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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 215: December 2013

[Return to related issue on Nonviolence News]

Well, here we are almost at the end of another year, some achievements to look back on, some disappointments to ponder, but with ‘Much more to do’ (in the words of a Fianna Fáil election slogan! Oops, or was that ‘Much more bankrupting to do’!). In the next, February, issue we have our Adolf Awards, for conspicuous disservice to peace, human rights and the environment, so I would like to invite nominations for those who might be so deserving from their actions during 2013, at home or abroad.....just send them to the INNATE address and I will ponder them long and hard with my panel of ex-perts before announcing The Winners (who have succeeded in making many other The Losers).

Scottish leader being mass produced
Scotland has been failing to increase farmed salmon production to meet commitments to export to China, partly due to sea lice (and thereby hangs a lesson for us all about factory-type farming). Scottish First minister Alex Salmond is referred to in a report in the Grauniad online (otherwise ‘Guardian’) which goes on to say that “Scott Landsburgh, chief executive of the Scottish Salmond Producers Organisation, the largest industry body, told the Guardian that the 2020 figure "gave a focus for growth". ....." Guardian 4th November 2013.

Alex Salmond being mass produced! Maybe that augurs well for the Scottish independence case in the referendum in 2014. We don’t normally go with straight typos but we decided to make an exception in this case, and wonder was it deliberate or a spellcheck fault. On a wider question, if Scotland does vote for independence from the UK that will make for fascinating repercussions this side of the Irish Sea as well, with strong repercussions for Norn Iron. And if it doesn’t vote yes to independence, will the question go away? Only temporarily I suspect. There seems to be only limited attempts by the British government to ‘kill Scottish independence with kindness’ and, even if there was, whether that would be enough in the long term remains uncertain.

And to give you a double dose of spelling mistakes, or possible mistakes, on to our occasional look at the perils of the spellcheck facility on yer computer or in this case mine. The suggestion for ‘Britishness’, which my spellcheck didn’t recognise, was ‘Brutishness’. The spellcheck for ‘Irishness’ had rather more alternatives: rashness, girlishness, brashness, freshness or apishness. So take your pick.

Patriots and traitors
One person’s traitor is another person’s patriot. That is clear. British soldiers as part of the MRF/Military Reaction Force had no qualms about shooting dead people in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s because they saw them as enemies (as seen on a recent BBC programme)....when some were clearly just people mistaken for ‘terrorists’ or happened to be standing around chatting close to a barricade. The soldiers involved saw themselves as patriots, those they shot as traitors. The families of those shot would take a different point of view.

Roger Casement is another case in point. “Sam Wolfenden, head of history at Bangor Grammar and a former head boy at Ballymena Academy, Casement's old school, reflects on his legacy in the predominantly unionist town of Ballymena. ‘I think he is regarded in Ballymena as a man who betrayed his country. I remember as a student asking why our school had no tribute to Casement. The reply, from a teacher who was a humane and liberal man, was that the school had no intention of erecting monuments to traitors. It was as simple as that, he said. However the two-sided coin of patriotism and treachery as a military concept is outmoded, indeed could you say it was ever moded. Heroism as military heroism is part of the same type of thinking. ‘It is better to live for Ireland than die for Ireland’ may sound a bit trite but there is a truth there, that constructive work to advance liberty, human rights, and economic and social justice for all should be considered of greater service to a country. We should remember and mourn those who died on battlefields and in wars of all kinds but the overarching questions there should be – why did they die and who set them up to die? Very, very few people actually want to die in military action, they want to do what they can, including killing others, to survive. Patriotism should not be defined in military terms, and if we are moving beyond ‘national’ patriotism we should substitute full internationalism or universalism and not an intermediate supernationalism like adherence to ’Europe’ (as the EU tends to call itself) – it is not a ‘supra’nationalism but a substitute. This is also in accord with an ecological point of view; if we don’t see things from a global perspective we are sadly delusional.

There was one tribute in The Irish Times recently of someone who might deserve to be called a patriot in Ireland. Miriam Lord had a moving tribute to Tom Gilmartin who challenged corruption in the Republic at considerable cost to himself. Planning was a cess pit that favoured the powerful and wealthy, that built, reinforced and increased their wealth and power. Here however was a man who had the courage to stand up and tell it like it was, to show that the clothes worn by the emperors were ill-gotten. If you want to use the term ‘traitors’ in a national sense, and I would tend not to, then he helped to show up who the real traitors were.

Frackenstein’s monster
In this Colm I occasionally visit issues of the ‘New Internationalist’ which is such a valuable source of information on a wide variety of world justice issues. The December 2013 issue is on fracking and, while I feel I know a certain amount on the topic it gave me more to learn and, as I would expect, an excellent overview of the issues.

What can I share from there? In the USA, fracking produced 1,060 billion litres of toxic wastewater in 2012. Wastewater contains not only the chemicals that are sent down, but also heavy metal and radioactive pollutants coming up; wastewater is typically 98.5% water, 1% sand (used to keep fissures open) and 0.5% chemicals – the last may not sound much but when you consider what they are it is way, way, weigh too much. However 40 - 70% of contaminated water is left underground, and as you don’t know what the long term effect is on underground watercourses, this is totally disastrous.

In the USA the fracking industry gave $239 million to political candidates in the period 1990-2011, and spent a further $726 million on lobbying in the period 2001-2011. That’s basically a billion dollars. Meanwhile in the UK one third of government ministers have had direct links to fossil fuel companies or the banks financing them.

However gas production peaks soon after a well starts, and with companies cherrypicking where to produce, shale gas production may even peak in the US within a couple of years. Estimates of accessible reserves have been revised down drastically in different places, e.g. Poland. The fracking industry is exempt from a number of clean water and pollution enactments in the USA which hardly instils any confidence of any kind, while there were 1,000 incidents of leaks and spills and the like in North Dakota alone in just a year. The jury is still out on how much methane fracking releases, a major greenhouse gas.

The volume of water needed to run fracking is a major issue in drought-ridden countries like Australia and South Africa (one well uses 9 – 29 million litres of freshwater in its lifetime), apart altogether from the dangers to watercourses and future water supply. The kind of market in gas and fossil fuels in Europe means that any economic benefit to consumers, in terms of price reductions, is likely to be slight if any. In an interview, Josh Fox, filmmaker of Gasland and Gasland Part II, makes the statement that “You cannot have democracy without freedom from fossil fuels”. He talks about the terrible effect of fracking on the Gulf of Mexico, and the destruction of ecology and fishing, with fracking the only thing left. The ‘New Internationalist’ issue argues that, far from shale gas being a ‘bridge’ to alternatives it is actually a roadblock, and for reasons to do with global warming we need to move straight to alternatives.

However there is some good news in the feature. New alliances are being formed involving activists and farmers who might previously have been at loggerheads, and people are getting organised and expressing solidarity on the issue around the world. I might add that in the age of the internet and social media people’s resistance got off to a rapid start, and shows every sign of increasing, even in leafy England. Resistance and campaigning in Ireland hasn’t been backward in coming forward and if governments in the North or Republic decide to lift the moratoriums in place then there will be a major – but I believe totally winnable – struggle to prevent this wanton destruction of the earth.

Frackly, we do give a damn, as activists and people of the earth/Earth, and while the struggle may have been lost in the capitalist heartland of the USA, even in that neck of the woods there has been resistance. We don’t need fracking if we ‘go straight to green’. It is quite doable if there is the political will because the provision of the necessary resources will then follow. Fracking is for ever. However if we set up the necessary renewable energy system then we will never need it.

Peace journalism
The concept of ‘Peace journalism’ is an interesting one, not necessarily referring to the kind of ‘peace journalism’ that Nonviolent News is engaged in but rather more a concept of journalism in the mainstream media which takes peace and conflict into account in how it reports and analyses things, aiming not to make things worse and to contribute to mutual understanding. The concept looks like it got a bit of a rough ride at an event in Belfast recently organised by the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at Queen’s University Belfast (about which see news section this issue), see here. This report includes links for audio recordings of some of the inputs. I didn’t manage to get there so I will let you draw your own conclusions (you can use crayons, felt tips, water paints or, if feeling ambitious, acrylics or oils for this....). Though the final comment in the thread in Slugger O’Toole when I visited was “Peace from journalists would be nice at times.”!

- - - - - - - -

So, that’s my tuppence or two cents worth for another year as it is once more into the Christmas season, dear friends, the season of good willy-nilly consumerism but still an opportunity, I hope, to recharge a few batteries (or only for the children’s toys?), to catch up with family and, I hope, yer friends as well. It may seem early but as I won’t have another chance since I won’t be with you again until February, and is my wont, I will take this opportunity to wish you a very peaceful Christmas and a Preposterous New Year. See you again 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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