Dear friends on Jeju Island : Sung Hee, Paco, Silver, Sister Stella, Dr Park and many others at Gangjeong Village,
I lived in a gorgeous agricultural village in Bamiyan Province of Afghanistan for seven years and like yourselves on Jeju Island in South Korea, every morning, I woke up to a window scene of ‘heaven’.
No eyes would believe that wars had brought ‘hell’ to occupy this land.
I imagine you walking on the simple yet unpolluted paths in Gangjeong Village and that if you stopped for a little breather, you’ll be caressed and cared for by the tree shadows with their sunlight, the chatty play of the neighbourhood children, and the wafts of floral perfume dancing by.
Neither you nor the villagers I lived among would want to lose your aviary-like homes to Greed.
Save Jeju Island Now
The Afghan Peace Volunteers and I recognize the love which has compelled you to stop the military base construction trucks with your young and old bodies, demonstrating again that the human spirit can speak to heavy, metallic machines.
Stopping an excavator on Jeju island
Those ‘doing their jobs’ to establish the U.S./ South Korea naval base have forgotten their jobs as fellow human beings. Hopefully, they are amenable to the persuasion of your love.
How else can we dismantle the largest and most powerful military in history, except by love?
My 74 year old mother advises, “Don’t be naïve or idealistic.”
But I ask myself, “Isn’t it naïve or idealistic to expect Jeju Island to become more ‘civilized’ and ‘peaceful’ with the establishment of a U.S. /South Korea naval base?”
Many presumptions have to be made to support a U.S. /South Korea naval base on Jeju Island. Presume that the U.S. and South Korean governments are ‘good and noble’. Presume that the people of Jeju Island are ‘ignorant and troublesome.’
Presume that China and North Korea are so ‘evil’ that a naval base at Jeju is needed to ‘contain’ them.
How wonderful if these presumptions are re-examined if they hear the people of Gangjeong Village say, “We don’t want a base in our heavenly home!“
Moreover, we’re confident that if ordinary Chinese or North Koreans ever gave you trouble, you would have tea with them, using your imagination and citizen diplomacy in non-violent ways which are far more effective, far kinder and with a far better use of tax-payer money ( in fact, you would not need tax-payer money to drink tea at all ) than the multi-million war premises, personnel and equipment.
Such is the priceless power of humane relationships!
In 2003, I lived in Quetta, Pakistan and did medical humanitarian work among Afghan refugees. There were many suspicious characters in alleyways using satellite phones to arrange their smuggling operations, and there were those said to be the ‘Taliban.’
One day, I was invited by a student whose brother was a Talib. Yes, presumptions did flash through my mind, about the Talib brother ‘finishing the infidel off’. The opposite was true. I was hosted to a sumptuous meal together with one of their favourite drinks, the shlombe, a milk-yoghurt drink. This human-to-human interaction would have been impossible if I had fearfully carried a machine-gun and worn army fatigues, besides a helmet!
This everyday truth, together with the many Afghan friends who have loved me through their hospitality and protection, has convinced me that if the 99% of every country would become friends with the 99% of other countries, we could disarm all weapons, including nuclear weapons. How’s that for a World Weapons Disarmament Treaty?
On a small but significant scale, this happens among some of the 99% of North and South Korea who cross the U.S. -drawn 38th parallel to reunite with one another in tears, or also happened among some of the 99% of Israel and Iran in the Love and Peace Campaign.
Love and Peace Campaign, from Iranians
Another thought, which are really dreams yet unfulfilled. Because Osama Bin Laden had stated the presence of the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia as a one of the main reasons for September 11th, if we manage to get the people staying around the 750 U.S. military bases around the world to say “No!” and thus invite the Pentagon to close the bases, we may prevent 750 future September 11ths!
Back to the 9 existing military bases in Afghanistan to be kept for ‘exclusive’ use by the U.S. military till 2024 and beyond through the current U.S./Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement being negotiated under the usual U.S. threats, and the one naval base being constructed on Jeju which has been named te World island of Peace, and what we see, feel, smell and hear, and understand : we face a global 1% in government and corporations who ‘comfort’ the 99% by claiming that they care about our immediate environments, our livelihoods, and our desire to live without wars, but who in practice, do the opposite.
You see the Jeju shoreline being cordoned off as if to imprison the island and one of you, Dr Park, used to swim along the shore every day to free it, until they put him behind bars, where he can’t swim. We see the bare, deforested land and hills of Afghanistan, destroyed and neglected by nations insistent on waging multi-billion dollar wars.
You see the 16.5% poor of the ‘Dragon’ South Korean population, and a test-obsessed, economic-geared education system that has contributed to South Korea having the highest suicide rate among 31 OECD countries. We see labourers standing jobless in the streets of Kabul, some going back to makeshift houses to shiver in the autumn cold, and some resorting to drugs under the smelly, trash-packed river bridges.
You see soldiers, police, batons, shields. We see them everywhere too, even militarizing ‘humanitarian’ aid.
All of these make it so socially essential for us to remain friends, to stand and struggle together for a while or for a lifetime , but free of borders, and free from fear.
And if the U.S. military finally establishes Jeju’s one naval base and Afghanistan’s nine, we’ll promptly get in touch with the people of Okinawa, Diego Garcia and on and on, so as to persist in building those person-to-person and community-to-community relationships that can save our world.
Thank you for your work of love, and for speaking with me and Abdulhai, Ali, Raz Mohammad, Ghulamai, Faiz, Zekerullah and Barath in October.
We’ll have to keep in touch.
With human solidarity from Afghanistan,
Dr Hakim with the Afghan Peace Volunteers