People often criticize the Green New Deal, or GND, on the grounds that it is simply too expensive given all our other priorities: jobs, security, consumer gratification. It is deemed by some to be unrealistic, even contradictory as its means seem at times to undermine its end: carbon energy is needed to jump start a steady flow of green energy. Yet we cannot deny that the planet is suffering and the GND offers relief. How can we defend the cost of this urgent initiative?
Tim Wallis, interviewed on this episode of Nonviolence Radio, offers a new way to contextualize and understand green energy, and gives concrete suggestions as to how we might fund the GND. Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler take time here to learn more about his new report, “Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal.” In it, he makes an important connection between resources — economic and intellectual — that go towards nuclear weapons and shows how shifting this money and brainpower to green energy can help us to construct, actively and deliberately, a more flourishing, greener world.
Stephanie: In front of me here in the studio, I have a document called, “Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal.” This sounds very constructive program to me, very detailed. It’s by Tim Wallis, he is the executive director of Nuclear Ban U.S., a partner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its work facilitating the U.N. treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
In the intro to this document, it says this, “Our survival as a planet depends on drastically curbing greenhouse gas emissions in the very near future. Our survival also depends on completely eliminating the danger of nuclear weapons. By unfortunate coincidence, the resources, federal funding, private funding, scientific, and technical expertise, jobs, and infrastructure currently being wasted on nuclear weapons can be shifted to the production of green technologies to address the climate crisis.”
Welcome to Nonviolence Radio, Tim Wallis. Tim, welcome.
Tim: Hi, welcome. Thanks.
Michael: Hello Tim. Good to hear your voice. How are you?
Tim: Hi Michael. Good, I’m good. Thanks.
Stephanie: So, you know, we’re here to pick your brain about the “Warheads to Windmills, How to Pay for a Green New Deal” because that’s one of the biggest questions the mass media will throw at the Green New Deal, to try to get people not to be in favor of it. Well, how are we going to pay for it? You know, where is the money going to come from? And you have a brilliant idea. So maybe start off with just a summary of what inspired you to do this work, to come out with this paper, and we’ll go from there.
Tim: Okay. Well, I’ve been, as you know, involved in nonviolent campaigns all my life and working on peace movements, on the nuclear weapons issue, in particular. I was very fortunate to be part of the negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was agreed on almost three years ago now, in 2017 at the United Nations when 122 countries agreed to ban nuclear weapons without the support of the countries that actually have nuclear weapons, but that’s a longer story.
And so, I’ve been working on that issue for some time, but I’m also very concerned about climate change and other issues that are posing a greater and greater threat to our future. And what inspired me to work on this particular project was actually a similar report that was done in England by the Campaign Against Arms Trade, which was called Arms to Renewable. It looked not only at the money that was needed to build a renewable energy economy, but also at the jobs that were required and the skills that were required actually to make this transition and to solve the remaining problems that we still face to build a green renewable economy.
Their report in the U.K. directly linked the kinds of skills and jobs required, for instance, to build a new tidal wave energy project in the north of England with the skills and the jobs that were being swallowed up by the nuclear submarine industry in that exact area, to build a whole new generation of nuclear submarines. And so this report highlighted the fact that, you know, if we only used not just the money, but the people that we need – and the resources, if we use those very people to build what we need to survive instead of what we need for more death, we could solve both these problems at once.
So that inspired me to look at what we could do here in U.S. I couldn’t find a similar report, so I wrote it myself.
Stephanie: Yay. That’s exactly what we’re talking about, the constructive aspect of this. That’s awesome.
Stephanie: And, you know, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives us how many years before we need to take drastic action — ten years?
Tim: All the estimates say that we have until 2050 actually to bring the entire global carbon emissions down to net zero, so that we’re producing as much carbon as we actually take in from trees and so on. But that requires a massive effort in the next ten years, up until 2030 to cut emissions by roughly half in that time. So that’s where the real big push has to happen, because if we wait too long it’ll be too late to make that transition.
Stephanie: Exactly. But you might be a little bit biased, right? I mean if you’ve been working on the nuclear issue, there might – tell us about Nuclear Ban and the work there and how this all ties in.
Tim: Yeah, one of the things about – obviously, the money could come from a number of sources. I mean, the military budget is massive in the U.S. It’s more than all other countries combined, let alone all of the U.S. supposed adversaries. So, that’s a huge amount of money that could be used for other purposes.
And of course, we’ve been piling up national debt, paying for, you know, bailing out the banks or giving tax credits to the ultra-wealthy and corporations and so on. So, there are other ways to get the money. But what I’m looking at is not just the money, but also, as I said, the skills and the technology and the resources and the infrastructure that we have in place already to actually move over to addressing climate change.
But also, the international environment that we need to solve these problems. We need international cooperation on a scale that we’ve not seen at all.
And certainly, even in the democratic party at the moment, there’s just so much sort of in-built hostility to China and to Russia and to America first. We got to solve climate, but we’ve got to put American jobs first, and really, what we need to be doing is building relations with these countries. The largest carbon emitters in the world are China, the U.S., India, and Russia and they’re all pointing nuclear weapons at each other. That’s no coincidence. We’ve got to address how we relate to each other in the world, and that’s how these all link up in my view. I was coming at it, as I said, from a nuclear issue, from the Nuclear Ban Treaty, because that’s one of the missing links.
People in this country are more and more aware and concerned and want to see action on climate because it’s so immediate. And yet, as you probably know and I’m sure many of your listeners know, the dangers from nuclear weapons are growing every day and people are just not paying attention to them.
But those atomic scientists, at the end of the cold war, they put their doomsday clock back to more than – I think it was 17 minutes to midnight. And now it’s back up to two minutes to midnight, the closest it’s been since 1953. That’s how dangerous we are with these treaties that are being abandoned and with the growing development in this country and with new countries coming on board with nuclear weapons. I mean the whole situation is getting more and more dangerous and people are just not as aware about that.
Stephanie: And nothing seems like it would offer the handshake of community more than disarmament, right? Saying we can build community because we’re willing to be in community with you in an authentic way by not wanting to threaten you with imminent death and destruction.
Tim: Yeah, yeah — nuclear weapons are a threat that we put on other countries saying, “You do as we say or we’ll blow you to smithereens.” It’s not a good way to build relationships.
Stephanie: Now, you said that India, China, Russia, and the U.S. are the largest carbon emitters as well as nuclear – having the most nuclear weapons all pointed at each other. And you said that that makes sense, but it doesn’t make sense to me. Can you explain that a little bit more?
Tim: Well, I mean it’s just that the largest countries – and if you include Europe and the U.S.’s major nuclear allies, including Japan and Australia and so on — we’re talking about ¾ of all carbon emissions are coming from countries with nuclear weapon alliances, all pointing at each other; India and Pakistan, and Israel and so on. It’s part of the sort of global economy that the richest countries and the most powerful countries want to lord over everybody else.
And you know, one of the things about the Nuclear Ban Treaty that I was involved in at the United Nations, the thing that was so exciting about it was these big countries — U.S. and Russia and China and so on — refuse to have anything to do with it, which to some people here means, “Well, it’s a pointless treaty. It doesn’t mean anything. Who cares what these little countries say?”
But the reality was that this was one of the first times where the world came together without the big countries bullying them and said, “You know, this affects all of us. It affects everybody. If there’s a nuclear war anywhere, we’re all going to be affected.” And so the small countries were given a voice and given a power that they rarely have to set the tone and say, “You know, this is not the kind of world we want. We want a world without nuclear weapons. We waited 70 years for the nuclear countries to do something about it, and they haven’t. So, we’re going to do it ourselves.”
So it’s about the world kind of coming together, the smaller countries and the poorer parts of the world coming together to say this is what we want. This is what we’re going to push for. And it does come down to – come back to, I mean — the nonviolence side of it. Because these countries have a lot more power than people realize to change the world.
When countries like Brazil and Nigeria and Argentina and so on, say, Mexico, South Africa, when they band together and say, “We don’t want nuclear weapons anymore, and we’re going to actually make this a legally binding treaty, and we’re going to put pressure on these countries to stop having nuclear weapons because their companies and their investors are all spread all over the world” — this is going to affect the United States and the other nuclear companies, even if they don’t sign onto it. I don’t know if I explained that very well.
Stephanie: What I see emerging from what you’re saying is essentially these smaller countries are getting ready for satyagraha, in a way. They are engaging in that constructive decision-making process where they’re willing to go forward and to resist, when necessary, using different kinds of tactics and pressure through legal means and so forth that will help to add more pressure to the issue.
Michael has been wanting to say something for a bit. I’m going to bring him in.
Michael: Yeah. You’re probably not surprised, Tim. Tim, there was a brilliant observation that you made that this is historic in the sense that the non-nuclear nations are standing apart and standing together against the power of the nuclear club. And it is a model, actually, of what’s happening on another level, where indigenous people are recognizing one another’s capacities and standing up. I’m going to be talking about the resistance – incredible resistance that’s going on in India right now.
It’s going to be much harder for the United States to stand up on a pedestal and give itself the label of the leader of the free world and similar ideologies when the free world is saying, “Hey, we don’t want you guys doing this.” That is a very powerful thing if we can develop it and implement it across the board.
But I wanted to ask you this question, Tim. From the Gandhian point-of-view, because as you mentioned just now, the nonviolence aspect of this: if we wanted this twin campaign, ICAN and Warheads to Windmills to succeed, it seems to me what we would have to do is build absolutely everything that we can by ourselves as we are making the demands. In other words, do absolutely everything we can without the money, by recruiting personnel and writing documents and so forth. And then that will really put us in a strong position from the point-of-view of using constructive program.
I forgot to mention something, and that is that I think your document is brilliant and it is so systematic that nobody is ever going to be able to say now with a straight face, “But where will the money come from? You haven’t thought this through.” This is a real Elizabeth Warren kind of document. So, we’re very, very pleased with from that point-of-view.
But are people – your coworkers — are they approaching it from this standpoint of not: we demand you give us the resources to do this, but we’re going to do absolutely everything we can and then push forward from that position.
Tim: Well, one of the main aspects of our overall campaign is divestment and boycotting of the nuclear weapons industry, which we are trying to get people to do on an individual level and institutionally with faith communities, with businesses, banks, and also towns and cities and states. And this is something we’re trying to push in the U.S. alongside, as I said, the pressure that’s going to start coming – that is coming — from the rest of the world on this.
One of the greatest powers we have in terms of influencing the decision-making at the level of the U.S. government, for instance, is on these companies, which rely on investors. They rely on consumers buying their other products. We don’t buy nuclear weapons that often, but we do buy thermostats from Honeywell, for instance.
And when this treaty enters into force, then other countries, like some of the ones that I’ve just mentioned, are going to be putting pressure on these companies. And we can be doing that in the meantime here in this country by saying, you know, we want nothing to do with these nuclear weapons companies and we don’t want anybody buying from them or investing in them including banks and so on.
Some of the largest – I mean two out of the five largest pension funds in the world have already divested from nuclear weapons. And New York City — the New York City council — is about to vote on a resolution to divest the City of New York from nuclear weapons, which would be huge in this country. We’ve got a bill in the statehouse in Massachusetts and there’s one pending for California and so on.
So, we’re working at that – I don’t know if that’s quite what you had in mind, but we’re working at that level, to try to put pressure on these communities and through the companies, on the government. But in terms of the Green New Deal side of it, my argument in the report is that we cannot solve the climate crisis without government intervention because it’s too massive. It requires a very large-scale intervention. And that’s what the Green New Deal is all about. And that’s going to cost money.
There are ways of implementing the Green New Deal, again, at the state level, at the city level, at the individual level. We need to get people putting solar panels on their rooves and buying electric cars and putting up windmills in school playgrounds and public buildings and businesses.There’s lots and lots that people do have to do. But at the same time, the scale of what’s needed and the research that’s needed is at a government scale. Does that fit what you’re thinking?
Michael: The last part fit very well, and there’s no question that at some point massive government intervention is going to have to come in. But it’s just that while we’re doing the resistant things, you were talking about the boycotts and so forth. We also should be doing the building things, however small they are. And as you were pointing out, every entity, every scale has its role to play.
I’m happy to tell you that out here in California, in our local area here, we’re doing very well. We have climate emergency declarations at the city level going forward and so forth. So I think that does get to it. I have one other comment that I’m going to make eventually, but first Stephanie has something.
Stephanie: Thanks so much, Michael. For those of you tuning in, we’re talking with Tim Wallis of Nuclear Ban U.S. about his report called Warheads to Windmills, How to Pay for a Green New Deal. We have a little bit of time left for this interview, Tim, and I think what would be most useful for our listeners and for the readers of the transcript later on Waging Nonviolence and elsewhere, is if we gave them some talking points for skeptics. People that will say, “Yeah, yeah, the Great New Deal, terrible idea.” Or, “That’s just socialism from AOC and it doesn’t affect me.”
I’m sure you wrote with the skeptics in mind, so let’s systematically go through a few of those skeptics’ questions. One, for example, is folks that I know who are on the other end of the political spectrum, maybe who don’t believe in climate change or don’t like to use that term. So, when we talk about Green New Deal, it speaks to their kind of political amygdala and they say, “Oh, anything that says AOC on it is socialism and is not necessary.” What do you say to that?
Tim: Well, one thing that I say, which is linked to the report directly, is that we purposely put in the report not just two existential threats to our survival, but three. The third one is inequality, and that is an important one to address because if we ignore that part, then it’s a lot easier to say, “Well, why can’t we just let people get on with their solar panels and whatever and leave it at that?” Or work towards agreements on nuclear weapons or whatever.
But the really grotesque levels of inequality that we have now reached in this country and in the world are threatening not just the breakdown of society in general, because no society has ever survived this level of inequality historically, but we’re also facing the kinds of problems that we have with the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments and a rejection of climate and so on, and refusal to do anything because people are fearing for their own survival. They get pushed into a corner and don’t want to address these bigger issues.
Of course, climate will affect the poorest communities first and foremost, and most directly. We already know that many of the immigrants and refugees fleeing to the borders of the U.S. are a result of climate and a result of conflicts that are exacerbated by climate. And that’s going to increase exponentially in the coming years, especially if we don’t address this adequately.
So, all of those things are interlinked. Of course, the potential for violent conflict and eventually nuclear war also rise exponentially with inequality not being addressed. And more and more resentment building up as we see in — if you just look at a map on the wall that separates the Palestinians on the West Bank from Israel, and you look at the wealth on one side and the poverty on the other side. This is being multiplied all around the world. And it’s just not sustainable.
And so you can turn your eyes to these other issues, but inequality is going to come back and hit us all. That’s not going to answer the person that you mentioned, whose amygdala is triggered by AOC or whatever, but it’s one of the reasons why we’re keeping that at the forefront in this report.
Other ways to respond to skeptics are: we’re seeing more and more the evidence of climate, in our faces, with the forest fires in Australia and so on. People were in Hawaii a year ago, or know people who are in Hawaii, when they had the false alarm about the nuclear weapon – a ballistic missile — about to attack. And they had 30 minutes or so to react before they found out it was a false alarm. Those people, again, had it directly in their face what we’re talking about. Some people were changed forever as a result of that.
We don’t want to wait until there’s a major accident or a major conflict between India and Pakistan or something like that. Or indeed, over Iran or over North Korea. But we just have to keep raising these issues and hoping that people will see that there’s something to be concerned about.
Stephanie: I have a couple more questions for you on this skepticism level before we sign off. Look at China, they are producing so many more emissions than the United States. How would you respond to that?
Tim: Well, that’s a very important one because people like to think of us all in these little separate boxes. You know, we’re the U.S., we’re not as bad as them over there in China. But as the trade deal with China just highlighted yesterday, the fact is that most of China’s carbon emissions are due to their manufacturing outputs. And most of that manufacturing output ends up where? In the United States. We are actually the ones that exported a lot of our industrial production to China where it’s cheaper and where there are fewer regulations and so on. And so it’s U.S. corporations that sent their business to China to do their dirty work, as it were. And/or people here who are buying things from China because they’re cheaper and have also been made with fewer regulations and so on.
So, it’s not so simple to say, “Well, you know, China’s emissions are double the U.S. emissions.” The fact is that we’re all in this together, and by us ignoring climate change as Trump is doing and simply making things worse, we are giving the green light to China and India and everywhere else to say, “Well, if we’re not doing anything about it, why should they?”
We’ve got to take a lead. One of the things in the report is about cars, for instance. We have to say in this country that by 2030 there will be no more gasoline and diesel-fueled cars allowed for sale in the United States. Now, that will not just affect the United States. It will affect China to some extent, but much more Japan and South Korea and Germany and so on, because we buy half of our cars from those countries. And those countries are going to be influenced by us making those kinds of decisions.
Stephanie: Right. Good point. Lastly, let’s talk briefly about a talking point about “Green technologies” and electric cars. One complaint that I’ve heard is, “Well, the amount of energy that it takes, and resources that it takes to produce an electric car really negates it’s carbon neutral value because it takes so much carbon to produce them.” Can you speak to that?
Tim: Yeah. This is, again, a tricky one because as things stand right now, yes, it takes a lot of carbon to produce windmills, the steel and the concrete. It takes carbon to produce electric cars. It takes carbon to produce vegan food because it’s transported all across the country. But unless we take steps now to reduce all of our carbon emissions everywhere, including transportation and including electricity generation, we can’t make progress anywhere. We have to start somewhere.
The reality is that industrial processes — including mining and so on, and the electricity that’s being used to produce these things and the transportation that’s being used — once that is all electrified and all the electricity comes from renewable electricity, then it’s not going to be the case that electric cars use a lot of carbon to produce. They won’t.
They only use carbon now because we’re not using renewable energy to make them. So, those things have to happen in tandem and we have to be working in that direction to get all of the transportation, electricity generation and so on, industrial processes to be renewable. And then we’ll be on track. But until then, there’s going to be irregularities and there’s going to be products that we have to have, like electric cars, for the future. Or solar panels or windmills. We have to have those.
But until all the things are up to speed and are electrified and renewable, then yes, we’re going to have anomalies, for instance, where a windmill is producing renewable energy but it’s been manufactured using carbon.
Stephanie: Right. And it really speaks to an opportunity. We spend so much of our energy and our resources on all kinds of science in the world, and so why don’t we apply it to the problems that really matter, that need to be solved today?
Tim: Right. That we need the scientists –
Stephanie: The brainpower –
Tim: The brainpower that’s being wasted on nuclear weapons and other military technologies — that’s the real crux of it. You know why? In our report, we look at the STEM graduates coming out of universities all across the country and the world — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. They’re all going into military jobs because that’s where the money is and that’s where the jobs are. We need those people that have all those skills to be helping us solve our problems, not making more problems.
Stephanie: Yeah. And how amazing would it be if the military could really get behind the green technology movement too? That would be incredible.
Stephanie: Tim Wallis, how can people get involved, read your report, find out more?
Tim: Well, the report is available free to download from www.nuclearban.us. And you can order copies if you want it in paper, which is a lot easier to read. We can send it to you for a small donation to cover the costs. You can get involved in our campaign: we have groups working around the country, as I said, on local bills in city and state legislatures, working and trying to get local businesses and faith communities to divest from nuclear weapons.
It’s surprising to me that there’s a massive movement to divest from fossil fuels, but there’s very, very little being done yet on nuclear weapons. People are unknowingly actually supporting this industry of death. So getting your universities and colleges and banks, and anything that you’re connected to, to take this up and support the Nuclear Ban Treaty and support the rest of the world that’s looking to us to find solidarity within the U.S. This global movement is actually going to succeed, I believe it will. We need your help with that. So please, join us.
Stephanie: Great. Thank you so much for joining us, Tim Wallis of Nuclear Ban U.S. on From Warheads to Windmills, How to Pay for a Green New Deal. It’s been a pleasure having you.
Tim: Great. Thank you very much.
Stephanie: For those of you just tuning in, you’re here at Nonviolence Radio. I’m Stephanie Van Hook, and hello to all of our listeners.
Let’s turn now to the Nonviolence Report with Michael Nagler. Michael, you’re going to cover some news that we’re not going to hear in the mass media or can’t be explained in the paradigm that is required for the shift to nonviolence in the mass media.
Michael: Thank you, Stephanie. I’m just so fascinated by some of the things that Tim Wallis brought up in our recent interview. I want to mention just two of them quickly. One is he talked about the level of inequality and that no society has ever survived this level of inequality. Well, there’s a sociologist, Ted Gurr, who wrote a well-known little book called Why Men Rebel, and he drew a qualitative distinction between poverty and destitution.
He showed that people, societies, demographic groups can endure poverty almost indefinitely, but there’s a point where that grinding poverty grinds its way down to destitution. Meaning, your kids get sick, they’re going to die. You have no access to health care. You can’t feed them. At that point, people rebel because they have nothing – you know, there’s nothing to lose anymore.
And it kind of looks to me as though the whole world is moving towards a Ted Gurr crisis, where so many people are going to be pushed into destitution that they will have either to rebel or perish. And it’s an extremely interesting, though horrendous kind of crisis.
The other thing I wanted to mention that Tim said – and it’s very true: all this brainpower is going into military technology because, as Tim said, “That’s where the money is.” I think we also have to look at a deeper issue as well. Not to negate that at all, but to say – I’m going to use a perhaps an unfamiliar term here, and I’ll explain it. That’s where the money is, yes, but that’s where the shraddha is — that’s where the faith is. That’s where we put our hopes for security. There’s where we repose our beliefs in reality, that we are locked into postures of hostility and only the ability to harm others will protect us.
And so, somehow, in addition to the brilliant work that Tim and others are doing with Warheads to Windmills, we do have to address getting people’s hearts and minds – opening their eyes — to the realization that we do not need to place our reliance in these horrendous weapons in order to live in a secure world.
My first and maybe only news item, given the amount of time we’ve spent, is about the fascinating historical crisis in which we find ourselves. This is only the third time in the history of the United States when articles of impeachment have been advanced to the senate. An extremely interesting crisis of two different forces altogether is building up.
On the one hand, we have the rule of law and the supreme court justice having senators take an oath that they will be impartial. Not a single statement that the majority of senators have made in the last month or so have even approached impartiality. So we have rule of a law versus the powerful appeal of a type of presidency which many people found alarming.
There was a book back in the 70’s by a fellow named Christopher Lasch called Culture of Narcissism, and it has to come into our minds now when we look at the official psychological diagnosis of the president. He has been diagnosed as suffering from malignant narcissism. One narcissistic individual by him or herself – usually him – is really not capable of doing too much harm. But in a culture where narcissism is promoted, there can be a powerful resonance.
And many people have now referred to the appeal of the president, who has millions of devoted followers, as a kind of cult phenomenon. I come from a background in the ancient world. I taught classics for decades and I know something about how cults work and how mob psychology works. And it is a very disturbing observation that malignant cults, death cults of one kind or another, have been occurring frequently, and with increasing frequency, in our country. It’s not just isolated to a few individuals here and there, but it seems to be a kind of psychology which has cast its icy grip over a significant part of our political awareness.
And so in addition to the shift from poverty to destitution, we have an extremely interesting crisis building up with two entirely different kinds of forces. And the fate of the world depends on which of those two will prevail.
Against that background, we are now experiencing in India, apparently, the largest protest that has ever happened in human history. Estimates say that there are about 250 million people who are involved across India, but mostly in North India. They are protesting two pieces of pending legislation or partly implemented legislation: the National Citizen Registry, NCR and the Citizen Amendment Act, CAA, which would strip many Muslims of their citizenship.
Now there are 200 million Muslims in India, not quite the number of people protesting, which is an encouraging sign: many non-Muslims are joining them. But if you are a Muslim in India, let’s say you’re in a small village, your family has lived in that village for generations. You have no paperwork to ratify your little landholding and your cottage in that village. It’s very similar to things that have happened in the Philippines, for example, where farmers who farmed their land for generations walk out there one morning and find bulldozers are plowing it to turn it over to Dole Pineapple.
Now, however, if you are in India and this happens to you, you have no way to document your citizenship. Millions of people could suddenly be stateless because of this rule. Well, the point is that it is obviously – what shall I say? — it is obviously communalist, and exactly the same kind of mentality that we see here operating against minorities of every kind and color, and against immigrants. It is a form of xenophobia and shrinkage into one’s personal identities which is an extremely malevolent force. And many people recognize that.
In this protest, especially worthy of note, are the women of an area in Delhi called Shaheen Bagh, bagh means garden, I’m not sure what shaheen means. Hundreds of thousands of women have turned out. “Their full-time job is care work and has taken the shape of a revolution.” That’s a quote from one of the reports. “The care they show toward their children has now been extended to their fellow women protestors. The love they show toward their families now spills out for their country and the songs they sing throughout the night. Their unpaid labor has transcended the confines of their homes into the expanse of the street.” That’s a quote from an Indian news source.
Well, it reminded me of several things. It reminded me for one, of the Rosenstrasse prison protest where the power of the state came up against a primal human urge. Or in this case, a positive nurturing, caring urge where Jewish men were rounded up one day, at the end of February of 1943 in Berlin, and their wives and daughters turned out in protest. They simply took up position in the street outside the detention center which was Number 12, Rosenstrasse. And they refused to move.
In the course of a few days, the Gestapo actually blinked and all those men were released. And thousands of Jewish men all across Europe under Nazi occupation were not arrested because of the failure of that arrest in Berlin. So, once again, it was the primal sense of nurturing care, of identity on the part of women versus, in this case, the malignant power of the state.
It also reminded me of something I learned about the First Intifada when I had Mubarak Awad come to talk to my nonviolence class at Berkeley. He pointed out the social changes that were taking place in West Bank cities that were in rebellion against Israeli occupation. One of those changes was that the level of drug and alcohol abuse stopped; it just dried up. There were young people who had nothing to live for, no purpose in their life, and suddenly, they had a purpose in their lives and they stopped all these abusive self-destructive habits.
Another thing that happened was a very positive change in Palestinian society where women had played a very – were regulated to a relatively minor role. And suddenly, as Mubarak put it, every woman became every child’s mother. Because there were children, both of whose parents would be in jail, and so other women would take them in. It brought women out into a much more active role on the one hand, and also brought them out of the families into a cross-national identity.
So that just shows to me the general principle that nonviolence always works. It always does great work, quite apart from and often in addition to the exact issue that it’s applied to.
Now, this protest in Shaheen Bagh started on December 15, 2019. It was quite something for me because just a couple months before that, I was in Delhi and probably in just that area. What happened was that Delhi police broke into the Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi and really brutally assaulted Muslim students who were peacefully protesting the NCR and the CAA. The brutality there really reached an extremely high level. It just made me feel once again that one of the best things that India could do as a nation would be to implement a wide-spread, universal training for the police and the military.
Andrew Young, for example, a follower of Martin Luther King’s who at one point was our ambassador to the U.N. under Jimmy Carter, he was actually training Guatemalan police. It is possible to give them a sense of pride in their acting responsibly and humanely. This has been shown over and over again to be a very powerful motive, if you can raise it to the level of consciousness where people will accept it.
So, here’s this protest which was started, incidentally, by 10 or 15 women, mostly Muslim women. They just went from alley to alley, saying, “Come out and join us now.” And those 10 or 15 have become about 100,000.
Now here’s another interesting note from our point-of-view. This is something we’ve discussed here on the program pretty recently. So, the protestors are blocking traffic to some degree, they have said they will help ease traffic, but they won’t move until their demands are met. The blocked road affects more than 100,000 vehicles a day, and sometimes a 25 or 30-minute journey is taking 2 to 3 hours. But the point is not obstruction, it’s making their protest known.
The BJP, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the party of Narendra Modi, the party behind these obnoxious pieces of legislation is incidentally, the offspring of the party that assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. The BJP chief in Delhi has requested that the protestors to stop as a result of the inconvenience. That’s not surprising, but what I wanted to highlight here is the awareness, the acknowledgment on the part of the women that their protest is partly real and partly symbolic. The point of it is not to hurt and obstruct innocent people who may have nothing to do with it, but to get this legislation resisted.
In this country, something similar is going on from the point-of-view of the psychological dynamic. There’s a move here in Sacramento to get the police out of schools. One of the commenters said, “Parents care about the wellbeing of their children, and the police on campus do not make it a safer environment for students.” On one hand, it makes students much more likely to be arrested. This is known as the school to prison pipeline, which is a term coined in a report of the ACLU back in 2016.
Recently, in schools across California, there were 22,746 students referred to the police and almost 10,000 of them arrested in one school year – 2013 to 2014. And of course, one need hardly mention that the majority of those students were black or Latino. So, on the one hand, the police presence creates a sense of insecurity for the students. It elevates ordinary misbehavior to the status of a crime. On the other hand, it has not been shown that the police are exceptionally effective in preventing school shootings, things of that kind.
So the psychological element here is that the mothers are caring for their own children, and the fact that police in schools do not add to their safety. They just change the environment to one of fear and hostility.
A number of things coming up that I’d like folks to know about, one of them will be on January 27 when Occupy Sonoma County is going to have a teach-in called, “Effective strategies for climate action. What’s working and why.” It’s a free event and it’ll begin at 7:00 PM at the Peace and Justice Center, 467 Sebastopol Avenue in Santa Rosa. It’ll be presented by a union organizer and campaign strategist Daniel Solnit. I wonder if he’s related.
Stephanie: He is.
Michael: He is, to Rebecca and David. So, these strategies can be applied, of course, to a number of issues. To learn more, go to OccupySonomaCounty.org. Well, Stephanie, there are other wonderful things happening in the area, but I hope to get back to them in a couple of weeks.
Stephanie: You’ve been listening to Nonviolence Radio. We want to thank our mother station, KWMR, to all of our friends and volunteers at the Metta Center for Nonviolence. Thanks, Matt Watrous and Anne Hewitt for making the show accessible and transcribed post-show production. And to everybody, let’s take care of one another. Thanks, Tim Wallis also for joining us on the show.
Transcription by Matthew Watrous.