WILMINGTON — The keynote speaker at a Peace Resource Center (PRC) event recommended “the work of life” as a more appealing way to define peace than many centuries-old notions.
Norma Field, University of Chicago professor emerita, spoke Thursday evening in the Hugh G. Heiland Theatre for the PRC’s 40th-anniversary conference. The gathering concluded on Friday with three panel discussions and three workshops, after three talks and a workshop on Thursday.
In 1975, peace activist and writer Barbara Reynolds founded the PRC at Wilmington College. One thing it’s especially known for is its Hiroshima and Nagasaki memorial archive concerning the August 1945 atomic bombings of Japanese people in those two places.
On Thursday, Field told the audience she did a search on how the English word “peace” has been used. The examples she found, going back to the 12th century, are often “about an absence of negative forces,” said Field.
An absence of what’s regarded negative isn’t enough to make peace affirmative or actively engaging, according to Field.
Field was born in Tokyo in 1947, and was educated at Princeton University and the University of Chicago in the United States.
She touched on the military draft not being activated in the United States since the Vietnam War, though there has been Selective Service registration. She said she thinks the U.S. government is “very smart to get rid of the draft.”
She said she kept thinking during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War that began in 2003 that if the draft were in effect, many of her generation with a middle income and military-age children “would have been out on the streets” protesting against those American wars.
“In more general liberal circles, I think that we feel powerless to stop ongoing wars, and without the draft, middle-class ones of us haven’t felt pushed to act any further than that despair and sense of being overwhelmed,” Field said.
The 68-year-old author also spoke about the March 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan. Following a major earthquake, a tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, causing a nuclear accident. All three cores largely melted in the first three days, according to the World Nuclear Association’s website.
She said many originally welcomed a nuclear power plant and its jobs.
But since the nuclear disaster, a division has formed between those who feel able to oppose nuclear power and those who feel they cannot oppose it because they have to worry about their immediate livelihood, according to Field.
Field was a professor in Japanese studies in East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.
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