Monday, 18 January 2010

Swimmers for Peace

Veteran Cairns activist Bryan Law has been called many things.

There's even a special dictionary at the Cairns Post, filled with adjectives, dedicated to Bryan. One thing he's not though, is a swimmer, however he wants to add this to his CV after a rather public practice run last October when the USS Blue Ridge berthed at Trinity Wharf. Here's the CairnsBlog video coverage.

Bryan invites everyone to the gathering on 26th January - Australia Day, to join Swimmers for Peace.

Hi groovers everywhere, but particularly in Cairns.

I'd like to invite you to the inaugural meeting of “Swimmers for Peace”, at 298 Fearnley Street Manunda, on Tuesday 26 January 2010, 5.30 pm. It's Australia Day / Invasion Day, and now, Swimming for Peace Day.

“Swimmers for Peace” will be organised according to the precepts of Gandhian and Christian non-violence.

An introductory non-violence workshop will be conducted on ANZAC Day 2010.
Many of you will already know that I have some serious health issues. My doctor tells me I can plan with confidence for five more years (then we get to re-evaluate). I’ve been reflecting on that, and thinking about my priorities for the time I have left. After family issues, I’m thinking about the politics of a good society, and any lessons I can draw from the past five years of patchy, partial activism and interminable war.

Politically, I believe human beings need to forge a planetary society of nonviolence, built on a foundation of individual and collective empowerment, sharing, and participation. For Christians and some other religions it’s called the City of God. For more secular folk it’s called Utopia. For others it’s about getting breakfast each day. We have some way to travel, yet I believe that humans are capable of achieving the good society.

In Cairns, I sometimes see just how far we’ve got to travel.

Tell me... If it’s not the work of Satan, why do we have to choose between Jim Turnour and Warren Entsch for Leichhardt next year? Why isn’t Tania Major running? Last March we got to choose between Anna Bligh and Lawrence Springborg. Something is seriously wrong with our political system. I wrote about why we must protest in the Cairns Post recently.

Our political system has to be broken – or we wouldn’t be fighting for the US in Afghanistan at all, let alone after eight years of continuing brutality and failure. We wouldn’t have fought in Iraq, and we wouldn’t be spending hundreds of billions of dollars on weapons to fulfil our role as deputy US sheriff in the south west Pacific. War and the arms trade disfigure our society, while making obscene profits for a few.

War’s not the only problem in front of us, but it’s the one that claims my attention.

So how do we build the democratic capacity to end war globally, first ending Australian participation in war?

What can I best do in Cairns now and over the next five years to assist the human peace programme? I’m resolved to attempt two things.
[Photo credit: Robert Pearce /]

1.0 “Swimmers for Peace”
Cairns municipality is directly connected to the US war machine in two ways.
First, Continental Airlines have four direct flights per week between Guam and Cairns. Guam is like the Christmas Island of the USA, except it’s got huge military bases on it from which the US can wipe out Asia all the way from Siberia around to India (Americans seem to always do things giant scale).

Guam is the “Tip of the US Spear in East Asia”, and is increasingly important to the US strategic planners. One task for the link between Cairns and Guam is to provide materiel and services into Guam. For example, the ANZ Bank operates there. It also provides US service personnel with safe, close, rest and recreation in a familiar culture.

Second, port visits by US warships are for access to replenishment, and for recreation services. By hosting warships we extend the operational range of the USA Navy and assist with troop morale. The Navy markets pretty heavily on “see the world”, and tropical easy-going Cairns must look pretty good to a child from the ghettos of Harlem or Chicago when the recruiters are out selling enlistment packages.

So in the next five years I’d like to have one more good go at organising effective opposition to both these forms of Cairns participation in the US empire/war.

When I swam (dog-paddled really) in Trinity Inlet last October I got a good clear picture of the forces in play when these ships visit. It’s a big ship, surrounded by all kinds of security. It embodies the power of empire.
MAKING WAVES: Sydney in 1986 when Ian Cohen (now a Greens member of the NSW Legislative Assembly) grabbed hold of the bow of an incoming US Warship.
[Credit: Robert Pearce /]

An unarmed body in the water represents something different. A body in the water has surrendered all power to do harm, and is completely at the mercy of crocodiles, sharks, police, and the US Navy. (It’s hard to say among those which agency shows the least mercy). A body in the water is also wonderfully difficult to deal with. It took two inflatable boats and four police officers 15 minutes to arrest me and get me out of the area, even though I was cooperating.

I’m unfit as well as unhealthy, but I kept noticing how any reasonable swimmer could frustrate those inflatables. The Police are really reluctant to get in the water - there might be crocodiles, sharks, or even, the US Navy.

Imagine if we could organise six decent swimmers to get in the water next time a warship comes, we’d make a real circus of the docking, and create significant delay and tactical hazard for the visiting warship - which would in turn be subject to adverse reporting up the chain of command. We’d create a publicity tableau likely to go national. Global even, depending on what happens. The possibilities are really cool.


1/ So I’m holding an inaugural meeting of Swimmers for Peace at my home: 298 Fearnley Street, Manunda, at 5.30 pm on Australia/Invasion Day.

I’m asking for people with a personal and spiritual commitment to nonviolence, peace and social justice to step forward and take part in the deliberate and effective exercise of people power that will successfully prevent US warship visits to Cairns.

Good swimmers are particularly welcome, as are poor swimmers and folk who want to play an ancillary role - surveillance, intelligence, photography, communications, planning and publicity. All swimmers for peace need to show personal commitment and accept personal risk.
I’ve been a nonviolence activist for 30 years now. Over the past 5 years I’ve participated in some very successful nonviolent affinity group actions at Pine Gap, Shoalwater Bay, and Cairns.
I strongly believe that Swimmers for Peace, if we can get six organised activists in the water next time a US warship comes to visit, will have a significant and positive influence in the task of ending war and building the good society.

Anyone who wants to talk further can contact me by e-mail or telephone 4052 1563.

2.0 Nonviolence Workshop

Many of you will have noticed that organising with other people can be challenging. Most people believe our society needs continuing and productive social change. Most people despair that our present party political system is unable to produce or facilitate necessary change. Our culture isn’t strong on mutual aid, diversity or appropriate technology. So what do we do?

Cooperation rather than adversarial competition is key.

Since Gandhi, the modern nonviolence movement has consolidated and developed a range of tools which enable cooperative organisation based on equality of dignity.

I’d like to organise a mid-strength nonviolence workshop for 20 activists in Cairns, perhaps around ANZAC Day.

3.0 In support of the goals above;

I’ve been invited to Wellington for ten days in March this year to witness and support the trial of the ANZAC Ploughshares in the District Court there.

Sam Land is a young farmer and Catholic worker who, with a fellow farmer and a Dominican priest, broke into a “Government Communications Security Bureau” facility at Waihopai, outside Blenheim in New Zealand around ANZAC Day in April 2008. They’re charged with $880,000 of criminal damage.

I first met Sam in October 2006 when he came with a cousin to Alice Springs and Pine Gap during pre-trial hearings in the Supreme Court there of Christians Against ALL Terrorism. Sam was one of five people arrested then for blockading the road into Pine Gap. He was charged with the very serious crime of “hesitating with intent to loiter”. Sam is a good guy.

If I hadn’t suffered my heart attack, I was planning to take parallel action at Pine Gap in 2008. I’m sad I had to give it up for a while. Well, It turns out I didn’t die, so maybe next year.

If you want to improve the impact and enjoyment of your activism, I urge you to take a crack at swimming for peace, or honing your nonviolence skills. Commitment needed.


Bryan Outlaw said...

It's now clear that Bryan Law's agenda is nothing short of repudiation of our alliance with the United States. This would mean, among other things, much higher taxes for working Australians, a winding back of our generous social safety net including the welfare programs that Mr. Law uses, and a huge increase in defence spending by our government including likely reimposition of the drafting of Australian young people into our military.

And likely construction of Australian owned nuclear weaponry.

We have to defend ourselves, sport.

Good luck with the swimming. Let's hope for Japanese whalers in the area while you're fat arse is in the water.

Cairns Resident said...

HA HA, let's feed ourselves to the croc's! Only someone wih low self esteem would do that!Oh, someone has already done that,mmm.
Hey maybe we can all rock on down to his place on the 26th & secretly record footage and send it to the US Navy!
Oh sorry that would be breaking the law.......some loves attention!