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Billy King

Number 204: November 2012

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

The honour of being named
Ah yes, the honour of having a species of flora or fauna named after you. The ultimate accoolade (sic). Ahem, but not always. Nice little piece on the Gordian (Cherryvalley/Dublin 4 accent) website (5/10/12) about the naming of a deep sea worm which has been called after the Star Wars character Yoda. But it was the end of the piece that was most interesting. It revealed that “The pint-sized Star Wars character joins a long list of other famous people and characters who have had a new species named after them, including a fish parasite named after Bob Marley; a horse fly named after Beyoncé and a trio of slime-mold beetles named after George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.” No comment.

St Patrick was a gentileman
The most interesting comments on life and the universe are not always where you might expect to find them in comment columns and so on [So what is anyone reading here for then?! – Ed]. As someone who enjoys hill and country walking I usually have at least a glance at the ‘Go walk’ column in Saturday’s ‘Irish Times’; if I have done the walk, I can compare their comments and route, if I haven’t done it but it’s part of the country I might find myself in well, then it’s cut out and kept.

The 6/10/12 edition had a piece on Maumean, Co Galway by John G O’Dwyer which featured the part of the Western way including St Patrick’s bed and well (well, the former being of the stone sort, I hope he was a heavy sleeper, or indeed ‘stoned’), a walk I have done. O’Dwyer managed to fit in thoughts on why Patrick was able to introduce Christianity whereas “later attempts to introduce Protestantism met with fierce resistance and proved a dissolute failure.” He wonders whether it relates to Patrick “cleverly overlaying the new faith upon existing rites and rituals while English monarchs made the mistake of dissolving monasteries and imposing an entirely new religious order?”

But he then goes on to say Patrick is the world’s most celebrated national apostle – I suppose that may or may not be true but it raises the question – “What do you mean by celebrated? If he means celebrated with alcoholic drinks, then he is the most celebrated, certainly.” His final sentence was what gave me the laugh: “Modern-day management experts might describe him as a charismatic change-agent, who succeeded by using our reverence for high places to position a user-friendly belief system in a pagan society.”

Cuba 1962
I have previously satirised the Cuban missile crisis of late 1962 – now fifty years ago – in this Colm (see here) but then if you didn’t laugh you would definitely cry. When you consider the reality, as analysed in a piece by Noam Chomsky the world was exceedingly lucky to escape from the confrontation in one piece.

The US dropping depth charges on Soviet submarines around Cuba is beyond scary, it sounds almost suicidal, and as Chomsky notes we may be indebted to the cool-headedness of Second Captain Vasili Archipov without whom we – literally – might not be here today. There could also have been a ‘Dr Strangelove’ climax through the lack of controls on all those on the US side who could have unleashed nuclear Armageddon with total disaster ensuing. And international law was certainly not on the USA’s radar, either regarding use of weapons or its terrorist attempts to sabotage Cuba and overthrow the regime there.

Chomsky’s conclusion: “The two most crucial questions about the missile crisis are how it began, and how it ended. It began with Kennedy's terrorist attack against Cuba, with a threat of invasion in October 1962. It ended with the president's rejection of Russian offers that would seem fair to a rational person, but were unthinkable because they would undermine the fundamental principle that the US has the unilateral right to deploy nuclear missiles anywhere, aimed at China or Russia or anyone else, and right on their borders; and the accompanying principle that Cuba had no right to have missiles for defense against what appeared to be an imminent US invasion. To establish these principles firmly, it was entirely proper to face a high risk of war of unimaginable destruction, and to reject simple, and admittedly fair, ways to end the threat.” Chomsky goes on to draw the lessons for today, including in relation to Iran.

Yetimology
Yetimology, as I am sure you are aware, is the study of the evolution of words and concepts to do with the Yeti and other ‘undiscovered’ animals, or cryptozoology. Etymology, on the other hand, is the study of the evolution and history of words in general, their origin and meaning. Yeti is not often that etymology could be said to have a strong justice streak. It is what it is. Words evolve along nicely, having a gay old time as they go on their merry way. But I had reason to draw attention recently to one etymological fact of some poetic justice. The word ‘Tory’, associated with the ‘Tory’ or Conservative Party in Britain – not part of their official name I hasten to add for a long, long, time – is of Irish origin. It comes from the Irish word to pursue (verb) or pursuit (noun), and, in the period following Britain’s theft of Ireland, oops, I mean the plantation of Ireland in the 16th and 17th centuries, the term was applied to dispossessed Catholic people, some of whom took to robbing and plundering to make an honest living (they were pursued by the authorities), thus coming to mean robbers and plunderers.

The term was adopted in Britain to describe one political faction and subsequently to the loose political grouping which later on coalesced into the modern Conservative Party. The nickname stuck and has remained over several centuries. Anyone familiar with anything to do with politics in Britain knows what you mean when you speak of ‘the Tories’. So it is indeed poetic justice that a term which was used to describe dispossessed people who took to robbing out of necessity is now applied to the biggest robbers and plunderers of them all, the Conservative (and Lib Dem) government who are presiding over wholesale destruction of a health and welfare system it took more than half a century to build, all in the interests of the rich. I’m not sure what ideological excuse Fine Gael (‘The Family of the Gael’) have for their welfare and social and community service cuts in the Republic beyond the actions of the Beamer bonkers banker barons but in Britain with the Tories, you get what it says on the tin, ’robbers and plunderers’.

It’s also the theme in Naomi Klein’s ‘The Shock Doctrine’; take one crisis, pour on lots of ideology, and use the crisis to advance your narrow ends and interests, and the weakest to the wall. To return to my Yeti reference at the start, instead of ‘abominable snow men’ perhaps you could refer to ‘abominable (brown) nose men’.

- - - - - -

Well, November already and our ears will be assaulted with Christmas musak wherever we go. Yuck. As I am wont to say, I like Christmas, it’s the getting there that I don’t go for. On another note, I hope it’s a mild winter, it’ll be interesting to see what is thrown at us this time, last winter wasn’t all bad – it was the summer this year that was rubbish! Anyway, as I wrap up here I will tell you to wrap up warm, until the next time, your humble servant, 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).

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