Billy King: Rites Again, 304

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Here is my pot-pourri for this month, or, given the content, perhaps my veggie hot pot…..[Or is it just you going to pot? – Ed]

Hopefully never taking off……

A considerable part of success in nonviolent action lies in creativity and imagination. Doing things differently, perhaps with humour or verve (not to mention nerve), can be vital. On the other hand repetition (e.g. walk ons at Shannon Airport) can also be symbolic, particularly where the potential cost to participants is high (legal charges lasting for years and the risk of a significant sentence in the case of Shannon walk ons).

But links are important too – what are the buttresses or pillars that hold up a particularly unjust policy? People around the world have been aghast at some of the goings on in British politics and policies, and none more than the dangerous and crazy, human rights destroying policy of exporting asylum seekers to Rwanda where they will be out of sight, out of mind – and probably driven out of their minds by being dumped thousands of miles away by a rich world system of screwing anybody unable to stand up freely for themselves – and a lot of those as well.

Lateral thinking on the ‘pillars of injustice’ front was what came to mind by news that an airline which had contracted to deport people from Britain to Rwanda had withdrawn. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/oct/21/airline-hired-uk-rwanda-deportations-pulls-out-privilege-style?CMP=share_btn_link

In this case, human rights and anti-torture activists, in opposing a woeful British government policy, put pressure not directly on the British government (which might be considered a bit of a lost cause, in more ways than one) but on a firm which had been willing (wiling?) to sell its soul to do the government’s bidding. Taking the anti-deportation case directly to bodies who do business with the firm and and other potential customers has succeeded; the firm realising that being a human rights destroyer was not a good image and likely to be detrimental to the business overall. So they have withdrawn. And hopefully that is a significant undermining of a British government policy that is inhuman, racist and a lot of other things beside.

So think laterally, and think of commercial pressure you can bring.

The home manager

The citizens of the Republic most likely face a referendum in 2023 on Article 41.2 of the Constitution which states “… the state recognises that by her life within the home, woman gives to the state a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.” and “the state shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

There is more to this area than meets the eye. Of course this anachronistic and discriminatory piece in Bunreact na hÉireann should be obliterated and removed. But there are lots of issues herefamily, cultural, economic, human rights, and so on.

The term ‘housewife’ (a term not used in the Constitution) is also anachronistic. In the era of hybrid or remote working, many men are also in the home and it is up to a couple or the household to sort out who does what. Statistically women still do far more work in the home on housekeeping and child care than men but things have been changing even if equality may be some considerable distance away in heterosexual households.

If someone, woman or man – currently more likely to be a woman than a man – decides to stay at home to look after children and manage the home then that can be a Good Thing in terms of the family’s lifestyle and wellbeing. It is likely to lead to less pressure overall, and that can be good for all concerned, because combining paid work and looking after a home can be stressful. There are many tasks to be done about the home, especially with young children, including conveying them to pre-school or school, cleaning, washing, cooking and shopping, organising other eventualities such as doctors visits, play dates, and so on. There is a lot to be done.

Finance is an essential element in this. In many or most families today and in the recent past, if there are two adults then both may need to go ‘out’ to work to survive financially (today ‘out to work’ can mean paid work remotely at home), or they may prefer to do so. On the other hand if children are very young then creche fees may cancel out an adult’s pay. People can make their own decisions about what is possible and feels good for them and their family and it is right that people should have a choice without feeling constrained one way or another by norms and societal expectations. Making a statement in the Constitution about gender roles, except to support and promote gender equality, is inappropriate in 2023, whatever about 1937 (when the Constitution was first enacted). Providing adequate financially accessible support for pre-school children in creches where both parents work is a major issue in the Republic (and also in the North).

Finding a replacement for the term ‘housewife’ which is non-sexist and recognises the role a stay at home parent or a parent who does a significant amount of work in the home is a difficult one and it does not need to be in the Constitution. I would suggest the term ‘home manager’ – because that is what the role entails.

Taoiseach goes ballistic at the plain truth

He was raging. “Taoiseach Micheál Martin has angrily rejected an accusation that the Government is “cynically using Putin’s war to drive a coach and four through Ireland’s neutrality” https://www.irishtimes.com/politics/2022/10/25/it-makes-my-blood-boil-taoiseach-rejects-accusation-the-government-is-using-putins-war-to-address-irelands-neutrality/

Oh no, he would never do that when it is as obvious as anything that is precisely what the three government parties (FF, FG and Greens) are doing and have been doing by both commission and omissionin alliance of course with others in elite circles including in the army and business. I am not saying they don’t want to do ‘right’ for Ukraine according to their views of what is ‘right’.

But hey, they didn’t need the excuse of the Ukraine war to support moving ever closer to EU and NATO militarism through Nice and Lisbon referenda, joining NATO’s so-called ‘Partnership for Peace’, and EU’s PESCO. The Ukraine war has been an added opportunity to get Ireland on board the militarist train.

But Martin let the cat out of the bag (or the missile out of the silo) in going on to say “I made it clear that we’re not joining Nato, that no government decision has been taken. People can have different perspectives on that. I suggest we have a citizen’s assembly in the fullness of time, but not now in the middle of this conflict, this war.” In other words it is clearly on the government agenda to move towards NATO membership and/or full EU-military participation, whatever proves possible; a citizens’ assembly would only be mooted if a change is desired. They just don’t judge the time to be the most opportune at the moment. If there was an open and accessible citizens’ assembly on the issue, as opposed to a government stitch up, then the peace movement and neutrality groups could face that eventuality with confidence as an opportunity to put their case. The political elite currently continually say ‘nothing to see here’ when their role has been to slowly whittle neutrality away until it is totally meaningless..

Frank Aiken, former Fianna Fáil Minister for External (i.e. Foreign) Affairs for 15 years in total in the 1950s and 1960s, and a stalwart campaigner for non-alignment and disarmament, would have something rather strong to say about the turncoat government of today and particularly his own party. How are the mighty peacemakers fallen.

Spicing it up

As some of you may remember [How could we forget?- Ed], I jump into matters culinary from time to time and have a wee publication on veggie and vegan cuisine to my name https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/pamphlets/ on this very site. [No one else would have published it? It sounds like you jumping from the frying pan into the oven – Ed] I am returning to this area of life because a request was made from a relation for suggestions about spicing up their cooking. Now I was wary of teaching my granny to boil a kettle (the vegan equivalent of teaching my granny to suck eggs…) and wanted to suggest fairly straightforward and easy ways to make meals more interesting. I thought it might be worth sharing a shorter and simpler version of what I shared with themsome suggestions are lacto-vegetarian and more are vegan. Bon appetit!

Using condiments: Try different pickles and sauces, perhaps from Asian/Chinese supermarkets; and there are some great Irish pickles and chutneys around that are well worth trying – or make your own;.use grated parmesan (or other grated or dried) cheese to put on top of stews and other food; use fried battered onion to add flavour and crunch on top of dishes (may be much cheaper in larger bags in Asian supermarkets); use nooch (nutritional yeast) as a topping (it is vegan), either plain nutritional yeast or mixed.

To make nooch ‘plant based parmesan equivalent’: Take 100 – 150g raw cashews, sunflowers or other nuts/seeds, 30 – 40g of nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon garlic powder; salt to taste (needs very little, a sprinkle if you like, or none at all). Grind the mixture quite fine and keep in an airtight container, probably in the fridge. I am not sure I particularly like the US English word ‘nooch’ and think I would prefer something like ‘nuteast’ (a shortened word from ‘nutritional yeast’) but nooch it is.

Toppings

– Use mashed potato as a topping to turn a bean. lentil or other dish/stew into “shepherd’s pie”. You can use flavourings in the mash as well as butter and milk (or olive oil and plant based milk) such as wasabi/horseradish.

– Use a crumble topping to turn a bean or vegetable mix into a vegetable crumble. Mix vegetable oil with wholemeal flour until like breadcrumbs but add whatever herbs, curry, cheese, nutritional yeast to flavour and add umami (richness). Cook in oven for c.20 minutes.

– Use breadcrumbs, again with herb or spice flavourings, cheese or nutritional yeast, as a topping on bean or vegetable mixes. Cook in oven for c.15 minutes.

– For a cheap highly nutritious addition to crumble or breadcrumb toppings, add ground linseed (I use a coffee grinder); grinding makes the linseed more digestible. Golden linseed look better than brown but the latter are much cheaper and equally nutritious and look little different when mixed. Whole linseeds are much cheaper to buy than ground.

Accompaniments

– Roasted nuts or toasted seeds make an easy way to add a contrast, different taste (and protein). Lightly cover nuts in oil (a teaspoon or two and mix by hand) and lightly salt as desired; you can use a mixture of cashews and peanuts but cashews in particular can burn very easily so keep an eye on them, 15 minutes is probably plenty in the oven.

– Sunflower seeds can be dry toasted on a heavy pan over a low to medium heat, stirring and shaking frequently to see they don’t burn. When golden brown slope than pan so they bunch up and cover lightly with soya sauce and stir; the soya sauce will dry fast and as the salt is on the outside you get more taste for less sodium.

– Easy ‘sweet and sour’ sauce’; mix together tomato ketchup and half that volume of cider vinegar and less again of soya sauce; add water to double the volume and a small amount of sugar. Heat and add cornflour in water to thicken, stirring well, it will darken as it thickens, add more water if too thick.

And some fairly easy dishes:

Colcannon

Sauté onion and kale (or cabbage) in oil until cooked (you can use uncooked scallions instead of the onion) and mix with mashed potato which has plenty of butter or oil and milk (plant based if desired) added, and seasoning such as black pepper. It’s as Irish as champ.

Vegetable crumble

Sauté chopped veg until nearly cooked. Add parsley sauce or a tin of condensed soup. Top with crumble mix and cook in oven for 20 – 25 minutes.

Sesame fried cabbage

Sauté chopped cabbage or kale in toasted sesame oil and add sesame seeds, add more oil or a little bit of water if starting to burn – cook on medium heat, covered most of the time.

Nan bread pizza

Lightly sauté whatever ingredients you would like for the topping – onion, garlic, chilli, finely cut other veg such as broccoli, peppers etc. Cover nan bread with tomato puree and add sautéed veg on top. Cover with cheese or nutritional yeast/nooch and grill as desired.

Pasta

Add a jar of pesto to cooked pasta along with olives and/or dried tomatoes chopped, possibly tofu cubes, and/or anything else you fancy.

Gram (chick pea) flour

Make savoury pancakes with sieved gram flour (sieve or have lots of lumps) with chopped rosemary and other flavourings (e.g. curry, cajun spice, bouillon) and water. You can add bread soda if desired to help make the pancakes rise/be lighter but just adding water makes the batter, and for vegans – and coeliacs – that is obviously a better batter. Gram flour is also the basis of bhajis and pakoras.

Additions to stews etc: Try different flavourings including wasabi (horseradish), cajun spice and Marmite (yeast extract, other brands may be available); add nutritional yeast (flakes) for umami; try different soup stocks and bouillon powder (but go for ‘Reduced salt’ or ‘Low salt ’versions if you can because others can be very very salty); use coconut milk or (it’s cheaper) creamed coconut (blocks) to give things a different ‘east Asian’ flavour and umami; if roasting potatoes, add a mix of paprika and chilli (or other flavourings such as cajun spice) sprinkled over the oiled potatoes. Or do ‘roasted roots’ (e.g. carrot, parsnip, beetroot, onion as well as potato).

Only slaggin’

I can’t remember what it was in but the late Frank Kelly had an audio skit where he was an Irish reporter for the BBC describing the Irish sport of “slaggin’”. While much of slagging is not in strict accord with nonviolent communication, and can be rude and crude, it depends on the spirit it is offered and the spirit it is received, it can be good natured…..and it is obviously easier to be on the issuing end of slagging than the receiving end. It can be difficult, however, requiring considerable skill, to be a nonviolent slagger. And it can indeed be cruel if the slagee (person being slagged, I think I just invented a word….) takes great offence. However in Frank Kelly’s sport report it is dynamic in that the slagee comes back at the original slagger and so it goes on.

In the following thread referred to there are many instances where someone never wore a garment again after a particularly effective jibe, but there are some brilliantly innovative comments made on the spur of the moment. Indeed slagging seems to be an Irish sport, and that has minuses as well as pluses, though as a sport it is preferable to plain hurling abuse.

However you would want to have a stone sense of humour not to laugh at some of the thread about comments made to people about what they wore (and other comments) at https://twitter.com/janky_jane/status/1426981976142123010?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw Sometimes people have been marked by a nickname for life after one evening or day’s sartorial incident. Many of these tales are shared by the slagee themselves. There are other major questions about Twitter with its recent elongated musky smell [Now that is really slaggin’ – Ed] – that it is likely to become even more tolerant of intolerance and hate speech, but we are not [the royal ‘we’? – Ed] exploring that here.

Not all comments on this thread are perceived sartorial misdemeanors one was about the son of a guy named Con Kearney who got called Chilli. But on clothing:

– “I wore a suit with a matching tie and pocket square to my first day of work at an advertising company (I thought I was going to be in Mad Men I guess) and the staff sent around and signed a communion card for me with a fiver in it.

– “I once wore a silver jacket to college, turned up late for class, said ‘sorry I’m late’, lecturer said, ‘that’s ok’ then waited til I was halfway across the front of the full class before following up with ‘trouble with the spaceship again was it?’. “

– “Early 90s Omagh, bloke comes into the bar wearing a puffa jacket, 120 notes it cost, everyone is mocking him, barman says ‘not sure why you’re mocking him I’ve one of those at home…’ lad getting mocked “See?” Barman continues ‘aye its round the immersion heater’ uproar

– “Back in Dublin after travelling S. America, decked out in a visually assaulting combo of zebra print leggings and tiger pattern knee high boots. Queuing into well known Dublin nightclub that evening was asked “Did you get let out of Dublin zoo or make a break for it yourself?”

Slagging can consist of severe and cruel put downs which are rather unfair to anyone on the receiving end but that is at its most negative. It’s not about slagging as such but put downs when I once get in trouble with someone well known on the peace scene for accompanying their article on affirmation in school situations with a word bubble cartoon. In that the teacher says “Can you give me an example of a ‘put up’ instead of a ‘put down’?” Reply: “How do I ‘put up’ with you?!”. Fair or unfair satire and humour? You judge. To me it was attempt to make the article lighter and therefore more accessible.

One time I felt justified in a bit of slagging was when someone arrived late for a committee where I was the paid secretary. He was an intelligent and useful but verbose participant who was known to arrive late from and/or leave early for another ‘important engagement’. He had just retired but continued his position on the committee concerned. As he came in rather late I said “I’m glad to see retirement hasn’t changed you….”. I got away with it and they didn’t sack me for it either (the sacking came later for other reasons….)

Well, if you are a soap fan you haven’t needed to look further than UK politics in the last couple of months for on the edge of your seat excitement and ‘follow-uppers’. In politics, boring can be good but with a near-billionaire now in charge in the UK, what could go wrong????? The UK economy on the wane isn’t good news for De Nort but as Larry Speight puts it eloquently in this issue, it’s a fairy tale to think the pie can keep getting bigger, and that’s still a fable that most people in most places believe in, including Ireland. When will the reality kick in that redistribution of wealth, along with a different lifestyle, is part of the answer? For a free printable A4 poster on this see https://innatenonviolence.org/wp/posters/ and scroll to “Economic Justice…[EJ]”

In the Northern hemisphere we are now approaching the Real Winter which may not be much fun for many people. So I hope you can stay warm and stay warm-hearted, until we meet again, I know where and I know when (the December issue), I remain, Yours truly, Billy.