stop the war.
Henry Ford, US industrialist (1863-1947)

The manufacture of and trade in weapons is a business that counts its profits in billions of dollars and its costs in human lives.

The arms trade drives the gargantuan amount spent on ‘defence’ every year – $1.6 trillion in 2010 alone: $235 for every person on the planet.

Read the full article here:  http://www.newint.org/features/2011/12/01/corruption-in-the-arms-trade/



Food, inc.

Come to think of it, it's a long time since I actually saw a cow

Food Freedom
December 18 

Occupy the Food System by Willie Nelson 

Thanks to the Occupy Wall Street movement, there’s a deeper understanding about the power that corporations wield over the great majority of us. It’s not just in the financial sector, but in all facets of our lives. The disparity between the top 1 percent and everyone else has been laid bare – there’s no more denying that those at the top get their share at the expense of the 99 percent. Lobbyists, loopholes, tax breaks… how can ordinary folks expect a fair shake?

Read the full article here:  http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/willie-nelson-occupy-the-food-system-farmers-march-on-wall-street-videos/#more-11666

The Other Direction

On bad days  it’s sometimes possible to feel that the human race is moving backwards into the dark ages. But here’s proof that many animals are actually moving in the other direction.

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Caroline Lucas, UK Green Party Leader, MEP for...

Image via Wikipedia

Speaking at the Green Party’s spring conference on 25th February  Caroline Lucas, Britain’s one and only Green Party MP (Brighton Pavilion) spoke about recent events in the Middle East. She made special mention of the fact that David Cameron, the first world leader to visit Egypt since President Mubarak was forced out of office two weeks ago had been accompanied by a “delegation of arms traders”. Apparently almost a third of the businessmen accompanying Cameron on his Middle East visit were from the defence or aerospace industries.

She said that at first she had believed Mr Cameron to be in Egypt to “express solidarity with the pro-democracy movement”, but that her view changed when she realised that senior executives from defence companies were amongst those participating in the visit.

She spoke of the “horrifying reality that [David Cameron] was there, in the Middle East, at a time of such violence and unrest with a delegation of arms traders to sell more arms”.

“The blatant opportunism of this visit is morally obscene,” she told party activists.

Later, in an interview with the BBC, the MP called the insensitivity of the visit “eye watering” and argued for a return to an “ethical foreign policy”. You can see the interview (02:09) by following the link.


It’s intriguing that the BBC interviewer takes little time in bringing to bear the first line of counter attack taken by both the arms industry and the government (Labour or Conservative/Liberal, it makes no difference) namely that selling British weapons abroad to whoever will buy them is good for British jobs. Given more time the interviewer would no doubt have gone on to use either or both of the following arguments outlined by comedian Mark Thomas in the video below:

A report on BBC Radio 5 Live later in the day leaned heavily towards the line taken by the plucky reporter interviewing Ms Lucas by brushing aside the reality of what the weapons are to be used for and by whom, while seeking to marginalise Green Party policy as being bad for jobs and the economy. Voila! The Party Line exposed in all its glory.

In case the impression is given by the above that British arms sales to murderous dictatorships around the world is a hot topic in the British media I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth. And as for politics, Caroline Lucas stands out as the one UK politician willing to talk about the subject in plain English.

Visit the following website for the truth about the international arms trade:

Campaign Against the Arms Trade http://www.caat.org.uk

The Green Party UK http://www.greenparty.org.uk/

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