Helloooo there, I hope the summer is treating
you well, and that you are treating it well. Welcome to the
last Colm until it's back to school time after the summer
(there being no Nun Vile End Noose in August) but let's forget
about that for now.
Bush in Ireland
So ten thousand made it to protest in Dublin and a thousand
or two in Shannon, and all went very peacefully with the protests
over George Dubya visiting Ireland for the EU/US summit. But
I have an apology to make to the great people of the USA for
how George Bush Potus was treated while he was in Ireland.
Unfortunately, it does not look like anyone got near enough
to serve him with an arrest warrant for crimes against peace,
crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs
of war, torture and aggression, contrary to international
law and contrary to the laws of Ireland (cf International
war Crimes Tribunals Act 1998, Rome Statute of the International
Criminal Court, and Articles 6 and 7 of the Nuremberg Statute).
And a move in the Irish courts to have him arrested were unsuccessful.
On a very minor personal note I might add that because of
other commitments, I was unable to get to either Dublin or
Shannon and thus swell the numbers by another one. Sorry about
all that, folks.
But what I want to know is - where were all
the welcoming committees? All right, there was the odd letter
in the papers welcoming Pontius (at the start of the Iraq
war he posed in a Pilate's uniform, didn't he) but that was
it. Which in my book makes it pretty decisively won by the
protesters against his visit. It was a stark contrast to Bill
Clinton's visits, or even to Ronald Reagan's which also generated
many protests. Ronald Reagan's was the one which generated
the peace movement slogan 'A million sandwiches can't be wrong'
when far fewer than expected turned up to greet him at his
ancestral homeland of Ballyporeen, and reputedly that many
sandwiches were left over with hawkers who didn't have a prey.
Bush didn't want to get near people outside of his fortified
camp (the photo of the Irish army contingent going to Shannon
made it look a bit like reinforcements on the way to Baghdad).
And the world is more secure after the war in Iraq, my erse.
As for the furore over his RTE interview with
Carole Coleman, well, you'd see more abrasive interviewing
on a weekly basis on this side of the Atlantic pond (it doesn't
say much for US democracy that the US president is treated
as if he was the chosen one) And as for his security being
compromised when official photographs were taken of him looking
out the window in his vest. Well! We knew his visit was partly
about US overseas in-vest-ments, so that's old news. Or maybe
it was a case of the emperor's new clothes. But in any case,
what was he doing looking out the window? In his entourage
of hundreds he must have at least several people to look out
the window for him.
Taking a dump
I referred in a previous Colm to a 'drive by shooting' I was
involved in on St Patrick's Day, well, it was a drive by video
shooting in preparation for a cycle to the Loughmann Road
site of Thales Air Defence (previously Shorts Missile Systems),
four miles from Ballynahinch on the Downpatrick road. On 19th
June cyclists came from Belfast and Downpatrick (organised
by BLEIC, the Belfast and Lisburn Ethical Investment Campaign
- any similarity in name to the Foyle Ethical Investment Campaign
in Derry is purely intentional) demanding that Thales disclose
the sixty countries they claim exports to - because there
are bound to be a significant number of countries which score
poorly on human rights and other human development criteria.
Thales (the jury is still out as to how the
name should be pronounced - ancient Greek scholars please
advise) have underground bunkers at their Co Down site where
they store and test weapons before exporting to Torturia and
Povertana, or wherever they go. This is the biggest arms dump
in Ireland, where UK£100 million of weapons pass through
a year. The fact that Thales Air Defence/Shorts Missile Systems
continued production right through the darkest days of the
Troubles in Northern Ireland is highly ironic. Partly being
in the heartland of Protestant east Belfast it escaped criticism
but unjustifiably so. Now is the time to call it to account.
There are 500 jobs there and the shame is that such high levels
of skill in engineering, aeronautics, computing etc should
be put to such nefarious ends. The cost on the world scale
of the arms trade (bolstering up corrupt regimes, spending
money on unnecessary armaments as opposed to human welfare)
makes such a firm bad news even with five hundred jobs.
All the world's a stage
It's not the bit about us being actors that I wanted to look
at. Oh no, though I could. It's the way we divide our own
or other people's lives into stages, into befores and afters,
I suppose as a way of making sense of life. If you have had
a particularly traumatic or significant event, then everything
may be before or after that. But the interesting thing I see
as a parent is the way my life feels relatively seamless compared
to how I perceive my children's. I presume this is because
I am 'inside' me, I know what led up to a particular incident
or event in my life and so it doesn't seem quite so clear
cut in terms of divisions as I perceive my children; being
born and early days, starting school, the final year's school
play in primary school, their first girl/boy-friends, leaving
school and so on.
Undoubtedly what are important for me as I look
at their lives, is important for them. But I don't know that
I am a particularly 'seamless' person, with one thing running
into another. I know I am to some extent, and a creature of
routine, not routine routine you understand [No I don't understand
- Ed] but things being according to some sort of plan and
not always coping brilliantly when the plan goes down the
tubes as it must sometimes do - or at least taking a time
But as the coffee purist said when he grabbed
the appalling tasting coffee, poured it on the floor, and
started walking up and down in it endlessly - "You never
know someone properly until you have walked a mile in their
mocca-sins". [That's pretty painful - Ed] [Don't keep
all the sadism for the sadists, I say - Billy]
Hope for the wee North
There may be hope for Norn Iron yet. The 2003 Young Life and
Times survey carried out by Ark (and featured in the Community
Relations Council's CRC News for July 04) had some sadistics,
I mean statistics, which might give some cause for hope. While
half of the 16-year olds interviewed in Catholic areas and
one third from Protestant areas have no friends from 'the
other side', nearly three-quarters favoured mixed working
places, over half favoured mixed neighbourhoods and almost
half favoured mixed schooling. Four out of five said they
had had cross-community contact at school and over half said
they sometimes or often socialised with people from a different
religious background. 42% felt that relations between Protestants
and Catholics would be the same in five years time, 36% thought
they would be better, and just 15% thought they would be worse.
You can check out the details at www.ark.ac.uk/ylt
However the usual warnings need to be given
about such statistics. Cross-community contact at school might
just mean that Protestant and Catholic schoolchildren shared
a bus to the same event where they remained segregated. And
a willingness to confront the issues that divide people is
not necessarily top of the list of things people are willing
to do -at any age. In fact sometimes young people can refuse
to look at issues by saying that they're all young people
together and issues that divide the communities don't divide
them, which is a cop out really. But you can make the presumption
that the figures quoted are better than for adults and that
must give some cause for optimism, provided of course that
putting away these radical (!) ideas of integration is not
something people do on the threshold of adulthood.
But even those figures indicate how far has
to be travelled. Nearly half did not want mixed neighbourhoods,
and over half did not want mixed schools. But if those figures
were translated into reality then the situation would certainly
be better. The final comment I would make is that 'young people
as the hope for the future' should not be allowed to be used
to let adults, young or old, off the hook of sectarianism
and divided living and being.
I once before regaled you with some of the web searches that
people put into their favourite search locomotive to end up
at the INNATE website. I personally find it so intriguing
that I will probably revisit the topic periodically. If someone
looks up 'nonviolent protest' or something to do with consensus
(consensus without voting, consensus methodologies etc), then
it is not particularly surprising that they end up at the
INNATE website. Or we even focus big if you put in something
like 'bog oak carving' (thanks to me) [I knew I'd see it mentioned
here again soon - Ed] [Thanks for asking, the latest work
is a thin, slightly curving outdoor obelisk, about the height
of a grown human; the advice from the bog oak class lecturer,
for outdoor preservation, is to give it several coats of linseed
seed oil and turpentine - half and half - and then a sealing
coat of boiled linseed oil] [This is definitely more information
than we need - Ed] [But just think of those people doing a
web search on bog oak carving! They may want to know how to
treat it for outdoors - Billy] [Enough, before you get boiled
in linseed oil - Ed] [Threats, huh? - Billy] [I'll make you
write more about Lynn C Doyle, a k a Leslie Alexander Montgomery]
[I said enough in NN 103 - Billy].
Anyway, on to some of the things people were
looking for in June, and this is a simple snapshot of a very
small part of the traffic. "what the hell is the usa
doing in guantanamo bay cuba" is a good starting point
though that visitor didn't stay; I regard a 1-page download
as statistically insignificant as it takes that to establish
the nature of any site. In fact those who input 'livesexcam'
(10 people for the first three weeks of June) and came to
the INNATE site (OK, how or whereby, we don't know) downloaded
on average 1.3 pages which is more per visitor....and we certainly
weren't what they were looking for.
There are other bizarre arrivals, such as "montana
history 1845" though with the old "Nonviolence in
Irish history" pamphlet from Dawn included on the website,
and that contains Séamas Cain's history of the 'other'
or westward moving Irish in the States, well, maybe it is
not quite so strange. "land league passive resistance"
led to a 7 page download. "2004 email book of gay and
lesbians" made it, and I mentioned before the quest for
'how to spake sexy Spanish online', well this time 'sexy Spanish
seminars' made it into the list...and whoever input that then
downloaded 4 pages; maybe 'sexy Spanish' is a recognised genre
that I know nothing about. "Nonviolent direct action",
"nonviolent protest" etc makes it in ("nonviolence
definitions" led to 8 pages being downloaded) and consensus
appears in various guises. A historical quest for 'crumlin
road working out centre" led to a 20-page download. Various
organisations such as "foyle ethical investment campaign",
"mediation northern Ireland", "tools for solidarity"
and "afrifaminewalk", or even "thales air defence
castlereagh" and "ryanair racist" make appearances.
'bertie ahern dress' made it in, though it is only fair to
point out that it was yeller trousers he wore rather than
female clothing, otherwise Ireland would have had its first
male cross-dresser marriage-separated taoiseach, which would
be quite an achievement. But you might ask why "jean-yves
beriou"? I think you're going to have to do a web search
to find out......
So, summer is here, time to down tools when you can and hope
that the rain also doesn't decide to come down from the clouds
at the same time. And in the immortal words of Christy Moore's
'Lisdoonvarna' - "When summer comes around each year
/ They come here and we go there". I'm looking forward
to a change of pace and a bit of a change of scene. May all
your holi-days be happy days, and I hope the oul batteries
are fully rechargeable. Have fun, and make hay while the sun
shines, or, as they didn't used to say in poitin country,
make moonshine while the sun is hazy, so til September, over
(hills) and out (doors),
is Billy King? A long, long time ago, in a more
innocent age (just talking about myself you understand),
there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train'
and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor
has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write
a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able
to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor
around with you).
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).