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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 244: November 2016

[Returned to related issued on Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts –

Well, here we are in November and the dreaded 'C' word is going to be making an appearance this month. It's not that I object to the festive season per se – I really enjoy it when I get there - though overconsumption and overpurchasing, and resultant debt for some people, is not something at all positive. There are of course all sorts of possibilities for limiting that consumption including spending limits and 'Secret Santas' (one gift only for each person within a family or group). Offering 'service gifts' or innovative green products – something to grow, for example, is another way to go. Larry Speight has previously written about it in this publication, reproduced in the INNATE 'Eco Echoes' pamphlet – go to here and page 32.

A retirement project
Retirement from paid employment is, ahem, getting closer for myself, but it is obvious that when people have 'the health', many people are as busy or busier in retirement than during their working years, including attending to family matters like looking after grandchildren and perhaps voluntary work of one sort or another. However raising the retirement age seems unfair if not downright dangerous for some occupations including those that involve hard manual labour or surgical skills (the latter for the danger to patients!). However giving people choices does seem to be A Good Thing.

I wanted to give you one example of what someone has been getting up to in retirement (and Ireland has a similar figure in Colm Roddy who is 74 and involved in a walk on at Shannon Warport this year, as well, of course, as Margaretta D'Arcy who has had a couple of forays at the same venue). My example is taken from the newsletter of the Non-Violent Resistance Network of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Produced by David Polden (who can be contacted at ) this newsletter contains fascinating information and details of nonviolent action against war and related issues, especially in Britain but also including some international information.

The item I am referring to was headed "How to stop a nuclear convoy – twice!" and concerns 77-year old retired teacher, Brian Quail from Scotland. "You wait at a Pelican Crossing in Balloch, near Stirling for the many-vehiculed nuclear convoy carrying at least four 1000 kiloton refurbished nuclear warheads from Burghfield, Berkshire to Faslane, Scotland to pass.. At the opportune moment you push the stop button and the convoy politely then cross into the road and lie in front of the lead vehicle preventing the convoy moving off until police can be summoned to remove you..." This happened in March 2016.

"On September 16th you carry out a similar action at Raploch, also near Stirling. This time, instead of relying on the convoy stopping for a pelican crossing, you and a colleague, Alistair Ibbotson, simply flag the lead truck down and crawl underneath it, holding the convoy up for 15 minutes while a number of police spend a considerable time working out how to remove you."

Sounds like the kind of retirement project we should all be supporting.

Brexit and Colombia
The UK Brexit vote and the peace agreement vote in Colombia are absolutely brilliant examples of how not to do decision making. OK, I disagree with the decisions in both cases but my quibble here is how the question was put to people and that this was woefully inadequate. In the UK referendum, the 'nos' - largely older people deciding on a future different to younger people who wanted predominantly to stay with the EU – were supporting a range of things including of course anti-immigration policies, and for many it was a protest against being ignored by government and suffering from the austerity policies of the last couple of governments.

Some who voted 'no' to the EU never expected to win, and might not have actually voted to leave if they did think the 'no' cause would win, but perhaps expected a better deal for Britain than what David Cameron negotiated. However the decision has taken on a sacrosanct status in the minds of Theresa May and the right in Britain (and the DUP in Norn Iron). And also in Colombia, some of those voting 'no' didn't expect to win but felt the deal was too lenient on FARC and those who resisted the state militarily; we have been in the same situation in Northern Ireland.

However relevant here are the words of the well known quote which appears as an INNATE poster, Edwin Markham's "He drew a circle that shut me out - / Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout / But love and I had the wit to win / We drew a circle and took him in!" You get rid of enemies by turning them into friends; trying to hunt them down and destroy them makes more enemies.

I would be more hopeful of positive outcomes in Colombia because there is massive support for a comprehensive agreement even if it failed at this hurdle, women's groups are campaigning hard, the 'no' vote has galvanised many people, and I believe they will get there. The uncertainty caused by the UK Brexit vote is another matter, leaving aside any repercussions for Ireland – which are enormous. It is not surprising that many felt deprived and ignored by austerity policies within the UK, but the Little Englander mentality (posing as favouring the forming of global economic links, rather more difficult than some people imagine – particularly in the absence of the British empire!) is a toxic one which may haunt Britain for years to come.

On voting and how to ask questions in referendums, you need to go no further than the de Borda Institute in Belfast which favours a process of debate about a number of options (chosen through the process) which would be put to the people to establish as near as possible to a consensus, or combining a couple of the most favoured positions. In the era of the Brexit vote, the rejection of the Colombian peace deal, and the race for the White House between a man with the emotional age of a not very well developed ten year old (though stating this is an insult to ten years olds everywhere) and a woman who is part of a pro-military establishment, well, a different method of voting and decision making was never as appealing. See

Onlookers and pioneers
I came across it in the context of looking at greening business, in fact in a book entitled 'Good Green Guide for Small Businesses' (Impetus Consulting for Bloomsbury). I didn't feel I learnt that much from the book, maybe because I felt it covered information I was already fairly familiar with. However it referred to research which the British Guardian group had either commissioned or published on the approach of the general population to green issues. And I thought this was worth referring to, and extrapolating from.

The population at large was divided into five types of people - percentages given are the proportions of them in the UK but most countries are probably fairly similar, give or take, on different social and political issues; Onlookers (26%), Conveniently conscious (35%), Positive choosers (31%), Vocal activists (4%) and Principled pioneers (4%). The terminology is fairly self explanatory.

My extrapolation is to think of 'our' people, wherever we are, in terms of similar kinds of breakdown. If we are working for peace, justice, human rights, ecology etc, do we lump the whole population together? Or do we consider what might appeal to the 'conveniently conscious' or the 'positive choosers'? Some people may be 'well disposed' to the cause we carry but what would make them take that little bit extra of a step – to get involved or to do this or that?

There is always the danger that, when talking about people in the abstract, we can stereotype people and using this kind of analysis can still fall into that trap; we have to be aware that the 'Onlookers' or indeed the 'Principled pioneers' can be where they are for many different reasons and based on many different experiences which we don't know about, including different expectations about the future. But this kind of breakdown could help us to design information which is geared to target different people though obviously then we need to produce different kinds of information unless, unlikely, we want only the one category from above.

A slightly related but useful self-analysis tool, and analysis for different political approaches is Bill Moyer's 'Four roles of activism' where the population is divided into Citizen, Reformer, Rebel and Change agent (some people use different terms for these roles). A word search will throw up plenty on this including Turning the Tide in Britain and Andreas Specks' good generic presentation of the four roles at It is important to realise that we can be in different positions or roles here depending on the issue. And the question is also what will turn a 'Citizen' who believes everything he is told into a 'Change agent' who wants to be effective in striving for just that; how can we help people to 'move on'?

Plenty to ponder there and use in our work.

- - - - - -

That's me for now, as winter is a-comin' in. 2016 isn't as yet a thing of the past but it soon will be. However I will have some more thoughts to share with you next month before that happens, slán go fóill/see you, 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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