Well, here we go again. And a couple of appalling puns to start us off. Afri has produced a postcard advocating that unsalvageable ghost estates should, as a response to climate change, be planted with native threes such as oak, ash and elder. I quipped that great oaks from ghost estates grow but someone else (who shall be nameless to protect his reputation) said that that was ‘acorny one’ and then went on to ask if that joke was ‘oak-ay’. Now you know why he should remain nameless. Puns – the jokes we love to hate [Which could be why I have a love-hate relationship with this column though I have to take my hate off to you for being consistently appalling in your use of puns – Ed]
Moving on in life takes many forms and stages. We can move on in many ways but as we get older, ‘movement’ seems to be faster, years seem to go faster – there are various theories as to why this is the case including that repetition, as opposed to new experiences, doesn’t imprint on the brain in the same way and time feels like it’s passing faster. I don’t know, and there are a number of other theories.
Moving on while still retaining our peace or political commitments is also a hard one. The demands of children, work and caring obligations, settling into comfortable middle age, indeed comfortable prosperity, can mean that what used to be social and political priorities are no more. And then we see someone like Margaretta D’Arcy who, despite both age and infirmity, is willing to go to prison for an important principle.
One way my own life has moved on is by becoming a grandparent, some time ago in fact. It was exciting, not earth shattering but it has been great, and great fun. Seeing what amuses and entertains a young child, and trying to entertain and involve the child means trying to enter their world, and that is a great experience. Second time around, with my own children’s childhood long gone, is different. The usual saying is that grandparents have the fun without the responsibility, to have them most of 24/7. That is probably part of it. But I think much of it is to do with being both sufficiently removed and connected, simultaneously, to enjoy interacting with the child in a very special way.
But I will comment on one amazing thing. To watch a new born journey their first year, from a feeding and sleeping little bundle to someone with their own personality, their own desire to explore, their own fears, their enjoyment, is quite something. Human babies do have a long gestation but in 365 days from birth to see a real little person and personality is just amazing. It may be even more amazing when it is the offspring of your offspring but that is also why you get to have the interaction in the first place.
What is also amazing to watch anew is a young child’s inquisitiveness and natural learning. They learn by doing and trying to do, as well as watching others. Most of us adults close off whole areas of life and learning because we are afraid to do things. Maybe Jesus was reflecting something like this when he advised his followers that the kingdom of god belonged to those who are like children (though, no, I’m not going to do a big biblical exegesis or even ex-a-Jesus of this).
Do I worry about what the future holds for my grandchild and all young people? I do. We have not bequeathed a peaceful land of milk and honey. We may be bequeathing a violent, conflict-prone, conflict-creating world through greed and as a result of that and climate change. We haven’t even begun to consider the man (sic) made horrors that lie ahead. Whether, and to what extent, the iron can be pulled out of the global warming fire remains to be seen. And that is tied up very much with the greed and avarice of the wealthy, industrialised countries, ‘us’.
There are some things you couldn’t make up. The possibility of the British Conservative Party using the sub-heading “The Workers’ Party” is a case in point. This would be an hilarious attempt to portray the Tories as on the side of the ‘solid workers’ rather than the ‘shirkers’, but the Tories are as much on the side of ordinary workers and the interests of ordinary workers as Genghis Khan was on the side of pacifism.
Just imagine the epithet applied to other parties: “DUP, the Workers’ Party”, “Fianna Fáil, the Workers’ Party”, or “Fine Gael, The Workers’ Party” (though I did once have a weird dream once about ’Fine Gael Broad Left’, I know, I must get out more in my dreams). Ludicrous, isn’t it. So how ludicrous would it be to have David Cameron as leader of a “Workers’ Party”? Real, live “1984” speak.
Of course in Ireland the term “Workers’ Party” has already been taken, by the faithful remnant of the Stickies (formerly Official Sinn Féin). They were lampooned by the Provos as “The Drinkers’ Party” and never had much of an electoral impact after the 1980s (when they had done all right in the Republic), with the breakaway Democratic Left strand feeding into the Labour Party, and indeed the Tánaiste, in the Republic. You would have to admire the Workers’ Party courage in not going away when voters continually told them to get lost.
But, back to the Tories. Given that the British state subsidises many low-income workers with benefits, you might think this is an indication of support to workers. However, this is effectively is a subsidy to business who, with the minimum wage, are paying a survival wage rather than a living wage. Firms are let off the hook of paying a living wage because the state gives a subvention to their poorly paid workers. And, given that the Tories have clearly redistributed wealth from the poorest to the richest (cutting the top rate of tax for example, and with inequality growing by leaps and bounds in the UK) the idea that they are any way in favour of ‘workers’ is blatant propaganda and an attempt to scapegoat the poor. The Tories using the strapline “The Workers’ Party”? It definitely doesn’t work.
Missile of saints and scholars
The local media in Norn Iron were full of it and politicians were welcoming it: a big order announced in January for £100 million worth of Thales made-in-Castlereagh-Belfast missiles and missile systems for Indonesia. What good news is it selling weapons of high warfare to a country that doesn’t need them, a relatively poor country with a very violent and corrupt legacy, and poor human rights record, when money is spent on warfare rather than welfare of people? And what kind of society can boast about exporting weapons aimed at destruction and killing? Especially weapons produced in a country which recently went through its own destructive ethnic conflict? Are people gone mad?
Unfortunately people are not mad, just badly judging that weapons of war, requiring some well paid fairly high-tech jobs, are a respectable profession to be in, and an industry worth promoting and extolling. How very, very sad. To produce weapons of war for sale is to sell your very soul (religious or moral), and to sell out the poor in the country they are sold to. Oh, and some of those extolling Thales for the sale are presumably Christians though, as Gandhi said, “The only people who do not see Christ and his teachings as nonviolent are Christians” (this quote is available as a PDF poster from INNATE).
The Fighting Quaker
I hadn’t been aware of Major General Smedley Darlington Butler until an INNATE subscriber sent in an article from the ‘Morning Star’ (9/11/13), the British daily socialist paper.....and since then I’ve come across a couple of other references to him. And you can easily look him up online.
Butler was a US Marine Corps senior officer and, according to the article I read, “the most decorated marine in US history”, certainly when he died. This presumably means the one who had received the most military awards and medals, not the one who hung tinsel on himself at Christmas time and enjoyed flying flags and colours from his neck. The ‘Fighting Quaker’ epithet came because of his Quaker family background. He was a fairly controversial figure even while in military uniform.
Over a period following the First World War, Butler came to see war as a profit-making scam for arms industries and, having left the US army, came to fiercely oppose war and attacked war profiteers, pointing out, for example, that Du Pont profits soared 950% from pre-war levels during the First World War. He attacked the banks who financed war and manipulated things to their advantage. He spoke and wrote widely. His short book “War is a Racket” is available online as a paid e-book but the text can also be found for free.
Smedley Darlington Butler died in 1940. We could do with a few more ‘Fighting Quakers’ like that. It would be interesting to know whether his Quaker background finally won through, in a kind of a way, in his eventual vehement opposition to warmaking. He had a brilliant phrase about the war industry which is well worth using: “Turning blood into gold”. Now that would be a great and appropriate quote to apply to Thales (see above).
Do look at the brilliant and suitably frenetic English anti-fracking song/video, “Frakka hakka” by Seize the Day, at It was filmed at the Cuadrilla site, Balcombe, Sussex.
The UK has an unenviable reputation of being the European power most likely to be fighting a war at any given time, perhaps only one of which, the Second World War – a direct result of the First World War and some disastrous policies following it – actually risked Britain being invaded. You can see the Guardian’s chart of British warfare over the last century.
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Well, let’s hope spring is in sight though it has been a very mild winter. Our schizostylis is still flowering (its flowers are gone well before Christmas in a normally cold winter) and what is more there are some nasturtiums surviving from last year – if the temperature gets down to around minus three degrees they turn to mush, so we have had no ‘hard’ frosts. March was a cold one last year but spring hopes eternal in the human heart, once more little seedlings are springing up in our house, sown indoors. See you soon, 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).