Best Friends

They've lived and worked together a long time now, and their basement has become an institution. A profile of two companions in an adventure that's still unfolding.

By Ann Crosby | 1986-08-01 12:00:00

FIFTY YEARS AGO, DUNDAS WAS THE QUINTESSENTIAL rural Ontario town, offering the local farming community a mill, railway, hotel, library, and the glitz of Walker's Department Store. Rural teenagers who were lucky enough to have both transportation and liberal parents attended the Dundas High School, leaving their vehicles in the winter at the top of the Dundas hill, descending the slippery incline on foot to the school built solidly up against the limestone wall of the Niagara escarpment. During the Second World War, farm boys left for the front from the Dundas Railway Station and after the war their fathers met, at the same station, the immigrants they had sponsored as hired hands. Hamilton, only a few miles down the road, was regarded as the place to go for day trips, for Christmas shopping.

Today Dundas is a bedroom community for Hamilton. A chain of fast-food outlets point the way from the former to the latter and back again. However, students--especially students of peace research--still make the trek to Dundas, to a small brick bungalow which is home to the Peace Research Institute and its founders, Drs. Hanna and Alan Newcombe.

The Institute was started in the mid-1960s due to a fortuitous accident of timing. Alan Newcombe, then a ~chemist, was about to be transferred to Wisconsin. a move that would disrupt not only the Newcombe family life but also both Alan's and Hanna's work with Norman Alcock's Canadian Peace Research Institute, work that was of prime importance to both the Neweombes. Alan describes the situation with a twinkle in his eye, saying that he opened the discussion of his impending move with Hanna and she immediately closed it by bidding him farewell if that was his choice. In fact, it was the answer that Alan wanted, and both subsequently retired from their respective careers to establish the Dundas Peace Research Institute, a research organization that has now achieved world renown.

The reputation of the Institute is built on the publication of two journals. One, Peace Research Abstracts, is a monthly publication which contains, in each edition, over 400 abstracts of peace and war articles culled from national and international journals. An international network of volunteers reviews the world literature on peace-related issues and submits the abstracts, translating them into English when necessary. Hanna codes the submissions, prepares them for publication, and sends the completed journal to more than 450

subscribers, mainly universities, libraries, and government agencies, around the world. The accumulated journals now contain over 140,000 references to the world literature on peace issues. An annual subject index and a monthly author index, both compiled by Hanna, allow one to locate specific information from as far back as 1945.

The second journal, Peace Research Reviews, published three times a year, is a journal of original monographs containing both literature reviews and original articles. This journal, edited by Alan Newcombe, also receives world-wide distribution and recognition and is remarkable not only for its scholarly content but also for the fact that it is written in a clear, readily accessible style.

The two journals are the bulk of the iceberg, but the tip is equally impressive. Sometimes together and sometimes in-dependently, the Newcombes produce a flow of peace-related articles. Both have written books and both are committed to instituting international strategies for conflict resolution that are designed to establish not only the absence of war but also the absence of the possibility of war. Both too are Quakers and leading members of World Federalists of Canada.

WHAT SOME CONSIDER TO BE THEIR IDEALISM IS, IN fact, firmly rooted in practicality. They are avid supporters of 'mundialization.' a process whereby communities, towns or cities symbolically represent themselves as citizens of the world by twinning with foreign communities and flying the United Nations flag alongside the Canadian flag. Not surprisingly, the Newcombes' hometown of Dundas was the first community in the western hemisphere to adopt the program, becoming 'mundialized' in 1967.

Moreover, not being satisfied with theoretical arguments about the ineffectiveness of arms buildup for the sake of deterrence, Alan Newcombe developed the 'tensiometer,' a statistical way to measure a country's expenditure on arms production on a per capita basis, thus reducing the complicated process of determining overexpenditure to the factoring of a statistical equation. His research has also established that countries which use deterrence as a justification for over-arming are 30 times more likely to go to war than countries that do not build up their arms.

Hanna Neweombe's practicality is expressed in her statistical analyses of the United Nations voting records, analyses that are constantly updated and used extensively by U.N. members. In their published form, these analyses show both how nations vote and how they vote in relation to one an-other, thus indicating patterns of domination and specific national interest areas. As Alan says, Hanna's figures provide, "the opportunity to speak the truth to the Powers."

For the Newcombes and their staff, three full time employees, three part time, and several affiliated researchers, peace research and peace education are two sides of the same coin. Until recently, the Institute organized a two-week peace research summer school, a credit course taught at Carleton University in Ottawa. The program was aborted two years ago due to lack of funding, a perennial problem in peace- related endeavors. The Institute itself is a non-profit organization supported by subscription, tax-deductible donations, and grants from the Canadian Government and small Canadian Foundations. The new computer, which sits alongside ceiling-high rows of shelves crammed with file cards and journals in the Newcombes' basement offices, was purchased with a grant from the External Affairs department's disarmament division.

AS FAR AS FORMAL PEACE STUDIES N GENERAL ARE concerned, Hanna feels that they are most warranted in primary and secondary schools, as it is during those years that students form the basis for their more advanced political opinions. Again, in the absence of such studies in the local schools, the Newcombes have effected a practical alternative by donating to the Dundas Public Library the many books on peace issues that are sent to the Institute. These books are housed in a separate peace section of the library.

Hanna also believes that the peace studies programs being actively contemplated in many Canadian universities will, when realized, help lend respectability to the concept of peace. Ideally, she says, these programs should bridge the gap between academic theorizing and popular education.

WHEREAS SOME COUPLES AND MUCH POPULAR literature suggest that separate careers and interests keep a marriage vital, Hanna says quite emphatically that their mutual work has made their relationship strong. It is a strength obvious when she speaks with pride of her three children and four grandchildren. Moreover, if one suspects that living and working together in one's home in a small town might be isolating, one would be grossly in error in the case of the Newcombes. In early May of this year, while Alan attended a conference in Ireland, Hanna attended conferences in both Ottawa and Montréal. In late May, they both travelled to a World Federalist Conference in Victoria. the "Accidental Nuclear War Conference" in Vancouver, and the Learned Societies Meetings in Winnipeg. Such constant conference attendance gives the Newcombes, now in their mid-sixties, a historical perspective on the world peace movement.

Hanna sees hope, which is a prerequisite for the movement, as being replaced by desperation. "Speakers are increasingly unable to end their speeches on a positive note," she says, but ends with her own note of hope by suggesting that the public is becoming more aware of the very real possibility of a nuclear war. Awareness can only increase the pressure for peace.

Peace Research Institute - Dundas: 25 Dundana Ave., Dundas, Ont. L9H 4ES. Phone. 416/628-2356.

Peace Magazine Aug-Sep 1986

Peace Magazine Aug-Sep 1986, page 13. Some rights reserved.

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