Seventy-five years of peace and social justice work done, another 75 (or more) to go. While staffer Andy Mager is pleased about the progress the Syracuse Peace Council continues to make toward its goals, he admitted the group will likely never, unfortunately, grow obsolete.
“We get deluded by this utopian ideal that we’ll reach the point where groups like ours won’t be necessary,” said Mager. “I don’t believe this is really true. We are a lot closer to achieving these goals, but human nature is complicated and greed is one of a multitude of attributes that is part of our makeup. In my mind, greed is what leads to injustice and war.”
Mager is speaking in advance of an impressive visitor coming to Syracuse to help the SPC celebrate its platinum anniversary. Deep thinker Noam Chomsky, a self-described libertarian socialist, visits Wednesday, May 11.
Called by The New York Times “arguably the most important intellectual alive,” Chomsky is a prolific writer and speaker on U.S. foreign policy. For more than 50 years his sharp political analysis has supported and educated movements for peace and social justice here and around the world.
“He’s someone we’ve wanted to bring back for many years,” noted Mager. “We think he last spoke here in 1982 for a Peace Council event. He’s a leading thinker on the U.S. role in the world and someone whose analysis of the issues is in tune with our take on the issues, and whose voice needs to be heard. He’s in high demand.”
While the SPC has been active for 75 years, some of those years have been more lean (in both activism and funding) than others. “At the time of Sept. 11, 2001, the Peace Council was at a very low state organizationally, with very minimal paid staff and very little activity,” Mager said. “I was part of a group of people who came together, saying, ‘This is scary, we need to do something’ and part of what we decided was that this was a long-term issue and rebuilding the Peace Council had to be done.”
File this in your trivia data base as proof that the Peace Council needed to be saved: It is the oldest local, autonomous, grass-roots peace and social justice organization in the United States. And now Chomsky comes to town. “We had the kickoff event with Harry Belafonte in January,” Mager said, “with three events planned in the fall, as well as Noam Chomsky. We’re delighted at what we’ve been able to pull off this year.”
At the same time the SPC marks 75 years, Mager is heartened that a younger group of activists is on board with the cause. “There’s a general sense that many community organizations are graying,” he said, “but this year the steering committee of the Peace Council is a little more than half age 30 and below. We’re bringing in a new generation of activists, and they’re taking leadership roles.”
One of those is Ursula Rozum, who had volunteered for the Peace Council since 2008 and came on staff last December. Rozum, 27, has helped plan some demonstrations and has organized meetings for folks that want to become involved in peace and social justice work. The next of those is May 19 at the Peace Council office, 2013 E. Genesee St. “My focus is talking to people who are concerned about injustice,” Rozum said, “and helping them figure out how they can be involved in what we do.”
Chomsky’s chat takes place Wednesday, May 11, 7 p.m., at Nottingham High School, 3100 E. Genesee St. Tickets are priced at $5 to $15 on a sliding scale, with suggested donation of $10. The event is free for high school students. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit www.peacecouncil. net, or call 472-5478.
Droning on: Activists participated in a Good Friday protest of drone aircraft, piloted remotely, armed and seeing use in Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen, at Syracuse’s Hancock Field. The Syracuse Peace Council is organizing these protests, which take place every Tuesday at rotating locations. Visit www.peacecouncil.net for details.