Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Anne Deveson talks about Waging Peace

Stephanie Dowrick, co-host of the Universal Heart Book Club, has reviewed Anne Deveson's new book earlier this month, and also discusses it in her video review with Walter Mason.  Now, in this short, fascinating Q & A, Stephanie asks Anne for some further insights - and we are so lucky to have them in these busy, immediately post-publication days for writer and peace activist Anne Deveson.

Q: Waging Peace reads as a book of the heart. Was there any particular moment in which you knew, "I have to write this"?

Yes - when I went to London in July 2000 to attend a big international conference on War and Peace and I found all the emphasis was on war, rather than peace. In the section where books and articles were on sale, 111 titles were on war, only three on peace.  And, at the conclusion of the conference, which was addressed by an eminent war historian, Professor Sir Michael Howard, Yale and Oxford - General of the Grenadier Guards, Military Cross, Fellow of All Souls - he wrapped up his scholarly speech by declaring  there would always be wars, because boys would be boys. It was a throw-away line - almost a joke - but it filled me with dismay.  I felt such beliefs doomed us to eternal war.
       In 2003, when I spoke at the Sydney Writers' Festival, much the same thing happened. The conference was called 'America, Iraq and the Future of War', so that most of this particular conference was directed towards war, not surprising considering the title.  Right at the end, I jumped up in exasperation and said, 'Instead of talking about 'America, Iraq and the Future of War,' why aren't we talking about 'America, Iraq and the future of Peace?'
       And that's why I came to write Waging Peace, a memoir of a life spent growing up in war and living in peace.

Q: You are writing with the glorious wisdom of an older, exceptionally thoughtful woman. How much progress have we made, culturally and perhaps also in our dealings with one another, in our thinking about peace over the last 20 years or so?

I think we have made much more progress towards peace than we realise. Our narrative of compassion is stronger due to a culture of universal human rights; we are far more aware of the horrors of war than we were in the past. We talk openly (but only recently) about post-traumatic stress disorder. Multimedia outlets mean it is much harder to hide war's vicious toll - Arab Spring erupts and we see it unfurl before our eyes. Figures about the cost of war and of armaments are openly displayed. Countries oppose the very wars they also support through their sale of armaments. How much longer will this be tolerated?

Q: I am a little disappointed that feminism did not influence the peace movement more explicitly and, indeed, that it's hard to locate an active "peace movement" these days? What am I missing?

Feminism has taken a visible role in peace protests. Jody Williams won a Nobel Peace prize [in 1997] for her work banning landmines around the world. [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol also won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 2011.] Women in African countries are playing major roles clearing mines. Women in Rwanda and other African countries have been trained in conflict resolution and networks now operate throughout the world. Women protesting? Women marching? Hundreds and thousands; perhaps more integrated with men than in previous protests. [SD: Jerri Bird was just one of countless women engaged in peace activism in the Middle East. In Australia, International Women's Development Agency (IWDA) works to support women affected by stereotyping, domestic violence and abuse, and intercultural violence throughout the Pacific.]

Q:  My own explicit writings about peace, particularly newspaper articles, always brought protests and sometimes quite extreme ones. What keeps you hopeful that we not only can not only talk about, even "believe in" peace - but that we must?

Protests against writings about peace?  Yes, they come but so do comments that support writings about peace.  I think we are evolving -  evolving slowly - as people realise the terrible price of war, and also the ordinary simplicity of peace. Peace lies within our daily lives - if this should this be the way we choose.
The younger Anne, film-maker, broadcaster, writer

Q: How has writing about peace (and particularly its absence) changed your own views of that crucial issue of self-responsibility: that we have choices about the way we will and should behave?

Which brings me to self responsibility and to a recognition that peace, whether it be manifested by men or women or Bonobo monkeys, is a choice we can make or reject. Turn our attention now to the recent Boston "terrorism" [April 2013] and look how that whole community banded together, gave love and strength each to the other. This may be learned behaviour, but I also think it is innate. Sure, we make mistakes, certainly we can sometimes fail in our generosity but if I think back over a long life of some eighty-two years, I think we have progressed and continue to progress.

'Doucement, doucement [gently, gently],' said the French army officer in charge of loading corpses of men, women and children on to truck  - victims of the Rwandan genocide. 'Doucement, this is someone's wife or mother whose body you are holding, doucement.'

Anne Deveson with Waging Peace

Q:  I'd love you to share some practical ideas about peace-making: what readers can do to create greater peace in their immediate environment, as well as in the wider sphere. Do you have favourite "peace-making" ideals and actions? 

Do I have ideas about peacemaking?  Sometimes I lose them because the issues seem so huge and so difficult. In this case the only way to find peace again is to delve back into the personal - into my own life - into finding love when I am lost in anger; into talking instead of posturing; into listening rather than shouting. And into saying 'sorry' when sorry is called for. I am not an angel. Far from it. I can lose my temper and shake with anger. I can be unfair. But always I have a choice. I can continue along a path of rocks and thorns....or I can turn back and walk with love, all of which may sound a bit soppy, but it usually works.

Q: Thank you Anne!

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1 comment:

  1. I have been a long time fan of Anne Deveson and her works. It pleases me deeply that she felt compelled to write of peace off the back of the dismal conference she attended. There is a saying "I wondered if somebody was going to do something about that, then I realized i am a somebody" Anne clearly is that wonderfully, hopeful and pragmatic somebody encouraging us to participate in activating peace.