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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 108: April 2003

Return to related issue of Nonviolent News

Welcome whoever you are, and an especially big welcome if you’re one of our visitors from the USA military and US government, and the British government apparatus. We don’t know if it has been people ‘checking us out’, just inquisitive, or wanting to genuinely see what we have to say about the state of the world. In any case, welcome to y’all.

Soldiers of Destiny
Fianna Fail (translated as ‘Soldiers of Destiny’), usually on posters with the rider ‘the Republican Party’ (or should that be the ‘Re. Publican Party’?) is the major government party in the Republic. Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach has sought to avoid getting off the fence over Iraq, at one point saying a second UN resolution was a necessity, but subsequently refusing to stop US planes using and refuelling at Shannon Airport, and justifying that in terms of past practice and friendship with the USA. He then confused even himself in the Dáil as to whether the Republic was measured among supporters of the USA or not by the USA itself. But in his continuation of support to the USA he is not only is he off the fence he’s over the other side of the field as well.

The bottom line is clear; he feels the USA ‘owns’ the Republic – economically, but also morally and spiritually. It is really laughable. This is the same party founded by people who refused to sign a treaty with Britain in 1921 on a point of republican and sovereignty principle (and fought a subsequent civil war about it), or go into a military alliance with Britain. Now, they just do the bidding of another great power, the great power of today, the USA. Bertie will kiss US ass. Neutrality? Neuteredality is more like it. Fianna Fail now translates as ‘Soldiers of US Destiny’, and their slogan becomes ‘the US Republican Party’.

Nowhere is the middle of nowhere
Nowhere is the middle of nowhere. Everywhere is somewhere. When Jonathan Swift wrote that:

Geographers on Afric’s maps
With savage pictures fill their gaps
And o’er uninhabitable downs
Place elephants for want of towns

he was reflecting or commenting on the lack of knowledge Europeans had about Africa at the time (and maybe today too if you interpret the verse loosely). And even if there weren’t towns there were places, people, life. Ireland had a vibrant culture before the Vikings came and yet there was little in the way of ‘towns’ as we know them.

I am old enough [or older – Ed] to remember the Mustard Seed ‘festival of alternatives’ held in Glencree in Co Wicklow in 1976, organised by the SCM/Student Christian Movement in Ireland. This was the first such gathering and there were several hundred people at it [yes, I remember sleeping under the reception counter as the most congenial space left! – Ed]. At one point, as a local or regional networking exercise, people were asked to imagine the hall we were in as a map of Ireland and meet together with others from the same location – north-west, north, north-east, east, south-east and so on. Except one thing had been forgotten; someone from the Midlands came up to an organiser – all the points on the compass of the periphery around Ireland had been indicated, but not the fact that people live in the centre as well! Not everyone wants to relate to the peripheries of this island…..

Most USA citizens could not locate Iraq on a map, certainly when a Second Gulf War was first mooted – I don’t know if the skills of the US American people have picked up in relation to the country which their government wishes to bomb back into the stone age, if not further. But everywhere is somewhere. Nowhere is nowhere to be found. And in turn every human being is a human being and, in Quaker language, has ‘that of God’ in them. Good use of geography and good humanity go hand in hand, methinks - whether that relates to war in Iraq or simply to not being patronising about people because they live in a particular place in a country, speak with a particular accent, or live in a country with an unelected President (whether that be the USA or Iraq).

Bill Moyer, Phil Berrigan, Rest in Peace
What a shame the Iraq war is, in at least two senses, for the ordinary and extraordinary people of the USA……a disproportionate number of whom we find involved in European peace and social movements if they are this direction. There have been a couple of deaths in the USA peace movement worth mentioning in this humble space. Bill Moyer, a long time activist who developed various strategising/analytical tools [yes, I use them as the opportunity allows – Ed], died in October last. Then in December, Philip Berrigan died, aged 79. Phil along with his brother Dan were of Irish extraction and became a major source of inspiration nationally and internationally for their direct actions which earned them long periods in prison (from the end of the 1960s there was even a radical Christian magazine in Britain named after the action that brought them international prominence - the place was Catonsville, and the magazine “Catonsville Roadrunner’). As a tribute here’s a poem by Dan Berrigan which seems very apt for them, and for the times we live in:


Some stood up once
and sat down
Some walked a mile
and walked away
Some stood up twice
then sat down

I've had it, they said
Some walked two miles
then walked away
It's too much they cried

Some stood and stood and stood.
They were taken for fools
They were taken for being taken in.

Some walked and walked and walked
They walked the earth
They walked the waters
They walked the air.

Why do you stand
they were asked, and
Why do you walk?

Because of the children, they said, and
Because of the heart, and
Because of the bread.
The cause
Is the heart's beat
And the children born
And the risen bread.

A Titanic effort
When and how does a disaster become a success? Doctors bury their mistakes but don’t advertise the fact. Who is proud to claim they launched the First World War? Britain, France, Germany? No one. And yet the Titanic sinking in 1912 quickly attained mythic qualities and has continued to do so since. Belfast’s greatest shipbuilding disaster is somehow claimed as a triumph, in fact that city could be described as making a titanic effort to benefit from the Titanic legacy. I’m not a gigantic Titanic fanatic (there are plenty of them about) but I would have thought that not only was the ship not up to hitting a big iceberg, it was presumably imperial pride in its unsinkability which led to so few life-boats being installed in the first place [“Memo: Design fault. Install life-boats for all crew and passengers”].

Belfast now has what looks like annual “Titanic – Made in Belfast” celebrations (this year 19th – 26th April). The visual image accompanying publicity shows a mother and children waving as the ship sails by. Maybe the semaphore flags adorning the illustration really say “Am going to strike iceberg. Abandon ship now”. I find it all a bit strange to be honest, although there is no risk of the Titanic legacy sinking without trace like Belfast’s effort to become European City of Culture. Belfast does have a proud shipbuilding legacy (now only a legacy with the end of shipbuilding at Harland and Wolff) even if a certain amount of that was for the British Navy; the Titanic misadventure (to put it in a rather understated way) is very much part of that. But does Sarajevo try to attract tourism with “Where the First World War began”?? The shipbuilders of more recent maritime disasters, ferries sinking and the like, don’t seem in too much of a hurry to say “We built it! Yes, it was our fault! Aren’t we great. Come and visit us soon”.

It was all a long time ago but it is of course true that the Titanic sinking became an instant sensation. The contrast between the hype – biggest, greatest, most opulent, ship ever, and the reality – sunk on maiden voyage with great loss of life, hit home to people. Various sub-plots were developed (e.g. class). It became a canvas for the telling of life and death, heroism and cowardice, pride and prejudice. All human life was there, like a dance band. On the Titanic. Nearer my God to thee (as the Titanic band did not play when the ship was sinking). Belfast is sure to develop its Titanic heritage, and perhaps the idea which has been about, of the transport museum, including maritime items, coming to rest in the ‘Titanic Quarter’ of the docks, will eventually become reality. But for me, I could do without it – all of it gives me that sinking feeling and I prefer my stories on a more even keel. [Groan. More of that kind of ‘humour’ and I’ll ask you to ship out of here or even go to hull – Ed] [I’m being serious, I’d prefer to clear the decks of all this kind of stuff – Billy].

Take a google at this
So are going to have their Euro headquarters in Dublin. Isn’t modern technology a wonderful thing. Here’s a sample of some of the keywords people put in to their search engine to end up at the INNATE site over just a couple of weeks...

‘Nonviolent protest’, ‘nonviolent action training’, ‘stages of violence’, ‘pragmatic nonviolence’, ‘exercises for breaking cycles violence’, ‘nonviolent protest in ireland’, ‘nonviolent resistance methods’ ‘gandhi sitdown strikes’, ‘adamnan’s law’ and ‘nonviolent noncooperation’ all make perfect sense as to come to the INNATE website. Some are a product of language – ‘king billy’ rather than our columnist what is writing now. ‘Offaly anti war movement’ and ‘corrymeela’ also are understandable. But ‘pearse theory revolution blood sacrifice peasant culture irish catholics’?

Various individuals were named but I’ll spare their blushes at being linked with INNATE (queries on a £10/€20 note please). Why did ‘saddam hussein jokes’ end up with us? Or ‘professor northern Ireland contact’? Somebody lost their professor contact here?

The more strangely humorous or unusual ones include; ’french food riots February 15-27 1793’ (how on earth did that ever link up with INNATE?) [surely they meant ‘freedom food riots’? – Ed], ‘photos of rossnowlagh co Donegal’ (ditto), ‘funny irish avatars’, ‘protestant god king billy’, ‘nonviolent revenge’ (a bit of an oxymoron, huh), ‘william mccrea music’ (well, he has been mentioned in our pages, his CDs being put under ‘Irish music’ – shock horror – in a music library), ‘vigil ant’, ‘how does Christianity feel about dancing’, ‘brendan behan cap badges’, ‘sin sceal eile’ (but that’s another story), ‘infamy awards’ (well, it makes sense with our annual Adolf Awards), and ‘how to spake sexy Spanish on line’! Others include ‘celtic fans palestine’, ‘curriculum for the music school of katowice poland’, ‘roman army recruitment posters’, ‘drogheda western culture’, ‘prime monister of uk’, and ‘I hate peaceniks’. And finally, ‘all are rubbish when we check it out where does it go’. Indeed.

Peeling onions
Well, if Onionist [don’t you mean ‘Unionist’? – Ed] {No, ‘Onionist’ – it’s enough to make you cry! – Billy] commentator Steven King is to be believed, the protesters at the 22nd March anti-war rally in Belfast, a few days into the US-Iraq war, were ‘dupes of the Socialist Worker Party’. Dear, dear, I never realised, I can see it clearly now, and I thought I was a peace activist who had some things in common, and a lot of differences with, the SWP. I suppose King [no relation] could equally have been accused of being a dupe of the Blairite faction of the British Labour Party. David Trimble, that Noblest of Peace Prize winners, called on the organisers to cancel the Belfast rally in support of British troops. Tony Blair, having pursued the most divisive foreign policy decision in the UK for many years, had the audacity to call for national unity and people to stand behind British troops. Well, I consider this war just…..just appalling and awful. And I would certainly like to stand right behind British troops. This would, of course, be in order to call on them to stop their unnecessary and illegal war, to disobey orders, and come home where they are safe and secure. Mutiny is the best policy. If the British troops in Iraq get chocolate from home maybe we could have ‘Mutiny on the Bounty Bar’. Better than Tony Blair’s muttony (following George W Bush like a sheep). PS I would stand behind Iraqi soldiers with the same intent.

But isn’t it amazing to see the same old pattern of people in the USA and UK rallying behind the flag when their country goes to war. It seems to work nearly every time, and leaders can rely on it. But if a war is immoral, unethical, unjust, hypocritical, contrary to any religious belief, before war starts, how does it suddenly become ‘right’ when war starts? It’s back to the old ‘my country right or wrong’. What a load of crap. And what a pathetic sight in the ‘democracies’; of the USA and UK to see the same old war card played. It may not be a gunboat any more but a helicopter gunship. Or some missiles. Weapons of mass destruction how are you!

The people who stood up and were counted against the war have been rebuffed in the cruellest way. Tony Blair took not a blind bit of notice, nor, indeed, did Bertie Ahern of the anti-war demonstration in Dublin. And then they wonder why people get pissed off with politics!!!!

Anyhow, I’ll only get angrier if I keep going, so I’ll sign off until next time,

Yours in sorrow and anger, still struggling,


PS I never mentioned, even the Editor tries to have a sense of humour. For those who don’t know (cf news section of this issue) ‘Maguire and Patterson’ are the best known brand of matches in Ireland. Strike a light!

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).

Copyright INNATE 2021