Fiction with an edge

Interview with Masterpeace, Cairo - October 2011

Masterpeace  - 

Masterpeace   - The main character of your book, Jack Chandler, is a man who - basically - tries to save the world. Do you believe that one person is enough to change the world if he passionately stands for his beliefs?

John - In my book, The Messenger, Jack Chandler prevents a war, but he knows he, alone, cannot stop the world's warring agenda.  Likewise, I believe one passionate person can have an effect, and many passionate people can increase that effect, but, even though I wish it were the case, I doubt that it is possible for one person to change the world.  Wars erupts for many reasons, often driven by greed - power - religion.  But conflict can also erupt because of hunger - poverty - racism and many other things which affect people and their way of life. To have a positive effect on all these instigators of conflict requires a huge mind-set shift for the leaders of the human race.

Masterpeace - From the beginning of the human existence wars and conflicts exist in various ways and they appear to be a part of the human nature... do you believe that humanity will ever "escape" from this kind of need or is it a naive idea as the more cynical ones would say?

John - Despite a history of war, I don't think man is a naturally aggressive animal - but I believe he becomes one when threatened or has something to fight for.  Even the most placid of men and women would fight to protect their families.  But it is not the man-in-the-street who declares war - it's his country's leaders who do that.  To my mind the ordinary man and woman are regarded as cannon fodder by politicians - an inconvenience only ever needed when required to fight, vote or pay taxes.  However, what politicians hope we will forget is that they work for us - that we have the power if we choose to exercise it.  With authority comes responsibility and change will only begin to take place when we hold world leaders and politicians truly accountable for their actions.

Masterpeace -  "The Messenger" seems to be quite inspired by many of the events that happened the past decade such as the "9/11". Since then, the world has become a "darker" place under the threat of terrorism. Do you believe that terrorism is the biggest threat we face today and if so, do you think that the world can find a way to overcome this kind of fear?

John - When someone is willing to kill themselves and those around them for a cause they believe in, then that is a real threat to world peace.  Whether the act is called terrorism or freedom-fighting, innocent men, women, and children are killed and infrastructures destroyed in the process and, naturally, countries will want to protect their population against such threats.  An escalation of this protection is that world leaders will use these threats of terrorism to justify war as a first-response action. 
I believe we forget that poverty, famine and the power being exerted by multi-national businesses on Governments and in third-world countries is also a ticking bomb.  I wish I had the answer to overcoming the threat and fear of terrorism, but I don't - although, I do believe that dialogue in all its forms, and world-wide education, will help.

Masterpeace - You obviously are very interested for the wars that took place in the Middle East during the past decades. Which lessons you think humanity should learn out of these tragic events?

John - I have pictures of children who have been devastated physically and mentally by conflict in the Middle East.  People don't want to look at these photographs because they are horrific, but they reflect the true face of war and should be on every street hoarding in every country.  They should be paraded in every newspaper and on every news channel each time politicians talk of invasion or posture about war.  All to often we are led into a distant conflict where no one has thought about the aftermath - where no one has planned for the repercussions of our actions on a local or global basis.  I can understand that if I was a member of the family of one of those children killed or maimed I might easily support a person or group willing to exact revenge on the people who did it.  War can breed terrorism.  As for lessons learned, I believe we have to ensure that war is the very last resort and certainly never for profit.  It is up to the public to demand that, as a first- response, politicians do not kill in our name.

Masterpeace - You mention that soldiers do not choose where they are going or what they do but they just hope that the politicians have done their "homework". Do you believe that this is the way it should be or should soldiers think for their actions instead of letting politicians think for them?

John - In some countries men and women have to complete National Service, in others, Britain for instance, joining the military is a career choice.  What is to be remembered is that an army is successful as an organisation because its members, whether forced to join or free to join, accept that they will carry out orders without question.  Whilst some soldiers may raise doubts about the validity of what they are doing, they rarely voice that opinion publicly until they are out of the service.  This duty of unquestionable acceptance is needed to hold the military together.  Until terrorism stops, I would rather know that my country has a cohesive military defence than one which might fall at the first hurdle due to its members debating the pros and cons of an order.  It is that order that we must get right at the outset.

Masterpeace - Which advice would you give to those young people who would like to join the army, become soldiers and get into the battlefield?

John - My twenty-one-year-old grandson, was going to join the military two years ago.  He had been out of work for a year and desperate to be re-employed and earning some money.  I was concerned about his career choice and terrified for his safety, as was his mother and the rest of the family, but, as he was enthused about joining the army and that enthusiasm had motivated him out of the doldrums of unemployment, we  endeavoured to keep those feelings to ourselves.  Fortunately, despite attending selection days, he didn't join and we were all relieved - he is now employed in industry. 
For many young men and women the military is a way of enhancing their lives with travel, responsibility and camaraderie.  Others see it as a way out of the unemployment trap.  But, no matter what the reason, I don't believe they see the danger until they are deployed and then it can be too late.  My advice to anyone joining the military is: 'think very carefully - it can be exciting - it can be a good way to see the world - but it could get you maimed or killed - that is the reality of soldiering'.

Masterpeace - Which actions do you think we as human beings should take in order to help for a "better world"?

John - With each other: I believe we should regard all people as if they were our family.  I know families can be  argumentative and aggressive and may fall out with each other, but, no matter how dysfunctional they are, we wouldn't look to slaughter them.  We would talk through our differences. 
With politicians: I am of the view: Believe nothing - question everything.  I think we should be more aggressive at questioning politicians (and big business) about the decisions they make which have an effect in our world.  
With the world around us: Treat it with respect.

Masterpeace -  As a man who has been through a lot in his life and through his art he dreams and supports a world with no conflicts, which actions you think each one of us should take in order to achieve our inner peace and therefore a peaceful world around us?

John - Practise compassion and tolerance and, where possible, try to walk in the other man's shoes.  Learn to treat people with respect and if you believe something is wrong, say so as loudly as possible.

Masterpeace - What's your opinion for the peace movements and peace activists?

John - Quite simply, I believe peace movements and peace activists need to become a 'force' to be reckoned with - as cohesive and as focused as the military.

Masterpeace -  What made you become interested in "Masterpeace" and our actions?

John - When I wrote The Messenger I wanted to change people's perceptions about war and the ease with which we are drawn into it.  Some might say that was a naive and, possibly, arrogant wish - and maybe it was, but, as part of my lengthy research, I looked at peace groups and Masterpeace's 'Obama' video struck a chord with me.