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.

 

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.

The technical and other technicalities of a new organisation

What have I learned from my volunteering?

A friend expressed a desire to create a peace organisation and the first things that sprang to mind were:

  • the need for a name. It must be meaningful, appropriate, memorable, decent, SEO-friendly.
  • the means to raise funds
  • sufficient independence to get on with what the founders want to achieve
  • it needs publicity
  • it could do with high profile supporters
  • a blog can be helpful for giving less formal, more human, messages
  • a web site is essential
  • a web site requires people to keep writing content
  • a web site requires maintenance, applying updates, security controls, interfaces with social media, checking backups are working, detecting having been hacked
  • at least one domain name (needed for the web site and, ideally, email addresses)
  • something controversial to gain media coverage and attention
  • an understanding of its target audiences and how to communicate with them
  • knowledge of similar organisations with which to collaborate
  • the means, time and knowledge to create and drive collaboration with other organisations
  • a purpose
  • a plan
  • an idea of what “finished” or “success” will look like
  • specific responsibilities and authorities for individuals involved so they know what they should, can and cannot do
  • email addresses for the organisation and its individuals
  • a governance model with a committee or leadership and defined rules for managing it to prevent infighting
  • a legal structure (unincorporated, ltd co by guarantee, community interest company, charity, etc.)
  • a social media policy: which web sites and internet facilities to use, when, how with defined messages with defined purposes
  • a mailing list and the means to manage it
  • an online discussion forum with the supporting active moderation
  • an online shop with the necessary legal processes to protect people’s payment details and the staff and processes to deliver what is sold
  • equipment such as computers, mobile phones with cameras, franking machine, printer(s)
  • staff with the necessary recruitment, supervision, retention, development and appraisal processes
  • volunteers with the necessary recruitment, supervision, retention, development and appraisal processes
  • financial management, ideally with open reporting
  • an ethical policy regarding the law, environment, procurement, staff and anything else appropriate, with the supporting monitoring and reporting processes
  • the means of sharing information between staff and volunteers with appropriate backup, recovery, anti-virus and security controls
  • accounts with suppliers (e.g. stationery), technical services (e.g. Zoom) and so on, with the means of securely keeping passwords

A textbook on peacemaking?

One of the frustrations I felt travelling this path is the lack of an off-the-shelf textbook on “How to Do Peace”. Seeing a link to the Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation raised some hope. A single reference book is what I have hoped for.

“The Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation offers a continuously updated online publication platform for both academics and practitioners to review the state of the art, discuss new ideas and exchange experiences in the field of conflict transformation.”

No, it’s not a handbook, it is a web site of articles and downloads.

About the Handbook:
The Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation offers a continuously updated online publication platform for both academics and practitioners to review the state of the art, discuss new ideas and exchange experiences in the field of conflict transformation.

Seemingly useful should be the Berghof Glossary on Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding which sounds promising ‘We first published this small and compact booklet as a guide to our interpretation of the cornerstones of peacebuilding and conflict transformation in 2012‘. However, it is ’20 essays on theory and practice’ in 170 pages. It may be useful, but it’s not really a glossary, is it?

It is another web resource of articles, not an off-the-shelf handbook which is what is needed by those wanting to participate.

Don’t send boilerplate letters to politicians

Don’t ask supporters to send standardised letters to politicians, but to write in their own words.Sometimes organisations ask you to click on a link to send a pre-written email to politicians supporting some campaign or other.  Alternatively, they provide the words for a letter asking one to send it.  I have been told a couple of times that politicians ignore these standardised letters.  I’ve just seen the following text from the debate in the Commons about air strikes on Syria in 2013:

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con)

 

My constituents’ instinct is also against any direct UK military action. Like, I am sure, all my colleagues throughout the House, I have received not just form e-mails sent by some lobbying organisation but individually composed e-mails showing the strength of feeling and fear that lie in the British population. Having said that, and despite feeling strongly that my constituents’ instincts and my own should be followed, what I have seen on the television and experienced through reports of what has gone on in Syria has struck at the very fabric of my being. However, I am unclear about our response and our objectives. What are punitive strikes? Will they send a message to Assad to use it or lose it when it comes to chemical weapons? What will be the reactions of other countries? What are the capabilities of the people who may be deployed in support of Syria? There are still many questions that need to be answered.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2013-08-29/debates/1308298000001/SyriaAndTheUseOfChemicalWeapons#contribution-13082928000036

Is a PhD a possibility for me?

So I am preparing for my Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at Lancaster University and reviewing my plan.  My intention was to get a Peace Studies MA then a job in conflict prevention somehow such that I could do my bit to stop the UK starting any new wars by providing evidence-based arguments that there are better alternatives.

A few people have – in jest? – asked if I am intending to do a PhD or suggested I do one.  Having looked again at the university I have chosen – a “triple top ten university” with a joint top best research library and one of the top 3 research universities in the UK – and it seems I have chosen well.  One that prides itself on the quality of its research.  I wonder if that applies to the social sciences too, specifically the politics and international relations?  If so, I would be in the right place.

I had an idea the other day regarding modelling of the kind done in IT, physics and maths: are there models for conflict resolution?  If not, fame and fortune awaits if I invent the first.  If so, there is the opportunity to learn about them and apply them in the workplace.  But an academic view might be to review them, compare them, evaluate them – that could be what I do with this MA.

But there is a further opportunity. I am a practitioner by nature, not an academic.  I have been seeking ‘the learned journal for peace’, the professional body for peacemakers, the text books, the methodologies, the best practice for the people working in the field.  Do these things exist?  If not, they need creating and there is the scope for a PhD.

If I could create or document a framework for peacemongery such that practitioners could take it off the shelf and use it, that would be a heck of a legacy.  If I could form a ‘professional body’ or a methodology, that would also be a great contribution.  Even creating something so that when someone says “There is no alternative to war”, I can say “Yes there is, I wrote the book!” would be an immense move forward.

I shall keep pondering on this idea…

 

Empowering nonviolence – so much to learn

I need to read more information from War Resisters’ International.  They have so much useful information on nonviolent campaigns in opposition of war, that it is overwhelming, so I have not looked at it at all.  It is hard to know where to start.

Web sites:

Books:

Loads of articles:

Potential employers for me:

Who looks after the peacemakers?

When there is a conflict, people flock to one side or the other to support them, be it a divorce or an international conflict.  For those working with those parties trying to find an amicable solution, there is an expectation to empathise but not judge.

Listening to people who are angry, hurt and confused is hard without joining in.  To listen properly one must let them speak, put one’s self in their position, feel what they felt.  But to help fix the problem, one must not agree with everything they say as one would to a friend.  This means inevitably internalising all their emotion.  Then, when listening to the other party, doing that again.

I have found it is incredibly tough to do this, especially when over an extended period of weeks.  It is amazingly draining, not physically or just mentally, but emotionally and something else too.  There is something drained internally leaving one unable to make decisions or think of anything.  It becomes all-absorbing and nothing else gets in.

There must be techniques to prevent or reduce this, or to alleviate it.  Presumably those who conduct sessions at Relate or ACAS or in peace negotiations have tools and methods that mean they can keep working without exhausting themselves.

I have tried searching online to find out what these are, but without success.  Perhaps it is part of conflict resolution training or mediation training.

Having recently spoken to a GP and a policeman about this, I find neither gets any form of training or support to deal with the emotional consequences of their work.  People dying, mangled bodies, dealt with as part of their jobs, and no support.  How poor is that?

Memorising names and dates for an exam

tl;dr: I ‘cheated’ in my final exam.  I took in a crib sheet.  I smuggled it in, hidden in my short-term memory.

The Problem
I cannot learn names or dates, or quotes.  I have known that since secondary school.  One of the first homeworks we got was to learn a very short poem and I could not do it and got a detention for failing to do so.  I dropped English Literature at O level during the final year because I could learn the stories and what happened but not who the people were.  I frequently lose track of who is who in films and books and just enjoy the story, sometimes wondering why someone said or did a certain thing because I could not work out who they were.

Trying to Learn a Poem
In English Language there was a poem, The General, on a poster in front of my desk.  Every English lesson for four years I practised learning that poem.  I must have read it at least 400 times, probably over a thousand times.  I can recite it fairly accurately, but only because it has a story and I visualise that, plus it is timed to match a marching step, which helps get the words in the right places.

Left, right, left right.

“Good morning, Good morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on the way to the line.
Now the chaps that he spoke to are most of ’em dead
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.

“He’s a cheery old card” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both with his plan of attack.

Left, right, left right.

But I cannot tell you who wrote it nor in what year, despite that being clear on the poster.

It’s funny what I can remember.  I know scientific terms based on names such as Boyle’s Law, the unit called the Newton, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but they are not names of people, just words.

In history O Level we did global exploration and the conquest of the Americas.  I am confident I can still re-tell most of the story about the spice islands, piracy, the involvement and achievements of the Portuguese, Italians and Spanish, the discovery of the Americas, trade, some of the adventures, the treatment of indigenous people – all manner of stuff.  But I am not sure what centuries in which this happened and can only recall Elizabeth, Drake, Magellan and – for some reason – Quetzalcoatl.  That meant I could not do History O Level because it is all about names and dates.

A327 was seemingly a history module, but was all about the debate about what happened, not who did what and when.  No need at all to learn dates or names, amazingly, and so that went fine for me.

Consequences for My Degree
So when my tutor – who had been an exam-marker for some years for the module – said one cannot get beyond 65% in the DD301 Criminology exam without inline references in the exam essays, I was gutted.  That would mean a Pass 3 for the module and a 2:2 for my degree and failure to get to do a Master’s as planned.  I need 70% in this final exam to get a 2:1 for my degree.

What I Tried
I had been using Quizlet all year to produce flashcards to help me learn the subject: my DD301 set.  I enhanced that to focus on names and dates.  It didn’t help.

I also used a timeline tool called TimeLine for visualising when things happen and thereby learning the steps between them.  Here is an A327 example I had used the previous year for its intended purpose:

I tried using that to visualise developments in criminology writing to see if that helped.  It didn’t.

DD301 TimelineI asked on the module forum for advice on learning techniques but got no useful advice from the tutors.  The only student suggestion was for Quizlet.  I asked my tutor for advice, his conclusion was I should get the names tattooed onto the inside of my eyelids!  I have a few books on learning, study and revision but they all have generic advice and not how to deal with specific problems.

Searching online for advice got me nothing other than flashcards (for which I was using Quizlet) and reading out loud to a mirror.

So my carefully constructed revision plan of learning standard paragraphs, practising writing essays, laying out the standard arguments and so on all went by the wayside as I spent the entire time trying to learn names and their significance.  It wasn’t working since just a few hours after learning one, it had gone from my head.  This was despite going over them scores of times, some of them for months.  It was the same as The General poem above: I know the subject but not who wrote it or when.

What I Needed to Memorise
What I needed to learn was the names of the authors of five chapters from the text books (each one a multi-author chapter), plus a selection of theorists, what they said, and the dates of publication of their books.  At this moment I can recall Muncie (2001), Talbot (2010) [wrong, forgot two other authors], Mehigan (2010) [wrong, forgot two other authors], Green (2004) [wrong, forgot the other author] and Cohen (some time in the 1960s) but not what they said.  That is the entirety of a year’s trying to memorise them – I needed many more than that.  I had tried to learn 27 names and dates.

The Day Before The Exam
I finally found a solution on the day before the exam, by accident.  I was thinking – yet again – about why I could only hold the data in my short-term memory and why it could not be transferred to the mid-term or long-term memory.  That is, I could spend a couple of hours going through the flashcards over and over again and eventually get almost all of them right, but just another two hours later and I could only get a handful right.  But there’s the answer: use my short-term memory.

So I wrote out a few hand-written lines like this:

Book 1, chapter 1, crime, Muncie, Talbot & Walters
Book 1, chapter 5, corporate crime, Tombs & Whyte
Book 1, chapter 7, state crime, Green
Book 2, chapter 1, justice, Drake, Muncie & Westmarland
Book 2, chapter 7, human rights, Mehigan, Walters and Westmarland

for the key chapters I would be using in the exam.  Any reference to criminal theory and I could add “(Muncie, Talbot & Walters, 2010)” with confidence it would be from that chapter in the text book, or refer to “human rights are contestable (Mehigan, Walters & Westmarland, 2010)” and I’d probably got that right.

I also wrote a number of key concepts and theories:

Michael & Adler, 1933, Black Letter Crime
Tappan, 1947, crime requires a guilty verdict
Quinney, 1970, crime is defined by the politically powerful
de Haan, 1990, crime is a distraction from real harm
Reiman, 2007, Pyrrhic Defeat Theory in “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor get Prison” (vital to learn this one title)
Hillyard and Tombs, 2007, the social harm approach
Whyte, 2009, corporates and governments make laws to protect themselves
Muncie, 2001, “a conception of crime without a conception of power is meaningless” (vital to learn this one quote)

From those a number of arguments can be constructed.  I know the material pretty well, just not who thought it up and wrote it down.

I then hand-wrote those lines out over and over and over again for the rest of the day.

The Day of the Exam
I got dropped off at the exam centre two hours before the 10 a.m. exam.  I sat in Reception for 90 minutes copying the lines out again in an A4 pad, exactly the same, for another six A4 sheets.  At 9:30 I closed my eyes and fell asleep!  At 9:50 they called us in.  At 10:01 I started writing those lines out on the first sheet of the answer booklet from short-term memory.  I then spent until 10:30 writing down every name, date, quote, concept and theory name I could think of, joining them up where I could.  In 30 minutes I had ¾ filled an A4 side of chapters and concepts with most of their names and dates.

I then looked at the question sheet and spent the remaining 2½ hours of the exam actually doing the exam, with my very own hand-made cheat sheet on the desk.  And all perfectly legitimate.

The Result
So I used my short-term memory to visualise about 15 or 20 lines of text and took that mental image into the exam.  It cost me about 30 minutes of the three hour exam but meant I included 11 references which I was sure were correct, plus two more I think were right and a couple more where I said (either Bloggs or Jones, 2001) or (Green and someone else, early 2000s).  I also nearly got the Muncie quote right – I wrote something like “You cannot have a conception of crime without a conception of power” which is near enough, I hope!

I wrote two essays, each with an essay plan, a proper introduction, a critical argument and a proper conclusion.  The second essay referenced the first (since you can’t use the same arguments twice) and came to a conclusion critical of the first essay’s conclusion!  With 11 inline references, a quote and an explanation of the significance of a seminal book on the subject, I am quietly confident I ought to get the 70% I need.

The Outcome
I won’t know for another five weeks…