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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 122: September 2004

[Return to related issues of Nonviolent News.]

Oh dear, autumn falls once more and back to the tasks and schedules which we have been so studiously (un-sic) avoiding over the summer. I like the colours beginning to come in the trees, the hint of cool when I’m pedalling furiously on the two wheels – but the idea of all that work and balancing of schedules and demands – yuck. But without autumn there is no spring and so everything in its time, turn turn turn me into a grumpy old man.

I hope you had a good summer and that it wasn’t too summary. We possibly had a summer of two halves, a short dry half and a long wet one. And always the realisation come early August that I’m not going to get a quarter of the things done that I had aimed to do over the summer, some of them creative, some movement work, some tasks about the house, few of any of them accomplished. But you’ve got to get the break too or you’ll reach breaking point. So on with the autumn show.

Into the West (and elsewhere)
We were in a few different parts of this island over the summer but the main part of my holiday was cycling in Connemara and south Mayo. It was enjoyable and on the bike you see much more than with any other form of transport except on foot, and you cover a lot more ground than the latter. Just to see a plant growing wild (and only in one spot not close to human habitation) that we have in our garden but I thought of as a French alpine wild flower, and realising that presumably it is as native as myself and probably more so, it was intriguing.

But I do have one grouch. Could we please ditch the ‘Quiet Man’ film baloney in Co Galway? ‘Quiet Man’ cottages seemed to abound. The Quiet Man was a 1952 film made by John Ford, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Unfortunately if there is one film that has dated irreparably in fifty years, this is it. I can’t remember the plot, or even the garden, very well (man wants woman, woman spurns man, man puts woman over his shoulder etc) but it seemed very sexist, stage Oirish and probably racist too. Maybe John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara are what some US Americans visitors want but it would be good to give the film the boot and quit promoting linkages with that fillum. In fact it gets my goat. [Didn’t know you had one – Ed] [I frequently feel sheepish, sometimes eat like a horse but try not to make a pig of myself – Billy] [Is that a piggish remark - giving pigs a bad name? - Ed] [Enough – you old snake in the grass – Billy]

There is plenty in the west to promote and surprisingly, in a tourist-oriented economy, many stunning attractions go unpromoted. I think of the Alcock and Brown landing site near Clifden, Co Galway. where they crash-landed after the first flight across the Atlantic; a bockety boreen led us not only to the landing site (not clearly marked) but in the same place the remains of the first, Marconi, trans-Atlantic radio station which was based there from 1907 – 1922 when it was blown up by republicans (we know because we were told the latter by two English tourists whose guide book was obviously better than ours). I think of Doon Lough and the O’Boyle dry stone fort near Narin in Donegal, admittedly the fort has been reconstructed, but still a stunning, quiet place. I think of Granuaile’s castle on Lough Corrib at Caisleán na Circe/Castle Kirk. But then tourism destroys the things it loves and I shouldn’t even be mentioning these places so you don’t go searching them out…. All of these are places where you could be a real quiet man, or woman.

Not in the west but north-east, I was delighted to get to visit the yew hedge Peace Maze at Castlewellan, Co Down, at 3 kms the longest hedge maze in the world. If the hedge was that little bit higher it would be fiendishly difficult to crack, I’m not sure how high they will let it grow. As it was it took us about half an hour and that was with a good dollop of luck (and of course our cracking strategy!). However it did need rather more information on the outside to point out it was created to commemorate peace and the peace process in Northern Ireland because ‘peace’ (as in ‘Peace Maze’) can mean so many things and therefore be quite meaningless. More visitors are probably going to stumble on it than come deliberately and already knowing what there is to know about it, and they need adequate information.

GWB and Vietnam
Isn’t it amazing the ongoing debate in the US of A on the ‘war records’ of Bush and Kerry. Kerry fought the fight and then saw the error of his ways, which was good of him (though not good for ultra-patriots). Bush used his family connections to get out of it (if he didn’t actually initiate this process he was more than happy with it) and in fact didn’t even show up for much of his National Guard stint, too busy into substance abuse or whatever he was into at the time (some of the record is quite blank, maybe no one else who was there with him can remember either). And if George W Bush was a coward, in military terminology, well, good for him, it’s better to be a coward and not fight in an unjust war than to be a ‘brave man’ and fight in an unjust war. The whole basis of US action in Vietnam was illegal, immoral/unethical and strategically flawed. Remember the ‘domino theory’? That if one state goes commie then the rest around will? Looking at Eastern Europe a decade and a half ago the ‘domino theory’ looks to have worked the other way around! Allow one state to go capitalist and all the other around will too. The death and destruction wreaked by the USA in Vietnam and neighbouring countries, and the repercussions (e.g. rise of Pol Pot in Cambodia) are truly awesome (to use that Americanism).

But you would have thought that Curious George might have learnt a lesson or too from those days, like not sending people who don’t want to go to war, or not having the war to send people to in the beginning. Oh now, the coward and war-evader poses in military uniform, projects himself as a great war leader, and jumps into war when a decent foreign policy would have made both the object nations and the USA safer and better places. With such a hypocrite for a leader, the USA should throw everything possible at GWB (GBH? – Ed) for his war record – majoring on the hypocrisy rather than the cowardice. The amazing thing too is that it is still considered ‘patriotic’ by most in the USA to have fought in the Vietnam war whereas surely it was those who opposed the war who were the real patriots, who sought to oppose the financial, strategic and human cost to the USA (and this isn’t even considering humanitarian consequences outside the US of A with the millions who died in south-east Asia as a result of US policies).

Meanwhile some of the cases arising from George Bush’s Iraq war summit visit to Northern Ireland have still been working their way through the system. Some came to court in August in the Belfast courts when five people including Belfast activist Darren Malone were charged among other things with ‘malacious sitting’ (all five was bound over ‘to keep the peace’ – which was I thought the whole purpose of the protest they were involved in at the beginning!). Just how malicious can you get that you charge someone with ‘malacious sitting’? It reminds me of the time during the Repeal movement in the nineteenth century [ah ha, so you were around then – Ed] [Methuselah has nothing on me – Billy] when the British government started banning political meetings and Daniel O’Connell said “If the Government think fit to proclaim down political breakfasts….then we shall resort to a political lunch……tea….until suppers also be proclaimed down.”

Prepairing for e-mergencies
If you live in Her Britannic Majesty’s United Kindom, as those of us in Norn Iron do, you are likely to have received a copy of a wee booklet, “Preparing for Emergencies – What you need to know”. This was issued for the post-9/11 world when attacks of a previously known or unknown kind could be made with devastating effect. It contains such unpassremarkable advice on chemical, biological and radiological incidents as ‘Move away from the source of danger’ and, more seriously, ’wait for the emergency services to arrive and examine you, and, if necessary, decontaminate you’ but ‘If you go home untreated you could contaminate others and make any incident worse’. Well, that’s good to know. All this is ‘our’ generation’s version of the ‘Protect and survive’ type rubbish churned out by British, and indeed Irish governments (in the mid-sixties I think regarding the latter) regarding nuclear war (plus ça change…..). I’m not saying there is no threat to the UK, most likely on the island of Britain, there certainly is, exacerbated by a British foreign policy which makes war first and asks questions later. And Northern Ireland itself has had long experience of bombing and other violence.

But I’m trying (and possibly not succeeding fully) to remember the concluding words of the ‘Protect and Survive’ song from the ‘seventies; “With a little muscular pressure / You can make a final gesture / As you kiss your arse goodbye”. And remember, “Go in, stay in, tune in” (go inside a ‘safe’ building and tune in to local radio or TV for information). You have been warned. Welcome to the 21st century. Have a nice life.

How to make a killing on the financial markets
If it was intended as a satirical piece it couldn’t have been more aptly put: “WAR – WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR? Where there’s muck and bullets there’s brass. Stephen Ellis checks out what previous wars have meant for the economy and the small investor” in ‘Advantage’ a publication of Sedgwick Independent Financial Consultants, Spring 2002 edition (I know, that’s a couple of years ago, but I’m only getting around to it now). The also have the gall to illustrate it with Captain Mainwaring (or however you spell the name from Dad’s Army, the British TV series) indicating that war’s all a bit of a lark. The article takes a general view over the financial markets in the 20th century in relation to war, not analysing war products in detail apart from quoting a recommendation that “defence and aerospace companies are worth considering”. Yes, they are worth considering. Worth considering for boycotts and publicity action that is. With flippant and selfish financial advice like the above, it’s no wonder that war is perceived as just a normal state of affairs.

Confessions of a crack addict
I probably told you this one before but my brain is so addled I can’t remember, I’ve been reading too many cartoons. Researchers in Californ-ay-ae have found out that a good, funny cartoon activates the same reward circuits in the brain that are stimulated by cocaine, money or a pretty face (I don’t get that – how can money stimulate the brain? Greed? The thought of all that lucre?). The nucleus accumbens brain region, in particular, responds seconds after a funny cartoon but does not respond to a poor joke [your readers are safe from that stimulation then – Ed] [your readers wouldn’t know what hit them if they got a laugh – Billy]. This area of the brain is saturated with dopamine (what a name!), a chemical which makes you feel good and that may explain the euphoria which follows a good joke. It may help to explain why I like the cartoons, but then I like the serious ones as well as the funnies so maybe that doesn’t really tell me too much after all. But, just to let you experiment, here’s an old yoke I dug out:

Two religious sisters. Sr Catherine and Sr Helen, are travelling through Europe by car. Stopped at traffic lights in Transylvania, suddently a tiny little Dracula jumps onto the hood of the car and hisses at them through the windshield. “Quick, quick!” shouts Sr Catherine, “What shall we do?”. “Turn on the windshield wipers!” responds Sr Helen. Sr Catherine does as suggested but the little Dracula clings on and continues hissing at the nuns. “What shall I do now?” she shouts. “Turn on the windshield washer. I filled it up with holy water” says Sr Helen, and Sr Catherine does as suggested. The little Dracula screams as if the water is burning his skin but he still clings on. “Now what?” shouts Sr Catherine. “Show him your cross” says Sr Helen. “Now you’re talking,” says Sr Catherine, who opens the window and shouts angrily at the little Dracula - “Get the feck off our car!!!”.


[Return to related issues 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).

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