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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 233: October 2015

[Returned to related issued on Nonviolence News]

Well, you can feel the real winter coming on though every season has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on who you are and what you do. This October, for the time of year that is in it, was quite a good month generally, with pleasant days and flowers busy flowering. April has been the other good month for the time of year, this year. Of course April and October bookend the time of year which should feel ‘better’......

One good piece of news during the month was Rathlin Energy frackers departing the North coast. OK, the price of fuel (how about a new slogan opposing fracking, “Don’t be fuelled”) had much to do with it but strong opposition must have helped their departure. Well done to the activists on the North coast, and all those taking a stand on the issue.

I must admit, although I am usually a cyclist and only occasionally a motorist, to being fascinated by personalised number plates in Norn Iron, and by the people who choose to have them (and perhaps pay through the nose to get them). In the Republic there is really no such thing; you might try to get a low number registration for your half year and county or city, but you can’t purchase a special one which indicates your name or some other feature. The format in the Republic of “152 XX 1234” (the first two digits being the year, ‘1’ or ‘2’ following indicating the first or second half of the year, and the final numerals the number within this) actually makes for a fairly easily remembered system as the ‘XX’ county system (‘D’ for Dublin, ‘C’ for Cork, ‘OY’ for Offaly) is easy to remember since you have a geographical fix instantly. It is thus more useful or utilitarian. It reminds me of talking to two middle-aged English women travelling via Dublin to expressed amazement at so many German cars in Dublin (having thought ‘D’ stood for Deutschland!).

The UK has gone a bit of the way down the US path with a market in special number plates (though you can’t choose to make up one) and much imagination going in to using numerals as letters to spell out a name or such. If you are a towing company, having a ‘TOW’ reg probably makes some business sense. Beyond the commercial use, however, I wonder where personalisation ends and vanity begins. But I must question the wisdom of the gent I saw in Belfast recently with an “EEJ1T” number plate; is he saying ‘I’ am an eejit (slightly slang Irish English use of the word ‘idiot’), he is an eejit, the situation is eejiotic, or what? He certainly stands out with a remark-able number plate but would I want that one – no.

And there is also a virtue in anonymity. Take the example of a then neighbour years ago who got done (second offence) for dealing in steroids, he was exporting it as ‘hair restorer’. He had the ready cash and got off with a hefty fine when he might have done time. But he drove around the place in a bright yellow top class motor with a personalised number plate indicating his name. If you were up to illegal activities like selling dangerous drugs (which steroids are), would you drive around in a yellow, top of the range car with a personalised number plate? Not if you had any sense. No, I am afraid there is a virtue in anonymity and I would go for that, even if I wasn’t breaking the law.

Nukes are puke
Janet Fenton of Scottish CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) was recently on a speaking tour of Ireland, sponsored primarily by PANA in cooperation with other groups, including INNATE in Belfast. It is certainly an interesting time regarding nuclear disarmament in the British context not only with Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour Party but also the Tory party – and others – gunning (sick) for Trident replacement.

While she was in Belfast, Janet Fenton and Roger Cole of PANA were interviewed for NVTV, the (excellent) Belfast community TV station; it is a six minute slot and can be seen by going to Focal Point back catalogue , then to Thursday 8th October, and finally forward to 13.58 (to 20.00). Coincidentally Larry Speight writes in his column in this issue about nuclear weapons and the lack of emotional imagination on the part of those wishing to retain them; it is a sad reflection on part of humanity but certainly it is difficult to disagree with this analysis. And the Readings in Nonviolence piece is about Canada and Hiroshima.

The point made by Janet Fenton, and Scottish CND, is that if Scottish independence came in the near future and this meant that Faslane and Coulport (the nuclear weapon storage facility close by) closed, then that would be the end of Britain’s nuclear weapons system because the UK (or in that case DUK, DisUnited Kingdom) government would not have time to come up with an alternative location. The argument here is that when they discovered that the world didn’t fall in, they wouldn’t proceed with other plans for basing a new nuclear weapons system in England, or, dare we mention, Norn Iron. Placing nuclear weapons in Northern Ireland sounds like A Very Bad Idea for a number of reasons, not least the possibility of a facility being attacked by people from within, let alone people from without. Come to think of it, it’s a very bad idea anywhere else too – though at the Belfast meeting someone had heard that the Carrickfergus Salt Mines had been investigated as a possible storage location.

A couple of other points. In the NVTV interview, Janet Fenton points out that Northern Ireland is at risk more than anywhere else in the UK apart from Scotland because of the path the nuclear submarines take close to the Irish coast. That’s something to make you rest easy in your bed, huh.

Another of the points dealt with at the Belfast meeting, not a new point but re-emphasised, was that the British nuclear weapons system is not ‘independent’, it is in fact totally dependent on the USA; see e.g. David Morrison’s paper. So this magnificent symbol of British power in the world is actually a load of rubbish, and another illustration of its subservience to the political will of the USA. So speaking of Trident and Trident replacement as a symbol of British military power is actually a very profound lie, but one that many British politicians wish to believe.

It is hoped to get Norn Iron CND back off the ground in the near future; I’m not sure how much it existed in the ‘60s though when peace activist Roger Green rowed around a British warship at Bangor in 1967 flying a CND flag he got pelted with potatoes; in the ‘eighties NICND was very active, and hopefully it will be campaigning again in the ‘teens. For the Irish CND website Click here.

My name is Lisa Kalvelage
There are many powerful Pete Seeger songs but one that stands out for me is based on the testimony of a US woman of German origin, Lisa Kalvelage, when she was on trial for a nonviolent action against the USA’s war on Vietnam in the 1960s. And I deliberately say ‘war on Vietnam’ rather than ‘war in Vietnam’ because if the US had permitted free elections in 1953, when France as the colonial power was withdrawing, there would have been no Vietnam war following that with its carnage and slaughter, no mass massacres in Cambodia, and no Pol Pot. Vietnam would have been a unified country at that stage, and stayed that way, and the region would not have passed through the further disaster that it did.

You can find different versions of the song online (YouTube) and I would recommend Ani DiFranco’s version but some of the words are a bit indistinct so you might want to listen to Pete Seeger’s own version first. “My name is Lisa Kalvelage / I was born in Nuremburg / In the years that Hitler ruled our state.” She later fell in love with a US soldier, and, in order to become a ‘GI bride’ and emigrate to the States, she had to undergo an interview. She had been only a child or teenager in the Hitler years and felt that holding a whole nation guilty for the horrors of war was too much. A US consular official decided she had not learnt a lesson about (collective) responsibility and she was denied an exit visa. So she was forced to think on these things. Eventually she did get to go to the States and was asked hundreds of times what she did during the Nazi era and where her parents were, what did her mother do.

She decided to take action opposing the Vietnam war, on the basis of collective responsibility and that ‘once in a lifetime’ was enough to be asked ‘where was your mother when....?” It’s a powerful statement of learning, and of opposition to death, destruction and evil. It’s also a powerful statement about hypocrisy, in this case that of the USA – though most nation states can do the same thing, though a, or the, world superpower, the USA is particularly adept at it. They talk about democracy, human rights, responsibility and then institute a policy which leads to tyranny, terror and horror.

Lisa Kalvelage died aged 85 in 2009; for an obit which recounts that she “is best remembered in a song by legendary folk singer Pete Seeger that she inspired Click here. "My Name is Lisa Kalvelage" evolved from her 1966 act of civil disobedience, when Kalvelage and three other housewives parked themselves in front of a forklift loading shipments of napalm bombs headed from Alviso to Vietnam. Donning Sunday dresses, gloves and heels, the quartet entered the storage yard by climbing a fence, an act that would lead them to the county jail, where they were strip-searched and deloused.” But she was a long time peace activist and quite a character.

I have heard a man from Costa Rica also share how he, and others in Central and Latin America, were influenced and conscientised by US propaganda for democracy during the Second World War (issued as part of the struggle against Nazi Germany). But the policy in which the USA was engaged in its own ‘backyard’ (as it saw it) was of support for right-wing dictatorships and the overthrow of democracies and any regime which threatened the USA and its economic interests. The overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile in 1973 was the first ‘9/11’ (11th September 1973), achieved with active US support. US policy in that part of the world tends to be more subtle these days, using its economic might – and the results can still be catastrophic, but in other places (e.g. Iraq) it has been the same old, same old story.


That’s me for now, stay warm, get warm by moving fast on your feet or bicycle (not least to the climate demos on 29th November), and I’ll see you again when December appears which means that The End is Nigh, the end of 2015 that is, along with a certain religious and secular festival which I will not dare or deign to mention by name at this stage, 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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