Ulla Røder reflecting on planting and proactive civil disobedience

Vine and Fig Tree Planting in Sweden– for a world where people can live in safety

Proactive civil disobedience in Sweden at Easter 2006

 I would like to tell you about the Vine and Fig Tree Planting group in Sweden, which I joined this Easter. 

It was a good walk, and the group was motivated for serious reflections and talks about non-violence and disarmament. We stayed overnight in churches, and one evening in a Swedish ‘Stuga’, where we went to sauna and enjoyed the Swedish landscape at the lake. We did some rituals on the way – connecting the Christian Easter celebration to our walk ‘in the footsteps of Jesus’. Some even practiced washing feet on each other.

This week was indeed very special. It felt good in the end of the walk to go and plant the vine and fig trees. We took the vision of the prophet Micah (Micah 4:4). We felt it now is the time to fulfil this vision in a world filled with war and violence and huge rearmament. In a world, where warfare seems more important for our governments than the welfare of citizens all over the world, it is time to beat swords into ploughshares and nations make war no more.

In it vine and fig trees give people protection, food, and drink. “Each man will sit under his vine and fig tree with no one to trouble him.” The swords have been hammered into ploughshares, and no one learns how to make war (Micah 4:3).

We were a group of 22 people from various Christian groups and countries started with two days workshop in non-violence the 8th April. On Monday, we started our march towards Karlskoga and the weapons factory BAE Bofors Systems. There were good opportunities to talk with the people we meet on the way – and we were told that several were quite impressed with our walk and work for peace.

Planting Vine and Fig Trees for peace

On Thursday, we remembered how Jesus was arrested. His way of living and preaching had provoked many, especially the men in power. They wanted to get rid of him. This day we want to express our belief that a world without weapons is possible by starting to turn a weapons factory into a place that gives life and nourishment.

You can read more about the non-violence and tree planting on this web site: https://ickevald.net/vineandfigtreeplanters/

In Karskoga, we had asked for a dialogue with the management of the BAE Bofors systems AB. They agreed to this and invited us to an hour talks and served coffee and bread for us. They had prepared a nice hole in the ground for the plants too.

We got some good pictures and a page in the newspaper next day on the event.

Talking with the leaders and staff at the factory about disarmament issues and asking them to stop their weapons production, we were among others told that the BAE Bofors only were 5 o/oo of the BAE cooperation. The manager told that they could not influence much. To this, we thought of how much even smaller groups of people with the right will have changed this world. The director of BAE Christer Haenbäck and his security manager Leif Gren as well as the security managers at Saab Bofors Dynamics and Saab Bofors Support, Lars Göran Hermansson and   Karl-Ove Eriksson promised that the already started dialogue with the firm should continue. We were happy to have this talk for different reasons. First, we require real disarmament now, we require the weapon producers to halt their work, but we also believe that talks sometimes can be helpful to start up such a difficult and long process.

They were aware that some people in Thailand had to live for 30 kr. a day, and in their own way, they believed they were producing the weapons to keep the peace in this violent world. We were telling them that peace will not come before the day we start to fully respect each other.

They told us that they produce smaller weapons now that were more precise. Telling us that these weapons would to less collateral damage is wrong. To this should be added that some these smaller weapons will be fired in huge amounts and spread grenades over a huge areas. The ammunition not detonated will end with the same effect as mines endangering the civil population in years to come.

We are also aware that some of these smaller weapons being talked about is also including small new nuclear weapons, which the US for sure have threatened to use against among others Iran. Several of these new sophisticated new weapons were tested in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the military have exercised the new centric warfare network in the recent wars and are still building up the command, control, communication, intelligence, and surveillance and recognisance system for future wars.

After this day of planting our walk ended, but some of us took the way to Göteborg to another big weapon production site at Ericsson Microwave Systems AB, a company that among others is going to produce the next generations of radar systems and produce sensors of different types. Ericsson has also produced an Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) system (ERIEYE), and the multimode fighter radar (PS-05) that is in operation in the Swedish aircraft JAS 39 Gripen[i]. Ericsson also provides reliable Border Surveillance and Protection systems[ii].

It’s not only for mobile phones Ericsson is known. That Saab Ericsson Space is taking part in the production of systems that will be used in space should be told widely, because people hardly knows how far these ‘Star War’ systems already has been developed. The area in Northern of Sweden ‘Eslange’ is used to test the many new hypersonic unmanned drones and planes.

Time to action – non-violence contradicts protests

 One of the women at the walk explained that she felt it was a depressing task to try safe people in the world. She saw a river. Many people, on one side, pushed into the water, and more and more washed away. On the other side were people trying to fish up some people. Over them higher up on the river side were many people who could help the survivors, but they did nothing. On the contrary, more and more people flushed out into the river. How can we keep on fishing people up of that river, without doing something to prevent them from flushing out in the water?

Our actions were non-violent: taking responsibility for everything, we do, treating everyone with respect. For those who did not want to risk arrest there was still a lot of tasks to do during week.

Six of us were arriving at Ericsson after a day of planning and another tree planting at Hammerkullens church and a ceremony Friday evening. We had some help – among others a car driver and some one to take away the ladder and a film before the police arrived. This went fine – except that the driver had driven around the factory area with the ladder, hanging out of the car for several minutes before the film arrived and they could take off.

The rest of us had climbed the fence and got the plants over. A guard showed up. He tried to convince the back of Annika that she had to get down again on the same side of the fence she came from. Using our non-violent techniques Claus convinced the fellow that this was impossible, because she was already half way over the fence. She came down, while the guard still was considering this suggestion. We quickly carried out the planting in peace and make a small circle – read the Micha piece and sing a small song. The police arrived with Per Herngren walking in front of them joining us inside the fence. He had been arrested, but had managed to hand over the film. He started to use his mobile phone to call the people doing press releases. We started small talks with the police. The grapes we had brought to share with the guard and the police we had forgotten outside the fence, but apart from that, only three of us were  brought a couple of hours to the police arrest. We all now wait to hear when we are going to court – to explain all this about weapons productions and the good about tree planting.

Mahatma Gandhi introduced non-violence where the aims and the means were interchangeable. The aim is the means. Non-peace would not create peace, non-solidarity would not achieve solidarity. Connection the constructive program with resistance he invented proactive resistance – to initiate change. He called it Satyagraha.

To understand the advantance of proactive resistance, we will have to analyse some problems with protest disobedience. They are similar to legal protest and we don’t have to make a clear distinction here. Protest defines itself as subordinate: In its appeal to someone else to solve the problems one defines oneself as subordinate and apart from the solution. “We can give the answer no, but we can’t contribute”. This will be up to our governments or the weapon producers. Protest defines and reconstruct the power. To protest is to accept: It states that something is wrong but accepts that this is only and advice. Protest generates protest. The signs say war no more and invite others to say the same. Demonstrations and protest are thought to have an effect even though they stay out of the power system they want to change.

Proactive resistance: Mahatma Gandhi did not invent non-violence as a negation of violence. Nonviolence for him was a constructive program. But it was not running away from violence. In non-violence non- and –violence confront each other. Nonviolence goes where it is really needed. Nonviolence gets inside the violent system in order to change it[1].

Ulla Røder

– after easter planting at Bofors and Ericsson Microwave 2006

[1] more can be read in Postprotest on proactive resistance by Per Herngreen and Stephen Hancock. Peace News 2467 (www.peacenews.info)

[i] Read more at www.cimi.se, www.eurosatory.com, www.farnborough.com

[ii] http://www.ericsson.com/products/hp/Border_and_Area_Security_bs.shtml

Texts on planting civil disobedience

Ulla Røder reflecting on planting
Photos from easterplanting
Pilgrimage and planting at Easter
Ullas story on defence industry

Home garden
Hiroshima planting 2007
Ulla Røder on proactive resistance
Figs on trial and in prison
Statement for Aldermaston
To Go Beyond Protest-Resistance
Vine & Fig Tree Disarmory
Les’ reflection from prison
Beyond Protest
Proactive Resistance
Martin’s reflection on planting
Manual for civil disobedience
Theory of Resistance
Photos Hiroshima 2007 planting
Liz’s art exhibition
Photos from police evidence
Arrest photos Aldermaston 2005
Photos of Aldermaston planting 2005
Figs at Aldermaston photos
Queer trans-forms community
Planting at Ericsson
Bofors Easter 2006
…………………………more resistance
Vine & Fig Tree in the Netherlands
Vine and Fig Tree song

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