An odd title, maybe, but bear with me!
Barrow’s future, it would seem has been hanging in the balance of late; awaiting a decision from the powers that be as to whether or not we will recommission Trident, the UK’s nuclear submarines. The arguments for continuing with the Trident project are, at best, unconvincing, but I have been wondering to myself what the people of Barrow think about it all.
One one level it means jobs and economic growth for the area over the next couple of generations, in an area that has been impoverished and forgotten with high unemployment and an increasing sense of isolation. But I wonder what the people of Barrow would like their legacy to be. I wonder if in their hearts the people of Barrow would really like to be known for creating that which has the capability to destroy whole cities? I wonder if this is what they feel born for; if this is what they would love to be remembered for; if this is what they would like the ethos of their town to be about?
What if trident is not recommissioned? What then? I wonder what would happen if the people of Barrow were able to get together and reimagine together what their town is about and what it might become. I wonder what dreams are hidden in the hearts of the people there. I wonder how they might choose to do economics differently or whom they might like to prioritise. I wonder how they would enable each other to have a sense of fulfillment in life and what their vision of the future might look like. I wonder what their gift to the surrounding communities, the nation and the nations might be if it isn’t Trident? Just because a town has been built around one type of industry, doesn’t mean it has to remain so – now that is costly for the generation still skilled in that area, but sometimes the prize of a different future is worth the cost we incur now. There are a bunch of blogs from the Barrow area that would imply a different future is preferred…..
I was recently with a bunch of friends and we were thinking through the process of reimagining the future, in line with a concept, which I love, called kenarchy – more on this another time. We came to the conclusion that in order for a community of people, in any given area of life, to be able to reimagine the future and move towards a kenarchic way of life, there may be three things which need addressing. Firstly the paradigm or worldview, under which we operate. Secondly our politics or praxis – how then shall we live differently? And thirdly, personal changes and development – people being able to become who they would most like to be, at their best; and what they might therefore do differently.
Jesus said some interesting things about who God prioritises – namely – children, orphans, women, the poor, outcasts, foreigners, widows, prisoners and the sick……I was just wondering how many of the places we live reflect similar priorities and what they might look like if we did? I was wondering what Barrow-in-Furness would look like and grow into if the people chose these kind of priorities instead of those of destruction and violence……?
Interesting one. I used to serve in submarines get asked – and get asked why I joined the Navy to kill people (yes, put like that!). I hadn’t thought of it that way. The question became more insistent when I said I was a Christian. But how could a Christian join the Navy? I’d tell them I became a Christian in the Navy – like lots of folk in the Roman legions became Christians during their time of service. Somehow I’ve never been able to see my RN time as anything other than keeping the peace. I always wonder what those inclined to pacifism do in the face of powerful, murderous evil – in the sense of meeting their obligation to help their needy neighbour. It’s not just about whether we were right to intervene in Libya, or whether we ought to do so now in Syria. What about industrial-scale, monstrous evil, as with Hitler and Nazi Germany, or what could so easily emerge today? I suppose the question is just how bad, how extensive, and how powerful we think evil is today – and what is the right behaviour in an unbelieving world.
Of course, there are 2 types of nuclear submarines – Trident-type (SSBN) and conventional-role (SSN). The latter are simply nuclear-powered – and will continue to be employed anyway. If Scotland goes independent/more independent, the warship building that currently happens on the Clyde is likely to end up in Barrow. So the future you envisage for Barrow may have to assume a continuation of warship building. Moreover, if there is to be Scottish independence, and we do go for a Trident replacement, SSBNs will have to be relocated. Is it just possible that the Barrow area would be suitable?
Thanks so much for such a thorough response and for engaging in this way…..So, this is where it gets more interesting, where the rubber hits the road! (I hope others too are able to interact with this discussion).
I have a great respect for those who serve in the armed forces. I cannot begin to imagine how tough it must be for a christian, or indeed a person of any faith, which seeks peace, to serve within this context.
However, I am one of these pacifist types. Dr Martin Luther King Jr said some interesting things about non-violent alternatives. My problem arises when we think the only way to really achieve peace, in the end, is through violence – it begs the questions – what kind of peace? and at what cost? MLK said that “non-violence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation.” He also said “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” Non-violence is too often poo-poohed as a sissy way of not engaging with the real issues at hand. I would say non-violence is the act of the truly brave.
Jesus spoke a lot about peace. In fact, it was prophesied about him that of the increase of his government and of peace there would be no end. It is interesting that in the midst of one of the most oppressive imperial regimes in the history of humankind that the man who calls himself God chooses non-violence as a means of overcoming the oppression. He also chooses a bunch of nobodies to form his ‘government’. Maybe the ways of God really are very very different to our ways, in a way that is wholly uncomfortable and provoking. Indeed, Paul writes of Jesus’ death on the cross as being the time and place in which he makes a public display of the powers. Jesus demonstrates that it is a life laid down in love that overcomes evil – and this is vindicated in resurrection.
So, what of Hitler, Saddam, Gadaffi, the LRA in Uganda, the genocide in Syria? Surely, if we care about the oppressed and the poor we must defend them with our strong arm? But who is the righteous ‘we’? And are there no creative alternatives, other than ‘diplomatic solutions’. I think we have become so caught up in past ways of responding to violence that we have lost the ability to imagine other alternatives.
My other major concern is that the ‘church’ back up it’s own nation state position all too often and justifies the violence rather than speaking and acting prophetically for an alternative way of peace. True peace will never come, nor be managed by military domination. That is simply not the way of love and therefore not the way of God. It does not ‘bring heaven to earth’. Roger Mitchell writes brilliantly on this issue in his book, ‘Church, Gospel and Empire’ with much more clarity than I can here!
Bringing this back to Barrow…..I heard a quote recently, which I’m unable to attribute and I’m probably going to quote it wrong (!), but it said something like – “you can build as many tanks as you like, but you’ve got to find some people who are willing to drive them.” Barrow doesn’t have to build warships or nuclear submarines, of either type. It could refuse to invest in a future of war and power games. It could choose an entirely different future – and there would be a big cost to the people in real terms. But what kind of future could they and we all have instead? This has yet to be fully imagined, but the possibilities are endless and really rather exciting.