Change that leads to better lives

My last chance for direct action!

Dorothy Runnicles, NDTi Associate, shares her impression of the VE Day 70th Anniversary events.

Dorothy r

As a 90 year old Veteran I was at the Veterans weekend 70th anniversary event of VE Day (VE70th, 9th-11th May 2015) in London, and have been invited to comment on my experiences.

The Saturday televised concert “A Party to Remember” was based on a historical review of events, speeches and songs and attended by a vast audience in the Horseguards Parade. For me it paid tribute to the enormous sacrifices and efforts put into the war by all sectors of the population, and was presented as entertainment.

I found the Service of Thanksgiving on Sunday at Westminster Abbey impressive - because of its attention to the need for us to work for peace and reconciliation in our homes and communities and to promote peace throughout the world - a worthy aim to which we subscribe. It was attended by representatives from many faiths and cultures as well the Queen, Philip and their sons, and our newly appointed Prime Minister.

We then managed to “march” with help to the Horseguards Parade and St James Park for the lunch. There, I realised I had the opportunity to attempt some direct action and spoke first to the Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Michael Fallon, who directed me to the Head of the Army, General Sir Nicholas Carter; who suggested I met up with the Air Chief Marshal, Sir Andrew Pulford, Head of the Air Force. In the short time I had with them, I gave them all the same message: please spend more of your budgets on pursuing peace, and conflict resolution etc. - e.g. through further academic studies and new strategies - and not selling armaments to both sides of world areas in conflict. I asked could we attempt to improve the functioning and use of the international organisations we now have, which have grown in the past 70 years. I then spoke to David Cameron, the newly confirmed Prime Minister and gave him the same message. For me, that was the reason I was so delighted to be enabled by my daughter to attend the wonderful event at the Abbey, to reconsider reconciliation and how far our current strategies for peace were working - 70 years on!

I believe that many people are reconsidering the range of new actions we can take to counterbalance the despair, hate, fear and greed which seem to underpin current trends. New economic knowledge is emerging and important questions arise about how the money system really works. We need to work towards fairer international trade and recognise the misuse of corporate power. These are affecting our own democracy and peaceful co-existence, across the world. We need faith, hope and new action!

I felt, as always, a degree of patronage surrounding the event and did not conform to the “Thank you very much” gratitude line. Social justice, and the pursuit of peace have underlined my actions (although inadequate) over the past 70 years. I came out of the war services as a pacifist and Sunday was the first (and last) time I was prepared to wear a medal/badge, as I have always felt that being evacuated from my home in London had revealed to me how everyone (almost) contributed, lost out, gave their best and there were no winners or heroes. It also revealed the many inadequacies of the class-based, sexist society of that period. At the end of the war, we were bankrupt as a nation and borrowed money in the firm hope that we could build a fairer, better Britain, peace and social justice.

At this end period of my life I recognise how little progress we have achieved in conflict resolution, negotiation and international peace keeping. Yet I have witnessed the remarkable examples of change promoted via the strategies of peace movements, and individuals like Mandela, and Ghandi. They did not conform to the prevailing norms.

In addition, the war period did have positive learning implications for many women and young people by stretching their life experiences and revealing the many gaps in the health and well-being of our society. I also learnt about the effect of war on the life and death of my grandmother with whom I shared a bedroom.

I liken the current ageist culture and discrimination to the sexism I felt earlier in my life. Again it does not apply to everyone, but it has been an acceptable norm in society for far too long. Meanwhile, the Big Business of old age thrives and grows.

Thank you friends and family members, for all the love and help we can and do exchange.

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