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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 115: December 2003

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News.]

Hello there and nil desperandum, as the football coach said when his team was losing 7 – 0 at half time [did the football coach not go ‘beep, beep/honk honk’? – Ed]. And this is the time of year when I look to get Christmas postponed by a week or two (I’m flexible) but no one will listen. Maybe I should just become an Orthodox Christian as opposed to an unorthodox one, seeing as they have Christmas that wee bit later. Anyway, on with the show. At the end of my Colm I even let the Headitor in with his ‘A day in the life of a Western nonviolence trainer’.

Good riddance to Concorde, bad rubbish

Various eulogies were written about the end of flights by Concorde, the Anglo-French supersonic passenger plane. Personally I think it’s great that it has been stopped, for whatever reason, in its polluting and elitist tracks. Only the seriously rich could afford to fly it across the Atlantic. But worse still was the amount of fuel it used to get a small number of passengers to their destination that bit quicker. You may already know that the higher up the atmosphere pollution occurs, the slower it is to degrade; my figures are a bit hazy, but let’s say that pollution from jet planes take twenty times as long to break down to harmlessness as the same amount of pollution at ground level. And then think that Concorde was flying much higher again than normal passenger planes. Normal planes are bad enough but Concorde’s effect on the environment is much worse. A pretty machine to look at, yes; an ecological disaster, also yes.

I’m not one that’s that much into television programmes on nature or ornithology, that’s for the birds, but I did go to my local arthouse kinema recently (in fact the nearest film house of any to me now) to watch a film entitled, prosaically, ‘Migrating Birds’. Using balloons, microlight planes and helicopters, they took some amazing shots of birds flying – you could feel wing to wing as geese, cranes or other birds of passage winged their way onward, their bodies arched aerodynamically, their constant wingbeats a source of amazement. Shot against some beautiful scenery (the film did also show some birds, literally, shot, or coming to a sad human-made or natural end). Incredible. If we want to celebrate flying, let’s hear it for the birds, for example the Arctic tern which can fly 12,500 miles from one end of the globe to the other. Compared to them, Concorde is just a heap of polluting and useless junk and not something to be mourned at all.

Car Tunes

I promised when I started writing for this august [don’t you means December – Ed] publication many moons ago [sorry I ever asked you, now we can’t get you to shut up – Ed] to tell you about some of the best cartoons I came across. I’m afraid this aspect of my Colm passed me by. But credit it where it’s due. Perhaps the best local political cartoon I’ve seen all year comes from ‘The Phoenix’ (Dublin based political/satirical magazine) in its 4th July issue this year. In a cartoon by Sergei entitled ‘Western Civilization’, two cartoon characters discuss the arrival of a package; “At last it’s arrived!”. “What?”. “My own D.I.Y. peaceful Northern Ireland!”. “You can get those?”. “Wow,” (looking bewildered at the numbers on the parts) “there are a lot of parts. Lucky there are instructions.” “What do they say?”. And in the final frame, as both look bewildered at the instructions and the parts (labelled variously ‘1689’, ‘1847’, ‘1798’ etc) – “SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED”.

Domestic violence, the terrible toll

Clever publicity idea from NI Women’s Aid, sending out a series of e-mail facts (there is an opt out if you wanted) beginning on 25th November, International Day Against Violence Against Women. It illustrates what a violent society we live in as regards domestic violence. What follows is only some of the facts from the first half of their e-mail ’16 facts for 16 days’; I make no further comment because in a sense comment is superfluous.

* 18% of Irish women have been abused by a current or former partner. [Kelleher & O'Connor, Making the Links, (1995), p.15]
* 4 out of every 10 women who had been involved in a sexual relationship with a man experienced some form of violence from their partner. [Fiona Bradley, Mary Smith, Jean Long, Tom O'Dowd. Reported Frequency of Domestic Violence; Cross sectional survey of women attending general practice. British Medical Journal; Vol. 324: Pg. 271]
* The Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline received 11,037 calls 2002. (Women's Aid Helpline Statistic, 2002)
* In 2001, An Garda Siochana dealt with 9,983 call outs to domestic violence incidents. [An Garda Siochana, Annual Report, 2002]
* 25% of all violent crimes reported involve a man assaulting his wife or partner. [EU Campaign Against Domestic Violence]
* In the EU one woman in 5 has at least once in her lifetime been the victim of violence by her male partner. [EU campaign Against Domestic Violence]
* The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre received 11,808 calls in 2002. [Dublin Rape Crisis Centre Statistics and Financial Summary, 2002]
* 42% of women in Ireland have experienced some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime. [SAVI report, 2002]
* 64% of Irish women surveyed who said they had experienced violence by a partner said their children had witnessed the violence. Kelleher and O'Connor, Making the Links, (1995), p. 21]
* In homes where partner abuse occurs, children are 1,500 times more likely to be abused. [Department of Justice Assistance, Family violence; Interventions for the Justice System, 1993)
* A study in Ireland found that 24% of those who had experienced domestic violence, reported experiencing one form of violence, 25% had experienced two or three types of violence, 20% had experienced four to seven types of violence and 31% had experience eight or more types.

The most commonly experienced behaviours were a partner "punching or kicking the walls or furniture," "shouting at or threatening the kids," and having been "pushed, grabbed, or shoved." More serious violent incidents were also common, with 10% of women reporting having been punched in the face; 10% punched or kicked on the body, arms, or legs; 9% choked; and 9% forced to have sex.

Of the women who reported some form of violent behaviour, 46% had been injured.

[Fiona Bradley, Mary Smith, Jean Long, Tom O'Dowd. Reported Frequency of Domestic Violence; Cross sectional survey of women attending general practice. British Medical Journal; Vol. 324: Pg. 271]

- Women subjected to violence by their partners are 4 to 5 times more likely to be referred to psychiatric services than non-abused women. [Stark and Flitcraft, 1991]

Terry Carlin

Blink and you can miss something which you only learn about a couple of months later and feel a right eejit about not knowing. I was away from home in August when Terry Carlin died and I only found out during November when I opened the pages of nipsanews, the magazine of the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance. Terry worked for the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU/Irish Congress of Trade Unions for nearly thirty years and was the most public face of trade unionism in the North in most of that period. A full obituary appears on the NIPSA website at However it wasn’t primarily his role as a trade unionist that I wanted to write about or review here, though he was instrumental in building up the role and position of trade unionism after the debacle of the ‘Back to work march’ during the UWC/Ulster Workers’ Council strike of 1974; the ‘back to work’ march was an unmitigated flop and above all else showed the powerlessness of a movement like trade unionism against political sectarianism at its height. And also the need to choose your tactics with care, but were they to know it would be such a flop?

The trade union movement, and Terry Carlin in particular, was however a consistent voice in putting a head up over the parapet during the worst years of the Troubles to try to show civil society rejection of violence; this ran from the ‘Better Life For All’ campaign in the ‘Seventies through to peace demonstrations/days in the ‘Nineties. During much of this time, civil society pressure for peace was often deafening in its silence, so the trade union voice was doubly important. The establishment of Counteract, a trade union agency to oppose workplace sectarianism, was another important initiative. At times I would have made a critique of some of the trade union supported peace initiatives on Northern Ireland, and I still would, but I am certainly glad they happened and that that voice was raised. It is hard to judge how effective any of it was, or indeed any of our work was, but, who knows, without it maybe the picture would have been much bleaker still.

I am sad that a part of that voice, in the shape of Terry Carlin, has departed and died prematurely. He had the courage of his convictions, and his convictions did take courage. May he rest in peace.

Borstal, boy

Confession time. My Irish cultural education was sadly lacking until recently [only until recently? – Ed] in that I had never seen Brendan Behan’s The Borstal Boy. It’s funny peculiar strange, really, how some cultural events stay in your mind for days afterwards and others have disappeared over the horizon almost before they’re over and you’ve gone back to your ‘normal’ life. Well, Borstal Boy stayed on my mind, in this case it was Peter Sheridan’s 2000 film version which was shown on RTE. There are a number of factors. Firstly was the portrayal of boy/boy relations, including a gay kiss, set during the earlier part of the Second World War. I found the boy/girl relationship a bit less credible insofar as the actress playing the borstal governor’s daughter seemed far older and more mature, with a massive class difference, apart from political and national differences. But it may be that’s love, actually.

For me, though, the biggest factor in the film is the prejudice reduction taking place. The Brendan Behan/’borstal boy’ character comes from Dublin to England to bomb the English; he knows virtually nothing about the English as a people. It is living among them in the total institution of a borstal that he learns so much about not only them but himself. Never having previously heard of Oscar Wilde, he expresses the view early on that he wasn’t a true Irish man if he was homosexual; by the end of the film he is proudly saying that he has discovered love for both sexes ‘like Oscar Wilde’. In living together and sharing the same life he learns to respect and even admire English people and aspects of English culture. His political views have not changed, and he will not renege on those, but he has learnt of wider realities (e.g. Hitler) and, basically, that his intention to bomb was a mistake (not that he’s going to admit that given that he doesn’t want to renege on his political aspirations – sounds a bit like certain people in the Norn Iron situation at the moment, doesn’t it).

There is a difference to the analogy I am going to make shortly in that borstal was, as mentioned, a ‘total institution’, in sociological terms an institution where one lives all the time. There is thus much more opportunity and need to interact fully with your peers. But the prejudice reduction which takes place is almost total. Barriers of all kinds are demolished. People get to know each other at a deep level. Respect is engendered (but this being ‘real life’, so are jealousies, plots and treachery). The stranger becomes the mate, or in the English rhyming slang of the gay sailor in the film, the ‘china’ (china plate = mate). The film is topped and tailed in appropriate fashion with arrival to England and arrival back in Ireland. On his initial incarceration in an English prison he salutes two Irish republican prisoners and is badly beaten up for his pains; towards the end when his gay sailor mate in borstal eventually accepts the offer to rejoin his ship, after ‘the borstal boy’ goes for a heterosexual rather than a homosexual relationship, he salutes as the sailor disappears to war (and, we hear in a subsequent newsreel shown to the borstal boys, death) in the back of a truck. He is saluting his English friend, a parting gesture inconceivable earlier on, a symbol of their bond and his respect.

But on to the analogy and the moral for today. The prejudice reduction taking place all sounds like a very good argument for integrated education in Northern Ireland (and elsewhere). It’s funny peculiar strange the connections you can make, isn’t it.

Plutonium is good for you

Research has shown that children’s teeth across the UK, including Northern Ireland (and therefore across the whole island of Ireland) have traces of plutonium, just about the most toxic substance known. Research on extracted molars quite clearly shows contamination by this man(sic)-made radioactive substance. BNFL which runs Sellafield, the only source of plutonium in Britain, says it’s not clear whether the plutonium recorded is from Sellandefiled or “nuclear weapons testing fall-out.” (Observer 30/11/03) Right, so that would explain why those living relatively close to Sellafield have more than twice the amount living 140 miles away. There are obvious health concerns.

But all is not lost in the plutonium PR department. Expect a press release quite soon from British Nuclear Fools Ltd: “We are delighted to hear that our home delivery service is working so remarkably efficiently. Plutonium is actually good for you – for the economy, your teeth, for your little toes, for cancer (XXXXXXXX Change this to ‘life changing experiences’ before issuing this press release – Big Boss). Our safety record is really amazing [amazingly bad – Billy] and we take great care to ensure measured doses are delivered carefully in all directions, we do not discriminate against anyone. There is no truth in the rumour that we wanted to move BFNL headquarters to Wales so we could have a leek as our logo. However, since ours is an expensive business with high development costs and high storage costs, we will no longer be able to deliver plutonium to every household free of charge. Therefore from the New Year, 2004, we regret to inform the public that we will have to charge households a modest sum for delivery (this is apart of course from the massive government subsidies we have received). Those paying by standing order will get free extra plutonium. We are grateful for your understanding and look forward to many further years of supplying plutonium to you, your families and fiends. Have a happy life for as long as it lasts.”

Well, I wish you a Happy Christmas, be it Christian, pagan, consumerist, or other (or maybe an idiosyncratic mixture of various things). Remind me to tell you sometime about the Christmas I led a donkey called Big Ears, with Mary on it, across a motorway bridge, you see I was being Joseph in a round the churches pilgrimage, it’s true [ho, ho, ho – Ed]. But most of all I want to wish you a Preposterous New Year. Have a good break when you get there. Those old batteries need recharging, they are rechargeable batteries, aren’t they? I’ll be back with more (a)musings [don’t you mean bemusings - Ed] at the start of February.

Oh, and the February issue also means our annual Adolf Awards, so nominations welcome for those who have provided spectacular disservices to humanity in general, and to peace, human rights and the environment in particular over the last year or so – Billy.

PS To get a bit more dramatic, there follows a mystery play or skit by the Headitor, just shows I’m not, after all, the only one with a sense of humour around here, though as to his claim to be an ‘international playwright’, well…...that’s a bit of a playwrong.

- As performed in Northern Ireland, Israel, Sweden and Croatia -

- Never published before, the incredible tragicomedy, in 3 acts -

A Day In The Life Of A Western Nonviolence Trainer

by Rob Fairmichael

Dramatis personae:

Norman/Nadine Trainor (NT) - a nonviolence trainer

Ronald/Roberta McGandhi - another nonviolence trainer

About 5 - 10 other people to be police, workshop participants, a crowd, message holders up/announcers (including in translation if necessary), sound specialists (alarm, phone, birdsong), radio newsreader, mediation class participants etc.

Subject to ad libbing, and general lack of rehearsal..........if you do actually want to perform this, please adapt as necessary. Lines can be read rather than have to be learnt. One run through should be sufficient in terms of rehearsal.

Announce before start – ‘Any similarity to real events is intentional but too painful to relate………..’

ACT 1 - Norman/Nadine Trainor's house (sign or announce)

Props; 'Bed', nonviolence pictures/posters, table and chair, books and papers on table.

It is morning. NT is asleep. The alarm goes off; NT hits it to stop and goes back to sleep. After a short while wakes with a start, jumps out of bed, runs to the front door (signed 'front door') for post, lifts post and glances through it;

"Only stuff from XXXXXX* and other rubbish", [* name organisers of event taking place]

throws to one side,

(Seriously) "Another morning my Nobel Prize for Peace hasn't come in the post!".

Returns to bed, yawns, goes back to sleep.

Sign held up/Announce; 'Two hours later'.

Phone rings, NT awakes in a panic, trips on way to phone, grabs at phone, lifts just as caller gives up.

"Shit, now I wonder who that was. Better look at my diary". Goes to desk, piled high with papers, books etc, eventually finds diary, opens it -

"Hmm, mediation training session this evening, at least there should be a crowd for that. Can't make out my own writing here, what does this say, "a.m. Squirqleddyderg" it looks like, I wonder what that was."

Phone rings again. NT answers it straight away;

Brian Boru; "Hello is that Norman/Nadine Trainor? This is Brian Boru, organising secretary of the Coolcucumber Action Group. We were expecting you this morning to help us explore actions we could take regarding mining on Big Mountain. Where were you?"

NT - "Eh, hello Brian, eh, I'm really sorry, something really really important and urgent came up and I just simply had to stay here this morning, I'm really sorry, I'll come straight away, look we can start in twenty minutes, I'll come straight away.........."

Brain Boru; "Look, don't bother, everyone's gone home, there were only 2 people anyway. But why didn't you let us know you couldn't make it?"

NT - (Thinking hard) "I lost your phone number, don't worry, we'll fix another date, I'll guarantee you to be at that."

Brian Boru; "But it's taken 6 months to set this one up. Not to worry, we have Ronald/Roberta McGandhi coming next week to do a session on 'Movement building the McGandhi way', that should be good, lots of people have said they’ll be coming to that. You could come too if you wanted, as a participant like. Anyhow, bye for now."

NT - "Mmmmmmarrrrrrggghhhhhhhh!!!". Grimaces, looks dejected, rejected. Sits on floor.

"I know, I'll catch up on some overdue paper work before lunch, that will give me plenty of satisfaction".

Goes to desk, shuffles pieces of paper and files around, pulls one out, reads aloud -

"A broad based working group on an exploration of the nonviolent potential in the nihilistic experience of the lumpenproletariat in western society" -

"How the hell did I ever get involved in this one. And who's expected to do all the bloody work on this. Me. And who are they waiting on? Me. Well they can bloody well wait."

Throws down file, looks out window, birds sing, thinks -

"What else do I need to do? Ah yes, my workshop paper for xxxxxxxx [name big forthcoming event, real or fictional], 'The nonviolent paradigm in modern supermarket shopping and the ready-to-serve food trade'. That will really win me kudos and the admiration of the participants. Ah, I can see it now, after this there'll be all those invitations, I'll get to travel around the world when they realise how good I am......."

Drifts off into daydreams, looking happy, birds sing....

Sign/Announce; 'Later'

NT comes to, looks at watch,

"Damn, is that the time, I got nothing done. I’m hungry now so I’ll get some lunch, that’ll give me a bit more energy to tackle things vigorously"

Goes to get lunch, turns on the radio -

"Might as well listen to the news".

Newsreader; "We will come back to that story about the United States invasion of Canada, Panama, Managua, Antigua and Australia later in the programme. Meanwhile, we move on to the big local story, and the riots and trouble downtown during the anti-government demonstrations over the new Conscription and Home Bakery Act which has been labelled by the opposition as a 'half baked idea if we ever saw one...."

NT - "OH NO, I forgot about the demo, my street credibility will be in tatters, I'd better get there as fast as I can......"

Rushes out the door, while the news continues -

Newsreader "A large crowd in Parliament Square is being addressed by a number of prominent speakers including local (wo)man Ronald/Roberta McGandhi, who has been talking about the necessity of nonviolent revolution......."

ACT 2 – Parliament Square (sign or announce)

Prop; Chair for R McGandhi to stand on to speak to the crowd

NT arrives, breathless/panting, on edge of square, looking decidedly shaken and not too with it.

NT- "I knew……” puff, pant “I should have…” puff, pant “fixed that puncture on my bicycle. Now where's the action?"

Comes up to police lines, the other side of which Ronald/Roberta McGandhi is still, eloquently and enthusiastically, speaking to the crowd (McGandhi mimes).

NT to police "Let me through, I'm a nonviolence trainer'.

Policeman/woman - "I'm sure you are something strange, sir/madam, now please keep back and let us do our job".

NT wanders about, trying to see what's happening the other side of police lines. Noises and shouts offstage. NT sees Ronald/Roberta McGandhi being arrested by police.

NT - "OH NO, McGandhi has been arrested, that's another one up for him/her. No one has ever arrested me. I'll never hear the end of this, he/she'll be talking about their arrest for years. There's nothing I can do, I might as well go home."

NT leaves square, slowly and dejected.

ACT 3 – Meeting room (sign or announce)

'Evening' (sign)

Props; Flip chart, table and chair for NT, chairs in rows facing front in traditional style.

NT is at the meeting room where the mediation session he/she is to facilitate is to take place.

NT - "Well, mediation may be middle of the road, not to mention piggy in the middle, but it's usually a good crowd puller, this should bring people in. I wonder how many will come tonight. It should make up for the pretty disastrous day I’ve had."

One slightly nervous person comes in, sits to the back of the room.

NT - "Still, it's only 10 minutes past the time it was advertised to start."

Slowly, a few more people struggle in, sit all over the place.

Eventually -

NT - "Right. Welcome everybody to this our first session of this series of 45 meetings on mediation. I would like to start by asking everybody to share with each other your name, where you're from and why you're interested in mediation. Who would like to start?"

Person W - (angrily) "I'll start and I'll finish. What is this mediation thing only trying to resolve what should not be resolved and to water down the struggle? I bet you've never been involved in a real struggle in your life, you wouldn't know one if it hit you over the head. It's just arsing about, that's what it is. And those who can't do, teach or try to teach, and you're the most pathetic looking specimen of a teacher I've ever seen. Sharing why we're interested in mediation? I'll tell you I'm not bloody interested, get a life, get involved in real people's struggles for justice and equality and stop this crap. Well, I can tell you. I'm not staying here for you and your liberal rubbish, I'm off to support real people in their struggles...." (storms out).

NT looks a bit disturbed, takes a minute to get calm, others look rather shocked -

NT - "Well, after that outburst, let's get back to where we were. Who'd like to share why they're here?"

Person X (nervous person at back) - "Eh well, eh, my name is Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx. I, eh, have a slight confession to make. You see I, em, thought this was a session on meditation, and I thought, that's great, I'm really into the things of the spirit and I really want to get further into meditation. I don't know anything about this, eh, mediation thing."

NT - "Urggh, I see, ahem, so do you want to stay for mediation training?"

X - "Well, I might as well stay tonight anyhow, there's nothing good on television".

NT - "Right, next please"

Person Y - "My name's Yyyyyyy Yyyyyy and I'm actually in the same position as the previous speaker. I read the description in the courses booklet and I thought it was on meditation."

NT - "You mean to tell me that you read 'Mediation is increasingly being used in the USA and parts of Europe and elsewhere as a means of conflict resolution' and you thought it was talking about meditation?"

Y - "Emmm, yes. I don't know if I'm interested in this mediation thing or not but I'll stay for this evening and decide."

NT - "Did anyone actually come for mediation?"

(Pause) Person Z puts up hand - "I did. Ronald/Roberta McGandhi mentioned you were running a session on mediation and said it was worth checking out. I told him/her I'd let him/her know how it went, you know, whether it was any good or not."

NT - "Oh, well thank you. I think at this point we'll start straight in to the stages of mediation...."

Sign; '2 hours later"

Person A - "Could you explain exactly what you're trying to do and achieve here tonight????"

NT groans - "I think it's time we called it a day. Please come back next week if you're interested in mediation. Meanwhile you’re welcome to inform teachers of meditation that we have uncovered a niche for them to fill."

People leave quite quickly.

NT is left all alone, breaks down in tears -

NT - "Nobody loves me, nobody cares."

[END - rapturous applause!]

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News.]

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