Friday, July 17, 2009

Two Great Artists

In June 2009 I had the great pleasure to meet my cousin Rebecca Descamps (Liza) and her husband Yvon in Paris, for the second time. - I recognized once again, an incredible, creative energy which flows from them. And when I returned home, I realized I'd been deeply touched and inspired. -Liza has already published several books, and has an on-going artistic activity with her blog full of beauty and humanity. Simultaneously, she manages an Art Gallery in la Francaise where she encourages and inspires other artists, including her talented painter father. And as if that was not enough, there is her long history with singing, and music in multiple cultures and languages! Russian, English, French, ..... She builds cultural bridges !

The other part of this incredible couple is dear Yvon Zimmermann, a truly unique artist and a great sculpter with a keen cultural and historical sensitivity. For example, his works on American indian subjects are very life-like and striking, with a lot of soul. Also, Yvon is a very talented and accomplished pianist who plays original music as well as classical pieces.

Surely this exceptional couple have a great mission to accomplish together as humanistic artists of the 21st century who will be great pioneers and artists for peace, and a more just world. I have no doubt.

After waiting 50 years to know they exist, it is an honor and joy to finally discover and meet them.

(reflections of gratitude this evening, 17 July, 2009...) Michèle
Website for the Art Gallery in La Francaise (82) :
Liza's books, under her pen name of REBECCA ZABRIEL TOUMARINSON

Monday, August 4, 2008

Flood of Dialogue to Extinguish Violence - "Vision 2020" for World Free of Nuclear Arms

Just imagine war, violence and nuclear weapons being wiped out by an enormous virtual tidal wave of crystal clear, emerald blue-green water. Then replace the water in your mind's eye with sincere and determined dialogue. - You will then approach the image I had when reading SGI Pres. Daisaku Ikeda's article published in Sept. 2001, days after the terrorist attack in New York City.
Dr. Ikeda explains, in effect, that dialogue is the one and only permanent solution to violence.
I agree wholeheartedly, and respect this man because his message and his actions have been consistent for over half a decade.
- Here's a rough translation of the paragraphs I read today which I found originally in French:
More than 50 years ago, Gandhi searched for a way to break cycles of violence and reprisals, saying "What distinguishes us from brute beasts are constant efforts to improve our "morale personnelle." Humantiy is at a crossroads and must choose between violence (the law of the jungle) and non-violence (the law of humanity).
Dr. Ikeda said that today's world has an extraordinary opportunity, without precedent, to open a new page in the history of Humankind. And added that the time has come to make the following declaration:
'We consider terrorist attacks as a challenge to the Law of Humanity. And this is precisely why we refuse to follow the Law of the Jungle these attacks are based on. We declare our determination to find a solution, not militarily, but thanks to dialogue. Rather than feeding the flames of hate, we choose to put out the fire by a great Flood of Dialogue, which is enriching and beneficial for all Humanity.
This is the best, the only way to assure that such horrors will never be reproduced, and we believe this is the most appropriate way to honor the memory of those who lost their lives in the attacks". ....
A great evil can be followed by a great good. But this does not just come from itself; Courage is always needed to transform evil into good. The time has come for each of us to bring forth the courage of dialogue, the courage to listen to what we prefer not to hear, and the courage to restrain our desire for vengence and to be guided by reason.
-Published in Japanese journal Seikyo Shimbun, 23 Sept 2001.

MdeG : What made me determined write this post today, is my growing concern about the standoff between the United States and Iran about nuclear weapons, and also another article, below, I found published by IPS at the United Nations. It is an interview with Dr Ikeda on nuclear disarmament: He's still talking about the critical important of real and determined dialogue. -

Q&A:Nuclear Arms Are No Longer "Necessary Evils"
Interview with Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International
As citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are painfully reminded of the horrors of atomic bombings that devastated the two Japanese cities in August 1945, one of the country's most influential peace organisations is intensifying its longstanding efforts for nuclear disarmament."In order to revive and re-energise efforts for nuclear disarmament, we need to challenge the persistent notion that nuclear weapons are a 'necessary evil'," says Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a Tokyo-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) with over 12 million members in some 192 countries.
"We need to remind people that, even when these weapons are not actually used, they exact an enormous cost in the form of monetary, technological and human resources consumed to develop, deploy and maintain them," said Ikeda, who is also a Buddhist philosopher, author and peace proponent. The city of Hiroshima was bombed by the United States on Aug. 6, 1945, followed by the bombing of the city of Nagasaki three days later. As the city commemorates the harrowing event next week, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba says Hiroshima is currently one of the key campaigners, along with Mayors for Peace, for a 2020 vision on nuclear disarmament: a proposal to end nuclear weapons by the year 2020.
In an interview with IPS U.N. Bureau Chief Thalif Deen, SGI's Dr.Ikeda said that in the 63 years since the end of World War II, the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the people who directly experienced the horrors of atomic war, have continued to raise their voices and speak out to remind the world of the dire threat posed by nuclear weapons. Excerpts from the interview follow.
IPS: How supportive is the Japanese government of this campaign? And how confident are you that this campaign will make any significant impact on nuclear disarmament when all others have failed?
DI: In terms of impediments to nuclear disarmament, the lack of political will among the nuclear weapons states is of course critical. But at the same time, I feel strongly that a lack of interest, a weakened sense of urgency among the world's people, is also a key factor.
I believe the Vision 2020 Campaign is a direct outgrowth of the powerful, irrepressible sense of responsibility that survivors ofthe atomic bombings feel toward future generations. Many members of the Soka Gakkai in these two cities have dedicated themselves to conveying the horrific cruelty of these weapons to the future through publications and other activities. The Hokkaido Toyako G8 Summit (of the world's eight most industrialised nations) held in July issued a declaration that included clear and specific references to the need for nuclear disarmament. This was the first statement of its kind from this body (which includes the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Russia and Japan).
As host country, Japan has a particular mission and responsibility to lead the way toward nuclear disarmament. We need to revive a common sense awareness of the folly of this choice. To this end, it is crucial that ordinary people continue to speak out through such vehicles as the Vision 2020 Campaign.
IPS: What is your reaction to sceptics who say that nuclear disarmament is an unreachable goal -- considering also the fact that the world meekly accepted three more nuclear powers, India, Pakistan and Israel, in the last three decades?
DI: The temptation to give in to hopelessness is certainly there. But we can't afford to do so, because the current situation is untenable. If we stop to think about it, it is clear that possessing nuclear weapons only intensifies mutual mistrust and suspicion. They heighten tensions and actually increase the threats to national security in interstate relations. At the same time, it is impossible to imagine terrorist groups being deterred by nuclear weapons. For these reasons, relying on nuclear deterrence to achieve security objectives in today's world is a dubious proposition at best. We need to approach this issue from the perspective of what might be called a new realism. Think of the states that were either developing, or already possessed, nuclear weapons but gave them up because they decided that possessing such weapons was not in their national security interests. South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Libya all chose this path. Supported by the enhancement of regional security arrangements, they saw that they could achieve their security goals without depending on nuclear weapons.
As the 1996 Canberra Commission wrote, "The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and the assurance that they will never be produced again." We need to make sure that all the fissile materials that can be used to build nuclear weapons are strictly managed under reliable conditions. Such actions will advance not only national security, but human security. Nuclear abolition is actually the most realistic choice we can make.
IPS: Do you think the five declared nuclear powers -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- have a moral or legitimate right to call for the abolition of nuclear weapons whenthey refuse to dismantle their own weapons?
DI: I have long asserted that the primary responsibility for nuclear disarmament and abolition lies with the five states recognised as nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty(NPT). This is why I have continued to call for reviving the currently stalled disarmament negotiations between the U.S. and Russia. And this is why I have urged that this be linked to a coordinated effort by all five countries to develop an international framework with a binding timetable for achieving nuclear disarmament. The NPT review conference to be held in 2010 represents an important opportunity. There needs to be a return to the original spirit of the NPT -- to avert the danger of nuclear war and to safeguard the security of peoples. The conference needs to find ways of promoting both non-proliferation and disarmament, to help countries free themselves from their reliance on nuclear weapons. In recent years, key figures in nuclear weapons states, including former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, have called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. I think it is clear that the countries that possess the greatest stocks of nuclear weapons need to take the lead in realising a bold policy shift. This is the key to breaking the current impasse.
I would like to bring attention to the efforts of the Canada Pugwash Group to create a nuclear-weapons-free-zone in the Arctic. Realising such a zone would require a new level of proactive commitment from the U.S. and Russia and as such it could provide important new impetus toward the goal of nuclear abolition.
IPS: In September 1981, Israel carried out a unilateral attack on a suspected nuclear facility in Iraq, and in September last year, Israel launched a similar attack on a suspected plant in Syria. Did Israel have the legal or moral authority to conduct such unilateral attacks despite violations of national sovereignty and despite the fact that it is also a nuclear-armed country?
DI: The people of every country have the right to live in peace and security. And every country should pursue that goal through peaceful means. The use of the hard power of military force never produces real stability. This is not something that is limited to the Middle East, but is true everywhere. Force only inscribes new cycles of hatred andresentment, creating a negative legacy that will continue to haunt all parties.The sparks of conflict cannot be extinguished with more fire. You need water. Rather than fan the flames of hate, we need to unleash a flood of dialogue. That is the best way to put out the flames. The fundamental solution lies in realising regional stability and, finally, creating a nuclear weapons-free Middle East. These are goals that can only be realised through dialogue.(END/2008)

In addition to this vivid image of a Flood of Dialogue that recurs in his writings, I am hit by Dr. Ikeda's concrete suggestions, like the need for counties with the largest stockpiles being the ones who must take initiatives to ban nuclear weapons. (THANK YOU Barack Obama for alluding to this in Berlin last month. I pray you have the will to continue with this vision) And also by comments that the PEOPLE of the world must rise out of indifference - or lack of hope- and take action.
In this sense, I'm reminded that 2008 will find the NGO-DPI conference in Paris in September (for the first time outside of NY!!!), and that it's an irreplaceable opportunity for the PEOPLE of the world, ie., Civil Society as opposed to governments, to rouse their courage, create great and far-reaching networks, and urgently find their Voice to end this endless cycle of destruction, by using dialogue and mutual respect - that which distinguishes us from animals, as Gandhi said.
And by doing that, create a history-making new chapter for all Humanity as Dr Ikeda urges us, with 'The courage to LISTEN to what we prefer not to hear, and to restrain our desire for vengence.'

With hope and determination -

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Place for Integrity and Equanimity

I pray this blog will be a forum for deep reflection, a collective search for truth, honest soul-searching, and courageous and forward looking optimism for finding solutions for our world. This photo of Jeanne d'Albret is a symbol for me of the courage to fight for this kind of brave freedom of expression. Fearless dialogue always requires more courage than violent action.