On the 10th October, we had a chance to listen to representatives of Solution Not Sides organisation, whose main aim is to promote unbiased attitude to Israel-Palestine conflict. Our school was visited by Israel and Palestinian peace activists, who gave us an introduction into this important problem, as well as talked about their personal experience. We could learn not only about the background and history of the conflict, but also hear about the everyday lives of people living on the both sides. Wasim and Shay, who were the Palestinian and Israeli speakers, shared with us how they are trying to overcome that problem in their home countries, as well as presented their opinion about possible solutions to the issue. After the presentation, all Williams Project listeners could participate in the discussion and take part in questions and answers session. At the end, speakers encouraged us to think about our ideas for the possible solution to the problem, which won’t favour any side of the conflict. The presentation was a great possibility to hear about the conflict directly from people that it concerns. After this edition of Williams Project, all participants surely changed their attitude to the conflict, trying to find an effective solution, rather than opt for any of the sides.
This Williams Project we had the opportunity to meet and talk to Rick Findler, a war photographer who has just come back from Syria. He has also photographed conflicts in Libya, Somalia and Iraq and his dramatic photos have headlined on major publishers such as the Guardian and the Independent. We talked about the inherent dangers and risks that come with going to war zones and what Rick’s experience of it was. He told us about both his recent and past experiences, focusing primarily on his friendships with a sniper, Macer, who went to Syria on his own accord from London, and a Syrian fighter, Sofian. He told us how Sofian had unfortunately been killed and we then progressed to discuss Sofian’s life as a fighter before discussing Rick’s other experiences. The lively discussion ended with a video Rick filmed at a previous conflict to reinforce how loud war is and exactly what life looks like on the front line. What we all took from this WP was the importance of raising awareness of war through the media, as many aspects of its danger are often ignored.
Ash and Leah
On the 26th of September, author and historian Simon Webb spoke to the Williams Project on the idea of British concentration camps after the second world war, where German prisoners of war were kept to provide forced labour for farming and rebuilding after the war. This is an idea that makes the listener inherently uncomfortable, and a topic that most historians simply gloss over. However, throughout the hour, Simon Webb went into great detail around the events and details that resulted in this, the loopholes that allowed surrendered prisoners of war to be kept for forced labour, and the eventual cancellation of the program during the Nuremburg Trials. Simon kept the audience captivated throughout the talk, which culminated in his excellent answering of the questions proposed to him from the attentive audience.
On Tuesday the 26th April, the Williams Project attenders were fortunate enough to listen to a talk given by our very own Mr Paul Fletcher. The presentation gave an insight into the second world war from a French perspective, by showing an abundance of marvellous clips from classic French war films including Monsieur Klein and Hiroshima Mon Amour. Mr Fletcher also articulated how there were no second world war films made during the war itself. It was only after the war ended that the French made copious amount of war films, using various genres such as love films, action films and even cartoons set during the war.
The films portrayed some of the things that happened in France during the War including when the German soldiers took over the North of France, creating the German-occupied Zone, so they could use the coasts nearer to Britain, and leaving the South of France as the free zone. The film La Ligne de démarcation clearly illustrates this situation. The talk was extremely riveting and showed me an insight on the second world war which I had never seen before.
On Tuesday 19 January, the Williams Project was treated to an supremely authoritative talk on the effect of the internet and the digital revolution on the work of the intelligence services. Our speaker was the former Director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Sir David Pepper. Having spent over three decades at GCHQ, Sir David gave his audience a fascinating account of how the business of spying had changed since the days of the Cold War, and the sheer scale of the information now being sifted in the digital age. Discussion ranged from James Bond to Edward Snowden, terrorism, privacy, free speech, international crime, and the accountability of the intelligence services in a democratic state.
This week we had Marianne Talbot as the guest speaker at the Williams project. She is Director Of Studies in Philosophy at the University of Oxford’s Department for Continuing Education.
Her first talk was to the younger members, and was about “Trolleyology” – the thought experiments around whether and under what conditions individuals would intervene to change the direction or progress of a runaway trolley car. If one was heading for 4 people, and you could switch the points so it killed someone else, would you? We soon realised that decisions like this weren’t as simple as utilitarianism would suggest: many in the audience were reluctant to intervene directly to save four by killing one. And would you push a fat man off a bridge to his death to save the four?
Marianne’s second talk is summarised below:
The main theme of the fantastic talk she gave was on whether, given the power of modern biology, there are moral justifications for placing limits (or at least constraints) on the frontiers of academic research, even if it saves lives. The talk was very interactive, with people from many backgrounds getting involved and asking questions; some with interests in philosophy and religion, others with backgrounds in biology and chemistry. People also asked Marianne questions that were related to ethics but not to bioethics, hence widening the scope of the talk, such as the consequences of bio-weapons in Syria to the cure for AIDS. The effects of the lecture could be felt immediately, with many different groups in Chigwell taking on the discussion of other ethical issues such as Abortion and Euthanasia, as well as providing inspiration for the newly founded Biomedical Society.
On the whole the talk was very interesting and informative, leaving the people who attended the talk significantly more knowledgeable about the complex world of bio-ethics and ethics in general. We thank Marianne for finding the time in her busy schedule to come and talk at the Williams Project, and we hope that in the future she might be able to find the time for another lively and fascinating talk at the Williams Project.
Ben Kennedy and Rajas Chitnis
On the 3rd February, Rick Findler came to the Williams Project to talk about his experiences as a freelance war photographer. Rick started his career photographing minor protests which he felt should be reported, but not finding this to suit him, he turned to more intense situations. These were situations which really mattered. Taking only minimal supplies and an equally eager friend Rick travelled to what may have been his death. It turned out he found his life. Since then, Rick has covered the Libyan revolution and the Syrian Civil War – a feat difficult to achieve due to Assad’s ordering of all foreign journalists as targets – meaning few could go ‘inside’.
His wide range of photos can only be surpassed by the depth of emotion and intensity they portray, from the Royal Wedding to actual life-and-death situations. We have never experienced the suffering Rick has seen, and very few of us ever will, but at least Rick has given us our closest chance yet. Some may say that to photograph the pain is to reinforce it, yet Rick has taught us that the best thing we can do for the victims is to spread their story.
Overall, the talk was gripping and eagerly listened to, and delivered to the best of standards, with Rick showing us the struggles he faced and still faces in his career. The Williams Project will certainly not forget this talk: we would certainly look forward to another.
Rick kindly sent us one of his photographs: