For Adults

JUST AND UNJUST WARS (A Moral Argument With Historical illustrations) By Michael Walzer

Just and Unjust wars

 

The over 300 pages of this book are either fascinating or frightening.  This is not because of the subject it treats but because of the enormously detailed philosophical arguments it goes into.

The question is relatively simple: is war ever justified? Never, say the  pacifists. Other, equally sincere peace lovers will proably concede there is sometimmes a case for armed conflict. The obvious example is in self-defence.  But that poses a whole number of questions that are not so easily answered. And that’s the trouble. The infinite detail the auther  gives us takes some following.  He goes into moral realities, citing Clausewitz.  He then deals with theories of aggression.  What are our rights and who do we mean by “us”? Sometimes a state may take action, especially in the case of declaring war, of which many of its citizens disapprove.

 

Then he deals with war conventions, the “immunity” of noncombtants, for instance.  Can this rule be ignored if militarily “necessary”  And who decides?  The whole question of the role of civilians is also dealt with.  And what of resistence fighters and terrorism?  Does the original question seem to be a trifle oversimplified?

Next there is a chapter on the dilemmas of war.  Examples of recent wars (especially the last world war) are used to illustrate the points made.  One example he cites is the decision to bomb German cities made by the Allied Command.  Been to Dresden recently?  I have and I’ve taken part in the trust set up (in the USA, Britain and Germany) to rebuild the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) in just the same way that a group of Germans came over here to take part in the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral.

 

Finally, the book deals with the questioin of responsibility.  The author cites the Viet Nam war and the My Laimassacre.  There is also an afterword on nonviolence and the theory of war.  If we remember Gandhi (not cited) perhaps we should ask ourselves if nonviolence is not sometimes more effective than killing people – tens of millions in the last war.

Think it over and, if you’ve the time, read this fascinating book.

Under The Weather

underTheWeather

UNDER THE WEATHER

Edited by Tony Bradman

A delightful book, a frightening book, an inspiring book - and a wake-up call. But there's never a dull moment.  On the contrary, you will be fascinated by  these seven short stories, written by seven outstanding children's authors.  The scenarios are as far afield as Canada, the Philippines, Australia and the U.K.  It is primarily for children but adults can enjoy and benefit from it too.

The authors are never pedantic, never lecture but the message is there.  Get up and DO something or our descendants are doomed. 

There's the boy on an island in the Philippines who gets coins from tourists by building interesting sandcastles.  But tourism is threatened firstly, by the disappearance of the reef due to pollution and then the whole island because of rising tides.

The next story is in Canada, where a young girl is horrified to discover that climate change is leading to the disappearance of her beloved beluga whales (sea canaries).  Then there's the plight of the disappearing bees, whose spreading of pollen guarantees the proliferation of all plant life. In Sri Lanka, due to pollution, mosquitoes are increasingly causing sickness and death.  The tundra, too, is in danger, as explained in another story.

The heartening thing about all these tales, is the ingenuity of the local children, determined to play their part in saving the planet.  One example is of a team of boys who acquire bicycles and ride to school , refusing to travel in their parents cars.

Read and enjoy and, perhaps, be inspired to play your part in this vital struggle too.

The selfish altruist

selfish altruist

THE SELFISH ALTRUIST By Tony Vaux
Relief work in famine and war

The author was, for many years, Oxfams co-ordinator of global emergency programmes. In this book he goes into what motivates people to sacrifice time, energy, money and personal comfort to help others in distress. Is there not an element of self-satisfaction, desire for glory or power in this work? And hes talking with a background of vast experience. As one reviewer has said: Tony Vaux undertakes (sensitively)a deeply personalyet objective reflection on the motives and ethics of (his) humanitarian efforts.
There are those who believe that human nature is basically selfish and that you cant change it. Even seemingly selfless actions give us self-satisfaction they will tell you.. I usually reply that theres nothing wrong with that sort of selfishness as it has positive results.
The author asks if there is an agreed moral basis for modern humanitarianism. He also raises the vital question of hypocrasy, governments claiming to act out of humanitarian principles but really to serve their own perceived interests. I sometimes wonder, he muses, if all idealism is a myth or a mistake. We should note, however, that he makes it clear that his middle class and somewhat academic experience has helped to shape his views on this matter.
He describes in some detail his activities all over the world: Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Somalia and many other areas. He writes of impartiality and self-respect, the relationship between pride and principle and how the emotions become involved and, sometimes, entangled.
In a final chapter, he seems to contrast the attitude and motivations of governments, when they intervene (and give their help) in the affairs of other countries, with those of individuals and charitable organisations. The reader must judge the merits of this approach by reading this most valuable examination of a neglected aspect of our efforts to help those, all over the world, who desperately need that help.

The Transition Handbook

The Transition Handbook

The Transition Handbook(From oil dependency to local resilience)
by Rob Hopkins

We all know that our planet's ecology, upon which our whole civilisation is built, is in mortal danger. We also know that oil, perhaps the most vital resource for that civilisation, will soon run out. What to do?

First, we must find out the real nature of these intertwining dangers in all its horrifying detail, and then we may be in a position to decide what action to take. I can think of no better guide to these two questions than the author (an authority on permaculture and natural building) and the book he has written. It may change your whole attitude to life and the world we live in.

The book starts by outlining the two problems. It gives an almost endless list of all those things in whose production the use of oil has been directly or indirectly involved. It includes not just the latest sophisticated electronic equipment but scores of items in daily use, and without which our modern lives would be unthinkable.

In 30 to 40 years or probably much sooner, THERE WILL BE NO OIL! It's as simple as that. Even our Foreign Secretary has said: "The time is right to think about what it would mean to create a post-oil economy". The author claims:that "Life will radically change, whether we want it to or not". There is abundant evidence that should convince the most obdurate doubters that, first discovery and then production, will cease. But government and the oil companies want "business as usual".

Secondly, there is the well-exposed problem of climate change and many examples are given of the certain effects of this. The author warns that the inundation of areas of current human activity.and the disappearance of many islands will be one result. Then there's the danger of temperature change that could cause devastation.. He suggests that some of these changes may even be beneficial at first, until they reach a critical point leading to destruction.

Can all this be avoided? Not if we continue as we are; current measures are far too little. But YES, if we act now. Three possible courses of action are posited: do nothing, leading to utter destruction; find or invent technical "fixes" - but such "miracles" are unlikely, chancey or will never effect the necessary transformation. The third scenario, the Transition Movementâ's choice, is to change our mindset leading to changes in behaviour
It means gradual adaptation to a simpler lifestyle. The book gives examples of previous pre-oil societies, listing their negative and positive aspects. The "dig for victory" campaign and other measures, willingly accepted during the war, are also cited. Ah, you will say, but that was a national emergency. Quite! It's a question of convincing people of the immediacy of the danger.

Of course, you can't change people's mindset overnight but there are already encouraging signs that some of us have been taking action. The example of Transition Towns is given and they are growing in number. Brighton has recently become one of these, although the author didn'€ know it at the time.The book explains how this movement was started and how it can be developed, quoting chapter and verse of actually existing practices. It brings a positive message of hope

Amnesty International

Amnesty International

Amnesty International by Marsha Bronson
Organisations That Help the World.

Freedom is in danger all over the world. People are arrested, often with no charge against them, held without trial, tortured or mistreated, sometimes for "crimes" which in a democratic country would be no crimes at all, simply protesting against the inhuman conditions under which they are forced to live. Shocking? Does anybody care?

Read the story of Amnesty International and you will find the answer to that question, as well as a challenge to add your weight to this international movement for freedom and human rights.

Their story is a truly inspiring one. From small (one individual) and humble beginnings, it has mushroomed into a powerful voice against injustice all over the world and not just in general but in thousands of individual cases and has been effective in freeing the victims of arbitrary injustice or at least achieving an amelioration of their prison conditions.

It does the soul good to read of the myriad acts of intervention, often just by writing letters to the powers involved, and the persistence which has had such dramatic and life-saving results.

Read it and feel your spirits rise.

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