My name is Maxwell Zachs and I am one of the lucky few who were picked to be a Quaker Peaceworker 2011-2012. In the current economic climate I can't tell you enough how lucky I feel to have a full time job for 12 months before I start my masters degree in September. Let alone a job where I get to learn so much and tackle such interesting topics.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started my placement at War Resisters' International, an organisation that resists all forms and profits of war as well as supporting Conscientious Objectors (many of whom have been Quakers over the years). Trying to understand war and peace and all of the industries and products in-between is a mammoth task- testament perhaps to the well oiled media machine that keeps us so suspiciously blind to the realities of the global war effort.
Thankfully my year at War Resisters' International will be spent looking at one aspect of this woolly beast; Recruitment or more importantly Counter Recruitment. Before I started my placement as a Peace Worker when I thought of 'recruitment' the images that came to my mind were of scarily charismatic recruiters charming naïve young people into signing their lives (literally) away. Over the last few months I have learnt that this is simply the tip of the ice berg or to mix my metaphors the final nail in the coffin.
'Military Recruitment' extends to any of the myriad ways in which the Armed Forces infiltrate our lives from a terrifyingly young age- I remember being barely out of my pram watching the gleaming rows and plodding beats of military parades, my mother telling me with a shine in her eye that 'one day that might be me'- thankfully not! The encroachment of and militarisation of public space is one way young people can come to see the military, weapons and the associated violence as a normal part of society.
In classrooms, after school clubs, and sports teams the world over military personnel, recruiters, and even whole battalions engage with children telling them of all the glories of war and military life before they are even allowed to play unsupervised at lunch time. The military will often be invited to teach parts of the national curriculum, to fund and run away days and school trips, and to influence our children through clubs and programmes like Scouts, Guides and Duke of Edinburgh Award schemes. I remember working towards my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and spending a week on British Naval Battleship where we were told 'military life is about harmony, order, and fraternity' not a ideology I place much stock in now!
More often than not the military is wrapped up in our ideals of patriotism, of freedom or gender and of right and wrong. So much so that our young people accept this militarisation as their birthright, as part of the furniture. Increasingly the military are attempting to recruit groups that are even more vulnerable and at risk like immigrants and people of low socio economic back grounds or who traditionally may have offered a voice of dissent like religious groups, women and LGBTQ people.
In June, if all goes to plan, War Resisters' International will be co-hosting a conference in Germany for activists and young people from all over the world to meet up share skills and experiences of counter recruitment- that is resisting the ways in which young people are 'militarised' and then recruited. We already have Quaker youth from Canada, activists from Columbia and Conscientious Objectors from Israel (to name but a few) who are planning to come along and help us strengthen the counter recruitment movement.
Counter Militarisation of Youth: Europe and Beyond
If you would like to know more or would like to register your interest in attending you can do so at the following;