This month it’s all about the G8, though with three different kinds of pieces. Here goes -.
Obama Belfast speech – exclusive
Barack Obama gave a speech at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast, during his June visit to Northern Ireland for the G8 conference in Fermanagh. This is an edited extract; dotted lines “.....” indicate a section has been edited out (because the lot would bore the pants off you) and square brackets [ ] indicate the subtext of what he didn’t say, he could have said or should have said to be true to being President of the United States of America -
....In particular, we wanted to come here, to Northern Ireland, a place of remarkable beauty and extraordinary [divided] history; part of an island with which tens of millions of Americans share an eternal relationship [and belief in our fallacious mythology and might, not to mention the almighty dollar]. America’s story, in part, began right outside the doors of this gleaming hall. Three hundred and twenty-five years ago, a ship set sail from the River Lagan for the Chesapeake Bay, filled with men and women who dreamed of building a new life in a new land. [Escaping from religious oppression they went on to oppress the native peoples of North America, and sometimes blacks as well]......So many of the qualities that we Americans hold dear we imported from this land -- perseverance, faith, an unbending belief that we make our own destiny, and an unshakable dream that if we work hard and we live responsibly, something better lies just around the bend [plus the ability to put others down and, despite their own experience of suffering oppression, when it comes to colonialism and putting down natives, the Ulster Scots and Irish really got it sussed].
So our histories are bound by blood and belief, by culture and by commerce. And our futures are equally, inextricably linked. And that’s why I’ve come to Belfast today -- to talk about the future we can build together...... Young people fill me with hope [that they can be even more malleable than their elders]. There was a time people couldn’t have imagined Northern Ireland hosting a gathering of world leaders [such as they are], as you are today. And I want to thank Chief Constable Matt Baggott for working to keep everyone safe this week [- ‘safe’ as in locking people up in a big, big, safe - and for policing the devil out of anyone who dared show their faces on the street before and during the G8 conference]......
It's been 15 years now since the Good Friday Agreement; since clenched fists gave way to outstretched hands [though I must say that this begging bowl approach doesn’t seem to have worked very well either]. The people of this island voted in overwhelming numbers to see beyond the scars of violence and mistrust, and to choose to wage peace [so how strange is it that we in the USA has not done so globally]. Over the years, other breakthroughs and agreements have followed. That’s extraordinary, because for years, few conflicts in the world seemed more intractable than the one here in Northern Ireland [only something like our conflict and embargo with Cuba outdates it]. And when peace was achieved here, it gave the entire world hope [mind you we totally ignored any possible lessons when it came to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and so on, and we intend to continue to do so]......
But as all of you know all too well, for all the strides that you’ve made, there’s still much work to do. There are still people who haven’t reaped the rewards of peace [in countries where the USA has bombed and occupied, not to mention those poor guys in Guantanamo still stuck there after all these years]. There are those who aren’t convinced that the effort is worth it. There are still wounds that haven’t healed [after the sectarianism we stirred up and used for our own ends in Iraq, for example], and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air [ - if you are living in a tribal area of Pakistan you would be wondering where the next drone is going to come from and wipe out your family]. There are walls that still stand [which we haven’t blown up yet]; there are still many miles to go [for us to perfect our global dominance].
From the start, no one was naïve enough to believe that peace would be anything but a long journey. Yeats once wrote “Peace comes dropping slow.” [or maybe that’s some of our ‘smart’ bombs?] But that doesn’t mean our efforts to forge a real and lasting peace should come dropping slow. This work is as urgent now as it has ever been, because there’s more to lose now than there has ever been. [That’s why I propose a cut in our nuclear weapons of up to a third so that the world will not be totally destroyed quite so many times over if these weapons are used – I have to justify my Nobel Prize after all – and this will do nothing to prevent international tension over these weapons or other countries wanting to join the nuclear club, or indeed militant groups getting hold of nuclear weaponry].
In today’s hyper-connected world, what happens here has an impact on lives far from these green shores [and boy, if you believe in the ‘American dream’, are you green]. If you continue your courageous path toward a permanent peace, and all the social and economic benefits that have come with it, that won’t just be good for you, it will be good for this entire island. It will be good for the United Kingdom. It will be good for Europe. It will be good for the world. [If you really wanted to do this, you would adopt a concern for what is happening in violence and peace around the world and this means opposing US and UK military policies at every available opportunity, and we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?].
We need you to get this right. And what’s more, you set an example for those who seek a peace of their own [since you haven’t threatened outside interests apart from those bolshies in Derry who kicked out Raytheon]. Because beyond these shores, right now, in scattered corners of the world, there are people living in the grip of conflict -- ethnic conflict, religious conflict, tribal conflicts -- and they know something better is out there [but they are shit sacred due to the turmoil we in the USA have inflicted on them and the sectarian and political strife we have created]. And they’re groping to find a way to discover how to move beyond the heavy hand of history [like how Iraq can move beyond our 2003 invasion and the chaos that ensued], to put aside the violence. They’re studying what you’re doing. And they’re wondering, perhaps if Northern Ireland can achieve peace, we can, too. You’re their blueprint to follow. You’re their proof of what is possible -- because hope is contagious. They’re watching to see what you do next [but as we believe in violent responses where our national interests are threatened then most of them don’t have a snowball in hell’s chance of achieving anything].
Now, some of that is up to your leaders. As someone who knows firsthand how politics can encourage division and discourage cooperation, I admire the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly all the more for making power-sharing work [ - maybe that should be ‘work’ in inverted commas]. That’s not easy to do. It requires compromise, and it requires absorbing some pain from your own side. I applaud them for taking responsibility for law enforcement and for justice, and I commend their effort to “Building a United Community” -- important next steps along your transformational journey [maybe they’ll get around to starting work on that, and to effective legislative government, sometime in the next half century]......
Ultimately, peace is just not about politics. It’s about attitudes; about a sense of empathy; about breaking down the divisions that we create for ourselves in our own minds and our own hearts that don’t exist in any objective reality, but that we carry with us generation after generation [like the enormous US distrust of others, and our need for scapegoats is longstanding – no one misunderstands the world and the needs of the world more than we do, and nobody overstates the need for US action around the world more than we do].
And I know, because America, we, too, have had to work hard over the decades, slowly, gradually, sometimes painfully, in fits and starts, to keep perfecting our union. A hundred and fifty years ago, we were torn open by a terrible conflict. Our Civil War was far shorter than The Troubles, but it killed hundreds of thousands of our people. And, of course, the legacy of slavery endured for generations. [Today our society is more stratified and unequal than ever but we have the myth that anyone can achieve success if they work hard enough, that helps keep people in their place, and they blame themselves if they don’t ‘make it’, and that helps keep people in line.].........
But over time, laws changed, and hearts and minds changed, sometimes driven by courageous lawmakers, but more often driven by committed citizens. ..... And that transformed America. And while we have work to do in many ways, we have surely become more tolerant and more just [ - this is debateable and certainly not true of international relations], more accepting, more willing to see our diversity in America not as something to fear, but as something to welcome because it's a source of our national strength [- I’ll have to tell that to both the gun lobby in the US and those of us who oppose the gun lobby]........
It's within your power to bring about change [so long as it is within the parameters that we set]. Whether you are a good neighbor to someone from the other side of past battles [though I must say our exploitation of Mexico and Mexicans continues] -- that’s up to you [though we in the US of A don’t expect to be cosying up to anyone in the near future who doesn’t fit our national self interest]. Whether you treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve -- that’s up to you. Whether you let your kids play with kids who attend a different church -– that’s your decision. Whether you take a stand against violence and hatred, and tell extremists [like the politicians who have directed the war efforts of the USA and the UK] on both sides that no matter how many times they attack the peace, they will not succeed –- that is in your hands. And whether you reach your own outstretched hand across dividing lines, across peace walls, to build trust in a spirit of respect [such as we do with Iran, ho, ho] –- that’s up to you. The terms of peace may be negotiated by political leaders, but the fate of peace is up to each of us........
..... We’ll need more of you, young people, who imagine the world as it should be; who knock down walls; who knock down [trade] barriers [so we can continue to dominate the world economy]; who imagine something different and have the courage to make it happen. The courage to bring communities together [I think of Guantanamo as a community], to make even the small impossibilities a shining example of what is possible. And that, more than anything, will shape what Northern Ireland looks like 15 years from now and beyond....
“Peace is indeed harder than war,” the Irish author Colum McCann recently wrote. “And its constant fragility is part of its beauty. A bullet need happen only once, but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again.” [Yes, indeed, we in the USA do indeed find peace harder than war which is why we don’t worry with peace too much, and we intend to continue to ignore this saying as it suits us - our expenditure on bullets and armaments is as much as the rest of the world combined. In Northern Ireland you may have replaced the bullet with the ballot but our belief in force and contempt for democracy elsewhere which doesn’t go our direction remains sure].
I have confidence you will choose that path; you will embrace that task. And to those who choose the path of peace [which does not threaten US national interests], I promise you the United States of America will support you every step of the way. We will always be a wind at your back [but try to tack in a direction we don’t like and we will blow your house down, literally].....
Good luck. God bless you. And God bless all the people of Northern Ireland. (Applause.) Thank you [and remember, don’t do what I do, do what I say, or what the USA would like you to do, or something like that].
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Advertising from Northern Ireland tourist authorities: “World-class romance. Fermanagh: Home of the G8 summit”.
Dave – Vlad, I’m so glad, you have arrived safely darling, it is fantastic to see you again but we will have to stop meeting this way.
Vlad – And you, Dave my fave, it is so fantastically rugged to see you again, my dearest. (They embrace)
Dave – I chose this spot especially for you, knowing how you like the great outdoors. We are safe here, guarded by eight trillion police and special farces.
Vlad – Maybe I will find some priceless arty facts in your Lock Erne.
Dave – That would be a nice little “Erne-r”! Meanwhile the road service have just been excavating and destroying an ancient lake habitation [crannog] to build a road here....
Vlad – Did you just make a joke, my dear?
Dave – It doesn’t matter, the important thing is that we are together, even for a couple of days, we have certainly upped the Tempo around here.
Vlad – Yes, I have been longing for this time, you know that I recently became a single man again.
Dave – So I hear, though I heard even more at the last G20.....oops, shouldn’t have mentioned that.
Vlad – Surely we have no secrets between us, my little cherub. You know our intelligence is just as good as yours.
Dave – This is what you call an open relationship.
Vlad – Others may see it differently but we know the feeling in our hearts. Nothing can tear us apart. We may appear to be so different but we are really so alike.* However to throw people off the sent of our relationship we have to look like we are quarrelling.
Dave – Oh, all right, I get it. So I will mention your support for ‘Basher’ Assad causes me grief.
Vlad – And I will mention the people you support there kill people and eat their entrails.
Dave – That is moderate behaviour compared to the lot you are supporting!
Vlad – We have the best interests of peace at heart and we have missiles too....
Dave – I’ll show you a missile, we know a thing or two about missiles, as part of the Northern Ireland peace process we funded a missile factory in Belfast.....
Vlad – Must such trifles get in our way?
Dave – I assure you, we have more sophisticated desserts for dinner than that in the new, improved, peaceful Northern Ireland which is as British as Vladivostok....
Vlad - I am and always will be truly Russian.
Dave – Oh don’t rush off now, my love.......We are going to have Devenish custard.
Vlad - The sun is shining, I do not see your Vinston Churchill’s dreary steeples, I simply want to run away into the lock with you and throw away the quay....But now we must pretend to quarrel.....I will see you later.
(Vlad storms away in a pretend huff. But underneath it all........)
* believed to be a reference to their mutual adherence to elite values and crony capitalism, and the way they despise their respective publics and treat them with contempt.
G8 whizz, what was all that about?
So the G8 circus has come and gone, and, surprise, surprise, they didn’t agree too much and certainly not on Syria (apart from the tacit fact that both sides would arm their proxies). How much comes out of sharing on multinational taxation and tax avoidance or other matters remains to be seen. The Fermanagh Lakeland certainly looked well but whether it will gain much tourism as a result also remains to be seen. And showing off that new, shiny, peaceful Northern Ireland, what was the high point? Oh yes, I know, an address at the biggest, most prestigious hall in town by the commander in chief of the world’s strongest army, seemingly involved in perpetual warfare, who regularly chooses and endorses extra-judicial remote killings by drone..... And he was here lecturing young people on PEACE??????? Has the world gone crazy? Or just manipulative and sicko-fantic (sic)?
Protests took place peacefully. There were only two arrests in total in any way connected with the whole event, one in Belfast and one in Enniskillen, and neither associated with the two major demonstrations which both had a great atmosphere. Events in Belfast, including the big ‘IF’ event at Botanic gardens, were dampened considerably by the weather which was pretty atrocious, very wet and cold for the time of year. But the demos themselves were colourful and lively (the NIPSA stilt drummers get my vote). The police in Fermanagh took a generally relaxed approach to those protesters who did come but then they already knew a) they had enough police to deal with a Russian or Chinese invasion, or both at the one time, and b) that very few protesters were coming from outside Ireland. But a dozen police blocking each side street in Enniskillen town centre as the march headed off (ditto Belfast)? What was the point? If you listened to the police and government, the G8 risked Armageddon; the only armoured get on I saw was the police themselves.
There has been speculation that at ‘the field’ (my term, as for Orangemen, actually the road and verges) for the Fermanagh demonstration it was a police tactic to allow protesters to cross over the razor wire (as noted in an editorial in this issue, most of those who did so were onlookers or journalists) to make them feel like they had achieved something in relation to the security. It was either this or very bad planning – the razor wire was not very sharp and not staked upright so it could be flattened with people’s feet, and to get there (along the side of the higher wire at the main road and into the field a bit the public side of the wire) you did not have to even climb over a ditch. So maybe it was the police’s attempt at a pressure valve, I don’t know for certain. If it wasn’t planned by the police then it was a major oversight on their part which is hard to believe given the level of police planning for this event (e.g. one or more police on every flyover from Belfast to Fermanagh).
Events which took place in the Fairer World Festival in Belfast were very varied and included ones on austerity, poverty, fracking, Palestine, human rights, plus music, stand up comedy, film and so on. The session on lies about poverty and welfare was good and included Paul Morrison who works for the British Methodists but hails from Belfast, plus Patricia McKeown of Unison, and Michael Calderbank of the British magazine ‘Red Pepper’. I enjoyed the stand up comedy where for me the English comedian Nick Revell hit the most spots. Let me try my own. How many G8 leaders does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: None. They cajole someone else into doing it though they will have cut support to the unemployed to pay for it, and invaded a few countries to provide the security they say is necessary for it to be done safely. Not funny? I don’t need a light bulb moment to realise it’s indeed not funny. Oh well, I’ll stick to the day job.
- - - -
So there we go, summer is really upon us and a chance to recharge the batteries....and maybe change that light bulb. I wish you and yours a pleasant break, wherever you are and whatever you do and, hopefully, don’t do. I’ll see you again in September (aaarggghhh), my least favourite time of year as autumn schedules kick off. Until then, I remain your humble servant, let’s hope we see a wee bit of sunshine, Billy.
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).