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The purpose of this blog is to allow me to record my journey, the formation of the No New Wars organisation (whatever form that may take), the Eleven Eleven Twenty-Eighteen campaign and the supporting resources and networks of people and organisations.

This idea crystallised for me in 2012 when I decided it was not enough to be angry about wars being started in my name (that is, by my government) that I could not prevent.  Instead I would do something.  Not march with a banner, or send a letter to my MP, or write to the embassy of the enemy state, but instead stop the war in the first place.

I realised that I could not stop foreign countries starting wars.  But I can do something to influence my own government.  I could start a movement that makes it clear to our politicians that we do not want war, and that we will make them pay if they start one.

In a democracy we have only one tool available: our vote.  If enough of us pledge to remove our vote from any politician promoting an unjust, illegal or unnecessary war and to instead give that vote to an opponent, then we can make the politicians and major political parties too frightened to want to start a war.

It does not even need many of us to sign up to this.  In many constituencies it would only take about half of the MP’s majority to take the pledge to make the MP realise their next election might be their last.  And if people who do not vote – which is most of us – sign this pledge saying we will turn up and make a protest vote, it will make the political parties sit up and think about the consequences of the actions of a few war mongers.

I haven’t done the sums in detail, but if this campaign had been in place by 2003 when the 2nd Gulf War started, and if just 1% of the electorate had signed this pledge, then 170,00 non-voters voting against Labour plus 1% of Labour voters voting for either of the other major parties, would have resulted in Labour losing the 2005 General Election.

Between 750,000 (Police figures) and 2,000,000 (organisers’ figures) people marched in London alone to protest against the 2nd Gulf War.  Just 400,000 registered voters making a pledge would have more effect.

We actually can stop wars from starting by targeting the real cause: politicians who want to start a war.  By telling them we as voters will end their political career and wreck their party’s future prospects of power at the same time.

Would you consider war prevention a big enough cause to change your vote, or to make you go out and vote?

Bastard evil WordPress hostile design fault

I logged in to WordPress, started a new post and something flashed up on the screen.  Then something else, then I had lost what I started doing.  In my list of posts is a page just begun with only part of the title.  Odd, because something similar happened yesterday when I tried to write a post.

So I start again, this time having forgotten what I was going to write about and instead write about the distractions that WordPress itself now provides when you try to write a new post.  WordPress used to be somewhere you quickly went to and wrote a thought and posted it.  WordPress is now a product that wants to tell you all about WordPress.  I This was the result:

Showing WordPress losing my postI started to write “Distractions caused by WordPress” and got the popup about leaving the page.  So I let it continue.

WordPress telling me about itselfWordPress had interrupted my attempt to create a post to take me to a page to tell me about WordPress.  Why would I want to be told at this point, when I’m already using it to write a post? This is stupid, inconsiderate design.  Why not go here when I logged in, not when I am trying to put my thoughts on the page?

Now I have lost my train of thought and so won’t be writing the blog post I wanted to write.  WordPress has successfully sabotaged its own purpose – and mine – by trying to promote itself.  And now I am angry with the developers.

Twats.

Edit: Aaarrgghh!!  I realised I had not put a title on this post, went back in to edit it, started writing the title and WordFuckingPress jumped to that elf-promotion page again.  WHY?  Why send me there EVERY FUCKING TIME?  Why do it WHEN I AM TRYING TO EDIT A POST?

Hit them where it hurts – in the wallet

The climate change movement has been saying for a few years that a very effective way to achieve their aims is to get people to move their bank accounts and pensions away from mainstream providers to ethical ones instead.  This is now paying dividends – literally! – and is also resulting in the ethical investment funds having enough clout to change the behaviour of carbon-producing industry.  For example:

18 May 2021 “Shell faces shareholder rebellion over fossil fuel productionThe GuardianLink.

Shell has faced a significant shareholder rebellion on a vote calling for the oil company to set firm targets to wind down fossil fuel production.  A shareholder resolution calling for the Anglo-Dutch company to set binding carbon emissions reduction targets received 30% of votes at the oil company’s annual meeting on Tuesday.

The result represents an escalation of the pressure on Shell to commit to meaningful decarbonisation, after a similar resolution last year received 14% of votes.

The Shell rebellion sailed past the 20% threshold that means the oil company will be forced to consult shareholders and report on their views within six months, under the UK corporate governance code.

The resolution was put forward by Follow This, a campaign group that uses activist investment to put pressure on oil companies into decarbonising in line with the limits set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

26 May 2021 “ExxonMobil and Chevron suffer shareholder rebellions over climateThe Guardian.

Exxon loses two board seats to activist hedge fund.

Exxon failed to defend its board against a coup launched by dissident hedge fund activists at Engine No. 1 which successfully replaced two Exxon board members with its own candidates to help drive the oil company towards a greener strategy.

Meanwhile, a majority of Chevron shareholders rebelled against the company’s board by voting 61% in favour of an activist proposal from – Dutch campaign group Follow This – to force the group to cut its carbon emissions.

Mark van Baal, who founded Follow This, said Wednesday’s shareholder revolts mark an investor “paradigm shift” and a “victory in the fight against climate change”.

3 Jun 2021 “Activist fund expected to win third seat on ExxonMobil boardThe Guardian.

ExxonMobil expects to lose a third board seat to an activist hedge fund, Engine No 1, adding to the pressure on one of the world’s largest oil companies to introduce a more effective climate transition plan.

CarbonDirect, LowCarbon and Morgan Stanley are examples of companies who have decided that actively investing in carbon reduction industries is more profitable than in the oil and gas extraction industries.

Green shareholders change the world!  Follow This is a campaigning organisation set up “to change oil companies from within – as shareholders. Follow This unites responsible shareholders to push Big Oil to go green.”  Also:

The Follow This Online Symposium 2021, which took place on April 21, brought together investors, the oil and gas industry, academics, and media to discuss how investors can support oil and gas companies to take a leading role in tackling climate change.

This may be relevant for the peace movement worldwide.  By adopting the same approach, it may be possible to move funds away from the arms industry.  More likely is that the arms industry will start to develop conflict transformation programmes so as to claim they are ethical too.

Perhaps this is something the peace sector should mobilise toward: all advising their members and supporters to move their current accounts, savings, investments and pensions to ethical providers.  It is something we can all unite behind: a common message with a common purpose.  One which we can see can work to save the planet – perhaps it can save humanity from war too.

 

Understand the market

When constructing your product, consider what the market it looking for and to what they apply value.

The purveyors of hot dogs sell hot dog sausages that are longer than the bread rolls so the sausage sticks out at both ends.  Delighted people say “Look how generous they are with their sausages!“, rather than miserably mutter “Look how stingy and mean they are with their bread rolls“.

They use under-sized rolls to give the impression of adding extra in the component where the punter sees value: the sausage.

But by being mean with the bread, the punter remains hungry and returns for more, sooner.

It is not enough to know hat you are selling: you also need to know what the customer values and tailor your product and marketing accordingly.

Password managers (new hosting site)

Password managers give me the willies.

Knowing all the big names in online hosting have been hacked or have lost passwords, why trust a password manager?  What makes them any more trustworthy than a multi-billion corporation?

But, everyone insists you should use them.  So I did – encryptr.  But they shut that down.  So I switched to BitWarden.  And now I want to get a password from it…

BitWarden not working

BitWarden just sitting there, spinning.

So, how’s that for security?  I can’t get into anything where I do not have another copy of the password.

 

Posts I never made

There is a useful function called ‘Google Alerts’ whereby Google will email you any new results for a given search.

I used this to set up a number of searches relating to ‘no new wars’ and the centenary of the Great War.

  • 21/12/2014 to 17/06/2021, “11-11-2018”, 1,117 results.  Returned anything that looked like a date of 11th November and 2018.
  • 21/12/2014 to 17/06/2021, “11/11/2018”, 1,113 results.  Returned anything that looked like a date of 11th November and 2018.
  • 09/06/2013 to 20/06/2021, “”Great War” 100 years”, 1,890 results.  Was just about memorials being done up.
  • 31/05/2013 to 20/06/2021, “”Great War” centenary”, 1,371 results.  All sorts of results, very few potentially interesting.
  • 17/06/2013 to 17/06/2021 (just by chance), “”war to end all wars” 100 years”, 1,042 results.  All sorts of results, very few potentially interesting.  Mostly about memorials.
  • 09/06/2013 to 29/05/2021, “”war to end all wars” centenary”, 348 results.  Some of these are very interesting, discussing the rights and wrongs and truths of war.  For about half of those, the article is no longer online.
  • 17/06/2013 to 13/06/2021, “”No New Wars””, 186 results.
  • 17/06/2013 to 21/01/2021, “NoNewWars”, 18 results.
  • “”NoNewWars””, 0 results.

I had been full of good intentions to read and consider each of those results.  Many of them contain multiple results themselves, up to about 6.  So there’s about 10,000 to 15,000 actual links there.  I was being waaaaay too optimistic.

I did glance at those messages, frequently.  Almost all were about heroes, celebrating sacrifice, celebrating the start of the war, how we need to remember what a great thing it was.  So much pro-war, pro-death, pro-suffering in the media.  It is very depressing.

As a consequence, no posts resulted.

But an awful lot of people saw pro-war messages.

 

 

A practical toolkit for peacebuilding

“This course aims to provide peacebuilders and everyone working in unstable and conflict-prone situations with a practical toolkit for peacebuilding.”

And that is what needs to be available to anyone on the planet.

Conflict Transformation: your practical toolkit for peacebuilding – a short course provided by Peace Direct. Link.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to sign up early and be allowed to do it for free.

The value of stickers

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be a grown up and grateful and not need nominal tokens to recognise my compliance. But I didn’t want it done and I did comply against my will and I think I deserve something to say “Good citizen”. Whoever made the decision to save pennies by not acknowledging civil compliance in a national programme that is costing over £300 billion has missed a key component in the psychology of stakeholder management. I now totally resent having been subjected to the experience and having chosen to demonstrate civil obedience.

The change management purpose of such stickers (like charity wristbands and badges and poppies) is to demonstrate a social norm: make those without one feel they are not part of the crowd, are missing out, are being abnormal. It’s a positive, fun way to build a social standard of vaccination as the right thing to do because everyone else is doing it. (That was the view of Public Health England in December 2020 who provided the leaflets, cards, stickers and social media content as a combined package to promote compliance.)

I know it sounds pathetic, but not getting the sticker creates the reaction of “Oh, I’ve done as ordered, but don’t even get a thanks. Wish I hadn’t bothered. I won’t, next time.” and I can even feel it in myself.

Branding is extremely important in our society: the label on your clothes, bags, shoes, car says who you are and what you align with. Corporates give out pens and mousemats with the logo on as they are aspirational items, despite being of nominal value. A Ferrari keyfob for your old runabout is still a status item down the pub.

But my accepting an injection into my body that I did not want – in a programme that has made some people very rich – does not even warrant a sticker. I feel abused. And I don’t know who to tell but I need to let it out. And I probably need to be told I am totally over-reacting. But I won’t be alone.

I’ll get embarrassed and delete this later when I’ve calmed down.

Digital Human, novelty, boredom

Yesterday’s broadcast of the Digital Human on Radio 4 was about ‘Novelty’. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000t40f If you have 30 minutes + thinking time to spare, you might find it interesting. It might have given me an idea.

They talked about how random interruptions / incidents / interactions through the day result in interest and creativity. They used academics from around the world to explain the related phenomena, so it’s not just people moaning about lockdown, it is proper consideration of the psychological effects of what is going on at the moment.

One of them was that a lack of interaction with others – simply chatting to random people about random things in the office kitchen – results in a reduction in creativity because there are no inspirational triggers occurring. It means you cannot clarify your thoughts as you are not regularly sharing them. It results in boredom.

I am currently struggling to write a particular document because of this. I am accustomed to answering “So, what are you working on?” many times a week and getting feedback, which really helps me crystallise my thoughts as I use it as an opportunity to check my arguments, logic and reasoning. Without that, my head is full of mush. My work – despite being a techie – is analytical and creative: understanding and then solving problems. Without others to test my thinking, I’m grinding to a halt. And one chat won’t fix that – it needs to be an occasional but ongoing activity. And I certainly do not mean the regular “Are you getting on with it? Will it be on time? Do not let me down” of a 1-to-1.

In my moaning, I am getting toward a solution, but I still haven’t put my finger on it. You have been right all along – those random conversations in visits to the kitchen and bumping into people in the corridor really do matter. The challenge is how to replace them in a convenient, non-judgemental and safe way – i.e. not just yet another explain-to-your-management-what-you’ve-done progress meeting, but random sharing with a loosely-connected colleague but at a time when you are both stepping away from the desk to have a 2 minute think.

The problem is, when we step away from the desk to think, we step away from our colleagues who are doing the same thing. We distance ourselves from others who in that moment are also subconsciously looking for someone to talk to.

A few decades ago, when the telecottage association was formed, it was in recognition that people who were working from home needed other people to talk to. So they created communities of people who were geographically co-located but had no employment relationship at all. Shared office space, basically. Interestingly, in the three days I have spent in Canary Wharf, I had some really interesting and useful chats with other non-GC Cabinet Office people who were in. Talking to people who have no preconceptions about one’s work and a different set of experiences creates energy and ideas while allowing non-judgemental validation of reasoning. That has stopped totally, of course, courtesy of lockdown – there is no way to interact with anyone at the moment in this way.

Sorry for the long ramble, and I have not got anywhere with it that you had not raised a long time back.

So, the problem becomes: when we get up to stretch our legs and have a think, where can we go to meet others doing the same that does not involve staring at the laptop screen? The best I can think of is some sort of kitchen.com app for the phone, but I don’t think it would work either.

A fairly large group chat where one can say “Anyone up for a chat?” is not great either as it results in constant interruptions. Perhaps a huge, department-wide chat lobby, where, as you connect, you are joined up with another one or two people and automatically put in a room together – that might work. It would need a lot of people to work well – probably the size of the Cabinet Office.

Dammit, the communal kitchen / camp fire / totem pole / bench / smoking area seems to be an essential component of human society, and lockdown denies us that. And I cannot see a technology solution that properly replaces it.

No wonder we use prison as punishment; I was kidding at the start when I called this ‘house arrest’, but that’s exactly what it is. And I’ve done my year and I want time off for good behaviour. It is doing my head in and seriously hindering my ability to work now.

Now is a good time to take up training in counselling – either mental or relationship – as there’ll be a good few years work to fix this mess.

A few words on governance and mission statements

This needs expanding, and could be expanded into a number of degree level courses.

There are a number of legal structure options. The most popular are:

  • unincorporated organisation – a bunch of people doing stuff. How most campaigning groups start out. Members are totally liable for debts and for the crimes of each other. Campaign Against the Arms Trade is one of these. So is War Resisters International (although it comprises not people but organisations).
  • company limited by guarantee. Like Conscience. Protects the founders to a large extent should someone do a Bad Thing. Means you can’t break the law.
  • Community Interest Company. Created for the good of a community and not suitable for campaigning. Meant for allotment associations or a village school run by the residents.
  • Charity. Very heavily regulated and controlled. Cannot get involved in political campaigning (in theory – the rich ones do it all the time).

The above are listed on gov.uk which has really good information on the options.

Regarding the purpose, vision and mission statement, you need to look inside your heart for those. They must be expressed in a way that is understandable by others and are goals that could be achieved. It might be one thing, such as COMT (like Conscience) or wider ranging such as campaigning for people being harmed by their government (similar to Amnesty International). It can be hugely wide, like the World Wildlife Fund, or as narrow as the Faslane Peace Camp.

When someone says “Who are you?”, “What are you campaigning for?”, “Why does it matter?”, “Why should I care?”, “What do you expect me to do about it?” those answers should be there already. (We ought to have a page of those on the Conscience web site.) It is worth coming up with a list of those questions and keeping them somewhere to hand and as answers occur to you, write them down. If you can’t answer them, you can’t get others to follow. It might mean changing the purpose, narrowing it down, until you can come up with questions and answers that work.