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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 227: March 2015

[Return to related Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

What’s in a word?
In Ireland, and especially in relation to Northern Ireland, we should know that the past casts a long shadow. In the words of an INNATE poster on dealing with the past (there are four) the past is not water under the bridge, it’s water filling a reservoir.

There was a fascinating article on the BBC website recently about the 1860 British destruction of the most beautiful of Chinese palaces, the old Summer Palace in Beijing. “The army was sent towards the end of the Opium Wars to force Chinese imperial rulers to open up their country further to Western trade and influence” = to enable the British to continue to benefit from the drugs trade. The palace was plundered by the British and then, after some British deaths, destroyed, and much of the loot ended up back in Britain. It remains a big issue for China.

“British military museums have many items....At the Royal Engineers' museum in Kent deputy curator James Scott showed me a beautiful jade ornament brought back from the 1860 campaign.....Labelling these items is a sensitive matter. "We don't actually mention the word loot at all. We try to keep the interpretation as neutral as possible," says Scott.” Neutral????!!!! That’s not neutrality. That’s avoidance of the truth through using euphemisms and ‘official’ type language. The present Lord Elgin, of the same family that looted the ‘Elgin marbles’ from Greece, had an ancestor who was involved. Asked whether he thought the art should be returned to China, he said “ "It's a very good arguing point" ....But "the beauty of something is inherent in it wherever it happens to be"......"These things happen," he says of the 1860 events. "It's important to go ahead, rather than look back all the time." Ho, ho, ho, he would say that, wouldn’t he. And so, looting and pillage becomes conservation and cultural heritage.

There may be a limitation of who can apologise for what in terms of colonialism and its effects, but where there are very concrete relics of that colonialism, and the possibility of returning them safely, then this should happen.

V & V (10): The spice drawer and herb garden
Continuing our series on veggie and vegan cooking, we come to one of the hearts of the matter. The availability of a varied herb and spice supply is an important part of any cooking but especially so for vegetarian cookery. Variety is the spice of life and spice is one of the great varieties of life.

Many spices can be bought in larger quantities in bags, or even small quantities in bags, rather than in the small supermarket tubes of spice which tend to be expensive. Look out in Asian, other ‘ethnic’, or wholefood stores for bagged spices and herbs. I would even buy some spices which I use very regularly in 400g bags but it is false economy to buy loads of a herb or spice which you use rarely – it is likely going to go off or lose flavour before you are a quarter way through. There is a judgement call to be made about how much you are likely to use. Having bought spices and herbs in bags I put some into an appropriate sized jar for our spice drawer, and the rest get stored together in an airtight container out of the way (on top of a cupboard, to be brought down when the supply gets low). You do need to use labels for your self-filled jars – you may think when you put it in “I’ll remember that is chilli’, but mistaking your chilli for paprika is not a mistake you want to make, and you may forget what lesser used herbs or spices are.

I use two generic curry powders (‘Mild’ and ‘Hot’) as well as ground cumin, coriander etc. However there is a big difference in using freshly ground spices and where a recipe advises grinding whole spices I would certainly try to go with that. I would have whole spices such as cumin, coriander, black peppercorn, mustard seeds, cardamom, cloves, in our spice drawer. I use a coffee grinder for grinding spices – small coffee grinders can be bought relatively inexpensively but if using it to grind spices then wipe it out thoroughly before grinding coffee in it the next time unless you want spicy coffee!

It is not a spice but vegetable cubes or bouillon are a very handy product in the kitchen. But beware; even ‘low salt’ bouillon may be up to 10% salt, so use sparingly and if using then you are unlikely to need other added salt. It is to be recommended that you also save your own vegetable water for use in soups, stews etc; leave in the pot to cool, or pour into a container to cool before keeping in the fridge for under a week, and you can add in other vegetable water. I usually use this in soups which tend to get made at the weekend, and anything left from the previous week I tend to throw out after the weekend or you end up with lots of containers of leftover vegetable water which will never be used or go off.

Dried herbs are great but fresh herbs can be grown by anyone, almost anywhere. The extent to which this is possible depends on your personal circumstances. This can vary from shop bought basil or parsley which is grown on a window sill through to a whole herb garden. Even with just window boxes or a few tubs you can grow a worthwhile amount of herbs; what you grow will depend on your own personal space and choice.

I grow basil indoors because slugs like it as much as I do and trying to protect it outdoors is a waste of time, I find – you may discover differently. I use tofu containers, one inside the other, the inner one with holes on the bottom for drainage. Fresh herbs I would grow include basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, lovage, mint, chives (an early and a later variety), garlic chives, and welsh onions (used like chives, the stems are more like scallions). Even if you only have window boxes or tubs you could also experiment with growing radishes or rocket. Basil, as mentioned, I grow indoors, and my thyme, lovage, parsley and mint are also either all or partly in tubs or window boxes which, despite their name, don’t have to be placed on window sills!. Mint spreads very easily (close to the surface) so growing it encompassed in some way is probably a good idea anyway.

Experimentation is the name of the game as to what works for you as well, of course, as to what herbs you particularly like. If using potting compost, or even ordinary soil, you are going to need to feed it, and non-oil based fertilisers are available if you search for them, e.g. from the Organic Centre at Rossinver in Leitrim In the outdoors there is no substitute for your own made compost but you don’t want to be using that indoors unless you want worms and insects indoors too – at least this applies in the house if not necessarily in a greenhouse.

Perpetual war
I believe that the UK is the European state most likely to be at war, and I have dealt with British warring before. But did you know that, according to at least one analysis and depending on your definition of ‘war’, the USA has been at war 214 years out of 235 calendar years of existence? See here and the info repeated in here (it may be worth opening the latter for the accompanying illustration alone). In other words it has only been ‘at peace’ for 21 years since it was founded.

The analysis also states that there has been no fully ‘peacetime’ President of the USA and there has never been a decade without war. In the nineteenth century many of the wars were internal, against native Americans. But even at this time there are some surprises: “1867 – Texas-Indian Wars, Long Walk of the Navajo, Apache Wars, Skirmish between 1st Cavalry and Indians, Snake War, Utah’s Black Hawk War, Red Cloud’s War, Comanche Wars, Franklin County War, U.S. troops occupy Nicaragua and attack Taiwan.” Nicaragua the US considered in its own backyard, not that that justifies war, but Taiwan? The Monroe Doctrine (1823) opposed further European involvement in the Americas and, as Wikipedia usefully points out, also had the aim “that the United States could exert its own influence undisturbed.” Clearly the Monroe Doctrine decided to go walkabout in the case of Taiwan as the US geared up for global intervention. And the list proclaims that it omits many covert wars. The first site above also has some great contrasts, like the US accusing the Muslim world of being warmongering: “Islam is inherently more violent than other religions. This is the Supreme Islamophobic Myth. Yes, there are other core beliefs of Islamophobia (Islam is sexist, oppressive, discriminatory, the list goes on…), but nothing is more critical to anti-Muslim bigots than associating Islam with violence, war, and terrorism. This, in turn, is used to justify bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim countries – what I call the Supreme Islamophobic Crime. We see this quite clearly in the jingoistic rhetoric against Iran, a Muslim country that is portrayed as being inherently violent and warlike. This is then flipped around, using the argument that we must attack them before they attack us. Yet, this is a Myth – the Mother of all Myths. It is the United States that has been waging wars of aggression, not Iran.” This piece goes on to point out that the last time Iran invaded a country was 1795.


That’s me for now. Spring is just about here though March can have a wintry sting in the tale. Time to sow some more of those seeds indoors, I did sow basil there a week ago though, and that needs sown a few times in the year. 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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