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Billy King

Number 172: September 2009  

[Go back to the related issue of Nonviolence News]

hope you had a good break during our summer (so called because it’s extremely summary), and that you are ready for the onslaught of autumn schedules. I’d some time in Donegal including the beautiful walk to Lough Belshade in the Blue Stacks along the Corabber River valley (but, sorry, I don’t have the photos to Corabber-ate it) and even – appropriately given my name - by the green grassy slopes of the Boyne. Also stunning was a walk around the ridge above Dirkbeg lough in the Partry mountains, Co Mayo. The weather was its usual (for the last few years) mixed bag with rain virtually every day, sometimes every hour, but if you waited for the best of sunny weather before doing anything in Ireland then you’d be totally moribund and immobile.

But the weather is a-changing. We’re 27 years in the one house and the last 3 years are the only years in which our front garden has been flooded, and our garden shed – connected to our house – flooded (twice) or almost flooded (once, within a centimetre of flooding). While increased building in the neighbourhood may be a factor, heavier sudden rainfall would seem to be the largest factor. Thankfully work is almost complete to take water from the street drains straight into the river and away from the wastewater/sewer pipes. Maybe we’ll be OK next time. Thankfully also the house has high steps which have protected it so far. But flash flooding like this I would assume to be the result of heavier sudden rainfall.

Anyway, here we are at the gateway to autumn again so on with the show -

Avoiding the virus: Guidelines

I am grateful to my colleague J for bringing this important material to my attention, although I have edited it to bring it into accord with Nonviolent News editorial guidelines [you mean you wanted to mess about with it – Ed]. We can’t be too careful these days with threats all around us, so as a Public Service announcement I decided it is vital to the survival of people in Ireland, and indeed around the world, to include this information.

We are most concerned about the lack of preparedness of many people and organisations for the onslaught of one of the most deadly viruses known to mankind – the piffle virus (Latin name rubbisha longvindia). Long confined to local community groups, the virus is now prevalent throughout Ireland and further afield within voluntary agencies and church related organisations, to name a few, and even peace and reconciliation groups. The following guidelines should be observed to avoid a pandemic:

  • Avoid lengthy meetings – long meetings simply encourage the virus to spread uncontrollably.
  • Avoid lengthy missives and reports, whether written or electronic – while these might be considered an unlikely source of the virus, they too can add to its spread. In addition, texting may seem, by its nature, to circumnavigate the possibility of the virus, however its frequency can be a predisposing factor to infection.
  • Avoid the use of four- or five-syllable words when two will be perfunctorily satisfactory and appropriately redactionable.
  • Avoid inane pleasantries at all costs – these are extremely dangerous and can lead to cross-infection, sometimes very cross.
  • Avoid the following terms – This island – That island – The other island – Roundtable – Bi-lateral – Insufferable etc.
  • Avoid shaking hands, shaking heads, Shaking Stevens. If attending a church which has a ‘Sign of Peace’ handshake, growl quietly at your neighbours instead.
  • Avoid using the term ‘to bank on something’ in relation to any scheme because if you do it is certainly going to need to be baled out.

In terms of positive behaviour please note the following:

  • Only use particular phrases such as ‘Recession’, ‘Celtic Tiger’, ‘An Bord Snip’ etc once, and once only, do not on any account use them twice, it is not acceptable to re-use them, nor recycle them or mention them again, before wrapping them carefully in a tissue and disposing hygienically.
  • Do think before you speak as opposed to the other way around – you don’t want to cast pearls before swine or swine before pearls because if pigs can fly that’s a bit like swine flew…..
  • Wash your hands carefully of any euphemisms, neologisms or malapropisms.
  • Avoid contact with others where possible, particularly people different from yourself in wealth, nationality or social status – nothing new here then.
  • Take everything with a pinch of snuff but do not start sneezing.
  • Be aware and alert – remember that, to pull out of recession, this country needs more wares and lerts.
  • If you’re worried about the social glue holding society together then you’re in good company and should stick together.

If you follow these guidelines carefully you will have done your bit to make this a better country for us all to live in. Remember, it’s up to you and the ball is in your court - you can make it a Safer Place for the rest of us in this land of the sow that eats her farrow.

Belfast’s newest Quarter

As you may know, Belfast is getting to have more quarters than a US citizen with an overflowing pocketful of change; Queen’s Quarter, Linen Quarter, Cathedral Quarter, Gaeltacht Quarter (Falls), Titanic Quarter etc. But I bring you a great scoop, in fact a world first, one of my many, [you wouldn’t know an ice cream scoop, let alone a journalistic one, if it hit you on the head – Ed] with the news that Belfast’s latest quarter is to be called The Bubonic Quarter. In truth I think it is more conceptual than a tight geographical location but it is set to include the Famine Grave from the 1840s in Friar’s Bush Cemetery on Stranmillis Road which still cannot be disturbed for fear of disease, though typhoid would have been the main killer then with malnutrition at the back of it. However I can give you some of the characteristics of this considerable new quarter, extending as it does to many parts of the city, rich at least as much as poor;

  • Sectarianism; sectarianism is de rigueur in this quarter, and the residents are proud of their identities and beliefs to the extent that the ‘different’ occupants of the quarter have no mathematical skills, i.e. they do not count, and this leads us on to the second ‘quality’; of the quarter -
  • Racism; Not being content with being, and living, ‘poles apart’ from those they differ from, some residents of the Bubonic Quarter scribe ‘Poles Out’ on available gable walls and hoardings. The racism involved is very egalitarian, extending as it does to white people who are different from native locals as well as people of varying hues of black and brown. No stone is left unturned or indeed unthrown in an effort to make others unwelcome. Roma people are sent packing – literally, and in a hurry.
  • Poverty versus Plenty; Within the Bubonic Quarter there are great varieties of wealth and poverty, and, as is the case with the other characteristics already listed, some people have nothing to do with other people, in particular the rich studiously avoid the impression that they even know poor people exist.
  • Ecological degradation; While the ecological question has been posing itself more strongly than ever in a wider sphere, in this quarter-back(wards), ecological issues are still avoided at all costs.

A spokespersonman for Whom The Bell Tolls Fast City Council said “Of course the term ‘Bubonic Quarter’ might seem a bit strong to some people but we were looking for an unforgettable brand which would imprint itself on people’s minds, not to mention their bodies. I know Belfast wasn’t around, certainly in any meaningful way, when the Bubonic plague was doing its thing in Europe but we have never let facts stand in the way before of a good evocative story. We feel the term ‘Bubonic Quarter’ will tell people that if they come they simply won’t be able to drag themselves away again.”

Meaningwhile an unusually honest representative of Hireling and Wolfing, the famous former shopbuilders (please use a Belfast accent for this word), said “Belfast is the place where the SS Bubonic story began, so why shouldn’t the city milk it for all its worth? Of course it was our design department and the owners who were substantially responsible for the whole disaster and the resultant loss of over one and a half thousand lives, they just didn’t build the hulking hull strong enough or include a proper number of lifeboats but we adequately corrected those mistakes after the captain had gone down with the ship. Fortunately the media hype in the years since has tended to concentrate on the personal tragedy and dramatic aspects of it all and not on our design deficiencies. Ooops, I meant to say we always built first class products but in this case it included third class as well for the peasants travelling steerage.”

Anyway, to cut an extremely long story short, as the erstwhile US citizen who is a beggar might say - “Can you spare us a quarter?” Over the summer I did however try the Titanic Quarter Beer – I hate the name, trying to be retro-trendy and cash in on Titanicmania – but it is a pale ale being brewed by that relative oldie of micro-breweries Hilden Brewery and it’s actually very palatable, it even lifted my spirits rather than giving me a sinking feeling [oh no, you’ve used that ‘joke’ before, your column is starting to pale – Ed] [I am just making an enormous, even titanic effort, to make this Colm amusing – Billy] [You can try too hard – Ed] [And you can be too hard and trying – Billy].

I’ll end by mentioning a favourite song about the Titanic, which has the remarkable, and creditable, fact that it doesn’t actually mention the ship by name in the lyrics, “John Williams”, or, as it is also called, “The Ballad of John Williams”, written, and sung, by Johnny McEvoy (1981). This focuses on the story of passenger John Williams “and his lovely fair-haired bride”. John Williams is delighted to be leaving; “I've seen the last of windswept bogs and bogs the last of me! / And the peelers and the landlords and the risings of the moon / And if ever I return again, 'twill be too bloody soon". The reciter/singer records his envy; “How I envied you, John Williams, and your lovely fair haired bride / To be sailing on that mighty ship across the ocean wide”. Then in conclusion “Man's pride can be his own downfall, that great ship sailed from home / But I thought I heard the banshee’s cry, that chilled me to the bone. / Rich man, poor man, beggar man, wife / Sailed away into the night / Where they'll end up no-one knows / Round and round the story goes / Round and round the icebergs flow.” The song and lyrics are easily found on the web, Johnny McEvoy’s video from 1981 appropriately shows him on the quayside in Cobh (Queenstown in 1912) but with marvellously, brilliantly anachronistic close ups of an Irish tricolour included – they don’t make videos like that anymore.

Sizering up Israel and Palestine

As the summer was a-coming in I heard the Rev Stephen Sizer, an English Anglican vicar, do his thing – a day presentation - on Christian Zionism. He is well known for his biblically-based analysis of Christian Zionism and his website which includes much material on this is at www.stephensizer.com Now I know the arcane meanderings of the Christian community are not of interest to all my readers [Should that be singular rather than plural? – Ed] [You are being singularly unfriendly – Billy] but please bear with me because it is actually of great relevance to the world at large and not just those of us who identify as Christians. An important point here is that it is not so much the Jewish lobby in the USA which is powerful in making that country so stridently and unjustly pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian, but rather the pro-Israeli Christian Zionist lobby which, unfortunately, includes a great many of US Christians.

There are all sorts of bizarre ramifications of Christian Zionism. One is turning what should be a religion of peace, Christianity, into one – yet again - which actively promotes war and aggression (of a certain kind). And another is supporting Israelis, many of whom are believing Jews, against the local Christians who are largely Palestinian, no matter what the circumstances. Now I don’t hold with the idea that anyone should support their co-religionists elsewhere just because they are the same religion or religious brand – that is sectarianism at its worst – but to support people of another religion who are acting extremely unjustly towards people of your own religion, well, that seems plain nuts, without any raisin (sic) d’être.

In the programme which Stephen Sizer provided, he traced the evolution of Christian Zionism through Puritanism, premillennialism and dispensationalism (I won’t start to attempt defining these here) and particularly dealt with the last becoming a mainstream Christian viewpoint in the USA; the Christian Zionist viewpoint sees Israel as still ‘chosen’. However he analysed the nature of the Christian Gospel and the Old Testament promises to ‘Israel’, showing how God’s promises have always been conditional (e.g. acting justly) and there is no sense in which ‘Israel’ as a state today is ‘chosen’, and that, for Christians, the promises made to Abraham are fulfilled through the Christian Church. There is a world of difference between Sizer’s approach and the Christian Zionist approach which believes “..the Lord Himself is the first lover of Zion. He is the Author of Zionism.” (Hugh Kitson on ‘What is Christian Zionism’ in ‘Israel and Christians Today’, UK Spring 2007 edition), which is pretty incredible stuff.

Regarding current Israeli efforts to build a greater Israel by pushing out Palestinians, his biblical analysis brought a number of points. Firstly, the covenant promises made concerning the land of Israel were considered as having been fulfilled in the Old Testament (as recorded there), i.e. these do not still pertain. Furthermore, the land is clearly shown as belonging to God and those inhabiting the land are only tenants, and residence is always conditional and inclusive of everyone, including ‘aliens’ or others. Jesus repudiated a narrow nationalistic kingdom. The phase ‘neither Jew nor Gentile’ comes to mind. On all of these points, and others, Christian Zionism was shown to be un-biblical and un-Christian. The welcome which some Christian Zionists show for a potential Armageddon is also really weird and, as Sizer showed, ungrounded in the Christian bible.

Naturally his strong stand on these issues has made him enemies and there is another website, easily found, devoted solely to attacking his ideas and himself. If you want to know more I’d recommend his website mentioned above, and his books are readily available.

Irish anti-militarist, Troubles songs

The Headitor tells me he is compiling another couple of his Liszts [Come to think of it, you haven’t come up with any lists for a while, if you don’t include your viral musings above – Ed] [How remiss of me, my balance must have been listing to one side – Billy] [We could start making a list of how many lists we have compiled – Ed]. You may remember his ‘Musical Musings on Irish History and Culture’ - well, he is now compiling two more lists which he admits overlap a bit with the former. The first is Irish anti-militarist songs – songs that could be considered, in a broad way, anti-militarist and either written or sung by people from this island. He may include a few fully international songs for good measure but there are so many examples of the anti-militarist genre he hesitates to major on the international (but in a general way he wants to move his private thoughts on the matter into the public arena, and hopes it will not be thought the equivalent of corporal punishment but provide a colonel of wisdom). The second Liszting he is working on is of Northern Ireland Troubles songs; particularly as the ‘mainstream’ Troubles head further over the hills, he is keen to compile a list which would represent different aspects of that experience. He would welcome suggestions for inclusion – the listings will appear in Nonviolent News and the website in due course – and they can be sent to innate@ntlworld.com or by other means (faxes or carrier pigeons by arrangement only).

- - - - -

Well, here goes it into the autumn schedules. Yuck, to be precise. But needs must. I wish you well with yours and remember, a trouble shared is a trouble broadcast all over the neighbourhood, no, I’m only joking [or attempting to do so – Ed]. As I have said before, I don’t need a shrink, I write a monthly Colm and get it all out there [too true – Ed]. Until I see you again, 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