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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 131: July 2005

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

The dangers of the automatic spell cheek
Well, the arrival of the Catholic Church’s Irish Commission for Justice and Social Affairs (ICJSA) is very welcome, and there are some very fine people on its advisory board. But the perils of the automatic spell check/correction facility was nowhere better illustrated that in a press release concerning its launch on 13th June. In this press release, Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, became Dairymaid Martin (not so much a handmaid of the Lord as a dairymaid, you might say, though perhaps the gender is still wrong) [you’re obviously trying to milk the mistake for all it’s worth – Ed]. And immediately following him, Most Rev Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, became Most Rev Calm O’Reilly (maybe that is one of his qualities). And his bishopric became that of Adage and Clonmacnois. I suppose you could do worse than being the Bishop of Adage, maybe you would always have the right word, the mot juste, for every occasion. And it just goes to show it can happen to a bishop, and an archbishop too. Isn’t technology a wonderful thong.

A glutton for pun-ishment
I must say I’m a glutton for humour, anecdotes, collections of pithy sayings and the like [You don’t really need to tell us, we already know only too well – Ed]. One little collection, generally serious rather than humorous but with some great turns of phrase, which I’m delving into and out of at the moment is Shelley Anderson’s “Just Words: Quotations on gender, nonviolence and peace” (IFOR, 72 pages, 2005, €5, and INNATE will also have some copies for sale). Re-encountering the familiar bon mot and the new is something I much enjoy. Take the challenging “Women’s peacefulness is at least as mythical as men’s violence”, a quotation from Sara Ruddick (Do you agree or disagree? Discuss in not more than 3 hours). Similarly, Barbara Deming’s “the challenge of those who believe in nonviolent struggle is to learn to be aggressive enough.”

Then there is the beautifully succinct as in Sappho’s words to an army wife in the 7th century:
Some say a cavalry corps,
Some infantry, some, again
Will maintain that the swift oars

Of our fleet are the finest
Sight on dark earth; but I say
That whatever one loves, is.

In the more familiar or half remembered category would be Joan Baez’ words that “The only thing that’s been a worse flop than the organization of nonviolence has been the organization of violence.” and Martin Luther King Jnr’s words “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” or Frederick the Great of Prussia proclaiming “If my soldiers began to think, not one would remain in the ranks.”

Almost the last quote in the booklet is one from Bertha von Suttner, pacifist, author, first female Nobel Peace Prize laureate (and also the subject of a recent IFOR booklet, see web reference above); “Universal sisterhood is necessary before the universal brotherhood is possible.”

Prince Charles of Ireland
I refer of course to CJH, or Charles J Haughey, baptised Cathal, he of the current RTE series. He engendered fierce loyalty and fierce opposition, both within Fianna Fail and outside. From early days he lived a lifestyle beyond his means (and was making generous donations to causes he almost certainly didn’t support in the late 1960s, presumably with a view to currying favour). And there can’t be many western European prime ministers who have been booed in the streets when they came to the funeral of another prime minister of their country from the same party (as Charlie Haughey was when he came to Cork for Jack Lynch’s funeral).

A question on RTE’s Questions and Answers as to whether Charlie Haughey was an old codger who should be left in peace got quite an affirmative response from the panel. He is elderly and seriously ill. But his arrogance, conceit and basic wrong-doing (e.g. tax dodging, shady dealing in taking donations from all sorts of interested parties, and possibly arms commissioning – as opposed to decommissioning – in 1969) should not let him off the hook. He does have his defenders (e.g. Vincent Brown) and he was at times an innovative minister. But you may remember the old joke about the difference between CJH and CJD. Answer; you can catch CJD.

Haughey’s wrong-doing is of another – lesser - magnitude to someone like dictator Augusto Pinochet of Chile, who has also been let off the hook by old age and ‘ill health’. Haughey was not dishing out death and fear by the lorryload. But while vindictiveness should not be part of a humanitarian approach to people’s misdoings, nevertheless letting someone off with things simply because they are prominent, elderly and ill is not a great idea if it gives the impression that if you’re rich and powerful enough you can do what you want and the day of reckoning will not come. Things may have tightened up a lot in the Republic since Haughey’s hey-day (he made hey while the sun shone and when it didn’t) but I personally want an example to go to the rich and powerful of today who might appear at the tribunals of tomorrow. And that means holding anyone and everyone to account. Including Charles J Haughey.

Dianetic conflict
That’s me. I read these things so you don’t have to [I wouldn’t be bothered – Ed]. In this case it is a slim pamphlet of the thoughts of L Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, on conflict, the collection of three articles entitled “How to resolve conflicts” As someone involved in the field of conflict [and that’s just between us! – Ed] [Very funny – Billy] I wondered what gems of wisdom could I glean from the thoughts of this science-fiction writer and church founder who died in 1986 [and I saw you looking up your biographical dictionary for that fact – Ed].

Firstly, the introduction states that he discovered “a fundamental and natural law of human relations which explains why conflicts between people are so often difficult to remedy. And he provided an immensely valuable tool that enables one to resolve any conflict, be it between neighbours, co-workers or even countries.” So that is pretty much a claim to universality and sure success.

The first article is about “The race against man’s savage instincts” and can be seen as a prelude to Hubbard’s Dianetics philosophy. It portrays well-intentioned ‘man’ (sic) being waylaid by “a savage and twisted past. He inherited from centuries of being, centuries of savageness, and the instincts he had to wear as a primitive and as a savage.” To begin with, this seems out of kilter with modern learning about the past; ‘savages’, so called, were not necessarily savage, and e.g. Neolithic humanity may have cared gently for its sick and old, as best it could. But Hubbard hints at the way to take away “the force and power of a brutal self” so that the individual’s nature is changed – this is done by accessing the instincts and subconscious mind. Cue Dianetic auditing and processing (and a lucrative and addictive method for Scientology, but sín scéal eile).

The second article is “The Third Party Law” and it states that “A third party must be present and unknown in every quarrel for a conflict to exist” or “For a quarrel to occur, an unknown third party must be active in producing it between two potential opponents” or “While it is commonly believed to take two to make a fight, a third party must exist and must develop it for actual conflict to occur.” (this is all written in CAPITALS which I have spared you). This is just complete and utter rubbish. I never heard so much drivel about conflict in my life. Of course there are third (or fourth, fifth, sixth) parties who egg on or encourage some parties in conflict, or are involved in some other way, but the idea that it takes more than two to conflict tango is just nonsense. The simplest form of conflict is just that, between two people. There are many more complex patterns but the idea there is always, invariably, this third party is just blatant nonsense, and potentially confusing nonsense as well

Hubbard goes on to advise looking for the third person in marital quarrels who is the source of conflict. Again, promoting the possibility that there may be a third party involved from being just that, a possibility, to the law that there always is such a third party is arrant nonsense (‘cherchez la troisième partie’ instead of ‘cherchez la femme’!). And presumably in this context very poor marital counselling. Apart from anything else it avoids parties in a conflict taking responsibility for their own actions – and that applies at the international level as much as the inter-personal.

He goes on that “Quarrels between an individual and an organisation are nearly always caused by an individual third party or a third group.” More rubbish. If I am in dispute with an organisation that has dealt badly with me, or with which I have a strong disagreement, as I have been, these are very normal, everyday conflicts which disprove his “nearly always” caveat. He ends with his ‘law’ that “There are no conflicts which cannot be resolved unless the true promoters of them remain hidden” (which is, unusually for him, poorly phrased with a tortuous double negative), i.e. every conflict can be resolved if the ‘true promoters’ (third party) are known. But what does ‘cannot be resolved’ or ‘can be resolved’ mean here? That it will be? That it might be? That he doesn’t know? As a so-called ‘law’ of conflict it is pathetic. And also rubbish from someone who clearly knows very little about the origins of conflict, and the little he does know is destroyed by being associated with fanciful notions or ‘laws’ he has dreamt up. The third article in the collection is mainly about love with lots of truisms and no new learning about conflict.

So there is only one conclusion when it comes to L Ron Hubbard and his thoughts on conflict. Father Hubbard’s cupboard is bare. ‘How to resolve conflicts’? More like ‘How to extend and make conflicts even more difficult to solve’! If his theories of the universe are as badly grounded, unscientific/scientological as his theories on conflict, it is clearly all one big conflict without the ‘flict’.


Ireland’s green and unpleasant land
I suppose because it is verdant due to the rainfall, and relatively unpopulated by the standard of some western European countries, Ireland is still thought of as ‘green’. But statistics published recently prove otherwise (Eurostat review of environmental issues, it has an impossibly long web address so search for ‘statistical environmental eurostat’). The Republic has the highest rate of waste generation per capita of the 25-member EU in 2003, with some 732 kg per person (up 42% in just 8 years!). It has a very high usage of oil products, rapidly increasing number of cars, and decreasing amount of freight carried on the railways (the latter’s proportion of interior freight was down from 9.9% in 1995 to 2.5% in 2003). Only 2% of gross inland energy consumption came from renewables in 2003. And yet Ireland had the fourth highest annual average income in 2002 at €30,800. Private wealth and public squalor, that’s the name of the game.

The clash of the sash
The hurley stick is not so much in favour as a battlefield weapon (except on the hurling field of course) in the North since punishment beatings by those from the republican/Catholic side using them gave hurling a bad name. So in a brilliant piece of lateral thinking, baseball bats were taken up instead (blame the Yanquis!). But there is a reference to one being used as a weapon recently below.

Anyway, I’m writing about the clash of the sash more than the clash of the ash and it concerns the start of the ‘marching season’. The first big outing of the ‘season’ is the ‘Tour of the North’ (of Belfast that is) and it took place on Friday 17th June, this year the route being primarily the Crumlin and Shankill Roads in Belfast but with a homeward bound ‘feeder’ going past Ardoyne. Which is where the trouble happened. There was some quite violent rioting including a number of petrol bombs thrown.

‘Who threw the first stone?’ is a question which seldom has a simple answer in a situation like Northern Ireland even when it is clear who threw the first stone. In other words, it is much more than simply about who actually threw the first stone, though in this case it looks like it probably came from nationalists (I wasn’t there at Ardoyne so I cannot say for definite, and even if I had been the situation in a riot like that is mass confusion and things happen very fast). For Orangemen, marching is regarded as an inalienable right to demonstrate and celebrate their culture (Protestant and British, the proportion of which depending on the individual); for Catholics and nationalists it is regarded more as the demand to rub their noses in the dirt and celebrate anti-nationalist and anti-Catholic feeling. Who is right? Both and neither is different ways. Most Orange and Protestant parades (there are also ‘Black’ and Apprentice Boys parades among the ‘Loyal Orders’) pass off without incident in mainly Protestant areas. But some have been contentious for years, and even centuries (all parades were banned by the British government for a period in the mid-nineteenth century, such was the threat of civil disorder accompanying them).

It is interesting periodically to do a reality check and see how the different media treat the same event. So here, for your elucidation, is a short extract from the four Belfast daily papers the day after the north Belfast march and riot (Saturday 19th June). Interestingly, though I am not trying to cover it, all three Belfast morning papers had parade issues as their lead the following Monday, 20th June.

‘The News Letter’ (the oldest still-published daily paper in Britain or Ireland, and looking much more news-worthy than it used to), read primarily by Protestants in Northern Ireland, was quite clear in its front page headline: “MARCHERS ATTACKED”. “Marchers, supporters and police came under a hail of stones, bottles and other missiles last night after nationalists attacked the traditional Orange Order Tour of the North parade in Belfast.”

“Earlier, the two sides had been taunting each other as the parade passed the Ardoyne flashpoint where serious riots erupted at last year’s July 12 parade…..Two water cannon had to be brought in….Several people were injured, including children….North Belfast Ulster Unionist MLA Fred Cobain, who was at last night’s parade, was injured when he was hit on the arm with a hurley…..”

‘The Irish News’, read primarily by Catholics, had as its headline “Serious violence after Belfast Orange parade”; “Serious violence erupted last night in north Belfast as a controversial loyalist parade passed Ardoyne last night. Nationalist politicians and clergy critici8sed the PSNI’s handling of the parade along the Crumlin Road…..As three Orange lodges passed Ardoyne shortly before 9pm there was sporadic stone throwing and jeering on both sides. However around 20 minutes later hand-to-hand fighting and stone throwing developed after loyalist supporters were allowed to walk along the left hand side of the Crumlin Road past nationalist homes….In one of the most serious incidents, a nationalist woman was treated for a suspected broken arm after being attacked by loyalists outside her home. A number of loyalists were also reported to be injured……”

“Daily Ireland”, again read mainly by Catholics but generally taking a more republican stance than the Irish News, had “Violence erupts at disputed parade”: “North Belfast remained on tenterhooks overnight faced with continued violence after rioting broke out in the wake of a contentious Orange march….the trouble started after the disputed return leg of the Tour of the North parade passed up the Crumlin Road through a flashpoint nationalist area at Ardoyne…..Missiles were thrown as bandsmen from three Orange lodges passed the junction….but the worst violence followed when the PSNI allowed loyalist supporters of the parade to ass through the nationalist area. There were also reports of loyalist attacks on nationalist homes in the Carrick hill area which is close to the Shankill Road…”

The evening edition of the “The Belfast Telegraph”, which takes a broadly unionist editorial line but is read by both Catholics and Protestants, had as its headline “Parades bust-up”; “There were fresh recriminations over loyalist parades today, in the wake of disturbances in north Belfast. Eighteen police officers and eleven members of the public were injured in the trouble at the Ardoyne shopfronts. Police said at least 10 petrol bombs, stones and bottles were thrown by nationalist protesters as dozens of marchers from the Tour of the North Parade passed the Ardoyne shop fronts last night. Officers used water cannon after police and marchers were attacked. A 14-year-old girl suffered a broken arm at the flashpoint. Sinn Fein said that the responsibility for the trouble lay with the loyalists and with the Parades Commission decision to allow the parade to pass the shops.”

So there you go, you pays your money (50p each except the News Letter which is 65p) and takes your choice. For comparison, it only made page 7 of The Irish Times where the story was headed “Stonethrowing mars first parade of the marching season”. Each of the first 3 papers as listed above indicated, sometimes tangentially or indirectly, that their own ‘side’ may have had something to do with the violence but they gave subtly different overall messages. Incidentally, it was a Parades Commission ruling to allow parade supporters pass by on the footpath but a policing/PSNI decision how and when that was done.

At this stage in the game of the peace process, parade disputes come and go but can still become a surrogate for the overall Northern Ireland conflict, and are usually a definite lose-lose game. The level of violence is generally much lower than it was, and the violence associated with the Drumcree protests in the mid-90s sickened many Prods. But an agreement, brokered by the business community in Derry, between Orangemen and the Bogside Residents Association looks like it will permit the first 12th July march for years within Derry’s walls. Having local agreement is certainly the way to go but fear, distrust and the symbolism involved in even negotiating can keep one side or the other from the proverbial table. That, and the fear of the table being turned on them. “And you wouldn’t want to risk that, would you?”
- - - - -

Well, ”January, February, March, No, April, May, June, No, July, Aye”, and if you take that not as an Orange chant (though you can if you wish) but a welcome to the summer holliers. I wish you a pleasant break, whether you climb a mountain or jump in a lake (cf Christy Moore, Lisdoonvarna) and that you get the batteries recharged. I take a break from my meanderings too [the summer has its blessings – Ed], and will see you again at the start of September. The Editor is really getting carried away with his ecological-and-justice ‘tiocfadh ar lá’ in this issue, but I hope your day or fortnight in the sun (literally and/or figuratively!) comes for you this summer. Until the autumn (that dreaded word), 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