June 15, 2020
Greetings from your Co-Chairs, PJSA!
We are in the midst of not one, but two global pandemics: one of which—COVID-19—was declared in March of this year, and one of which—violent racism and police brutality—has been raging unabated for centuries.
With regards to the first, we are hopeful that all of you and your families are safe and well. We extend our most sincere care and concern for those within our membership who have been struck by COVID-19 and our best wishes for their full recovery.
With regards to the second, we also extend the fullest care and concern to those most affected—Black, Indigenous and other people of colour—recognizing that full recovery from this societal illness is, regrettably, still harder to achieve, notwithstanding the remarkable outpouring of solidarity, resolve, resistance, and courage we are seeing around the world today.
As we reflect on this unique historical moment we find ourselves in, it is striking to note how both of these pandemicsbring to the fore so many of the peace community’s historical concerns—stark and ongoing racial inequalities, the structural violence of poverty, and the injustice of extreme disparities in wealth and power, not to mention the absurdity of our government’s spending literally billions—hundreds of billions—on armaments and military-style policing in the name of security, while spending so little in areas that would ensure much greater human security for all, whether they be health, education, social services or sincere and effective racial justice initiatives. Our work for positive peace is as relevant as ever.
The disruption and fracturing of usual expectations and practices also demonstrates the great potential that exists for pivoting our industries and institutions to prioritize what we need for our collective wellbeing. When COVID struck, we saw how quickly auto-makers could begin making ventilators and breweries could begin producing hand sanitizer. Following the murder of George Floyd by police on May 25, we have seen an even more impressive movement take hold to defund, even abolish, the police in favour of transformative models of public safety that do not privilege the property and well-being of the “already-haves” but instead seek to dismantle the barriers that marginalize Black, Indigenous and other people of colour and to prioritize the wellbeing of the most vulnerable (e.g., those suffering from mental illness and addictions). The case for redirecting military spending and resources to better safeguard human security in non-military ways is as clear as ever.
Our ideas of what is normal, what is unchangeable, have been shaken—for the better. We have witnessed a huge increase in commoning—people acting outside the market and outside (sometimes against) the state to provide mutual aid and support in endless imaginative and heart-warming ways. As George Monbiot wrote recently in the Guardian Blog, “communities have mobilised where governments have failed.” As academics and activists, we strive to play the most effective roles we can in our communities. We are proud that PJSA is providing critical advice in these key areas by drafting two position papers:
1) Regarding COVID, to campus administrators, knowing that deep disparities have been exacerbated and that neoliberal management practices are resulting in cuts that are detrimental to the education of our students. Board Members Wim Laven and Jeremy Rinker challenge the work-before-healing mentality and the continued commodification of higher education at the expense of real learning.
2) Regarding racist, abusive, and militaristic policing and in support of Black Lives Matter and other groups working for racial justice, PJSA members Pushpa Iyer, Ellen Lindeen, and Wim Laven have drafted a statement that advances our vision for cultural, ethnic, geographic, and socio-economic equality under the law and the fundamental dignity and worth of all humans.
Both statements are available on the PJSA website under the heading “Publications.”
Notwithstanding the tragedy of so many deaths around the world owing to both these pandemics, the outpouring of initiative and generosity that we have seen at the community level over the past few months affirms that we do have the ability to work collaboratively for a common goal and also the capacity to make changes at the societal level. In some places, at least, this crisis has engendered optimism about our collective ability to rise to other challenges, including that of climate change, which could relieve us of yet another source of angst so many feel about the future. Much work will be required to build on the “disaster utopianism” of the present moment (to use the words of author Rebecca Solnit) and sustain this level of compassion going forward. But there is an openness to change now that dares us to feel hopeful.
We have recently announced a reminder about our mini-grants program. We encourage activist groups who are working on the above or other issues to apply for these grants, up to $1,000 each. If members are financially able, we encourage you to support this fund so we can better support activists. Simply donate to PJSA and note that the funds are to be added to the mini-grants program.
As we have already reported through the listserve and other sources, we had to make the unfortunate but morally and ethically necessary decision to cancel our fall 2020 conference. We are all surely saddened about the missed opportunity to connect, to share our work, to support one another and to launch new and inspiring projects and programs. We are very thankful for and appreciative of our Board colleagues and our amazing ED, Michael Loadenthal, for the quick responses when we called an emergency meeting to address the conference cancellation and for their spirited and, most importantly, thoughtful dialogue about the issue.
But please be assured that the Board is eagerly embracing this time to seek new ways PJSA can not only be relevant and important but cutting edge in what we offer our members and the broader peace and justice community. We’re exploring new publication possibilities, innovative ways to share all of our work, exciting efforts to support activists, and more. We welcome any input to broaden our thinking and actualize some of the best and most doable ideas.
Also, we are happy to report that, as of now, plans are moving nicely for our 2021 and 2022 conferences. As always, persons interested in conference planning should let us know so we can get you involved.
Finally, in case you are not aware, PJSA has sponsored a book series with Cambridge Scholars Publishing for several years. Edited by Laura Finley and Michael Minch, the most recent release is titled Revolutionary Nonviolence in Violent Times. Members interested in contributing should contact Laura Finley (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Michael Minch (email@example.com).