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Nonviolence News August supplement

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Billy King: Rites Again

Billy King

Number 200: June 2012

[Back to the related issue of Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

Hello, and isn’t it great that summer finally began in the middle of May. There was more growth in March than in April and the early part of May. Mind you, it’s an ill wind........flowers like tulips and lilac, and honesty, had an extended blossoming (so honesty is really the best policy) and our broccoli and leaf beet/perpetual spinach (sown last year) (you can’t beet the ould spinach) did not bolt to seed at quite their customary rate, making them more manageable to cut and use.

Giggling all the way
Given the fact this is No. 200 of this august journal [We don’t do an August journal, only a news supplement for that month – Ed] [Shut up Ed – Billy] I thought a bit of navel gazing might be in order regarding the people who come to our website having giggled us (well, they didn’t actually giggle us but used a word search, most likely with a programme sounding a bit like giggle with an ‘oooh’ sound instead of an ‘i’ sound). They may of course have used a different search engine entirely. A programme tells us what they entered to be directed to our website.

Consistently top of our charts is the material on consensus, including word searches for “consensus definition”, “definition of consensus” and “define consensus”. The INNATE material comes in on the first page, one or two places behind Wikipedia. Other related word searches also make a showing, such as ‘qualified consensus”. Then numerically comes another group of searches including “mature group”, “christian nonviolence”, “innate”, and “nonviolence definition”. Again we come in comfortably in the first page of results, third in fact on the first page for “Christian nonviolence”. For “mature group” (a workshop on ‘Signs of mature group process’) we share the first page of results with a couple of social networking outfits for people who are no longer young – and a lot of sexual content. For ‘innate’ whether people were searching for us by intention, or stumble upon us looking for a definition of the word, it is hard to say.

Next comes searches for “peace people”, “active non-violence definition” “the bantry girls lament history”, “unhelpful behaviour in a group” and “resources on nonviolence”. Most of the top spots relate to pamphlets and workshop materials, the ‘Bantry Girls lament” refers to the paper on “Musical musings on Irish history and culture.”

Slightly further on down, numerically, we find “daniel o'connell and Ghandi”, a misspelling of the last word which makes us wonder what would happen if we put in “daniel o’donnell and Gandhi”......I did and the closest link that comes up (if you can believe the hinterlandnet) is that ‘Gandhi’ is Daniel O’D’s favourite film. “Daniel O’Connell and non-violence” also makes an appearance. And further down again we find “non violent protest irish” where we come top of the Giggle charts. Surprisingly perhaps, on “what does islam say about non-violence and respect for life” we come in at No.2 on the first page. On “overloading administrative systems as protest examples” we come in at Nos. 1, 2 and 3! But actually aspects of the same item on our website.

“raf bishopscourt” (Co Down) makes an entry and on our photosite this is the set that gets the most hits – I think former RAF personnel looking up old times. “garate, j., effective nonviolence in the 21th century” unsurprisingly gave us a No.1 seeing we sponsored his visit and workshop on this topic, though the talk was at Irish School of Ecumenics, Belfast, last year. As we get to word searches of which there may only have been one in a month, all sorts appear: “music for the sash”, “michael davitt slavery”, “protesting methods”, a number of different questions about nonviolence (including “is nonviolence hyphenated?” where we come in at No.4), “Irish blow-in”, some word searches for individuals associated with INNATE or covered by us, “shamat white shamrock”, “broad based organising”, “are all quakers non violent?” (a good question?), “ira irish rock songs”, “lysistrata the troubles northern Ireland” (we’re No.1 on that....), and much else besides.

The above is based mainly on the results for May 2012. Other months show some variation but broadly similar patterns. “is religion innate or not”, another good question, makes a solitary appearance in April. “famous irish rocker that died early” gets us a No.1 but why “tennis is a non violence sport” should come to us (certainly not on the first couple of pages of results) is a good question. "everyone has artistic skills" gets us, believe it or not, a No.2 (believe it or not because you would think that others would cover that more).

You can’t read too much into all this, fascinating as it is to students of INNATE or the internet. Other aspects of the programme tell us about typical visits, paths etc but it doesn’t tell us anything about whether people found what they were looking for, and the level of satisfaction with our material, though from the paths taken you get a bit of a picture (and that is mixed but fairly positive). However we think we can say ‘our’ stuff is out there, pulling in hits from around the world, though, sadly, not from China where our site – like so much else – is banned. We did have a small but significant number of visitors from China before their cyberpolice put us off the map there.

Social mobility
So is the issue of social mobility all it’s cracked up to be? How important is it? It’s not actually a concept which is used very much in Ireland but in Britain some Lib Condemned politicians (Nicked Clegg for example ) have been getting worked up for it...... According to one chart in the Guardian newspaper Ireland (presumably the 26 counties) is as unequal as Britain (both on the upper end of the Western European inequality scale) but there is much more social mobility in Ireland. Interesting. Is it to do with being a ‘younger’ country (as a jurisdiction), obviously with a class structure but without the same attachment to it, or is it some aspect of culture, or what. Ireland is, overall, actually more conservative in politics than Britain and without the same slightly leftish/right divide (I don’t say ‘left/right’ because if anyone thinks ‘New’ Labour has been on the ‘left’ needs their political perceptions examined). So how come the Irish side of the Irish Sea is a lot more socially mobile? I can’t answer that one.

The take I would put on social mobility in general is that social mobility is important but not as important as equality. In other words, if all roles in society are considered important, and there are relatively little differentials in pay between a brain surgeon and a rubbish worker, then social mobility ceases to be so important. It actually becomes more important in more unequal societies, and in fact a relatively equal society is likely to have a reasonable level of mobility between blue and white collar work, and so on.

Social mobility can be used as a red herring to disguise a very unequal society - or the concept of social mobility without the reality can be as big a red herring – my impression of the USA is the ideology exists that ‘anyone’ who works hard can ‘make it’ but few from a poor background actually do so. And if there are people who, literally, are consigned to the bottom of the heap – whether they began there or not – is that ‘a good thing’? I don’t think so. In the Tory Britain of today, emphasis on social mobility can actually be disincentive to moves for social equality (not that the Conservative Party are going to do that anyway). By putting resources into delivering social mobility it may disguise the great division that exists in wealth and prosperity between the haves and the Have Nots. The situation of Britain being one of the least equal and least socially mobile societies in Europe is not likely to change under the current regime.

But in Ireland we could do with a good bit more equality. And what I say about building a green society and putting a stop to the nonsense about unbridled and uncritical economic growth is that in arriving at this there are two choices; income redistribution (towards a more equal society) or revolution leading to income redistribution (and I’m not speaking against a nonviolent revolution mind you). Because if you try to develop a no growth society without income distribution, and sharing out the cake more fairly, you will certainly experience a revolution of some kind.

Spar strangled banner or banned
You thought I was joking the last time, didn’t you, about doing an updated version of the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, I was. It’s really a 19th century dirge – like a lot of national anthems - if you look at it honestly though it only became the official USA national ant-hum in 1931. However I did since look at rewriting it and decided it was too difficult and wasn’t worth it (the fact that doing so might wreak a hit squad of CIA men heading my way was completely out of my mind). Does it really wave “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” or should that be “O’er the land of free enterprise and homeless native braves”? It also contains reference to blood sacrifice: “their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. / No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave...” Delightful I’m not sure though I’m also not sure who are the people who have shed their blood – patriots? – and who are the ‘hirelings and slaves’ – the latter presumably metaphorical rather than literal, though it was written in 1814 so actually in the era of slavery in the US. However given the time and context that was in it ‘twas the British that the writer had in mind – Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics as a poem after the British bombarded Fort McHenry in the war of 1812.

It goes on to refer to it being the “Heav’n rescued land” (a chosen people theme) and “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just / And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”. Problem is there is a tendency to think their cause is always just when it is usually just the might is right theme. But some things haven’t changed since 1814 (admittedly it was on the defensive then). The first verse refers to “..the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air” and, believe it or not, two hundred years on (less a couple) the USA is continuing to unleash terror with rockets and bombs. Plus ça change......

Meanwhile a project I would really like to be involved in is the rewriting of Amhrán na bhFiann / The Soldier’s Song, the national anthem of the Re:Public to be a song of justice and peace and not another militarist dirge. “’Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal, / We’ll chant a soldier's song” – no thank you very much. Nor am I “Impatient for the coming fight”. And it is not quite accurate to say any more that “Out yonder waits the Saxon foe” (‘Saxon’ being a euphemism for ‘Brit’), or even if you are working for the removal of the British military from Norn Iron I’d like to do it by nonviolent means, thank you very much. Seriously though, if you would like to get together to work on rewriting this Irish militarist dirge, do get in touch.

- - - -

Well, this was another month where I missed getting knocked off the bike by a hare’s whisker (that is, missed it by the narrowest of margins rather than being knocked by a hare’s whisker which would not be at all dangerous unless there was a big hare behind it, and some Irish hares are pretty big). Passing the entrance to a shopping centre in broad sunlight, with traffic around but reasonably spread out, in the rear of my left eye I suddenly saw a blue car very very close on my left hand side, travelling diagonally to my trajectory. Coming out of the shopping centre, and going the same direction as myself, the driver had apparently not seen me until actually out on the main road. They stopped dead having missed me very narrowly. I stopped ten or more metres ahead. Another driver, in the outside lane, asked was I all right, I said yes.

I had only issued one, fairly mild, and loud, expletive and decided not to go back, that it was pointless, but gestured back to the errant driver regarding my fluorescent cycling vest to indicate there was nothing I could do to make myself more visible. I went on but the effect is to wonder more about each and every car that could fail to see me. As I have said before, it’s not that I am not visible, it’s that cyclists are not the right ‘shape’ to register on some drivers’ vision. It’s a bit scary because it’s a classic case of powerlessness – beyond fluorescent clothing and Christmas tree lighting in the dark there isn’t much you can do to make drivers more aware of your presence.

So, travel safely until I see you again, whatever means you travel by, when it will be July, aye, and the holliers coming...... 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