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Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 258: April 2018

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Welcome again. The poor weather in March has been very visible in the garden by the lack of growth but, looking on the bright side, daffodils and other early spring flowers last much better when the weather is cool, they do not ‘go over’ so fast. Always look on the bright side.....except when you can’t.....

It’s the truth I tell you*
We all stretch the truth to suit our purposes, even to gild the lily when we have no need (‘gild the lily’ – trying to make what is already beautiful even more attractive). This is a fairly natural human impulse, to make ourselves look better, or perhaps it may happen out of fear, jealousy, lack of self confidence, or even greed. Occasionally people in the public arena get caught out telling a fib, a downright and outrageous lie, or some superelasticated version of the truth, and there is a short and perhaps slightly humiliating debacle in full view of the media.

However POTUS D Trump takes the game to another level, even another planet. Truth in his view is clearly what suits him to say at any given time. It is impossible to humiliate him for telling a lie because lying comes as naturally to him as breathing. It is part of his being, and sometimes he admits it. So perhaps the fact that Trump made 2,140 false or misleading claims in his first year as president, according to the Washington Post, should come as no surprise. Why, that is under an arithmetic average of six lies a day (but some days when he was golfing he made no false claims!). Come on Donald, see if you can top that in your second year in office. And he probably will.

Mind you, some commentators point out that what is happening on another island close to us, specifically the one between Ireland and the mainland of Europe, in relation to Brexit and its implications, or lack of them, also challenge anyone’s bullshitometer.

*This title phrase can be read in two ways. 1) “It’s the truth, I tell you”, I am insisting it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, my word is my bond. 2) “It is the truth I tell you”, i.e. it is my truth, the truth I want to believe, the truth I want you to hear – no, it may not be the truth but it is what it suits me to project as the truth. Choosing a word we can say that old fashioned (considered to be a) swear word, abbreviated from “God’s truth” and still much used in Australia – “ ‘Struth” or “Strewth”.

It never rains but it pours
‘Four seasons in a day” is common enough on the island of Ireland, the weather being very changeable, and the difference between winter and summer temperatures being much less than in countries not influenced by sticking out into an ocean from whence comes the prevailing wind.. But some detective work has worked out what is reckoned to be a fairly accurate rainfall picture for the last three centuries. If a generation is reckoned to be 25 years then that dates back to our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.

And the verdict about our current situation? To quote Conor Murphy from Maynooth University, “the most recent decade is the wettest in our record. Moreover, the winter of 2015/16 saw extensive flooding across Ireland and the winter of 2013/14 was the stormiest winter on record in the region. These seasons were also the first and second wettest winters in the 305 year series, respectively. However, the wettest winter decade occurred in the 1730s, a period of remarkably persistent westerly winds that carried moisture from the Atlantic.”

This report does not go in to the causes of particular weather incidents and patterns (apart from a volcano in the 18th century) and climate change but I wonder whether we should be afraid or very afraid. I suspect ‘very afraid’.

Trial and error
The recently completed ‘rugby rape trial’ in Belfast has been so fully commented on in both the mass and social media that I will only deal with it briefly. All four defendants, two accused of rape, were found not guilty by the jury after a couple of hours deliberation. But it was a horrendous story with a horrendous court procedure. Demonstrators around the country are quite right to draw attention to unacceptable aspects which would deter any woman from thinking of reporting a rape to the legal authorities. The need for consent and relationship education has also rightly figured in demands.

There are big differences North and South in that in the Republic the defendants would not have been named unless found guilty and the public would have been excluded from the trial, so there would therefore not have been the ‘celebrity’ aspect. But as other commentators have pointed out, there are horrendous aspects for a complainant in the Republic too, e.g. in being forced to give evidence in a confrontational courtroom situation when clearly not fit to do so.

Rape is an insidious crime and the retraumatisation of victims needs to be avoided as much as possible. This has to be much more seriously considered in both jurisdictions. Legal representation for complainants should be routine (this is to be examined in the Republic). There also needs to be protection for the accused in not being identified if found innocent because mud can stick. If trials are conducted fairly but ‘in camera’ (in closed session, the Latin for ‘in a chamber’ and in English therefore including being conducted ‘out of camera shot or public ear’) while in process that should also negate the possibility of inappropriate comments in social media. Clearly there is work to be done and changes in the North may have been, or be, held back by the lack of an Executive at Stormont. The proportion of rape cases which get to court is very small; serious and concerted action is needed to tackle this.

I have only sat on a jury once. It was a rape case where the task of the jury was made relatively easy by the clear evidence available and for the jury it was simply a matter of establishing that we were all agreed on a verdict, which we were. But the effect of a rape can be greatly amplified by how a trial is conducted, and clearly lives on long after the clamour of the trial is over.

Society and the state(s) need to do a lot better.

Irreverent protesters
As someone involved in ‘nonviolent action’ (and training for same) of various kinds for a long time, I am always anxious that public manifestations should communicate effectively – that the form of demonstration is suitable, banners are legible, protesters try to communicate in any way possible with others, and so on. And humour is certainly an important part of it, whether satirising or zany. So the content of the link here isn’t what I would have chosen but it’s amusing enough nevertheless, “The Most Hilarious Signs Ever Brought To Protests”, see

Some of those chosen are just facetious without political comment but others get their comment across admirably, such as “Now you have pissed off Grandma”, and the occasional possibly-unintentional great one such as “God hates flags” (indeeding she does). And being a USA-made selection it didn’t get the reference/relevance of the “Down with this sort of thing” placard being connected to Father Ted. I think you could come up with a much better and more ‘political’ selection of public protest humour (anyone want to try?) - this was obviously put together by someone who wasn’t particularly ‘political’ so it lacks a certain cutting edge, it could have been much more forceful.

Well, that’s me for another month, by the time I write again ‘summer’ will be approaching – and I hope spring has come. As I am never tired of saying, April is on average the driest month in Ireland so often one of the best for outdoor activities, so make hay (metaphorically) while the grass starts to grow.

Anyway, bye for now, 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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