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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Issue 128: April 2005

[Return to related issue of Nonviolent News]

I ask you, do I 'rant'? Those of you reading the last paper edition (NN 127) may have come across the trailer at the end for the e-mail and web editions, giving the contents very briefly including "Billy King does his usual rant." Really, I think that's very unfair of the Editor to pass judgement like that. Rave, yes, rant, no. Anyway, in Norn Iron, rant is what landlords are paid....

Before I start, it's good to see a meeting and training happening in Cork (see news section) on the proposed 'Cadaver' incinerator at Ringaskiddy, should be good. Reminds me of the time we had an INNATE seminar and training planned for Derry where Du Pont were proposing to build a toxic waste incinerator at the time; only thing was Du Pont cancelled their plans before our workshop was due to take place. How inconsiderate can you get!!!!

Henry Kissing, er, Fascists' Ass
I make it a habit to read books when they are way past their trendy hey-day. It's not that I have anything against the current cult book, it's just I usually don't get around to it. But that book that was published half a decade ago, now remaindered? Made quite a splash at the time. Yes, that's my reading material. Recently I read Christopher Hitchens' book "The Trial of Henry Kissinger", which came out as recently as 2001. It's a well presented case for the indictment of Henry K for war crimes. But unfortunately, to the victor the spoils, and, in the words of the African proverb, until lions have their historians tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.

Where could you begin or end with Kissinger? As someone who was instrumental in prolonging the Vietnam war (with major results in death and destruction) for party political advantage in the USA? As someone who backed Saddam Hussein to the hilt? As someone who majored in anti-communism but when it came to personal economic interests was more than prepared to get into bed (metaphorically!) with Chinese communists? As someone who, in 1971 during massacres of Bangladeshis prior to Bangladeshi independence, praised the 'delicacy and tact' of brutal Pakistani leader General Yahya Khan? As someone who was a key figure in the first "9/11", that of Chile in 1973, where the US plan had been so extensive as to include the murder in 1970 of General Schneider, chief of the Chilean General Staff who was opposed to military intervention in the political process? How about someone who supported fascism in Greece in 1974? Or the Indonesian takeover of, and atrocities in, East Timor? You could just go on and on and on.....

Hitchens' book not only deals with all this but is also good at exposing how Kissinger has tried to cover up the past, deny the undeniable, and present himself in a positive light by lying through his teeth. Perhaps it is no wonder that the USA is opposed to the International Criminal Court. Henry Kissinger deserves to be up there with the worst of them.

There are a few people I know called Dave. There is even a well known US romantic comedy (with saccharine political overtones) called Dave. But for me, at my age, there has been only one 'Dave' in public life and he was Irish - Dave Allen, originally David O'Mahoney, born in 1936 in either Limerick or Dublin (no one is quite sure), who died recently.

Dave Allen lived most of his life in Britain and enlightened our lives a long time ago with irreverent sketches and stand-up comedy - except his was sit-down comedy, delivered from a bar stool. Poking fun at authority and the church was done with aplomb and what would now look like genteel gentleness - it got a rise out of people then and he got in hot water for some of his sketches and language - but it would not cause an eyelid to flutter now. And maybe we are still not aware that there is real danger when we cannot laugh at something or someone. He couldn't have done what he did in Ireland though Frank Hall, with Hall's Pictorial Weekly and other programmes, sometimes approached some of his effect.

As someone who tries to mix serious and humorous comment [without success? - Ed] [nothing succeeds like a parrot with no beak - Billy]. I know it is a hazardous business. The right joke at the wrong time, the wrong joke at the right time, the wrong joke at the wrong time, and zip, you're carried away in the proverbial body bag. Some people think that to be 'serious' you've got to be 'serious' all the time. To which I say - you can't be serious. Seriously. This applies to the written word as well as the spoken word - some people feel you cannot put across a serious message and use cartoons or other humorous material. I say that to fail to try to do so is a failure of imagination and the human spirit. We're made to laugh. And Dave Allen made us laugh. Besides, it's good for us.

So thanks, Dave, as you wander off to the Great Gag Factory in the Sky, or wherever it is comedians go when they die. And I still use his sign off line, which was at once humorous, respectful and pluralistic - "May your God go with you". Which is pretty much the final salutation I would like to offer to Dave Allen himself at this stage, "May your God go with you".

Pouring wolf, crying water
I recently attended a two-day workshop with the extremely skilled Wolf and Water (they were-Wolves from across the water!) drama group, in this case organised by Mediation Norn Iron. W & W do different kinds of workshops but basically explore human behaviour by using drama and lots of playing games because 'behaviour here is likely to be behaviour out there'. In playing games we give ourselves permission to be competitive, devious, manipulative, passive or whatever which we may or may not be in real life but which explores such behaviour. Having played the game we would analyse what relevance it had.

I'll share one game, particularly this one because it doesn't involve divulging any 'secret', it was a straight competitive game. Two lines or teams of people sit facing each other, sitting down. Everyone has their eyes closed except the two people opposite at either end. At the leading end, the two people watch the spin of a coin; a 'head' and they send a squeeze along the line with the end two people trying to grab a ring (in this case, a roll of tape) to win. But if it's 'tails' then no squeeze is meant to start, and if it does, and the ring is lifted, that team loses a point.

The game is about triggers, who can stop/start the message, and it drew perceptive responses about the reactive nature of the sectarian situation in Northern Ireland. In real life, refusing to pass on the squeeze could be refusing to put up a flag in an area getting bedecked with flags. The other main outworking was the extent to which we can go with habitual responses even when the nature of the game has been altered significantly, or is not limited by the assumed roles we imagine are in place.

There are innumerable numbers of approaches to dramatic exploration. Some of it is putting people in situations until they 'craic' (putting people in situations until they 'crack' is another thing altogether). I'd look out for Wolf and Water if they may be coming your way, or indeed others who explore life through drama. After all, someone once said that life's a stage......

Two wheeled journal
I don't know if you caught the film The Motorcycle Diaries when it was passing through (also out in DVD) but it makes an impressive film - part road movie, part biopic, part beautiful travelogue - charting the conscientisation of Che Guevara as he and a friend do their grand Southern American tour (it's based on his memoir of that time). Well, except it's not so grand because they're doing it on an old banger of a motorbike, and in fact the title is somewhat of a misnomer as much of the journey is completed on foot or at least without the aid of the bike which eventually gave up the ghost. As a portrayal of social and political consciousness being awoken it is extremely well done. Guevara, from a relatively well to do background, has no particular political beliefs at the beginning but the suffering which he meets and grows to understand is clear, as are the reasons for it - exploitation of the poor by the rich, and a refusal to treat everyone (e.g. those with leprosy) as equal human beings.

Che Guevara's subsequent career is well known, not least as T-shirt icon even to this day. Part of a successful revolution in Cuba (which only became 'communist' because of the opportunistic opposition of the USA which had no problem supporting fascist dictators throughout Latin America), he ended his life in another, unsuccessful, attempt at revolution in Latin America (Bolivia, 1967). His growing support for violent revolution had been assisted by the CIA/USA engineered coup in Guatemala in 1954 which overthrew a reforming regime which seemed to threaten US economic interests (United Fruit Company etc), and his experience in the two years of guerrilla struggle in Cuba led him to believe that a relentless hatred is necessary to win victory over a brutal enemy.

But all this is ahead at the time of The Motorcycle Diaries. The only hint of what is to come, perhaps, is given as the two friends marvel at Machu Picchu, Peru, and fall to discussing the injustices they have encountered; "You can't have a revolution without guns", Che says as I remember it. From a nonviolent point of view, or indeed any point of view (cf Eastern Europe, 1989), that is just not true, though nonviolent change, in some circumstances more difficult to foment, may be easier in others. Exploring that whole area is another day's work, and the task of the nonviolent activist is to show, by analysis and action, that nonviolence works, and not to condemn those who feel violence is the only course of action. Disagreement and argument, yes, but condemnation is usually a pointless exercise in self justification.

Well, there we go for another month, the wheel of time moves on, the bicycle of spring dances in the sunlight [my, we are getting poetic - Ed], there is a spring in our step or our spoke [bedoinnnnggggg - Ed].. 'May' we meet again in another month and until then, recall the old adage, "Remember the golden rule - whoever has the gold makes the rules". - 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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