STOP THE WAR Aberystwyth and Ceredigion, a new grouping in the local peace and justice movement, organised a seminar entitled ‘War is Peace – the meaning of imperialism today’.
On Saturday (Sept 22), the seminar took place in the Round Theatre of Aberystwyth Arts Centre. The expression ‘War is Peace’ originates in George Orwell’s novel 1984 as one of the core ‘newspeak’ slogans of the totalitarian party that rules Oceania. That party’s concept of ‘doublethink’ demands that people simultaneously believe both the truth and the falsity of statements without being troubled by the contradiction. And, indeed, perhaps there is none for Imperialism when geography is considered.
Because the argument might be made that war ‘over there’ ensures peace ‘at home’. Conversely, waging wars against distant others may increase the danger to our nearest and dearest. Again, doublethink allows us to believe both of these propositions simultaneously without disquieting ourselves.
In the introduction to the seminar, organiser Johnny Gaunt noted that it is 15 years since the ‘War on Terror’ was launched in retaliation for the devastating 9/11 attacks:
“This war, we were told, was to make us safe. A decade and a half later, and the world is much less safe than it ever was before the attacks in New York. Each country that has been privy to ‘Western intervention’ is in turmoil: Afghanistan; Iraq; Libya; Syria. The repercussions, the rise of ISIS and the sharp increase in global terrorism have become incalculable.”
‘EVIL’ AND WHAT LIES AHEAD
The more than 50 people who attended the seminar heard Professor Ken Booth, senior academic researcher and author on international diplomacy at Aberystwyth University, explore the use of the word ‘evil’ in politics.
John Rees, activist, writer and national officer of Stop the War Coalition, gave his account of UK foreign policy and an analysis of what lies ahead after the US presidency election. Ayla Gol, originally from Turkey, Reader and Director of Graduate School at the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, had been due to talk about Syrian Refugees and Turkey but, unfortunately, had to cancel at the last minute.
BLAIR ‘A POST-TRUTH POLITICIAN’
Ken Booth described the root of war as ‘violent clashes of interests beyond diplomacy’. He noted that many wars do not happen because people disagree on the way they see the situation, rather ‘they agree completely, both parties want the same thing – but for themselves and not for the other!’ Booth’s research shows that there are many reasons for war, with language being one important factor.
He explained how war is justified by the heavy use of words like ‘national interest’, ‘nation state’, ‘independence’, ‘democracy’ and the use of words like ‘inhuman’ and ‘evil’ to describe the ‘enemy’. Calling Blair ‘the first example of a post-truth politician’, Booth explained how Bush and Blair used the words ‘evil’, ‘monster’ and ‘inhuman’ in describing Saddam Hussein, thus effectively barring any possibility of diplomatic resolutions to the situation and justifying their attack upon him because he was not a human being.
Booth views ‘evil’ as a lazy, sensationalist word, used in place of nuanced analysis with accurate words describing a situation. In 1984, Orwell wrote: “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” In the response to those who clamour for military action, currently focussing on Syria, Ken Booth advocated less military and more diplomatic action and quietly noted that ‘sometimes the best we can do is to help alleviate suffering and apply humanitarian help’.
FAILURE OF THE WAR ON TERROR
John Rees looked at UK foreign policy, condemning the lack of learning from previous experience and the continuous rolling out of the same arguments that caused the problem in the first place.
“We live in the era of failure of the war on terror! We further live in a competitive system with a competitive arms industry, favouring engagement in actions of war rather than diplomacy. Conflict from smaller countries increasingly escalates to larger countries, as can be seen in Syria, with risks of conflict between the US and Russia, both wanting the same thing: access to a friendly base in the area and instability is growing.”
Rees also lamented the lack of accountability and noted the ‘coincidence’ that David Cameron resigned two days before the report on the Syrian intervention. As for future military engagement by the US, Rees believed that Hilary Clinton’s record was consistently hawkish, from her endorsement of the regime change in Libya in 2011, her intervention in the Syrian war from 2012 onwards, and her public glee at the deaths of Gadhafi and Bin Laden.
Her election to the presidency, he suggested, would herald an escalation of intervention in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. “If Trump is elected, nobody knows! He is totally unpredictable on these questions!”
ACTIVISM FOR OPTIMISM
Rees, like Booth, was not overly optimistic about the prospects of a world at peace.
He did, however, propose that the ‘third big global power’ was international public opinion. Public opinion was, he claimed, immensely influential. Despite what many consider a failure of public opinion to stop Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq, Rees believed the huge anti-war marches of the time had changed the politics of military intervention.
On February 15, 2003, across the world, an estimated 36 million people marched in around 3,000 protests against the Iraq war. ‘Legitimised’ by the collusion of then Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, of course, Bush and Blair pressed ahead with their war plans.
A lifelong activist, Rees described the dilemma that we all face every day: “When I get up in the morning, do I engage or do I ignore?” He concluded that ‘if you fight against war, you may not win, but if you don’t, you certainly won’t!’ Returning again to 1984, Orwell wrote: “It was curious to think that the sky was the same for everybody, in Eurasia or Eastasia as well as here. And the people under the sky were also very much the same – everywhere, all over the world, hundreds or thousands of millions of people just like this, people ignorant of one another’s existence, held apart by walls of hatred and lies, and yet almost exactly the same – people who had never learned to think but were storing up in their hearts and bellies and muscles the power that would one day overturn the world.”
It’s About Time
THIS January, Ceredigion Museum are proud to exhibit artwork by the portrait painter Seren Morgan Jones, originally from Aberystwyth and the third generation of women artists in her family.
Jones follows in the footsteps of her grandmother Margaret Jones, whose work forms part of the Ceredigion Museum collection. The exhibition will be followed in January 2019 by a retrospective show of work by her grandmother Margaret Jones who celebrates her 100th birthday this December.
It’s About Time is an amalgamation of two distinct bodies of work created by Seren Morgan Jones; ‘History’s Eyes’ documenting Welsh women from the 19th century and ‘Portraits of Protesters’ a collection of paintings documenting Welsh suffragists at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Drawing inspiration from historical aesthetics and references, but expanding the scope of traditional portraiture, Jones redefines and re-imagines the historical narrative, and through this creating a place for women within the Welsh visual story. The paintings take on an additional layer of importance and meaning when shown in the context of Ceredigion Museum; which houses a large collection of items representing the culture and history of the county. The collection is home to many items that have been donated by women, but we too often don’t have the narrative of those women’s lives. Jones used the Ceredigion Museum collection of welsh costume as research for her paintings depicting women in welsh traditional garb; the women largely remain nameless and faceless in our displays and yet here, in Jones’ work those women’s histories are now brought to life.
The portraits are powerful and direct; the eyes gaze unswerving to create an utterly distraction-free moment between viewer and painting which seeks to challenge and question. The portraits are imagined and shaped from stories and photographs of women rather than actual bygone figures. In the creation of these false portraits, in a style that references that of the tradition of Welsh Masters; Jones places her and the women whom she is portraying within this cultural narrative.
Of her work, Jones says: “I create an alternative image of Welsh women to counter the representation often seen in tourist shops. Some would argue that this is the only ubiquitous presence of women from Wales’ past. It is important that the viewer can relate to these women and for this they must seem to have once lived.”
Join Ceredigion Museum for the official opening of the exhibition on 27 January at 2pm. The exhibition will be opened by the renowned artist William Wilkins.
The exhibition is a partnership project with TEN gallery Cardiff and will run from 20 January until 16 April 2018 at Ceredigion Museum. For more information please contact Assistant Curator Alice Briggs, firstname.lastname@example.org or 01970633086.
Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’
FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).
19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.
The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.
Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.
They are in police custody.
Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.
DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.
“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.
“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.
“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”
Ifan’s family said in a statement: “Ifan is a kind and gentle person, and we have been overwhelmed with messages of support from family, friends, as well as Ifan’s school friends, teachers, university friends, and sports teams, who are all sending their best wishes for Ifan, who is desperately ill following this incident in Aberystwyth.
“Ifan’s only choice for university was Aberystwyth, he had no interest in any other university and absolutely loves the town. He plays football and rugby for the Geltaidd Football and Rugby Clubs and is enjoying his second year studying Criminology at Aberystwyth University.”
Ceredigion MP welcomes 7-year Lottery investment in Llandysul
RURAL FUTURES, a new 7 year programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund, will be rolled out in 10 communities across Wales, including Llandysul in Ceredigion.
Professional advice will be available to help the town create effective long-term solutions to the challenging issues they face.
Rural Futures is delivered by Severn Wye Energy Agency and the BRO Partnership. Llandysul was chosen following a period of research into local economic and social statistics, and liaising with local councillors and staff in numerous community support organisations and community groups.
The decision was finalised following the public meeting held by Ben Lake MP and Elin Jones AM in Llandysul on November 3 whereby over 150 local people came to discuss the town’s future. This meeting helped the Rural Futures team identify that Llandysul would greatly benefit from support to address a number of local and rural issues.
Ben Lake, MP for Ceredigion said: “I am delighted that the successful public meeting held in November played a part in securing this substantial investment. Rural communities such as Llandysul are currently facing enormous challenges and I’m confident that this innovative programme will provide valuable guidance and support to the community as it seeks to come up with ambitious, creative and practical solutions that will regenerate the town.”
Elin Jones, AM for Ceredigion said: “This is excellent news for Llandysul. This programme will give the community the opportunity to take ownership of future plans and projects and implement vital improvements to the town on their own terms.”
The Rural Futures team will work with the community of Llandysul and will also work in partnership with public bodies and local organisations, who are already operating in the area, to add value where possible to their efforts.
Keith Evans, County Councillor for Llandysul said: “Having worked closely with the Rural Futures team over the past few months, I’m extremely pleased that Llandysul has been chosen as one of the 10 communities across Wales to benefit from this programme. I look forward to further collaboration over the next 7 years as we seek to regenerate and invigorate the town.”
Ruth Bates, the Big Lottery Fund’s Communications Officer commented: “This is a new approach for the BLF and in keeping with our aim of putting people in the lead, we see the Rural Futures programme as a fantastic opportunity to deliver real benefits to communities, as well as informing future policy and funding in Wales.”
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