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Editorials

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

Issue 124: November 2004

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

What our young people have to put up with
The bulk of young people today in Ireland have never had so much, both materially and in the way of opportunities. This is a statement of fact (though the extent of the availability of opportunities varies according to different factors, mainly class). But if you ask the question of whether young people are any happier, more content, satisfied with themselves and their lives, at ease with themselves, than in other eras then the answer to the question is going to be very different.

Despite (or even partially because of) youth culture, much of which is commercially driven, there are enormous pressures on young people. But youth culture is a sub-set of popular culture as a whole which tends to define itself in terms of "I consume, therefore I am". There is a peculiar mix of lack of role and responsibility for many along with pressure to succeed (usually but not exclusively from adults), there is pressure to be able to consume, there is peer pressure. This leads to a pressure cooker environment - and pressure cookers can blow their top.

Young males in particular have not necessarily been able to work out their role creatively in our environments, North and South of this island. At one extreme this has led to high suicide rates for young men. But it has also led to problems at less drastic levels as well. It is likely that Ireland is not much different to Britain where a study over the last 25 years revealed that the mental health of teenagers has declined sharply and the proportion of 15 years olds with behavioural problems of various kinds has more than doubled; boys are more likely to show behavioural problems, girls emotional problems. Other countries have avoided this youth trap but it is likely Ireland as a whole is more akin to the British model.

Alcohol and drug abuse leading to fights and violence post-pub or post-club is a common phenomenon. We referred to the connection between alcohol and violence in a recent editorial. The wider question is why young people (and more than their share of older people too) feel obliteration through alcohol is a necessary part of enjoying life.

A green culture would value people for who they are rather than what they have or consume. A green culture would place emphasis on different kinds of achievement - collective, social and cultural - rather than careering and consuming. But creating a new and caring culture which does not do violence to the earth (and thereby our neighbours across the globe) is a major step. That major step has to be taken collectively. We need to redefine what the role of a human being is in western society. Let us hope, and work, that future generations of young people will be able to take their place in society without the trauma and angst which society currently puts upon them. That change is the responsibility of those who wield power today, and all of us, young and old, who can influence the decision making process.


It's politics
Mary Kelly's recent trial in Ennis got the State the result it wanted - a guilty verdict. But Judge Carroll Moran refused to allow a variety of expert evidence about Iraq and the war in Iraq (which doesn't come much more expert than Denis Halliday), and Shannon Airport's role in that illegal war. He did not want the case to "degenerate into a political debate". Mary Kelly's defence of 'lawful excuse' for her action in attacking a US war plane was therefore left hanging by a thread.

But the judge was simply wrong - it can be argued legally as well as morally. Mary Kelly did not attack the plane because she was feeling aggressive that day, or normally went around attacking planes. She did a claimed €1.5 million damage to the 737 navy aircraft because it was part of the US war machine engaged in an illegal war in Iraq. She was acting to prevent harm being done. The judge did allow the jury to decide for themselves.

If you want to look at 'political decisions' then Mary Kelly's was not the only one. Judge Moran, in refusing to allow relevant evidence, was making a political decision which ensured, at the end of the day, that a majority of the jury found her guilty. It is a sad day for the law in Ireland, and for action for justice worldwide, that such a decision could be made in a supposedly 'neutral' state. But then if the state really was really neutral in its actions, and taking a progressive role in relation to global conflicts, there would be no passage through Shannon Airport for the USA's war machines and Mary Kelly would not have felt obliged to do what she did.


Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight is going to join us regularly with his thoughts:

The line, "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" which opens Keats' poem 'Ode to Autumn' encapsulates for many of us the ambience of the season. If we take a walk along any of the B-roads in Fermanagh we will get an idea of how fruitful the season actually is. On one recent walk near Derrygonnelly I came across six kinds of berries on a single stretch of rod, some edible, some with medicinal properties and some, if we gathered enough of them, would be useful in dyeing or for use in craftwork. Sadly, for most folk today, the lore of the countryside is lost and we are no longer able to distinguish what is useful and what is hazardous.

Many people will go through the entire season without appreciating it and regard the ever longer nights, the increase in rain and cold, as unpleasant and as sooner passed the better. Yet, if we psychologically align ourselves with the season we will embrace it as a time for slowing down; shedding, healing, and mending. The long nights are for story telling and family games - especially if one has young children, they are for reading a good book in a cosy room, upgrading our skills or learning new ones as in attending an evening class. They are for writing and musing. The season also reminds us of the inevitability of aging, of our immortality - which we acknowledge and celebrate at Hallowe'en. Autumn is a time for getting in touch with ourselves - undertaking self-healing, and, if we need to, reconnecting with our neighbours and the natural world. The season, as Keats says, is our "Close bosom-friend". Let is not be the case of appreciating it when it has gone.

Copyright INNATE 2014