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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 260: June 2018

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts Welcome again friends, hasn’t the weather been wonderful of late. As they say, make hay while the sun shines because this might just be the summer. Growth in the garden has been catching up on the slow spring. The typical Irish summer is well summarised in Colum Sands’ song ‘The Marching Season’, about parading in Norn Iron, that ‘the marching season’ is “somewhere inside of where summer should be.”

And it is also good to see in the news section of this issue that Corrymeela is not Ruth-less, but I guess many people knew that anyway.

Counter feat
Isn’t it interesting what people will do to make a few bob, though literally in this case they were trying to coin it. I am talking about counterfeiting coinage. As a lapsed numismatist (coin collector) I take an interest in such things. I received a € 20c piece recently which looks counterfeited to me; the colour of metal is wrong, the detail is poor and there is a raised part which while not impossible is unlikely in an official modern minting process, and there is also an indication that one of the indentations on the edge (which are meant to be there) may not have been part of normal minting. It’s a Dutch 20c piece. Acid could have done some of the work to make it different but my conclusion given all the features mentioned is that it is counterfeited.

You would want to be able to get rid of a lot of 20c pieces to make the counterfeiting process worth it but evidently somebody decided to work for their (illicit) money, and perhaps people don’t look too closely at a humble 20c piece so they are easy to pass off, or, if they are the right weight as well as size, just the job for parking meters and pay machine slots in general. Perhaps you have to look at both sides of the coin – and think of it as unofficial quantitative easing. Heads or tails it’s a win-win situation for the forger.

It is worth something more than 20c but the previous UK £1 piece removed from circulation in the last year (October 2017) was heavily counterfeited; they reckoned up to a couple of percent of the coins were illegally made. With a new two metal UK one pound coin (similar in structure to the €1 coin though the UK £1 is 12-sided) and other security features proclaimed it is now somewhat more difficult to do your own minting of this denomination. Coins with two contrasting metals are not a new idea: while not issued, there was a trial model penny in bronze with a small silver inset early in Queen Victoria’s reign in the UK, much much smaller than the penny circulating then so it would have been kinder on pockets and purses.

Mind you counterfeiting is nothing new. I have had in my possession a counterfeited ‘Gunmoney’ half crown of King James II from 1689. Intriguing but worthless. During the war between James and William and their forces in Ireland, James’ side minted ‘Gunmoney’ from base metals which, uniquely, had the month as well as year on them. The intention was that when James won (!) the Gunmoney coins would be redeemed in silver coinage, month by month. When James’ side lost they were discounted to 1/12 of their face value (a shilling became worth a penny). I suppose the fact that relatively high value coins were being minted in base metals was an enticing prospect for counterfeiters at the time and the chaos of wartime gave an opportunity for them to exercise and pass off their skills. Someone was clearly loyal to the half crown at a time when there were two crowns to choose from. Where there is brass there is muck. Coming soon: How to make a mint, it’s time for change.

Islands in the sun
A recent visit to Clare Island in Co Mayo set me thinking about islands, literally and metaphorically. I have been on around half a dozen Irish offshore islands and each brings up different memories. There was the craic in a group heading out to Rathlin (Co Antrim) and the sense of history there, disputed between Ireland and Scotland, along with hexagonal basalt columns like at the Giant’s Causeway. The short lived economic prosperity and wonderful wild flowers on Rutland Island (Co Donegal, a k a Inishmacadurn/Inis Mhic an Doirn). An amazing and exceedingly late sunset on Achill (Co Mayo) – though whether Achill counts as an island these days being linked by bridge is a good question. The sense of Irish culture on Inis Mór (Co Galway), plus thoughts about JM Synge’s takes on the Aran Islands – and the reactions that engendered – as well as the feeling of a people slowly falling off the edge of the world at Dún Aengus/Aonghasa. The gentle nature of Fota Island (Co Cork); though again there is the question whether to count it as an ‘Island’.

The visit to Clare Island amazed me as to how the medieval wall (ceiling) paintings in ‘the Abbey’ survived at all given what they went through. But sitting looking back at the mainland with the evening sun shining on Croagh Patrick (possibly a ‘holy’ mountain for 5,000 years) and the other hills or mountains along the coast was magical. You can’t be assured of sunshine on the islands of Ireland any more than on the mainland but when it does shine it is special – and still special in the rain. While a ‘mainland’ experience, another magic memory is walking down a limestone hill, Black Head in the Burren (Co Clare) watching the sun shining on the Aran Islands with dolphins jumping in Galway Bay. [When do you get paid your commission by Bord Failte? – Ed]

“No man is an island” opined John Donne:
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.....”

Or in modern English “No one is an island”. This is very true; we are all connected and dependent on others, as they may be to us.
But the reverse is also true. Everyone is or should be an island. As well as connection, we need time to reflect, to be ourselves, to look at the ‘mainland’ of existence from a distance. ‘Islands’ do not necessarily imply isolation, although they may – getting to or onto Skellig Michael/Sceilig Mhichíl is not an easy task. However, particularly in the past when communication and travel over land was much more difficult than it is now, the sea and water can actually unite rather than divide and separate. So then “Everyone is an island / Linked to the main”.

Travel broadens the...
There are different kinds of travelling, at home or abroad. There is travel that broadens the mind because of interaction, fascination or wonder, learning and positive inquisitousness, and then there is consumerist travel ‘which broadens the arse’. I don’t mean to be condescending or to imply that I would only ever be part of the former, but there is a fundamental difference although any one trip can be a mixture of the two, and the travel industry is such a behemoth that it is difficult to avoid the latter entirely.
Obviously much travelling is for holidays. Around this time of year I usually quote Christy Moore and his (‘Lisdoonvarna’) unbeatable definition of holidays: “When summer comes around each year / They come here and we go there”. But there are other reasons to travel – for work or business, simply to get from A to B, to learn about other cultures, for research, to learn a language, enjoy new experiences and culinary delights, and so on. Promoting peace or international understanding might seem a lofty ideal but individuals can actually ‘DIY’ through the right kind of travelling.
A great example of travelling with a purpose is in Peter Emerson’s blog at concerning his journey from Belfast to Beijing, interacting with all sorts of people and, as opportunities arise, promoting consensus voting He has been travelling on and off, with bicycle, for centuries (well, this century and last) and his blog illustrates the level of interaction with local people possible if you are open to it and is just fascinating. Try the blog and if you like the style you will have an eventful journey through cultures, politics, peace and majoritarianism.

I am not an anarchist though I would certainly have some subtle tendencies that way politically in terms of supporting the maximum cooperation with the minimum centralised control. However I am too much of a socialist to go completely that direction. What does annoy me greatly though is the term ‘anarchy’ used in a pejorative sense to imply ‘chaos’ when it simply means “without rulers”. Please use ‘chaos’ when you mean chaos.

Anarchism is a political philosophy or range of philosophies, including anarcho-pacifism. However when people think of ‘anarchists’ they tend to think of bandana-mask wearing guys trying to thrash everything in their way during a G8 or G7 (as it became when Russia was subtracted) summit somewhere; this is a poor reflection of anarchism in general even if those concerned all define themselves as anarchists which they may not. The prominence of such images is also a feature of the media looking for something violent and ‘shocking’ to report when they have nothing else exciting to portray. People don’t tend to think of the political and pro-cooperative work done by anarchists, and anarchists do not necessarily reject the concept of public administration or services.

This also allows me to end with what is now an ancient joke which you have almost certainly heard umpteen times before, think of this as a reminder: Why do anarchists only drink herbal tea? Because property is theft (Proudhon). [You have got that one off down to a ‘T’. Regarding old political jokes perhaps I can trump you with ‘Be alert – this country needs lerts’ – Ed].

Well, that’s my spake over and I will see you again in another month, until then – and even after then – I wish you the best, Billy. PS This may be the longest issue of Nonviolent News ever, I’m not sure, but the editor assures me it will get shorter again, particularly after the Editorial Essay series finishes – just as well, I don’t want to end up on page 95.....

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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