On 9th February I was asked to give the civic lecture at the Desmond Tutu Centre for War and Peace Studies and talk about war and peace at Hope University. A copy of the lecture is here, though the text never gives the same feel as the live lecture and the even more lively question-and-answer. In the lecture I argue that UK/US foreign policy is irrational and dangerous because it is focused on violent solutions to all problems. And thus we have large-scale military spending and fail to address the real threats to our future which arise from climate change, population growth and displacement, hunger and water shortages and all the trouble to which these forces will lead.
I hope you enjoy the lecture.
Like so many others I continue to be inspired it and impressed by the young people of Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and especially Libya. These revolutions will change the history of the Middle East permanently. But it will not be easy. Just as in the European revolutions of 1848, reactionary forces will try to limit progress; and even where there is a big advance in democracy and freedom, the obligation on the new governments to deliver a better life to the poor will be difficult to fulfil quickly.
But whatever the difficulties, this is a time of hope. It means that Western policy will have to change. It will no longer be possible to prop up dictators in the name of stability and to dishonour our countries by the obsession with arms sales. These developments will also change the balance of power in relation to Israel. If all would combine to require Israel to comply with international law, it would lead us to a just settlement and be in everyone’s interest. Perhaps this possibility is inching forward.
Bad year ahead
2011 is going to be a very tough year for very many people in the UK. The cuts have been announced, but have not yet been implemented. Many will lose their jobs, benefits will be cut and taxes go up. The political atmosphere will change and become more bitter and aggressive. The coalition honeymoon will be well and truly over.
Spring is in the air
No matter how cold the winter has been, nature is busy renewing itself in its inimitable and inspiring way. The birds are singing and building nests, crocuses and daffodils are burgeoning and everywhere there is new greenery. There is something moving and humbling each year as the winter ends.