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Billy King


Nonviolence News


Billy King

Number 283; October 2020

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Zoom in and Zoom out
Zoom fatigue has been a feature which has developed since lockdown. If you felt guilty about not being able to get to meetings in normal times, what possible excuse have you now that ‘meetings’ happen in your own home courtesy of Zoom or other remote meeting platforms. And not only have you the meetings you are expected to attend, there is the choice of the meetings you might personally want to attend or think about attending, and you can attend anything, anywhere, anytime (given the 24 hours around the world). No wonder people are zoomed out.

This publication wrongly predicted, in the April issue, that there would be generally less news to share in this publication with people under lockdown and Covid restrictions. Things just went online. Obviously some events and manifestations are not happening but they are made up for by people and groups coming up with online meetings and activities. That is good- however not if you feel you haven’t a moment’s rest.

But fear not. Every cloud has a silver and gold lining. Do you want to make your fortune in this current difficult economic environment? I know what you can do. Just run coping and recovery sessions for people who are zoomed out – using Zoom or equivalent platforms of course......

Donald Trump’s positive achievements as US President
Credit where credit is due. 1) Despite considerable verbal belligerence and a) more funding for the military, b) setting up the ‘Space Force’ (which may be illegal in international law in some of its planned mission), and c) continuing Obama’s policy of killing people using drones, Donald Trump has not started any new wars (yet). 2) Despite being arguably the most divisive US president in a century or so, and unleashing racist and right-wing forces within society, he has also galvanised those who are liberal and on the left to fight for a US democracy worth having.

Boris Johnson’s achievements to date as British prime minister






A passage about India
It’s a shame, in so many different ways, that Amnesty International has been forced to leave and stop work in India – only the second country (the other is Russia) where this is the case. Nerandra Modi’s sectarian Hindu Indian nationalist government has made Amnesty’s work there totally impossible – a very sad indictment of a country that has held so much promise for good relations between different ethnic and religious groups – and still holds that promise even if the current reality is far different. Muslims in particular have been having it hard in some areas, and Indian government policies in Kashmir of late have been reprehensible.

The government froze Amnesty International’s bank accounts in India which meant that it had to lay off its workers. Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India said. “The constant harassment by government agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate, is a result of our unequivocal calls for transparency in the government, more recently for accountability of the Delhi police and the government of India regarding the grave human rights violations in Delhi riots and Jammu and Kashmir.“ Amnesty had found that the police in Delhi were violent and helped anti-Muslim rioters. Peaceful protesters are getting jailed while violent anti-Muslim rioters have been left free.

Julie Verhaar, Acting Secretary General of Amnesty International said “It is a dismal day when a country of India’s stature, a rising global power and a member of the UN Human Rights Council, with a constitution which commits to human rights and whose national human rights movements have influenced the world, so brazenly seeks to silence those who pursue accountability and justice. ...”

India is of course the home of Mohandas Gandhi, and while lip service is often paid to him – there and around the world – not many follow his positive examples. Gandhi often fasted, for various reasons, but the commonest cause of his fasting was not about getting the British out, it was to stop and move on from inter-communal violence. Let us hope that affairs there move in a more positive direction very soon but under the current government that is unlikely – and it will also be looking for scapegoats for a bad Covid-19 record to date.

Riding a hobby horse
In relatively modern parlance, to ‘ride a hobby horse’ is a derogatory expression about someone who goes on and on about the same subject or particular interest, ad nauseam. Of course there is such a thing as a hobby horse, perhaps a child’s plaything, a pretend horse with just a head on a stick – intriguingly one online explanation gives an Irish link to the English-language term as it might be named after a now extinct breed of horse from Ireland, the Irish Hobby. Such hobby horses are used in many countries’ folk rituals or dramas, including some in Ireland.

The term hobby horse was also applied to an early 19th century forerunner of the bicycle, basically a primitive balance bike, i.e. it had no pedals or chain. Opinion now seems to favour balance bikes as a step to young children learning to ride a bicycle rather than attaching stabilisers (small wheels either side of the back wheel) since arguably the most important part of learning to ride a bicycle is learning to balance. In my children’s young days we did use stabilisers, which led to frequent family humour when reading ingredients listed on packets, of breakfast cereal or whatever, and seeing ‘stabilisers’ listed.

However after that tangent [Getting your tangent in first – Ed] I am actually going to discuss hobbies. I suppose hobbies were a more important part of leisure time in the past, before television, or million channel television, or Netflix and equivalents, and computer games. If you didn’t have a hobby or read voraciously, or both, you were likely to be b o r e d. Now, so much entertainment is available at a click that you might say there is much less excuse for being bored.

However a human being cannot live on Netflix alone. Sitting in front of a screen for long periods and expecting to be entertained can be mind-numbingly b o r i n g and debilitating after some time. Such media consumption, unless you are going for political analyses, documentaries, art coverage and so on, can also be stultifying; there is no challenge, no invitation to extend your skills and knowledge, no active involvement, just passive reception.

Hobbies have taken a knock in the modern era – which is perhaps why the bottom fell out of prices in stamp collecting (well, that and millions of ‘special issues’) though I am surmising here, or should I just say collectors got licked or the stamp collecting habit didn’t stick?. Stamp collecting still goes on, it wasn’t stamped out. But in the Age of Coronavirus it is perhaps time to fly the flag for hobbies once again. Though I will try to avoid that becoming a hobby horse of mine.

If we are stuck at home, possibly for weeks or months on end, what do we do to keep ourselves entertained? The mind boggling figures for the length of television viewing in lockdown show a lot of passive interaction with a screen, and that is not good for us.

We all have hobbies or potential hobbies. Do you paint or draw? Well, now is your time to take your skills to another level or in a new direction. Do you simply doodle? Well doodling is an art form and could be developed into oodles of things. What are your interests? Music, making things, tinkering with and fixing machines, whatever. What hobbies have you had in the past? Where would you like to extend your skills? A little analysis could set you off on a new life long interest. ‘Flower arranging’ might be considered a bit passé and classist but it is an art form too....and if you have even a small garden or back yard it could produce enough to keep you going a good bit of the year, along with what you can gather in the wild. But then of course gardening is a hobby which can be very productive, florally or vegetably.

And if you already have an established hobby or hobbies then you can develop a new aspect of it, a new project. Or if you have finished with a particular hobby, it might be time to review what you have, pass on anything worthwhile to someone else interested, or, if there is anything of value in what you have, sell it or give it to a charity shop. That is of course if you are fairly certain you are not going to return to pick up the threads of it again (needlework is it? Threads....).

Are ‘interests’ hobbies? Well, I think that depends. If you have a particular interest in wildlife, in botany, in astronomy, or indeed in philosophy, and it is something you particularly enjoy which is not part of your work as such, perhaps it can be labelled a ‘hobby’. Hobbies tend to be thought as something slightly frivolous or self indulgent, and they can be. But they can be an important expression of our personality and, in the current strange environment, a mind saver and life saver, something to jump into and lose ourselves, and then come out of feeling we have not only enjoyed what we have done but have achieved something.

So, don’t knock hobbies and interests. Get yours geared up now for the winter. You won’t regret it. You might even forget Covit and Brexid (see what I did there?) for a little while.......


Well, that is me, coming into October, and while meteorologically it may still be autumn it is when I consider Winter to begin. So stay warm, stay active, stay involved, until we meet again, yours, 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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