20 September 2008

Peace - one day?

By Rupert Read

This Monday, September 22nd, is 'In town without my car' day. That means that all over Britain (and indeed all over Europe) people are being encouraged to give up using their car for a day. And to try liftsharing or cycling or public transport or walking, instead. I'll be making sure for this day that I stick to my bike, and leave the car at home.

I think that 'In town without my car' day is a great idea. It gives us all a sense of what is possible. But it wouldn't be enough – it would be far from great - if that were the end of the matter. No; 'In town without my car' day needs to extend over time into something that a large number of us practice on other days of the year, too. It would be a travesty, if 'In town without my car' day became as far as we are going. This day must be more than a mere token: it must make us aware of what is possible – so that we can start to make it happen much more.

Thinking about 'In town without my car' day, and its limitations, I looked around the internet a bit and I found this: "London Play's Lottery funded Street Play project began in May 2008. Over the next three years it will facilitate 100 one-off road closures across London, giving children a rare opportunity to play out on their streets."

Who could object to that?

But, this arrangement for a yearly Saturday street party for children, with the streets made safe for that afternoon – followed by their required return to confinement in their home – sounded to me, in the way I am now thinking, just a little bit like letting political prisoners in a fascist state taste freedom for one day a year and then returning them to their cells for the next 364 days!

If we are serious about enabling children to play in the streets again, then street play mustn't just be a one-day-wonder. We need to work to change the streets, to make them less dominated by cars, so that kids can start to regularly - standardly - play in the streets again...

Similarly: one day, there will be - there must be - peace. Until that day, we have 'Peace one day', a clever UN-sponsored event that focuses all of our minds on peace for this one day.

But you will by now have guessed where I am headed with this... It would be a travesty if we spent one day thinking peace, and then did nothing else. Peace has to mean real peace on the ground. It has to mean institutions and peoples making peace. It has to mean an end to the arms trade. And so much more.

'Peace one day', as a one-day event, is only a symbol. We need to turn it into a reality. Into a 365-days-of- the-year actuality.

That is a big task… So, we had better start right away!

Tomorrow, I am speaking at a rather special event in Norwich: It is Norwich's contribution to the 'Peace one day' movement. 'Peace one day' is happening all over the world on September 21st: the event in Norwich is at 6pm at the Assembly Rooms, and I will be speaking there on my experiences in the peace movement over the years: for example, my involvement in peaceful direct action to stop the use of cluster bombs in Iraq, and to prevent nuclear war-crimes. (You can read about both of these topics in past One World Columns of mine.)

I will also be saying that what we need to do as soon as the event is over, is to work to make the promise of peace one day into a reality.

I hope that, if you can, you will join us there tomorrow evening. And that, one day, the work that will have been done by us all will mean that we no longer have to hold 'Peace one day' events – because there simply will be peace, every day…