Ochone, ochone, my yearly moan! Summer is ended and it’s back to the autumn schedules. I must say (again? – Ed) I dislike this time of year more than any other, not because I dislike the weather (the colour in the trees and the hint of cool out I like) but because of the transition from summer mode to normal mode I find painful. Getting back to the grindstone I find grindingly hard. And it wasn’t a great summer weatherwise in Ireland, in fact a near record breaking wet one in many places, combined in some with a reasonable quota of sunshine but little or no settled weather. A difficult one for farmers and horticulturalists. Even for myself, as a ‘common or garden’ horticulturalist, it was not the best of growing seasons and fruit might need to be gathered wet or not at all. And if you wanted to go for a long walk, well, it would likely be a wet one.
Our house, where we’ve been for 25 years (how old you are! – Ed) escaped flooding in the ‘Tuesday floods’ in Belfast but our driveway resembled a sizeable stream as water poured off the road and the ground at the front had water knee-deep. Fortunately we have fairly high steps which saved us from the house getting a wetting apart from the foundations (through a vent) and our garden shed, a continuation of our house, which had various objects bobbing about in the water. Global warming? Increased building and concreting of gardens so run off is faster? An occasional natural phenomenon? The price of living in the plain of the river Lagan? Who knows. But the weather times they are a-changin’ and there are warnings of major water shortages in Dublin in the future unless action is taken – whether many costal places end up under (sea)water is another question.
Anyway, back to where I started. Autumn. Work. Meetings. Even this Colm to write! We will survive.
Rape and Pilger
I had seen John Pilger’s film ‘The War on Democracy’ on the big screen before it came to UTV/ITV so I watched it twice (well, actually more because I recorded it to get the quotes given below). It concentrates on the USA’s role in Latin America and its ‘war on democracy’ there, with some brilliant clips and quotes (e.g. Gorge W Bush saying “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling”). Some people have felt that Pilger’s interview with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela was a bit fawning but he did ask Chavez why poverty still existed in the country (which Chavez did not answer straight on). Chavez has closed down one right-wing TV station, replaced with a government-backed one, though if this film is to be believed there is basically no censorship and people say whatever they want about Chavez (including ‘fascist’, ‘Nazi’ etc).
But Pilger seems to be a master of irony and also of the sardonic smile. In the attempted coup d’état in Venezuela in 2002, staged after the army and reactionary forces (who had the support of the USA) were involved in shootings which they planned which were projected by conservative media stations as being by Chavez supporters, Chavez was kidnapped and a coup announced. When there was the formal inauguration of a new unelected government with the great and the reactionary gathered in a hall, as the suspension of all the democratic institutions was announced, we saw the rich and powerful chanting ‘Democracy! Democracy!’. That must be the USA state definition of ‘democracy’ then – ‘whatever is in our strategic interests’ (see two paragraphs on). Chavez was only saved by the peoplepower of the poor from the barrios who knew that with Chavez gone life was going to become intolerable again. The army saw what way the masses of people were voting with their feet and the basis of the coup disappeared.
Where Pilger really came into his own was in an interview with the former Latin American CIA chief, Duane Clarridge who was given enough rope to tie himself up in his own lying knots and he spoke with amazing and unusual candid-acy [that’s another word you’ve subverted – Ed]. He would make a statement and the camera would swiftly show that he was lying through his teeth. There weren’t thousands killed in Chile under Pinochet, Clarridge asserted (and in any case, he asserted, it was worth it); the camera switches to the memorial wall at a former torture centre where there are thousands of names alone. Regarding El Salvador, “I’ll bet you can’t count more than two hundred in ten or twelve years killed by death squads” he asserted – the camera immediately switched to one village, El Mozote, where two hundred people had been killed in a single day (by a US-trained army battalion)..
Clarridge went on to allege that Pilger was taking his information from propaganda mills – “all that truth thing” (= various truth commissions) including Amnesty International. When asked what right the USA had to intervene, Clarridge said ‘”National security interest” and “We’re going to go on protecting ourselves……we’ll intervene whenever we decide it’s in our national security interests to intervene. And if you don’t like it, get used to it, world. We’re not going to put up with nonsense and if our interests are threatened we’re going to do it.” If this appeared as fiction in a left wing film it would be dismissed as unbelievable but here it was from the Latin American CIA chief from 1981-84. This is the real US state definition of what is ethical and moral in international affairs; national interest.
Pilger ends the film with the assertion that the people are rising and that the movement in Latin America is unstoppable. It would be good to think he is right but the jury is going to be out on that for some time. Meanwhile it is a powerful film from a nonviolent struggle point of view, portraying as it does the way unarmed peoplepower in Venezuela rescued Chavez and the country from dictatorship, and in Bolivia prevented the sale of national resources to private interests. As the slogan goes, the people, united, shall never be defeated…..
It’s a cop out
You may remember that slightly quirky story that was the lead in Nonviolent News 147 last March – “PSNI investigate legality of UK’s nuclear weapons”, members of Make Trident History having reported the UK’s illegal possession of nuclear weapons to the PSNI. The matter was being investigated by an Assistant Chief Constable. The Editor tells me he had a choice of whether to put the story first or last, and decided to give everyone’s day a lift by putting it first. But, subsequently a letter arrived to say that as there is no evidence that nuclear weapons have been deployed in Northern Ireland they, the PSNI, wouldn’t be taking it any further; the PSNI’s responsibility is only to investigate criminal activities in Northern Ireland but we could forward our complaint to relevant Chief Constables in Great Britain, they said. So, clearly a cop out, a bit of bobby (doing the) dodging, they must have put in long hours of creative and lateral thinking to know how to get out of that one; they weren’t bobby dazzled, or getting into any fuzzy practice, in fact they had a copper-bottomed solution. Maybe we should a-peel as clearly a crime in some parts of the UK, reported in another part, should be followed up…..
And it’s a small, small, small world
One of the ways I most frequently end a workshop or discussion when facilitating is with a ‘Filipino One Clap’. I call it that because it came to me from the Philippines via Tess Ramiro and as I remember she already called it that. It’s a way of appreciating everyone’s contribution to a meeting and is short and sweet; you announce what you’re going to do and it’s done in rather less than a minute. It’s very simple, you count to three out loud and (on a silent fourth count) everyone does a single clap together. I use it quite frequently – it’s quick, participative, appreciative, and marks a definite end point to more formal proceedings. I was involved in facilitating a breakout/small group over the summer in a particular location in Northern Ireland where I used it and a participant informed me that a local Orange Lodge uses the very same clap! Somehow I think I’ll continue to call it the ‘Filipino One Clap’ rather than the ‘Orange Order One Clap’. I don’t know whether it’s common in Orange circles or not, my informant didn’t know either, but it certainly is a very tiny world at times as I make the presumption that the practice has the same origin somewhere (though it’s always possible it doesn’t which still makes it an extremely small world).. And I doubt my liking for it is my grandfather’s hidden influence – he was in the Orange but died well before I was born.
The final frontiers
(a short extract from ‘Encyclopaedia Galactica’)
“ ‘Space exploration’, as it was then known (it only became known universally as Spex in the mid-21st century CE) was in its infancy on Earth as the 20th century turned into the 21st. However it began to be taken more seriously both because of scientific advances and because of the realisation that the ecological system of Earth was becoming more unpredictable and unstable – this was dawning on people around the same time.
However technological limitations of the time meant that what was possible was extremely limited. Even a journey to Earth’s neighbouring planet in its solar system, Mars, required a six-month (Earth time) travel period each way which was very taxing of both machine and human capacity. Rolling between space stations (the term “Ro-Ro” or ‘roll on, roll off’ was adopted from land-vehicle-on-ship-on-sea travel on Earth) only began in the period following 2073 CE; faster than light travel obviously revolutionised humans’ exploration of the universe.
The search for intelligent life elsewhere than Earth went hand in hand with searching for other planets where humans could live. Little thought was given as to whether they would succeed in doing the same to the new planet as to their old but that is another story (see ‘H-Earth, degradation of’).
‘H-Earth’ (previously known as Sigma 4315) was discovered to have advanced life forms in 2045 CE but first visited by humans in 2087 CE. The initial human explorers were uncertain how they would relate to, and interact with, the native humanoid people of that planet, and initial contact was friendly, if wary. The first settlers from Earth came in 2103 CE and this changed relationships completely as the aim of the humans, travelling as existing childless couples ready to start families, was to begin a large scale colony. Relationships with the native people deteriorated rapidly at this time but humans had the upper hand technologically (and therefore regarding their own security) so that their small number was relatively unimportant in what became the struggle between them. The period known subsequently as the Great Oppression on H-Earth had begun.”
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).