Friday, October 28, 2011

Thinking about AFSC

I was interviewed last night by an NPYM person regarding my role as NPYM "corp rep", meaning I'm a member of the AFSC corporation as nominated by NPYM as a kind of "agency - meeting go-between" (yes, we say "laison" sometimes). I'm not the only corp rep from NPYM: we have four. My term goes until 2014. I've been in this role before.

Anyway, during that interview I wondered aloud if the role I'm playing with Occupy Portland is with my "corp rep" hat on, or not. I do forward some memos to an Occupation point person in Philly, but one could say I'm doing that on behalf of FNB, just updating a sister organization with commensurate interests and investments (an affiliate).

The AFSC traces its origins to providing refugee assistance after and during the first few world wars, and to "work camps", many of them alternatives to military service, organized as a way for Friends to provide relief and counter-balancing intelligence (they would put out fires a lot, sometimes by jumping from airplanes).

I'm seeing this heritage, of refugees and camps, coming together in contemporary situations, with the Occupation in particular, and am wondering if "camps" and "camping" should once again become the unifying AFSC theme in the following sense:

In addition to:
  • refugee camps, and
  • disaster zone camps, we have
  • military camps (also known as bases) and
  • prison camps (also known as prisons)
  • farm worker and/or labor/mining camps, sweat shops
The character of an infrastructure may change.

A camp may start out as military, but as the troops come to feel increasingly prisoners of foreign and/or alien policies that don't respect them or have anything to do with their best interests, these bases become prison camps, complete with stoploss, other enslaving measures.

To escape these prison camps is to "go AWOL" and results in penalties. Yet to stay is to betray one's higher conscience and/or one's sense of better judgment.

The AFSC is very familiar with such cases (as is Amnesty International) and has been in routine communication with slave soldiers (many of them minors) for many decades, including troops who are actually in prisons (called that even by the tyrants).

A camp may start out with mostly "refugees", i.e. people with few prospects or assets where they came from, in search of a better life. Here's a quick comment from that Willamette Week article about Occupy Portland which I thought was pretty good:
I have read more than several journal and first hand accounts of living in remote and very populated mining camps in the second half of the 19th century. The mass of confined humanity, all with some purpose, little of which was actual mining, squeezed together on some forgotten draw or playa high in the mountains of the West. Someone starts a newspaper, and a committee forms to bring law and order. Gamblers arrive to glean whatever, and soon there are hired Chinese or Indians doing the actual mining until Irish and Welsh miners arrive to take away those jobs. Not for a share of the find, but for wages. Itinerant Jewish peddlers set up dry goods and hardware stores. And the "find" is found, and used up, and in less than a year or two, the burgeoning burg goes from zero to several thousand in population, and then back to a handful of hangers on. (posted by dude)
I think Quakers are often hardy types, with good outdoor skills, good camping skills, or else they may well aspire to become such.

AFSC should be our training provider, such that we build our logistics and collaboration skills around the world, in tandem with camp staffs (from many walks of life).

We should think more about "occupying" facilities that have turned ugly and criminal, and helping to transform them from within. We could declare Gitmo to be "ours" for example, and compete with the illegitimate chain of command that has been subverting commanders in chief since Bush, who also wanted it closed.

We'll work with the base personnel we already work with, per the prison camp scenario.

Finally, a prison may become something more like a school and/or rehabilitation center, providing skills training and networking opportunities. Many of those enlisted currently have prison records. Some are in service in exchange for reduced sentences.

The difference between a prison and a military base is often one of degree, ditto refugee camps, wherein the newly homeless may have nowhere to go.

Remember that guards are part of a prison and soldiers often view the surrounding population as their prisoners, in the sense of those whom they've conquered. That's not with reference to Iraq or Afghanistan of course, as in neither case have the military command structures managed to extirpate the indigenous civilian (aka "insurgent") processes (same as in America, at least in some zip codes).

Military control over Afghanistan is an oxymoron, as "military control" is but a euphemism for "uncontrollable impulses" expressed as violence. Use of outward violence is a breakdown in self-discipline, according to most seasoned experts in the martial arts. That's what every mom and pop storefront tends to teach, at least around this neighborhood, and on the TV show Kung Fu with David Carradine.

The AFSC could help military occupations become more civil, more like refugee camps, where expats are huddled, close to unemployed, but for the mayhem they're paid to create ("putting themselves in harms way" as they say, requiring more fighting to "stay out of harms way" i.e. the troops must be protected, why they're there, why we fight).

This would involve continuing the work we're already doing: supporting individuals of conscience who wish to disobey their imprisoning authorities and stop behaving like criminals.

This is what happened in Vietnam a lot. Many vets ended up as Quakers at the end of the day, still good at camping, and determined to not let it happen again (but it did, resulting in so many more POWs).