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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 179: May 2010

[Go back to related issue of Nonviolent News]

Elect shun

I’ve mentioned the website before and doubtless I’ll mention it again. But if you want a humorous take on the recent Mestwinster election in the North, go no further than which does a brilliant ’Ulster Scots’ take on party political broadcasts with a ‘translation’ of what they really mean. And of course this Ulster Scots website is not funded by the Boord o’ Ulcer-Scoots. No, it’s not PC but good craic or totally cracked, according to your point of view.

Muriels in Norn Iron

The move to clean up Norn Iron’s Muriels (murals) continues. But I wonder. I do in general welcome the removal of paramilitary murals and symbols, and of military images in general, but I wonder at whether the ‘cultural’ images replacing them are always a great leap forward. This question is insofar as the new images are partisan, or sectarian – and in Belfast they often are one or the other, even if subtly so (e.g. George Best as a Northern Prod, or a Catholic sailor who won the Victoria Cross in the Second World War – James Magennis – used as an example of a ‘loyal taig’ perhaps). What we are swapping is a blatantly sectarian and militarist image for a subtly sectarian image, and groups are adept at finding ways to be ‘cultural’ in an exclusive rather than an inclusive way. Take the celebration of the Northern Ireland football team towards the northern end of Sandy Row in Belfast; dozens of Union Jack flags are seen waving in the background of a football match. Now I have only been to one Norn Iron soccer match and while there were a variety of flags I don’t recall anything like that so a ‘cultural’ and ‘sporting’ image is being used in a sectarian and political way. The old ones were actually more honest.

We quoted Dominic Bryan in a recent issue on paramilitary memorials being sacrosanct. How we build a shared society is a complex process and continuing to mark territory in any sectarian way is not going to help. Perhaps other things need to move on first, in the same way as ‘peace walls’ can only come down when the people they were built to protect feel secure. Yes, we need new imagery but imagery of imagination, cooperation, emergence from conflict, and imagery which challenges and brings us forward rather than reinforces stereotypes and prejudices, either way.

Territory, control, and the marking of territory are deeply ingrained in the consciousness of people in Northern Ireland and clearly stretch back to the Plantation even if each generation interprets this in different forms. Moving beyond that will take much time and energy. We have previously exposed the myth of the “Queen’s highway” which proponents of the Orange Order being able to march where it likes are prone to quote. At the moment “the Queen’s highway” is often ‘belonging’ to one side or the other, and Catholics and nationalists or republicans will not be keen to refer to the roadway as such in any case. The path ahead, for a shared highway, will have many twists and turns although the direction is clear enough. The hope has to be that people in the North in general are able to travel far enough along the road to glimpse a new destination they would like to arrive at – a peaceful and non-sectarian future – rather than deciding, after all, to turn back to where they know best, the Land of Sect.

Pity the poor racists

Maybe pity is the wrong emotion to feel for racists, those who believe certain geographical groups of people are inherently superior to other groups of people, but I can’t help it. To be so wrong, to be so bigoted, and probably to be so intolerant as a result, well, it’s a shame, and it’s a shame that they may miss out on all the fun – the music, the dance, the culture, the food – from all the cultures all around the world. Not to be able to admire leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King or a thousand others, not to be able to admire Aztec or African art, West Indian or Malian music, not to be able to enjoy (or more likely admit enjoying) Chinese or Indian food, what a dull world it would be.

These thoughts are occasioned by the scientists who have established that we members of modern humanity or ‘homo sapiens’ (though this term is, I think, sometimes used for other humans too) outside Africa have up to 4% of our DNA from Neanderthals. Because homo sapiens originated in Africa, and spread elsewhere, but Neanderthals were absent from Africa and only interbred with members of homo sapiens who left Africa, Africans do not have this Neanderthal DNA. So, if you were to do a ‘racial’ analysis, you could say that Africans are ‘more advanced’ than other peoples because they do not have the DNA from the ‘more primitive’ Neanderthals. So if you were to get racists to follow their own logic, the most advanced peoples in the world are those from Africa! Of course this line of thinking is all rubbish but it is interesting to consider where this kind of ‘racial’ analysis leads. As I say, pity the poor racists because following their logic is likely to lead to the conclusion that they are an ‘inferior’ grouping…..and that isn’t much of a basis for an ideology based in feelings of superiority!

- - -

Well, summer is a-comin’ in but then Irish summers can be over before you notice, so make hay while the sun shines. I could sign off with ‘warm greetings’, or like an e-mail I had from a non-native English speaking activist recently, “war greetings” where the ‘m’ had been omitted…….See you soon, 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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