The Peace Movement – A Grand Illusion?
(See the Whig Article discussing our plenary event here)
It’s probably safe to say that protests against war are as old as wars themselves.
That the arts should provide an important vehicle for thoughtful protest is equally no surprise.
Though perhaps not the earliest example, none the less Athenian playwright Aristophanes’ play, Lysistrata, (411BCE) is one of the most recognized voices from the ancient world that still speaks to us today.
In the 20th century, following the disaster that was the “war to end all wars” and in the shadow of World War II, French film maker Jean Renoir’s 1937 classic, La Grande Illusion, was released to much acclaim in France, even garnering an Academy Award nomination in the United States.
On Sunday, May 31, PeaceQuest sponsored a special showing of La Grande Illusion at the Screening Room (Kingston).
“What is so striking about La Grande Illusion, watching it in 2015, is Renoir’s stubborn refusal to show battle scenes or to paint the enemy as evil monsters,” says Clarke Mackey a PeaceQuest activist who teaches Film Studies at Queen’s. “This is a movie about how ordinary human beings are affected by the terrible absurdity of military conflict.”
Following the film, Kingston film expert Peter Baxter led a discussion which provided not only insightful commentary but provoked thoughtful questions for today, a conversation that seemed to naturally flow into PeaceQuest’s June plenary.
PeaceQuest’s second public event of the spring, co-sponsored by Between the Lines Press, was highlighted by the launch of Lara Campbell’s (co-editor) recent book Worth Fighting For: Canada’s Tradition of War Resistance from 1812 to the War on Terror.
Campbell, presently serving as Associate Professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University, has, with her co-editors, brought together an important collection of essays outlining a chapter in Canadian history that is not generally well known.
From the personal witness of the historic peace churches, to the political protests of the anti-imperialists, to the anti-nuclear movement and beyond, Campbell offered a lively presentation about the continuity and challenges of peacemaking efforts in Canada.
The rich discussion that unfolded underscores the importance of this new release. What does it mean to advocate for peace today? Is there an authentic peace movement in Canada today? Is it enough to promote conversations about peace or should organizations like PeaceQuest be doing more?
Whether one is stimulated by classic (or contemporary) films or important books, it remains vital for people to gather together and encourage these timely conversations.
Let PeaceQuest help you … why not contact us for suggestions and support. In the meantime, stay informed … listen not only to contemporary voices in the peace movement, but remain ready to learn from those who have walked the road of peace before us.
September 15, 2015 @ 11:40 am
A thought-provoking blog, indeed! Aided by the background information you provide, I’m especially struck by your question, “Is there an authentic peace movement in Canada today?”
Certainly there are groups and individuals talking and writing about peace, and some even actively advocating for it. What would it take, though, for us to be able to say that a ‘peace movement’ does actually exist here now? That is, a collective effort worthy of being called a ‘social movement’?
If there were a peace movement today in Canada, I suspect, a good indication of its existence would be our ability to see its specific effects in the current federal election campaign. Party leaders and local candidates would need to address issues of war and peace on the campaign trail. Harper regularly repeats his view in reaction to the recent surge of concern about Syrian refugees, that it’s not enough to provide ‘humanitarian assistance’ but also we must (as his government decided to do) wage war on ISIS on its home turf so that it doesn’t spread its ‘terror’ to Canada. I don’t notice other leaders stating objections to this analysis in their campaigns (it’s possible they have and I’ve missed it) — much less, giving alternative and comprehensive assessments of peace/war challenges facing Canada. I rarely notice peace groups objecting either — one exception being the Rideau Institute. And certainly I see no combined effort to mount a collective, public objection.
The recent song, ‘There’s always money for war’, states an analysis that a genuine peace movement might well subscribe to. It hasn’t yet attracted the attention given to the less analytic, politically cuter song, ‘Harperman’. I hope it will.