3. Is there a case, at least in terms of defence, for technology that can be used to destroy weapons but not people? Is this a blind alley?
This would b e a welcome development, though it is hard for me, not being a scientist, to imagine how it might be done. At present there appears to be more interest in finding a technology that would decimate people without also destroying their homes and infrastructure. We urgently need a different mindset, which values people above money and resources, even when some fellow-humans, both here and abroad, appear to be intent on destroying what we value. How has that come about? What have we done that has contributed to that happening? These are questions that we avoid because the answers may require us to act differently.
4. What is your view of sanctions as a political tool?
I believe sanctions may have a place in politics when the chosen representatives of people who suffer gross discrimination in another nation ask this of us. But it will always be difficult to avoid causing some distress when certain products fail to reach those who will suffer without them. This is a grey area, to my mind. When there is a strong case for refusing to export certain products to an oppressive state, basic foods should not be included in items banned. But weapons, or materials that assist in maintaining grossly undemocratic practices, these may very well be included in a list of banned exports. Any such programme should be selective and accompanied by a lively dialogue explaining why this action is being taken. What is your thinking on this?
5. Might the Syrian revolution have succeeded had it remained non-violent?
I believe the answer is yes, though it might have been only after a long drawn out and costly period of resistance, with a number of martyrs. The history of the Parihaka opposition to land confiscation may be quoted to suggest otherwise. The military might of a land-hungry white citizenry arrested the leaders and many male supporters. Totally non-violent opposition had to watch the destruction of a model township, even judged by European standards. Their lands of almost a million acres became farms for white settlers, and the survivors of those arrested returned from prison to a devastated remnant of what had been. Their chiefs, Te Whiti and Tohu, died about 20 years later, and never saw the confiscation order reversed. Did that mean that their brave action in non-violently resisting was shown to be futile and mistaken? On reflection, did they wish they had taken a different course of action? There is no hint that this was so. They had acted in response to deep convictions that we honour now, and this period of NZ’s history glows as we remember their sacrificial acceptance of pain and loss, and refusal to deny a truth that was accepted only by a very few. Their action moved a sceptical humanity to recognise, slowly and wonderingly, that this truth was being demonstrated in a new way, and there was real power in it.
Could this have shown its power in Syria too? I believe so. But for maximum effect a period of disciplined preparation would have to precede the crisis, with inspiring leadership and active cooperation between racial groups determined to work and act non-violently even when provoked. Martin Luther King was able to inspire this sort of commitment. There were martyrs in USA. There would have been martyrs in Syria. But from those losses new life and hope can spring up. By contrast, the present horror in Syria will take decades to heal, with old antagonisms gaining strength with every shipment of arms to the region.
Read Part One here