Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tip the Balance Toward the Good

After our tea MiYoung gets us to try some meditation
At the coffee shop in Gangjeong village after a long day of fun
The water temperature was perfect.  Our host MiYoung (center) has her sea diving mask on.  You can tell which of the people are the white guys from Maine.
Jungmun beach on Jeju Island  


Peace activism is not all work.  Now and then we get to have some fun. Two days ago fellow Mainer Marlon Brando and I were taken to Jungman beach for a delightful swim.  Our host was local Jeju Island native MiYoung whose mother was once a sea diving woman and in later life created a shelter for battered women.  MiYoung is a fervent supporter of the Gangjeong village fight against the Navy base.  One activist told me that often when the villagers feel really depressed it is usually MiYoung that rolls in and stirs people back to life.  I can believe it. 

Our day with MiYoung lasted about ten hours and was full of joy and laughter the entire time.  When we were swimming in the ocean, with her sea diving mask on, MiYoung was laughing as each wave battered us.

Today after the vigil at the gate from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm I walked down to the port to get a better view of the Navy base construction.  Along the way I passed a massive development of five or six supersized apartment buildings being constructed, in what once was a tangerine grove, and learned that they will be the housing for military families assigned to the base.  The barracks for single Navy personnel have been built on what used to be Gurombi rock - the sacred village coastline.

In spite of all that is being done here the mostly young group of Korean activists remain steady in their work to counter this soul draining militarism with their own determined effort to build up the good.  Many of the young folks, in order to be able to remain here, need work and have thus created their own jobs.  Tonight Brando and I went to a beautiful Italian restaurant on the edge of the village run by local activists (I recognized two of them who were in Regis Tremblay's film The Ghosts of Jeju).  I have been craving pasta for weeks and was not disappointed by the meal.  Brando had pasta with octopus but I went for a more traditional carbonara sauce.  First class and the sourdough bread top notch.

Another creative restaurant run by activist has tables in the middle of the river that flows into the ocean.  You sit on the table and waiters wade out and take your order.  We plan to eat there next week.

Another activist has found some available land and planted rice (rice is not grown here, tangerines are the big crop on Jeju Island).  Another woman activist has created a beautiful bookstore/tea house. The Catholic Center that I am staying in officially opens in early September with an international Jesuit peace conference.  Priests and nuns from around South Korea are constantly flowing in and out of the village to join the protests and will use this place as their center.

Many of these activists are noted play writes, film critics, artists, spiritual leaders and more.  They've brought their art forms into this remarkable movement in Gangjeong village that has run up against the US imperial war machine.  While at first look it might appear that people are loosing this struggle to the makers of endless war one needs to dig deeper into the core of the community to see the deep impact they are making here. 

Once the base opens bars and prostitution will come here as always happens in a military town.  But the early seeds have been planted of another kind of view of the world.  It's a cultural battle between the forces of evil and those seeking to promote life, love, joy, and peace.  Each of us that comes here helps tip the balance toward the side of the good.  Time will tell what will be the ultimate outcome.

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