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Editorials

These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 123: October 2004

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

Blairing the issue
At the recent British Labour Party conference, Tony Blair famously refused to apologise for the war in Iraq or for toppling Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately the two things went together and have left Iraq in a mess which even US intelligence sources are becoming despairing about. Iraq may be further from establishing 'democracy' than ever - even under Saddam Hussein.

No one interested in justice is going to mourn the toppling of Saddam Hussein but it is how it happened that people resent. Blair thought he knew better, of course, than the many million people who came out to demonstrate against the war (two million in the UK alone). But it is clear that he knew nothing - nothing about how 'terrorism' could really be defeated. 'Terrorism' is defeated by tackling the causes rather than by military means - the latter can win temporarily but the many-headed creature will raise its head again. Blair also seriously misled people in the UK and elsewhere over weapons of mass distraction (sic) and the reason for going to war.

And of course in Ireland Bertie Ahern does not appear to have had any second thoughts about backing the US military effort in Iraq with the only facility the USA wanted - Shannon Airport. In the annals of political cowardice and moral turpitude, this must rank in the top class. Ireland is so beholden to the dollars invested in Ireland that independent thinking and independent political action seems to be out the window. Some of the founders of what was once an anti-imperialist party, Fianna Fail, must be spinning rapidly in their graves.

So how do you overcome tyrants and instil democratic values in a situation like Saddam Hussein's Iraq? Slowly, waiting for opposition forces to build up. The time would have come for popular resistance and nonviolent civil disobedience. But the shortcut of war rarely works. Meanwhile Saddam Hussein was so constrained that he was no threat to anyone externally and much less a threat than he had been internally. But Bush and Blair thought they knew better and have created a situation where 'terrorism' can really flourish.

It is to be hoped that Bush, Blair, and Bertie get their come-uppance from the citizens of their respective states when they voice their opinions by voting. Of course there are many other issues of concern in their respective societies and it would be wrong to judge them solely on Iraq; but the betrayal of trust was so massive that it is important, in whatever way possible, the electorates say "here is payback for betraying our country and the world".

Fluthered; Alcohol and violence
A recent report in the Republic (the second report from the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol) provided some hard facts on alcohol use and abuse, alcohol being the drug of choice for most people on this island. Consumption has risen astronomically as wealth has increased (doubling from €3.3 billion in 1995 to nearly €6 billion in 2002, which means everyone over 15 is spending €1,942 on average on alcohol a year. Binge drinking has risen dramatically as part of the overall picture; according to the report 58% of drinking sessions end in binge drinking for men (defined as taking six or more standard drinks) and 30% of drinking occasions for women. And it would be wrong to blame 'young people' for the phenomenon because they are simply copying what is the cultural norm and the example set by their elders.

The link between alcohol and harm to others or self-harm is very considerable. . Alcohol is a considerable factor in the overall level of violence in our society, including domestic violence. Post-pub and club violence, fights, beatings and kickings are quite common. The lack of positive identity for many young, and not so young, men is one major issue in this context. This picture is probably as true of the North as the Republic. Alcohol is a depressant used as a stimulant and among other things it depresses is common sense and the instinct for self-preservation

There are no easy answers to what is a complex interaction between the alcoholic drinks industry, advertising paid by them, consumers, popular culture, and the government. Most of us enjoy a couple of jars and a chat with our friends, relations and loved ones. But the line is a very thin one from enjoyment to harm to self or others.

The Irish government has the opportunity to take a wide variety of measures which will help people and society to take a more measured approach to alcohol. Part of this should be the initiation of a multifaceted and long-term campaign to change popular culture so that drunkenness is less acceptable, even if the form the drunkenness takes is jovial rather than aggressive. The culture has already been changed in such a way on drink driving. Part of it will also be providing stimulating facilities and activities for young people so that alcoholic stimulation loses some of its attractiveness; this has considerable financial implications but the Republic is now a rich society by any European standards. Above all, inaction is not an option and it will be a long haul. To arrive at a healthier and less violent society it is vital that steps are taken and the power of the alcoholic drinks industry is firmly confronted.

Luken From Below
This month's poem from Lothar Lüken:

Sad Sonnett

A soul's incarnation as a human on earth
Must be madness or penance or error.
Homo sapiens, lacking wisdom from birth,
Soon gets mired in man-made terror.

The world's poor are cheated of their share
For Western bellies, accounts and whims,
While men sniff girls' used underwear,
And some drive their cars to cycle in gyms.

With nuclear overkill, child porn, pollution,
Botox, liposuction and booming crime,
We, the crown and tail-end of evolution,
Are a last wave drowning in sands of time,

And know it's over, there tolls our bell,
- but would we be any worse in hell?


Copyright INNATE 2014