[Return to related issue of Nonviolent
Hello there and nil desperandum, as the
football coach said when his team was losing 7 – 0 at
half time [did the football coach not go ‘beep, beep/honk
honk’? – Ed]. And this is the time of year when
I look to get Christmas postponed by a week or two (I’m
flexible) but no one will listen. Maybe I should just become
an Orthodox Christian as opposed to an unorthodox one, seeing
as they have Christmas that wee bit later. Anyway, on with
the show. At the end of my Colm I even let the Headitor in
with his ‘A day in the life of a Western nonviolence
Various eulogies were written about the
end of flights by Concorde, the Anglo-French supersonic passenger
plane. Personally I think it’s great that it has been
stopped, for whatever reason, in its polluting and elitist
tracks. Only the seriously rich could afford to fly it across
the Atlantic. But worse still was the amount of fuel it used
to get a small number of passengers to their destination that
bit quicker. You may already know that the higher up the atmosphere
pollution occurs, the slower it is to degrade; my figures
are a bit hazy, but let’s say that pollution from jet
planes take twenty times as long to break down to harmlessness
as the same amount of pollution at ground level. And then
think that Concorde was flying much higher again than normal
passenger planes. Normal planes are bad enough but Concorde’s
effect on the environment is much worse. A pretty machine
to look at, yes; an ecological disaster, also yes.
I’m not one that’s that much
into television programmes on nature or ornithology, that’s
for the birds, but I did go to my local arthouse kinema recently
(in fact the nearest film house of any to me now) to watch
a film entitled, prosaically, ‘Migrating Birds’.
Using balloons, microlight planes and helicopters, they took
some amazing shots of birds flying – you could feel
wing to wing as geese, cranes or other birds of passage winged
their way onward, their bodies arched aerodynamically, their
constant wingbeats a source of amazement. Shot against some
beautiful scenery (the film did also show some birds, literally,
shot, or coming to a sad human-made or natural end). Incredible.
If we want to celebrate flying, let’s hear it for the
birds, for example the Arctic tern which can fly 12,500 miles
from one end of the globe to the other. Compared to them,
Concorde is just a heap of polluting and useless junk and
not something to be mourned at all.
I promised when I started writing for
this august [don’t you means December – Ed] publication
many moons ago [sorry I ever asked you, now we can’t
get you to shut up – Ed] to tell you about some of the
best cartoons I came across. I’m afraid this aspect
of my Colm passed me by. But credit it where it’s due.
Perhaps the best local political cartoon I’ve seen all
year comes from ‘The Phoenix’ (Dublin based political/satirical
magazine) in its 4th July issue this year. In a cartoon by
Sergei entitled ‘Western Civilization’, two cartoon
characters discuss the arrival of a package; “At last
it’s arrived!”. “What?”. “My
own D.I.Y. peaceful Northern Ireland!”. “You can
get those?”. “Wow,” (looking bewildered
at the numbers on the parts) “there are a lot of parts.
Lucky there are instructions.” “What do they say?”.
And in the final frame, as both look bewildered at the instructions
and the parts (labelled variously ‘1689’, ‘1847’,
‘1798’ etc) – “SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED”.
Clever publicity idea from NI Women’s
Aid, sending out a series of e-mail facts (there is an opt
out if you wanted) beginning on 25th November, International
Day Against Violence Against Women. It illustrates what a
violent society we live in as regards domestic violence. What
follows is only some of the facts from the first half of their
e-mail ’16 facts for 16 days’; I make no further
comment because in a sense comment is superfluous.
* 18% of Irish women have been abused
by a current or former partner. [Kelleher & O'Connor,
Making the Links, (1995), p.15]
* 4 out of every 10 women who had been involved in a sexual
relationship with a man experienced some form of violence
from their partner. [Fiona Bradley, Mary Smith, Jean Long,
Tom O'Dowd. Reported Frequency of Domestic Violence; Cross
sectional survey of women attending general practice. British
Medical Journal; Vol. 324: Pg. 271]
* The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline received 11,037
calls 2002. (Women's Aid Helpline Statistic, 2002)
* In 2001, An Garda Siochana dealt with 9,983 call outs to
domestic violence incidents. [An Garda Siochana, Annual Report,
* 25% of all violent crimes reported involve a man assaulting
his wife or partner. [EU Campaign Against Domestic Violence]
* In the EU one woman in 5 has at least once in her lifetime
been the victim of violence by her male partner. [EU campaign
Against Domestic Violence]
* The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre received 11,808 calls in 2002.
[Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Statistics and Financial Summary,
* 42% of women in Ireland have experienced some form of sexual
abuse in their lifetime. [SAVI report, 2002]
* 64% of Irish women surveyed who said they had experienced
violence by a partner said their children had witnessed the
violence. Kelleher and O'Connor, Making the Links, (1995),
* In homes where partner abuse occurs, children are 1,500
times more likely to be abused. [Department of Justice Assistance,
Family violence; Interventions for the Justice System, 1993)
* A study in Ireland found that 24% of those who had experienced
domestic violence, reported experiencing one form of violence,
25% had experienced two or three types of violence, 20% had
experienced four to seven types of violence and 31% had experience
eight or more types.
The most commonly experienced behaviours
were a partner "punching or kicking the walls or furniture,"
"shouting at or threatening the kids," and having
been "pushed, grabbed, or shoved." More serious
violent incidents were also common, with 10% of women reporting
having been punched in the face; 10% punched or kicked on
the body, arms, or legs; 9% choked; and 9% forced to have
Of the women who reported some form of
violent behaviour, 46% had been injured.
[Fiona Bradley, Mary Smith, Jean Long,
Tom O'Dowd. Reported Frequency of Domestic Violence; Cross
sectional survey of women attending general practice. British
Medical Journal; Vol. 324: Pg. 271]
- Women subjected to violence by their
partners are 4 to 5 times more likely to be referred to psychiatric
services than non-abused women. [Stark and Flitcraft, 1991]
Blink and you can miss something which
you only learn about a couple of months later and feel a right
eejit about not knowing. I was away from home in August when
Terry Carlin died and I only found out during November when
I opened the pages of nipsanews, the magazine of the Northern
Ireland Public Service Alliance. Terry worked for the Northern
Ireland Committee of the ICTU/Irish Congress of Trade Unions
for nearly thirty years and was the most public face of trade
unionism in the North in most of that period. A full obituary
appears on the NIPSA website at www.nipsa.org.uk/ripterry.htm
However it wasn’t primarily his role as a trade unionist
that I wanted to write about or review here, though he was
instrumental in building up the role and position of trade
unionism after the debacle of the ‘Back to work march’
during the UWC/Ulster Workers’ Council strike of 1974;
the ‘back to work’ march was an unmitigated flop
and above all else showed the powerlessness of a movement
like trade unionism against political sectarianism at its
height. And also the need to choose your tactics with care,
but were they to know it would be such a flop?
The trade union movement, and Terry Carlin
in particular, was however a consistent voice in putting a
head up over the parapet during the worst years of the Troubles
to try to show civil society rejection of violence; this ran
from the ‘Better Life For All’ campaign in the
‘Seventies through to peace demonstrations/days in the
‘Nineties. During much of this time, civil society pressure
for peace was often deafening in its silence, so the trade
union voice was doubly important. The establishment of Counteract,
a trade union agency to oppose workplace sectarianism, was
another important initiative. At times I would have made a
critique of some of the trade union supported peace initiatives
on Northern Ireland, and I still would, but I am certainly
glad they happened and that that voice was raised. It is hard
to judge how effective any of it was, or indeed any of our
work was, but, who knows, without it maybe the picture would
have been much bleaker still.
I am sad that a part of that voice, in
the shape of Terry Carlin, has departed and died prematurely.
He had the courage of his convictions, and his convictions
did take courage. May he rest in peace.
Confession time. My Irish cultural education
was sadly lacking until recently [only until recently? –
Ed] in that I had never seen Brendan Behan’s The Borstal
Boy. It’s funny peculiar strange, really, how some cultural
events stay in your mind for days afterwards and others have
disappeared over the horizon almost before they’re over
and you’ve gone back to your ‘normal’ life.
Well, Borstal Boy stayed on my mind, in this case it was Peter
Sheridan’s 2000 film version which was shown on RTE.
There are a number of factors. Firstly was the portrayal of
boy/boy relations, including a gay kiss, set during the earlier
part of the Second World War. I found the boy/girl relationship
a bit less credible insofar as the actress playing the borstal
governor’s daughter seemed far older and more mature,
with a massive class difference, apart from political and
national differences. But it may be that’s love, actually.
For me, though, the biggest factor in
the film is the prejudice reduction taking place. The Brendan
Behan/’borstal boy’ character comes from Dublin
to England to bomb the English; he knows virtually nothing
about the English as a people. It is living among them in
the total institution of a borstal that he learns so much
about not only them but himself. Never having previously heard
of Oscar Wilde, he expresses the view early on that he wasn’t
a true Irish man if he was homosexual; by the end of the film
he is proudly saying that he has discovered love for both
sexes ‘like Oscar Wilde’. In living together and
sharing the same life he learns to respect and even admire
English people and aspects of English culture. His political
views have not changed, and he will not renege on those, but
he has learnt of wider realities (e.g. Hitler) and, basically,
that his intention to bomb was a mistake (not that he’s
going to admit that given that he doesn’t want to renege
on his political aspirations – sounds a bit like certain
people in the Norn Iron situation at the moment, doesn’t
There is a difference to the analogy I
am going to make shortly in that borstal was, as mentioned,
a ‘total institution’, in sociological terms an
institution where one lives all the time. There is thus much
more opportunity and need to interact fully with your peers.
But the prejudice reduction which takes place is almost total.
Barriers of all kinds are demolished. People get to know each
other at a deep level. Respect is engendered (but this being
‘real life’, so are jealousies, plots and treachery).
The stranger becomes the mate, or in the English rhyming slang
of the gay sailor in the film, the ‘china’ (china
plate = mate). The film is topped and tailed in appropriate
fashion with arrival to England and arrival back in Ireland.
On his initial incarceration in an English prison he salutes
two Irish republican prisoners and is badly beaten up for
his pains; towards the end when his gay sailor mate in borstal
eventually accepts the offer to rejoin his ship, after ‘the
borstal boy’ goes for a heterosexual rather than a homosexual
relationship, he salutes as the sailor disappears to war (and,
we hear in a subsequent newsreel shown to the borstal boys,
death) in the back of a truck. He is saluting his English
friend, a parting gesture inconceivable earlier on, a symbol
of their bond and his respect.
But on to the analogy and the moral for
today. The prejudice reduction taking place all sounds like
a very good argument for integrated education in Northern
Ireland (and elsewhere). It’s funny peculiar strange
the connections you can make, isn’t it.
Research has shown that children’s
teeth across the UK, including Northern Ireland (and therefore
across the whole island of Ireland) have traces of plutonium,
just about the most toxic substance known. Research on extracted
molars quite clearly shows contamination by this man(sic)-made
radioactive substance. BNFL which runs Sellafield, the only
source of plutonium in Britain, says it’s not clear
whether the plutonium recorded is from Sellandefiled or “nuclear
weapons testing fall-out.” (Observer 30/11/03) Right,
so that would explain why those living relatively close to
Sellafield have more than twice the amount living 140 miles
away. There are obvious health concerns.
But all is not lost in the plutonium PR
department. Expect a press release quite soon from British
Nuclear Fools Ltd: “We are delighted to hear that our
home delivery service is working so remarkably efficiently.
Plutonium is actually good for you – for the economy,
your teeth, for your little toes, for cancer (XXXXXXXX Change
this to ‘life changing experiences’ before issuing
this press release – Big Boss). Our safety record is
really amazing [amazingly bad – Billy] and we take great
care to ensure measured doses are delivered carefully in all
directions, we do not discriminate against anyone. There is
no truth in the rumour that we wanted to move BFNL headquarters
to Wales so we could have a leek as our logo. However, since
ours is an expensive business with high development costs
and high storage costs, we will no longer be able to deliver
plutonium to every household free of charge. Therefore from
the New Year, 2004, we regret to inform the public that we
will have to charge households a modest sum for delivery (this
is apart of course from the massive government subsidies we
have received). Those paying by standing order will get free
extra plutonium. We are grateful for your understanding and
look forward to many further years of supplying plutonium
to you, your families and fiends. Have a happy life for as
long as it lasts.”
Well, I wish you a Happy Christmas, be
it Christian, pagan, consumerist, or other (or maybe an idiosyncratic
mixture of various things). Remind me to tell you sometime
about the Christmas I led a donkey called Big Ears, with Mary
on it, across a motorway bridge, you see I was being Joseph
in a round the churches pilgrimage, it’s true [ho, ho,
ho – Ed]. But most of all I want to wish you a Preposterous
New Year. Have a good break when you get there. Those old
batteries need recharging, they are rechargeable batteries,
aren’t they? I’ll be back with more (a)musings
[don’t you mean bemusings - Ed] at the start of February.
Oh, and the February issue also means
our annual Adolf Awards, so nominations welcome for those
who have provided spectacular disservices to humanity in general,
and to peace, human rights and the environment in particular
over the last year or so – Billy.
PS To get a bit more dramatic, there follows
a mystery play or skit by the Headitor, just shows I’m
not, after all, the only one with a sense of humour around
here, though as to his claim to be an ‘international
playwright’, well…...that’s a bit of a playwrong.
- As performed in Northern Ireland, Israel,
Sweden and Croatia -
- Never published before, the incredible
tragicomedy, in 3 acts -
by Rob Fairmichael
Norman/Nadine Trainor (NT) -
a nonviolence trainer
Ronald/Roberta McGandhi - another
About 5 - 10 other people to be police,
workshop participants, a crowd, message holders up/announcers
(including in translation if necessary), sound specialists
(alarm, phone, birdsong), radio newsreader, mediation class
Subject to ad libbing, and general lack
of rehearsal..........if you do actually want to perform this,
please adapt as necessary. Lines can be read rather than have
to be learnt. One run through should be sufficient in terms
Announce before start – ‘Any
similarity to real events is intentional but too painful to
ACT 1 - Norman/Nadine Trainor's
house (sign or announce)
Props; 'Bed', nonviolence pictures/posters,
table and chair, books and papers on table.
It is morning. NT is asleep. The alarm
goes off; NT hits it to stop and goes back to sleep. After
a short while wakes with a start, jumps out of bed, runs to
the front door (signed 'front door') for post, lifts post
and glances through it;
"Only stuff from XXXXXX* and other
rubbish", [* name organisers of event taking place]
throws to one side,
(Seriously) "Another morning my Nobel
Prize for Peace hasn't come in the post!".
Returns to bed, yawns, goes back to sleep.
Sign held up/Announce; 'Two hours later'.
Phone rings, NT awakes in a panic, trips
on way to phone, grabs at phone, lifts just as caller gives
"Shit, now I wonder who that was.
Better look at my diary". Goes to desk, piled high with
papers, books etc, eventually finds diary, opens it -
"Hmm, mediation training session
this evening, at least there should be a crowd for that. Can't
make out my own writing here, what does this say, "a.m.
Squirqleddyderg" it looks like, I wonder what that was."
Phone rings again. NT answers it straight
Brian Boru; "Hello is that Norman/Nadine
Trainor? This is Brian Boru, organising secretary of the Coolcucumber
Action Group. We were expecting you this morning to help us
explore actions we could take regarding mining on Big Mountain.
Where were you?"
NT - "Eh, hello Brian, eh, I'm really
sorry, something really really important and urgent came up
and I just simply had to stay here this morning, I'm really
sorry, I'll come straight away, look we can start in twenty
minutes, I'll come straight away.........."
Brain Boru; "Look, don't bother,
everyone's gone home, there were only 2 people anyway. But
why didn't you let us know you couldn't make it?"
NT - (Thinking hard) "I lost your
phone number, don't worry, we'll fix another date, I'll guarantee
you to be at that."
Brian Boru; "But it's taken 6 months
to set this one up. Not to worry, we have Ronald/Roberta McGandhi
coming next week to do a session on 'Movement building the
McGandhi way', that should be good, lots of people have said
they’ll be coming to that. You could come too if you
wanted, as a participant like. Anyhow, bye for now."
NT - "Mmmmmmarrrrrrggghhhhhhhh!!!".
Grimaces, looks dejected, rejected. Sits on floor.
"I know, I'll catch up on some overdue
paper work before lunch, that will give me plenty of satisfaction".
Goes to desk, shuffles pieces of paper
and files around, pulls one out, reads aloud -
"A broad based working group on an
exploration of the nonviolent potential in the nihilistic
experience of the lumpenproletariat in western society"
"How the hell did I ever get involved
in this one. And who's expected to do all the bloody work
on this. Me. And who are they waiting on? Me. Well they can
bloody well wait."
Throws down file, looks out window, birds
sing, thinks -
"What else do I need to do? Ah yes,
my workshop paper for xxxxxxxx [name big forthcoming event,
real or fictional], 'The nonviolent paradigm in modern supermarket
shopping and the ready-to-serve food trade'. That will really
win me kudos and the admiration of the participants. Ah, I
can see it now, after this there'll be all those invitations,
I'll get to travel around the world when they realise how
good I am......."
Drifts off into daydreams, looking happy,
NT comes to, looks at watch,
"Damn, is that the time, I got nothing
done. I’m hungry now so I’ll get some lunch, that’ll
give me a bit more energy to tackle things vigorously"
Goes to get lunch, turns on the radio
"Might as well listen to the news".
Newsreader; "We will come back to
that story about the United States invasion of Canada, Panama,
Managua, Antigua and Australia later in the programme. Meanwhile,
we move on to the big local story, and the riots and trouble
downtown during the anti-government demonstrations over the
new Conscription and Home Bakery Act which has been labelled
by the opposition as a 'half baked idea if we ever saw one...."
NT - "OH NO, I forgot about the demo,
my street credibility will be in tatters, I'd better get there
as fast as I can......"
Rushes out the door, while the news continues
Newsreader "A large crowd in Parliament
Square is being addressed by a number of prominent speakers
including local (wo)man Ronald/Roberta McGandhi, who has been
talking about the necessity of nonviolent revolution......."
ACT 2 – Parliament Square
(sign or announce)
Prop; Chair for R McGandhi to stand on
to speak to the crowd
NT arrives, breathless/panting, on edge
of square, looking decidedly shaken and not too with it.
NT- "I knew……”
puff, pant “I should have…” puff, pant “fixed
that puncture on my bicycle. Now where's the action?"
Comes up to police lines, the other side
of which Ronald/Roberta McGandhi is still, eloquently and
enthusiastically, speaking to the crowd (McGandhi mimes).
NT to police "Let me through, I'm
a nonviolence trainer'.
Policeman/woman - "I'm sure you are
something strange, sir/madam, now please keep back and let
us do our job".
NT wanders about, trying to see what's
happening the other side of police lines. Noises and shouts
offstage. NT sees Ronald/Roberta McGandhi being arrested by
NT - "OH NO, McGandhi has been arrested,
that's another one up for him/her. No one has ever arrested
me. I'll never hear the end of this, he/she'll be talking
about their arrest for years. There's nothing I can do, I
might as well go home."
NT leaves square, slowly and dejected.
ACT 3 – Meeting room
(sign or announce)
Props; Flip chart, table and chair for
NT, chairs in rows facing front in traditional style.
NT is at the meeting room where the mediation
session he/she is to facilitate is to take place.
NT - "Well, mediation may be middle
of the road, not to mention piggy in the middle, but it's
usually a good crowd puller, this should bring people in.
I wonder how many will come tonight. It should make up for
the pretty disastrous day I’ve had."
One slightly nervous person comes in,
sits to the back of the room.
NT - "Still, it's only 10 minutes
past the time it was advertised to start."
Slowly, a few more people struggle in,
sit all over the place.
NT - "Right. Welcome everybody to
this our first session of this series of 45 meetings on mediation.
I would like to start by asking everybody to share with each
other your name, where you're from and why you're interested
in mediation. Who would like to start?"
Person W - (angrily) "I'll start
and I'll finish. What is this mediation thing only trying
to resolve what should not be resolved and to water down the
struggle? I bet you've never been involved in a real struggle
in your life, you wouldn't know one if it hit you over the
head. It's just arsing about, that's what it is. And those
who can't do, teach or try to teach, and you're the most pathetic
looking specimen of a teacher I've ever seen. Sharing why
we're interested in mediation? I'll tell you I'm not bloody
interested, get a life, get involved in real people's struggles
for justice and equality and stop this crap. Well, I can tell
you. I'm not staying here for you and your liberal rubbish,
I'm off to support real people in their struggles...."
NT looks a bit disturbed, takes a minute
to get calm, others look rather shocked -
NT - "Well, after that outburst,
let's get back to where we were. Who'd like to share why they're
Person X (nervous person at back) - "Eh
well, eh, my name is Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx. I, eh, have a slight
confession to make. You see I, em, thought this was a session
on meditation, and I thought, that's great, I'm really into
the things of the spirit and I really want to get further
into meditation. I don't know anything about this, eh, mediation
NT - "Urggh, I see, ahem, so do you
want to stay for mediation training?"
X - "Well, I might as well stay tonight
anyhow, there's nothing good on television".
NT - "Right, next please"
Person Y - "My name's Yyyyyyy Yyyyyy
and I'm actually in the same position as the previous speaker.
I read the description in the courses booklet and I thought
it was on meditation."
NT - "You mean to tell me that you
read 'Mediation is increasingly being used in the USA and
parts of Europe and elsewhere as a means of conflict resolution'
and you thought it was talking about meditation?"
Y - "Emmm, yes. I don't know if I'm
interested in this mediation thing or not but I'll stay for
this evening and decide."
NT - "Did anyone actually come for
(Pause) Person Z puts up hand - "I
did. Ronald/Roberta McGandhi mentioned you were running a
session on mediation and said it was worth checking out. I
told him/her I'd let him/her know how it went, you know, whether
it was any good or not."
NT - "Oh, well thank you. I think
at this point we'll start straight in to the stages of mediation...."
Sign; '2 hours later"
Person A - "Could you explain exactly
what you're trying to do and achieve here tonight????"
NT groans - "I think it's time we
called it a day. Please come back next week if you're interested
in mediation. Meanwhile you’re welcome to inform teachers
of meditation that we have uncovered a niche for them to fill."
People leave quite quickly.
NT is left all alone, breaks down in tears
NT - "Nobody loves me, nobody cares."
[END - rapturous applause!]
[Return to related issue of Nonviolent
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).