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What's new

Nonviolence News February 2017

Children and Conflict poster series

Editorials: Northern Ireland political swamp, Holding the nerve

Eco-Awareness with Larry Speight: Through the prism of narratives

Readings in Nonviolence: Refugee stories by Máiréad Collins

Billy King: Rites Again

 

 

 

Billy King

Issue 126: February 2005

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

The Adolf Awards for 2005
Fanfare (that's all the fans of the Billy King column) [yeah, all 2 of them - Ed]. Trumpets. Razzamatazz. Yes, folks, the one you've all been waiting for, the Adolf Awards. That's our very own annual tribute over the last few decades (yes - these awards go way back to 'Dawn' magazine days) to those who have done conspicuous disservice to peace, human rights and the environment over the last year, our sort of Immobile Peace Prize. Of course they are named after that great and skilled tax evader (as 2004 revealed), the most famous twentieth century figure to boast in the name Adolf. It's not quite a clean sweep for George Bush and the USA this year since Britain makes a strong showing, and Ireland is also well represented in the medals table (no doping this time).

The King Canute/Cnut/Knud/Knut Perpetual Cup for Services to Global Warming
George W Bush and the US administration for continuing to resist the waves around their feet (King Canute was actually showing sycophantic courtiers his limitations - King George Bush knows no such limitations). Who are the real knuts here?

The Karl Marx Socialism Award
None other than Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who proclaimed himself 'one of the last socialists around' in a country which is one of the most socially divided in Europe. Or maybe he was a bit wide of the Marx if he thought 'Das Kapital' was a paean of praise to capitalism as the highest possible form of human endeavour.

Political Survivor of the Year
Incredibly, incredibly, it is David Trimble again. Who would have thought that he could survive as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (though not as the ostensible FM of the OFMDFM) after his party had been overtaken in the polls by Ian Paisley's DUP. An amazing performance for those who remember the time when Ulster Unionism changed leaders at the drop of a hat.

Bank for the Year (Customer Services)
The Northern Bank for making cash withdrawals easier, particularly £26 million in one fell swoop. This is where the XXX (insert your choice of initials) did their counter feat; the Hugh Orde-nance survey blamed the IRA.

Warmonger Award
This is getting boring. George W Bush and Tony Blair share the award yet again. Bertie Ahern gets a dishonourable mention for Services Rendered Through Shannon Warport.

Terrorism
It has to be the USA, with special mention for destroying Falluja and killing thousands of civilians and very few resistance fighters. The USA also gets the Arch Enemy of Archaeology Award [Subdivision, Destruction of Ancient Artifacts] for wrecking a significant amount of the ancient city of Babylon by having had a military base there.

Pseudonym of the Year
P O'Neill of the IRA wins hands down for not wanting his weapons of war to be destroyed and photographed.

Paisley Pattern of the Year
Ian R K Paisley, for continuing to say 'no' just like every other year.

Internment Camp of the Year
Belmarsh Prison, England, where the UK has its own little Guantanamo. It was, after all, the British who invented the 'modern' internment camp in the Boer War, and introduced it in part of the UK (Norn Iron) in the 1970s, so how fitting that this award for imprisonment without trial returns home to Britain, just like the Olympics went to Greece. Such detention without trial has now been judged illegal and will be replaced by house arrest and monitoring - more repressive laws and we will have to see how this is used, these measuires being applicable to British as well as foreign citizens.

Promotion of Torture Gold Award
There were two nominations in this category. The first was for Islamist militant military groups in Iraq who attack any target irrespective of the threat to civilians and behead their abductees. The second is for the USA which has approved 'torture light' at the highest level and been putting it into practice in Iraq, Guantanamo and elsewhere. The award goes to .... The USA, because it is some time since a 'democratically elected regime' (this time around), and the country with the most military firepower, has been so blatant in its advocacy of torture, providing justification and succour to repressive regimes around the globe while the USA proclaims itself for 'freedom' and against 'terror'. A remarkable achievement.

Most Influential British Prime Minister Never (Transatlantic Award)
Tony Blair. The real state of British influence on US policy is shown by the length of time it took to get the remaining British prisoners in Guantanamo repatriated.

Environment Award (Disimprovements)
The government in the Republic for refusing to introduce a carbon tax or introduce effective measures to combat increases in global warming emissions. They'll be swimming round the mountain when they come.

In-sin-er-ator of the year
The proposed Cadaver, er Indaver, plant in Cork. And the Insinuator Award goes to those who suggested it was safe.

World Development (Reneging on Promises) Award
Why, it's our very own Taoiseach Bertie Booster and Irish government again. Having made a solemn promise, at the UN and elsewhere, to reach 0.7% of GNP for aid and development by 2007, the current rate is around 0.42% and it will not reach 0.7% until......we don't know because we haven't been told, the government didn't have the common decency to set an alternative date for reaching the target. As one of the richest countries in the world (sic), a 1% GNP aim would actually be quite modest, let alone 0.7% or the current 0.4%.

Global warning (2)
In the damp, wind and rain of an Irish winter it might be easy to miss the signs of global warming. It might be, for example, if you weren't a gardener. But if you look the signs are there. Flowers blooming much later and earlier than heretofore (schizostylis still bloomin' blooming in the new year, some narcissae (daffodils) in bloom in Botanic Gardens, Belfast, ten days before Christmas, three ladybirds seen at a neighbour's allotment around new year, people mowing their grass in January). Twenty years ago I reckoned on there being a heavy frost before the end of October, defining 'heavy' as -3 degrees centigrade or lower, enough to make all nasturtiums turn to mush. Now, and notwithstanding some snow on Christmas Day and once since, we have not had a 'heavy' frost yet as I write in late January and some of the nasturtiums still look quite happy. Not a problem for us at the moment apart from the aphids and other pests who will survive better. But a big problem on a global scale as glaciers and ice caps melt, the winds blow stronger, weather patterns change, and the Gulf Stream moves or ceases. There'll be trouble ahead.

Phrased out
The normally careful Mary McAleese did put her foot in it with her remarks about Nazis instilling an irrational hatred of Jews "in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred, for example, of Catholics, in the same way that people give to their children an outrageous and irrational hatred of those who are of different colour...." She subsequently apologised for her clumsy wording and acknowledged, as she always would have done, that sectarianism is a shared problem for both Catholics and Protestants.

But the problem is partly that any comparison with Nazi Germany is always regarded as over the top, because they committed the worst genocide of the twentieth century and possibly history and are rightly vilified for it, that and their power-hungry war-mongering. But I feel it is a mistake to set the Nazi regime aside and say we should not make comparisons with it. If it is treated as something completely 'other' then we feel we cannot possibly repeat the same mistakes as then. We can.

The fact of the matter is that the routinisation of racial and other hatreds is a common phenomenon. In Nazi Germany polite society continued its normal path. Lack of contact and constant propaganda meant the others could be scapegoated. Those who could have intervened to prevent disaster failed to try to do so until too late. Children were brought up to hate through irrational horror stories about the other. Nationalistic pride was used as a means of control and a divide against anyone else. Most of these points have also been true in a way about Northern Ireland before and during the Troubles - admittedly in a rather different scale and way than Nazi Germany but true nonetheless.

Those who do not learn from history are not destined to repeat it but they are certainly leaving themselves open to repetition. The idea that we are 'better' than the German people of, say, the early part of the Nazi regime, leaves us open to think such atrocities could not happen on any scale here. In fact all sorts of atrocities happened in Northern Ireland, on all sides, admittedly on a miniscule scale compared to the deeds of the Nazi regime. That regime was particularly adept at the routinisation of hatred. But we have drunk from the same cup. That is what is really so scary, not that no comparison is possible with aspects of the Nazi regime but that so many comparisons are possible. But it is not considered acceptable to say so.

The scale and the extent of crimes and hatreds in Nazi Germany set it apart in western Europe. But millions upon millions were killed in Uncle Joe Stalin's USSR, and Mao's China. A book like Christopher R Browning's "Ordinary Men - Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland" shows how ordinary people can become part of extraordinary atrocities. Two examples spring to mind which would tend to point to agreement with Mary McAleese's expressed thesis, if taken on a cross-community basis; the dispatch of 'Protestant' paramilitaries to kill Jesuit priests in Portadown (fortunately, they failed to find their house), and the Darkley, south Armagh, mission hall massacre where 'Catholic' paramilitaries shot dead Protestants at worship. To say these two examples do not portray an irrational hatred across the divide in Northern Ireland is to fly in the face of logic. And it would take a brave person to say that some of that hatred was not inculcated at mother's and father's knees.


Torture
So eventually evidence of British torture and mistreatment of prisoners has emerged from Iraq. Am I alone in not being surprised? It is not that the British, as occupiers go, are not relatively 'civilised', and they certainly pride themselves on their softly, softly approach compared to the US forces. But abuse, ill-treatment and atrocities go with war on all sides. Just look at what happened in the little war in Northern Ireland, a limited affair in a number of ways, and the fact that all sides got their hands exceedingly dirty through torture, ill-treatment and wanton killing - no one can hold up those same hands and say "we did everything right and by the book". Then think of Iraq where the scale of the violence is of a totally different magnitude, where the USA can push several hundred thousand people out of a city and destroy most of its infrastructure, and the world does nothing and says nothing. In war the first casualty is truth. But the second casualty is members of the civilian population. And the third is decency and morality.

The USA and UK thought briefly they had won a great victory and liberated the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein and secured 'democracy'. The jury is still out on the recent elections and what they may have achieved, but the last two years of war has inflicted yet more suffering on the long-suffering Iraqi people (both due to sanctions before the war, Saddam Hussein's brutality, and US/UK military involvement since), and the occupiers' policies have fomented sectarianism between Sunni and Shia. Let us hope that there is some way forward, a way out for the people of Iraq (and thereby for the USA and UK) but the relative success of the recent elections doesn't mean the USA and UK are out of the woods yet.

Finally, a great quote from Peter Ustinov which appeared in a recent Pit Stop Ploughshares e-mail; "War is the terrorism of the rich; terrorism is the war of the poor."

POTUS another cactus
George W Bush was in fine ideological form for his inaugural address second time round, about taking freedom and democracy everywhere - "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements in every nation and culture, with the ultimate end of ending tyranny in our world.....The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.". Well, some lands. Not quite everywhere. Not where the countries concerned, however dictatorial and repressive they may be, or how much torture is used, are already allies of the USA and give the US whatever it wants in terms of military cooperation. For example, you'll see no mention of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan as members of the axe(l) of evil to grind. As recently as 2002 we see the USA providing secret military support to a coup that failed in Venezuela to overthrow the democratically elected populist leader, Hugo Chavez; the history of Latin and Central America in the twentieth century is littered with such interventions.

Democracy, when it agrees with US policies, is fine and when it doesn't....well, bring in the CIA, the marines and whoever else. And authoritarianism is also fine....when it agrees with the USA. It all reminds me a bit of democracy in ancient Greece. If you were a free man and could vote, you made the decisions (the USA or rather its ruling elite today). It was progress on what went before but if you were a slave then you got on with whatever the 'free men' owned you to do. The world hasn't really changed much, has it, in a few thousand years....... And when George Bush in his inaugural address said "By our efforts, we have lit....a fire in the minds of men" he was referring to the fire of freedom; more significant may be the fire of hatred which he has sown in even more minds.

Well, that's it for another month, by the end of January we (in the Northern hemisphere that is) start to see the evenings getting a bit longer, and with global warming the spring flowers are already starting to kick in [since when did flowers start to 'kick in'? - Ed] [Give over or I'll kick something else in - Billy] [Oh, violent threats now? - Ed] [No, just idle boasts and loose badinage - Billy] [I think you're getting really 'bad' 'in' 'age', in your advanced years - Ed]. So, see you in March, the month named after the god of war (remember our interview with the selfsame Mars in NN113). Take care, Billy.

Who 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).

Copyright INNATE 2014