Graduating to Peace in the nuclear shadow

by David Krieger

Dear Graduates,

David Krieger. Photo by Phil Channing

Having received a college degree, you are among the 6.7 percent of the world’s most educated elite.  If your education has been a good one, you are likely to have more questions than answers.  If your education has been mediocre, you are likely to think you have more answers than questions. 

 Did you have a chance in college to ponder these questions: What does it mean to be human?  Why are we here on Earth?  What are the greatest goals one can pursue in life?  What are the keys to a happy and fulfilled life?  If you didn’t, it’s not too late.

 You may have taken many introductory courses during your college years, but was there a course on Global Survival 101?  If not, you may not be prepared to make a difference in ending the great dangers to humanity in the 21st century. 

 Do you know how many nuclear weapons there are in the world?  Do you know which countries possess them?  Do you know what nuclear weapons do to cities?  Do you know whether these weapons are legal or illegal under international law?  Do you know whether they could end civilization and the human species?

 Do you know about the Nuremberg Principles, those that were derived from the tribunals at Nuremberg that held the Nazi leaders to account after World War II?  Do you know that these principles apply not just to Nazi leaders, but to all leaders who commit heinous crimes under international law?  Do you know what those crimes are? 

 Have you studied the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?  Do you know to whom these rights apply?  Do you know that these rights encompass economic and social rights as well as political and civil rights?

 Do you know that we all live on a single fragile planet and that we humans are the caretakers and stewards of this planet, not only for ourselves, but for future generations yet unborn?

 Do you realize that you are about to enter a world of vast inequities, as measured in money, health and happiness?  Do you understand that throughout the world there are more than a billion people who are malnourished and go to bed hungry every night?  Can you comprehend that in our world there are still 25,000 children who die daily of starvation and preventable diseases?

 Does your education lead you to believe that money will buy happiness?  It may buy fancy material things, and even status, but it is unlikely that it will buy happiness or fulfillment in life.  Caring for others and living with compassion, commitment and courage offers a far surer path to a fulfilled and happy life.

 Graduating from college is a commencement, not an ending.  It is a commencement into responsibility for one’s society and one’s world.  Exercising this responsibility is a daily task, a necessary and never-ending task.  It is a task that will require further education, outside the college classroom, but inside the multiversity of life. 

 The world needs to change.  We cannot continue to teeter on the precipice of nuclear and ecological disasters.  We cannot continue to exist divided into those who live in abundance and those who live in scarcity.  We cannot allow the greed of the few to overwhelm the need of the many.  We cannot continue to exploit the planet’s finite resources, in effect, stealing from the future.  We cannot continue to draw lines on the planet and separate ourselves into warring factions. 

 For the world to change, new peace leaders and change makers will be needed.  The first and most important questions you must ask yourself in your new role as graduates are these: Will I be one of the peace leaders and change makers, devoting myself to building a better world?  Or, will I choose to be detached and complacent in the face of the 21st century’s social, economic, political and military threats to humanity? 

 As the little prince, in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book by that name, stated so clearly, “It’s a matter of discipline….  When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.”  Look around.  Our beautiful planet needs a lot of tending.  

David Krieger is a Founder and President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org), an organization that has educated and advocated since 1982 for a world free of nuclear weapons. 
805- 965-3443

 

About the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation envisions a world at peace, free of the threat of war and free of weapons of mass destruction. We initiate and support worldwide efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, to strengthen international law and institutions, and to inspire and empower a new generation of peace leaders. Founded in 1982, the Foundation is comprised of individuals and organizations worldwide who realize the imperative for peace in the Nuclear Age.

We are a non-profit, non-partisan international education and advocacy organization. We have consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and are recognized by the UN as a Peace Messenger Organization.

Our work is endorsed by tens of thousands of supporters around the world, including the Dalai Lama, who said, “The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has been doing excellent work by encouraging a climate of peace and harmony in the world. It has been a consistent voice in ending the nuclear weapons threat to humanity and all life.”

Our two main websites, wagingpeace.org and nuclearfiles.org, together have over 750,000 unique visitors each year. Nuclear Files is an educational website that gives a detailed look at the history of the Nuclear Age. Waging Peace is an advocacy and education site that details all of the Foundation’s campaigns and contains an extensive archive of articles on nuclear issue

from child soldier to singer for peace

An interview with Emmanuel Jal

by Joseph Roberts and Bob Turner

 

photo © Jairo Criollo

Emmanuel Jal could easily have become an embittered young man. Instead, he transcended the scars of his early life to inspire millions through his music. Born in Sudan, he was a young child when the Second Sudanese Civil War broke out. His father joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and his mother was killed by soldiers loyal to the government. Emmanuel joined the throng of children lured to Ethiopia with the promise of education only to be recruited into military training camps where they learned to kill: “I didn’t have a life as a child. In five years as a fighting boy, what was in my heart was to kill as many Muslims as possible.”

Emmanuel’s life changed when Emma McCune, a British aid worker, adopted him and smuggled him into Kenya where he attended school. Sadly, McCune died a few months later. It was at school that Emmanuel discovered singing helped him overcome the pain of his experiences. He got active in the community, raising money for local street children and refugees. Now, at 31, Emmanuel has achieved huge success with his unique music and as an activist for peace and ending child hunger, he is an inspiration. Last year, he raised $220,000 for improving and extending primary school facilities in southern Sudan. He is also the founder of GUA Africa, a charity that helps communities overcome the effects of war and poverty. www.gua-africa.org and www.emmanueljal.com

Joseph Roberts: What first turned you on to the power of music?

Emmanuel Jal: The biggest experience I ever had was when I was performing at Live 8 at The Eden Project where I was introduced by Peter Gabriel. That day, I felt like I was floating in air. Before I went to the stage, my feet were shaking. It was like I was going to the battlefield. My throat was dry. You know, I had different experiences. It’s like before you go to fight in a battle your body reacts differently. The adrenalin is released and you’re not sure, but after you trigger the bullet you’re engaged in the battle and you can just continue. That day, once I held the mic and started the first song, the crowd went wild and I was floating. I even forgot my words; I started freestyling. But it was a great experience because the crowd was amazing.

JR: I’ve been playing music for many years and it heals my soul. Have you found music to be a source of personal healing?

EJ: Music is the only place I’ve found therapy. It’s the only thing that speaks to your mind, your heart, your soul, your spirit, your cell system. It influences you without you even knowing. So the place that I find to get to see heaven is music. Depending on what I’m listening to, I can dance for a while and forget about my problems. But when I’m engaged, singing to people and seeing their reaction, then I’m dancing and going wild and I become a child. That’s what music is. So music is the biggest therapy to me. It kept me busy – rather than going to see a psychiatrist or someone who can help me with my problems.

JR: Which musicians have influenced you?

EJ: Tupak, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Alicia Keyes.

JR: You’ve said your dad was a policeman and that you didn’t understand the politics.

EJ: That was my song Warchild where I’m telling my story about losing my father and mother in a battle and I talk about the politics. It’s a deep song. It’s one of the first songs where I could personally tell my story. That was the beginning of poetry to tell my story. Before, I was hiding.

JR: Were you about 11-years-old when you became a soldier?

EJ: No, I was trained when I was eight. I left home when I was seven.

JR: You were forced to do what you were told to do?

EJ: You see, my home just got turned at that time. I just witnessed people getting killed. I saw someone next to me get shot when I was five-years-old. Seeing my mother trying to put their intestine back inside. I got used to seeing dead people as a child. Bones, fire, the Savannah grass and forests burning. And we would run from one place to another.

My mother was claimed by war. All my ancestors died in the war. So we were told we were going to go to school in Ethiopia, but that’s also where we got trained to be soldiers.

JR: Now that you are older, what do you feel is the cause of war?

EJ: It’s basically economics. You know, you go to the basics. The root of every war is economics. When I study, I don’t find religion – that’s not part of it. There’s no racism. If everybody has enough to eat and they aren’t worried about the future, there’ll be no war. In my village, when there was not enough food to eat, the elders came with an ideology saying that we’re the only real human beings and any other tribe is irrelevant. So they would invade other tribes and take their cows. The other tribes have their own theory. They say we’re not human beings, that we’re a sub-human species so they come in with the idea to invade our home and take our cattle.

Over the years, when the Arabs came home they invaded our home and brought their religion, calling us to obey them, that we’re slaves and not human beings. But if you look, in reality, what they’re looking for is the land – our cows, our fertile land, everything we have and manpower to work to boost their economy, selling people as slaves. Only prosperity for the few people who want to have more and more and more.

If you look at the Second World War, it was economics. In the scramble for Africa by the Europeans, it was the economics – people looking for raw materials, resources to boost their country so they could go ahead. And when economics is mixed with politics, it becomes a disaster. So religion can be used as an ideology to collect a group of people to extend their empathy, first to the people of the same colour or language and the same faith as them. So they unite together and say, “Look, those people are not believers; let’s rob them.”

The root cause of all the major conflicts that dissolve into long-term war is economics. Like now, there’s going to be a scramble for resources in the Arctic. The ice is going to melt. The Russians have put their flag below sea level. All the European countries, the Canadians, the Chinese, want to claim that part because they just discovered the largest oil reserve in the world below the sea.

Now, because resources are very scarce, everybody’s running there. The wars in Iraq and Africa are all about resources to boost the economy. So economics is – it’s my economy or the economy within the country. That’s what I think the root cause is.

JR: And greed.

photo © Geoff Pugh

EJ: Yes, and a greedy person cannot do a deal with an honest person. A greedy person in Europe and a greedy person in Africa cannot make a deal because their work is to rob people. If you look at the bands, their economy collapsed. The bands are still getting big bonuses. There is war. It’s the children of the poor that are going to fight. Poor whites, poor Africans, it’s the poor everywhere that are going to fight. The second group of people are just benefitting.

So we’re all in it together, whether you’re a European or an African. All of humanity needs to unite. But not to point fingers at the people, but to walk with them to raise their emotional intelligence so they could share what they have in the world. People like Warren Buffett, who decided to put some of his money into education and peace, y’know, philanthropy. If we can get the corporations to be socially active – social responsibility – and get the CEOs and the people working there to develop emotional intelligence and caution about the environment, our world is going to be into the future. It’s going to look better.

Because the biggest destructors are the corporations. Our governments have become puppets to the corporations.

JR: The problem is hundreds, maybe thousands, of years of lies. How can we find peace?

EJ: Peace is possible. One thing we have to look at is that crime has reduced. The year 1700 was more violent than now. In the 1940s it was more violent than now. The 1980s were more violent than now. With education and the passing of information, human rights abuses are actually decreasing because the public is aware. Look at China; it has begun to open up slowly to the people. They’re beginning to bend their rules. They’re beginning to allow investment. They’re beginning to allow people to go to their country.

Now, for human beings, with technology and information being passed around, there is hope. If you look at the civil rights movement, that’s the best gift they’ve ever given to humanity. Now we’re living in the time of Martin Luther King’s reign. We have people like William Wilberforce who abandoned slavery.

So we live in the best times in which there’s a dialogue between humans. Chinese people can speak English. The Japanese can come to America and set up a business. So there is hope. We can count our blessings. The future looks bright if we start up that fire again now, so we don’t close our eyes. People care about Darfur. In 1945, who cared about the people in Darfur? You see. People were concerned about Sudan.

Emma McCune, a British aid worker, adopted me and put me in school. We have a lot of good individuals who are doing things out there if we can reach out to the people. It’s the people’s power, not the governments. The governments depend on the people. The corporations also depend on the people.

JR: The biggest trick is to make people believe they have no power. People give their power away.

EJ: To every person, power comes. One email can affect the lives of a thousand people, instantly. A person who thinks they’re not powerful – they have an impact of one thousand people. They can reach one thousand people within one month by a story. Who doesn’t have a way to publicize themselves? You see the people power. The people in the Middle East said, “Look, we need a change. We don’t want to be lied to and kept prisoners. We want our women to drive and to go to school. We want our children to go to school. You know? We don’t want much. We just want to be free to speak our minds.” The greatest thing I like about the west is you can get out there and say, “I don’t like so and so and I don’t like what they’re doing.” You get away with it. In the Middle East, you open your mouth, you die.

There is freedom of speech in Africa, but you are not free after you speak. People are fed up that they’ve been put down for hundreds of years into submission so there’s a people’s revolution. That’s why a normal person in America or Canada or Australia does not care if someone is a Muslim or an unbeliever, but they care that that is their right. So the people’s revolution is what is taking the wave there.

In Egypt, you see the people’s power without firing any guns. In Libya, they messed it up big. They should have just kept themselves as a people without firing. Once you’re demanding something from someone more powerful than you, when you fight back with weapons, you’re giving them an opportunity to oppress you more. But when you fight back peacefully you’re giving them an opportunity to think. You’re hitting their conscious level. Because they’re killing you. You’re beginning to act like Gandhi. And they’re beginning to think, “Oh wait, we’re killing them but they’re just saying, ‘No, we want this’ and we’re killing them.” So they’ll begin to negotiate because you’re not a threat to them. All you want is to be free. You’re not demanding them to go away, you’re just saying, “Look, this is what I want and you can take my life and I’m not going to fight you.”

That’s what the Egyptians and the Tunisians did. They went to the streets, “Shoot me. Tomorrow we’re coming back, but we’re not going to fire on you; we’re not going to fight back.” And they won. People have so much power. We are powerful when we come together and speak our voice, like the walls of Jericho in the Bible. People sang songs around the wall and it fell down. So we could sing together the same song until the walls fall down and release the money and save the world! We’re hopeful. We can’t say there’s no hope. We will win in the end.

The first thing you need to do as a human being is to forgive yourself. You need to love yourself. How do you love yourself? You empower your mind and heart and your own body, leading a positive life and being thankful for what you have. A person with a constant giving heart will live a healthy life, because there’s joy and power in giving. When you forgive, you become powerful. You’re elevated to a different form as a human being and you actually live a healthy life.

So choose your battles. What battle do you want to fight? A healthy battle is when somebody’s hungry, you give them something to eat; you go home healthy. It actually releases your stress. If somebody steps on your toe, if you fight back it’s going to make even more harm, but if you let it go you’re letting all the stress and negativity go. Taking care of yourself as a human being is very important. Looking at yourself – you can do sport, any exercise, you can pray. You know, releasing the stress. The reason there’s so much joy in Africa is because most of the time you’re not on the tube, you’re not driving, you’re not on computer. You walk. There’s a park. You’re running. There’s so much you’re getting just by being out and smiling and playing. So a lot of physical stress can be released. Meditation, even taking a normal walk for one hour – as you look around your body exercises, your heart, your system. So our physical body can heal just by doing things. Loving yourself doesn’t mean just eating all this stuff. Avoiding what you eat too because certain foods can give you stress. So giving is the main important thing. It keeps your heart healthy.

I mean, I don’t know, but I’m speaking what I’ve experienced. I hated Muslims and Arabs and I wanted to kill as many as possible. But when I forgave, something happened. I changed. I became a different human being. I’m happy. My body cannot accept to be upset for more than two hours now. So my body works against being mad. In two years, my system learned how to be against being upset. You upset me, step on my toe, steal my money or didn’t pay me – the next day I will be able to smile. You are responsible for your own happiness. You are responsible every time you wake up in the morning. You don’t expect somebody to make you smile. Whoever makes you smile has just added to your happiness. If they crack a joke or do a comedy for you or give you a gift, they’re just adding.

I always just ask people, “What do you want to be?” Blessing is a force that pushes somebody towards their destiny. A curse is a force that is pulling somebody away from their destiny. So what do you want to be as a human being? If you’re fortunate – every human being that is fortunate on this earth has a greater responsibility and a bigger accountability to make this world a better place because you have the resources to do so. That’s what I would say. Every human being here is responsible to make this world a better place.

Everybody needs to play a part. A poor person, a middle-class person, a rich person. We as human beings are in crisis now and the biggest battle that we have to fight to win is education. Educating young people. Empowering those who are fortunate enough. Empowering their minds, empowering them emotionally that they have a great responsibility for this planet. Giving them tools to better themselves. The biggest battle we need to win peace is education.

It works in the west. When the west was educated the wars reduced. It’s easy to manipulate somebody who’s not educated. That’s why we have so many terrorists in the East. They don’t understand that not all Europeans think like those who come and invade. Education is the biggest fight we have to win as humanity.

JR: We have to educate the heart.

EJ: That’s emotional intelligence. Social-emotional learning.

JR: A lot of musicians start turning to alcohol and drugs when they become famous. How can you take care of your own sense of well being? There are a lot of kids in Vancouver addicted to drugs and who are very messed up.

EJ: Music can destroy you or make you, depending on how you do it. Money can do the same. Anybody with no vision and who don’t know their purpose for why they’re on this earth is going to get lost. A lot of musicians are disturbed human beings. You’re giving out so much that you go home empty. That’s when you begin to take alcohol and drugs. You’re feeling the parts that are missing. That’s why a lot of them are into drugs.

Look at somebody like George Clooney. He’s no drunkard. He’s one of the highest paid artists. He’s focused. He knows what he’s doing. He knows his purpose. He knows he can use his power to save lives and better humanity. Look at Alicia Keys, one of the biggest selling R & B artists. She’s able to use her talent and keep herself. When you’re a musician, you’re a modern day prophet. You’re an emotional leader. You have a greater responsibility. So a lot of them get lost in society. Those who’ve got vision survive. If you look at Black-Eyed Peas, they’re focused. They’re entertaining and doing good stuff for humanity. There are good musicians out there. Kids on drugs need to understand if you don’t have a purpose you’ll get lost.

I’m actually going to tour 200 schools worldwide and I’m going to do 50 in Canada. Probably I can do 10 in Vancouver. In September, the tour begins in Toronto.

Emmanual Jal performs on the main stage at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Sunday July 17, and offers workshops during the weekend. The Festival runs July 15-17. See www.thefestival.bc.ca for times. Call 604-602-9798 for tickets or drop into the box office at 411 Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver.

Giving peace a chance

Recorded June 1st, 1969 – 40th Anniversary

by Donald Tarlton, concert promoter, Montreal

 

 

PEOPLE GOT into the bed-in for dozens of reasons. I got in because I was a concert promoter and I knew all the rock writers. One of them, Dean Jones of the Montreal Star, called me up and said, “You’re not going to believe what’s going down. John Lennon is at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Come on down! Now!”

yoko

FROM THE very first moment John and I saw each other, we knew something was about to happen – something big. We just didn’t know how big. John said about our meeting: “It was bigger than both of us.” That was the feeling we both had. When John and I sang Give Peace A Chance from our bed-In in Montreal, we had no idea the song would become an anthem not only for our time, but for generations to come.

It went around the world and made other songwriters realize that you can convey political messages with songs. Millions of people got together and sang the song in different parts of the world at different times. The song connected us and made us realize that we were a power strong enough to change the world. Little did we know that that’s when we, John and I, really made our beds for life.

I still remember the beautiful full moon that John and I kept looking at from the bed, after everybody went home. Did anybody think that a man and a woman, a man from Liverpool and a woman from Tokyo, would do something crazy like that together to change the world? Maybe it was written already on a stone on the moon or something. At the time, we were laughed at and put down, in a major way, by the whole world. Now all of us are standing at the threshold of a beautiful new age that we worked hard for. It’s not in our hands yet, but we know we will make it happen. Let’s make the best of it and have fun. I think John would have been very pleased too.

Imagine peace
War is over, if you want it. 
I love you! 
Yoko, NYC 2009

I said, “Well, there must be a million people there, I’ll never get in.” She said: “No, everything’s fine. Your name’s been left at the door.” It indeed was and I got up to the 17th floor. I couldn’t believe it. I remember coming in the door, and Dean, you know, introduced me to John and Yoko as “our local concert impresario.” I was a little timid about the whole thing for the first while, because it seemed like a bit of an intrusion, like I really shouldn’t be there. It was a pretty spectacular situation and I looked around and said to myself, “This is surreal. This is some moment.” I closed my eyes and brought up the image of the debonair man in the suit who had made the girls scream on the Ed Sullivan Show, the man I had first seen on stage at the Montreal Forum five years earlier. And I opened my eyes and there he is, lying in a bed in front of me, the same man, but everything about him is different. He’s not singing songs; instead, he and his wife are patiently putting out one message, interview after interview. They stayed on target: “We’re killing the life on this planet, and the responsibility to stop it lies in each and every one of us. Inaction is not an option.”

Most of the time I understand we are all such little insignificant beings in the universe. But there was something much bigger than our normal life happening in that room. Being there that night gave you a feeling that you were in a special place, where people who the times had singled out were saying things that needed to be said.

It was just the luck of the draw that I ended up on the recording of Give Peace a Chance. There’s been a lot of wonderful things that I’ve participated in over 40-odd years of working with some of the biggest stars in the world, but nothing will ever rival that moment. How could it? I saw some of the writing process behind the song, saw how focused it was. They thought, “Why fool around with more words than necessary here? We’ve got a message; give them the message.” I mean, it’s the simplest song in the world. When I was listening to it in the playbacks, I said, “How can they ever release this? It’s not a song, it’s just a chant.” But boy, was I wrong.

Anyone who’s been in a studio recording session knows there’s nothing more boring than sitting for three weeks doing 2,700 takes on two lines. But this recording was different. I mean, everyone had an instrument of some sort. The Hare Krishna people were chanting and the people in the room passed around a tambourine, but most of it was hand-clapping, or you grabbed something – a couple of people had books, banging them together like cymbals. People were kicking the open sliding door to the next room for that big bass beat. Everything was really cooking. It was a very spiritual moment. And they just kept going and going; it went on and on, take after take, until John was satisfied.

It will never go down as one of his greatest songs, but it’ll go down as the greatest message a song ever gave the world – a message that has been understood and chanted by crowds all around the world. Why is the song still relevant? Well, can you think of a more relevant message in today’s world? Turn on your television sets, listen to your radio. Watch what’s happening around this world. Be horrified. Recoil. Ask yourself how this could have gone so wrong. So if you ask me if the message “give peace a chance” is relevant, it matters more today than it did when John and Yoko sent the original message to the world. We have to say to ourselves: It was a great message then. It could be a greater message today. It’s simple: Think of peace and of peace only.

Some nations have an atomic bomb; some nations have all the armaments in the world. John Lennon had his guitar, his voice, his soul and his spirit. We need more like him.

Excerpted from compiled by Joan Athey. Photography by Gerry Deiter. Edited by Paul McGrath. (John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd.)

joan_and_Gerry

Joan Athey and Gerry Deiter (1934-2005)