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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 125: December 2004

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Make that a veggie burger please
You probably wouldn't be reading this if the 'Belfast Telegraph' had published my letter but I presume they don't like my humorous/sarcastic tone. So I thought I would inflict it on you instead. [You're so generous - Ed.] I always find it amazing what works up enough anger in my head (and there are plenty of things that do) that I actually take finger to keyboard - and also what doesn't. As a result I find myself expressing myself on matters which I wouldn't normally expect to do in public. Anyway, someone threw in the comment in a letter to the Bellylaugh that "Our bodies were not designed for vegetarianism", well, it was like a red steak to a bull. Here's my unpublished reply:

"The idea that 'Our bodies were not designed for vegetarianism' (letter, 1st November) is a strange one, indeed 'nuts', a concept from the 'pasta', which had me ready to 'champ' at the bit and go a bit 'beetroot' with anger. [The writer] evidently has 'bean' had and doesn't have his finger on the 'pulse' of the exciting diet possible through modern vegetarianism - and misses the fact health studies show vegetarianism is as healthy or healthier than a meat diet. Indeed if humanity is to care a 'fig' about feeding everyone in a world which has 'barley' 'mushroom', we will have to be increasingly vegetarian - it takes far less resources, less water, less space. Or do meat eaters in the rich world want to hog (sic) all the land and water to get their burgers and steaks? 'Lettuce' work for 'peas', fair trade and fair treatment for all worldwide - and part of that is becoming vegetarian."

Perhaps I could add that currently up to 90% of managed water is used to grow food (Guardian, 23/8/04) but groundwater levels are plummeting; "Meat-eaters consume the equivalent of about 5,000 litres of water a day compared to the 1,000 - 2,000 litres used by people on vegetarian diets in developing countries". On average it takes 1,790 litres of water to grow 1kg of wheat compared to 9,680 litres of water for 1kg of beef.

Ireland may currently be well off for water supplies (indeed famous) but with global warming the pattern could change to too little in parts of the island, accompanied by storms and flooding at other times. On a global scale the question of adequate safe and sustainable water supplies is going to get bigger and bigger. Which is where a change of diet comes in. And I'm also sure it's an issue and question which is not going to go away.

'Domestic' violence to write home about
On Thursday 25th November, to mark International Day Against Violence against Women, Women's Aid in the Republic held a minute's silence outside the Dail in memory of the 107 women murdered in Ireland in the last 108 months. What an appalling figure that is! An average of one a month actually killed "more than 80% of them by a man known to them and almost half of them by a current or former partner." This says a huge, and unfortunate amount, about the kind of society we live in, that this is the figure, one a month actually killed, in a small country. Meanwhile funding for services for women suffering violence has remained static since 2002.

Here's some more sadistics from Women's Aid and no more comment from me is needed:

  • 107 women murdered in Ireland in 108 months. 69 women murdered in their own home. Of the resolved cases, 81.5% were murdered by a man known to them, and 46% by a current or former partner. (Women's Aid Female Homicide Watch)
  • 18,902 calls were made to the Women's Aid National Freephone Helpline in 2003, an increase of 26%. 17% more calls were responded by the Helpline (12, 908) but there was a 52% increase in the number of calls the Helpline could not respond to.
  • In 2003, 15,717 calls were made to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, 3,636 calls were first time contacts.
  • Data from 14 of the 18 women's refuges in Ireland showed that in 2003, 2 out of 5 women were refused refuge. 1 in 5 women were refused refuge due to lack of space.
  • 18% of Irish women have been abused by a current or former partner.
  • 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.
  • In 2003, the Gardaí dealt with 8,452 call outs to domestic violence incidents.

Now accepting Adolf Award nominations
Just to inform you that we are now accepting nominations for the annual Adolf Awards which are made with the next (February) issue of Nonviolent News. Anyone you think who has done conspicuous disservice to peace, the environment or human wellbeing in general is open for an award - in Ireland or anywhere in the world. Check out NN 116 for who received the last awards - which doesn't mean they can't receive another award (in fact I would have thought some are a racing certainty to appear again!). You can e-mail them to me at or by other means, those written on at least £20/€50 notes are guaranteed publication. [Bribery and corruption! It's me that people are meant to bribe and corrupt to ensure publication but my price is higher - Ed.]

Bertie 'Lenin' Ahern
Bertie Ahern's protestation that he was "one of the few socialists left in Irish politics" (Irish Times, 13/11/04 in an interview with Mark Brennock headed "All things to all people") has been much commented on, indeed the source of much mirth. In the interview he said he wanted to be remembered for improving the lot of the underprivileged. Maev_Ann Wren did the best debunking of this in "Village" (No.8, 20 - 26 November, Village is Vincent Browne's new weekly current affairs magazine) when she gave lists of why he's not a socialist and what his policies might include if he was. This was excellent but bad for me because I was going to give you my own list, oh, what the hell, I'll go with it briefly anyway. [I thought we were going to be spared another of your Liszt, oh well - Ed].

If Bertie was a socialist he wouldn't...

1) Be involved in Public Private Partnership deals which simply cost the state more by adding to private profits ('PPS schools may prove 13% costlier to State', Irish Times 29/9/04).

2) Have around the highest percentage of people in poverty in any state in the EU (21% below 60% of median income in 2001 compared to a then EU average of 15%). Meanwhile the division between rich and poor is among the widest in the EU with the top 20% of earners receiving 4.5 times more than the bottom 20%.

3) Have by far the lowest spend on social protection in the unexpanded EU as a percentage of GDP (CORI figures, 2003).

4) Be 3rd in the world for GDP per capita (though note GNP is rather different after repatriation of multinational profits) but 18th for health expenditure per capita and 33rd for educational expenditure.

5) Renege on a solemn promise, made at the UN and elsewhere, to give 0.7% of GNP to world development by 2007. This has been scaled back to 0.5% with no promise yet as to when the modest UN target or 0.7% will be reached. Thus were some of the poorest of the poor deprived of modest assistance and a solemn promise was broken.

6) Have allowed a system where in 2001, 11 people earned €1 million or more and paid no tax through various loopholes.

But there is the more general question of why and how a populist-style conservative premier like Bertie Ahern, in the same mode as French Gaullists (EU bedfellows of Fianna Fail) can consider himself 'socialist'. It is much the same as a self-possessed and unaware individual saying that they 'don't have any accent'; we all have accents, we all have politics, but depending on the sea you swim in you may not notice any difference if you're 'basically the same' as everyone else. Mary Harney has expressed herself as not having any ideology despite the Progressive Democrats rampant Thatcherism. In Bertie Ahern's case I expect it is because he sees the government as doing 'good deeds' and sees himself as pretty much like everyone else but more well-intentioned and therefore 'socialist' - without any attempt any time to redistribute income or properly deal with poverty (Brian Cowen's latest budget notwithstanding). Either that or he is the cleverest cute hoor of them all. Or maybe he is socialist in just the way that across the nearest sea Tony Blair is socialist...

Saying it with flowers
You can say anything with flowers. Whether the recipient will necessarily understand is another question entirely but if you look up the symbolism of flowers there is little that you cannot try to express wordlessly - from the obvious of the romantic red roses, or rosemary (a shrub which does flower though not picked for its flowers) for remembrance. But according to the guides you can also cover aspiration, promise, contentment, anticipation, graciousness, gratitude, peacefulness (e.g. Cosmos which I grow most summers myself though I was unaware of its supposed symbolism), joy, pride, perseverance, distrust, desire for riches (Marigold - just the thing to give that millionaire(ss) on your first date though another guide has marigold down for cruelty, grief and jealousy), fickleness (ditto), passion, fertility, healing, beware, good luck, faithfulness, admiration, caution, deception, stupidity or folly (Geranium) and the Peony can covers both shame and happy marriage (you'd want to get your signals clear!). Though to give someone Orange Mock symbolising deceit, on the recipient's part or even your own, would mean you would have to be extremely deceitful if you wanted to get away with it without them knowing...

It's a pretty old one now but it reminds me of the Martyn Turner joke about Bill Clinton when it had surfaced that he had had an affair with a woman called Gennifer Flowers; "Bill Clinton - the only man in history never to have taken Flowers home to his wife".

But, I was telling you before that I had become a mediator. As part of getting myself up to speed I had to go on a couple of courses which were themselves enjoyable and good crack as well as learning experiences. But for the end of the final one I made two cards to be signed by everyone as a token of appreciation to the class tutors. For this I decided to represent the situation of a mediator visually. Torn hand-made paper on the card represented conflict, the points of pressed Virginia Creeper leaves represented the people in conflict (the ends pointing at each other). But what pressed flowers did I use to represent the mediators? Why, no choice - pansies and wallflowers! It's all right, it was a joke, it can take a lot of courage to stand in the middle and hold your ground, so it was really about the stereotype of those who so stand. There, you can even tell a joke with flowers.....

Anyhow, that's me for now. I wish you a pleasant Christmas/Solstice/Holiday season and myself I look forward to recharging the oul batteries a bit, I think they're a bit low at the moment, and I wish the cosmos a bit of cosmos in 2005 (see above). Another year nearly gone, another one nearly here. Won't see you until the start of February by which time you'll start to see the evenings getting longer again (with apologies to southern hemisphere readers). So until then, take care of yourself and the world, and if you want a bit of craic do send us in some zany Adolf Award nominations - Billy.

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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