Billy King: Rites Again, 321

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

I get to read Nonviolent News before publication so I can make comments on contents in the same issue [What a privilege! – Ed]. The comment in the editorial about mediation and conciliation seeming to be forgotten in the international arena made me think that they are, collectively, one of the Secrets of the Universe. And that made me think about the cartoon of the guru on the mountain top, looking glum. One acolyte below the guru says to another “He has forgotten the secret of the universe again”. There seem to be a lot of Secrets of the Universe forgotten at the moment….

Elect shun

Well, the nativist far right did make a very few gains of local council seats (from zero) in Ireland in the local elections but nothing compared to what they were hoping, and nowhere near a seat in the EU elections. Now there are some people who claim true Irishness but who don’t remember anything about one of the most essential parts of Irish history in the last number of centuries, emigration.

However I was sad in particular to see Clare Daly voted out from MEP-dom. She has been a fearless advocate of peace and against EU military aggrandizement, as well as being a sensible voice on many other issues. There was a vindictive piece in the Irish Times following her defeat She was continually mocked and abused by the conservative media in Ireland (I would feel the above piece after her defeat was confirmation of this) so it is not surprising that said media can be judged to have had a significant hand in her defeat, or that she reacted as she did.

Meanwhile in de Nort we await the results for 18 seats at Westminster in the British general election on 4th July, using the primeval first-past-the-post voting system. This system does encourage tactical voting – voting for someone you don’t fully support but who has a chance of getting elected in order to deprive someone you definitely do not support winning. Sinn Féin did atrociously – compared to expectations – in both elections (local and EU) south and west of the border but are likely to hold most of their ground in Northern Ireland. How the DUP will fare after a) ‘Sir’ Jeffrey Donaldson’s departure in less than auspicious circumstances, and b) the admission by new DUP leader Gavin Robinson that they overstated their case on the trade barriers or checks Britain/Norn Iron having been removed. But all in all there is plenty for psephologists to get their teeth and calculators into (psephologists study voting and voting patterns, pepsiologists study teeth rot and obesity), North and South, not forgetting east and west.

While there may be one or two surprises in the British general election in the North, there will be no such surprise in Britain itself on the overall result where the Conservative party are on track for one of their worst defeats ever. In the North in general however most people will vote as they usually do, and change comes slowly; the 40-40-20 pattern of the last number of years is likely to be maintained (40% unionist, 40% nationalist/republican, and 20% for the others or less constitutionally-aligned parties).

I had hoped that the Sinners would be the lead party in the next coal-ition (it may not be very green…) government in the Re:Public. This desire on my part wasn’t for their policies on the North – which I thought would be tempered by their partners – but because they might actually stand up for a positive Irish neutrality. However on the recent showing it will be another conservative-conservative deal with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, and the vestiges of neutrality will continue to be sold down the river while FG and FF proclaim no change on it….

Haven’t we heard that before?

Speaking of neutrality, the Oireachtas, well the Seanad, missed the opportunity to prevent arms coming from or passing through Ireland to Israel – this was thanks to a rearguard action by the powers that be not to do anything (full stop). Recognition of Palestine, how are ye. Suspending a decision for 6 months on the matter, and on adequate inspections of planes at Shannon, was a death knell for any measure being of relevance – and maybe a literal death knell for some people in Gaza too.

I just happened to come across a cutting I had taken from the Irish Times of 14/6/06….which mathematicians among you will realise is 18 years ago, i.e. almost two decades: “US military-linked flights may face inspections in Shannon” was the heading which began that “The Government is to reconsider introducing inspections on US military-related flights landing in Shannon after a US marine being held prisoner was transported through the airport without the necessary permission being obtained from the Irish authorities.” The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said he was going to engage with the US Embassy “with a view to strengthening the verification procedures and if that entails inspection so be it.” So, that was then, and nothing happened. Don’t be surprised when nothing happens now or in the future either. Heaven forbid that little Ireland should even look at what the the most powerful military in the world is shipping through Irish territory and skies…..or that it should actually consider what it is using it for, or the fact that simply permitting troops to pass through is directly assisting US hegemony and warmaking.

Mapping it

The randomness of the effects of war and violence never ceases to amaze me. I mean of course the randomness of the victims in the sense that they could be anyone, anywhere, you, me, your granny. There is nothing random however in the planning of the violence, it is often meticulously planned even if who actually dies may be subject to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being in Gaza at the current time is being in the wrong place at the wrong time for everyone; even if you are not injured, killed or dying from lack of medication or food, you face constant fear from there being no safe place available anywhere.

I was drawn back to Tom Weld’s artwork by these thoughts, particularly with parallels between the terrors of the Second World War and today. For me the power of his imagery is in people – living, breathing human beings – being reduced to lines or areas on a map. For me this illustrates the worst aspects of the militarist mindset. However in the current situation in Gaza it seems everywhere is marked for obliteration, not just the carefully marked areas in Tom Weld’s artwork.

Transcending war and violent conflict

Nonviolent News often uses pieces from Transcend Media Service (‘Solutions-oriented Peace Journalism’ is their strapline), indeed there is one in the Readings in Nonviolence slot in this issue. Some of the pieces are very much written from a US point of view, but there is no harm in that, especially given that they come from the belly of the beast, the world’s number one military superpower. If we wanted we could use lots more from that source. If you are interested in the origins of US imperialism, apart of course from the initial colonialism of taking the land in north America, you can read about the 1823 Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed the US hegemonic interest, and intent to control, the northern and southern American continents, in the issue of 24-30 June 2024

The issue of 17-23 June (available at the same link) had a piece about a survey showing “94% of people in the US and 88% in Western Europe want a negotiated settlement to end the war in Ukraine, but NATO opposes a peace proposal made by China and Brazil, and refuses to invite Russia to talks in Switzerland.” And also in that issue Mairead Maguire writes “A mother’s plea for peace” to the people of Gaza. And that is only touching on a tiny amount of their coverage. It is worth keeping in touch with what is online at

Ancient caring in situations of disaster and disability

In common with doubtless the rest of yez, I receive dozens of items of spam and unsolicited ‘news’ daily to my phone or email. Most are relegated to the netherworld without being seen by my eyes. One piece that did get my attention, being interested in history and archaeology (primarily what it says about humankind) was about the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE.

But this study by Steven Tuck was not about those incinerated or overcome by the tidal wave of heat, or fumes and ash, but rather the survivors. There were many people who survived, perhaps a majority of people he concludes, some of whom prospered and others didn’t when they moved, mainly nearby. But some of the conclusions of the piece are worth quoting: “While the survivors resettled and built lives in their new communities, government played a role as well. The emperors in Rome invested heavily in the region, rebuilding properties damaged by the eruption and building new infrastructure for displaced populations, including roads, water systems, amphitheaters and temples. This model for post-disaster recovery can be a lesson for today. The costs of funding the recovery never seems to have been debated. Survivors were not isolated into camps, nor were they forced to live indefinitely in tent cities. There’s no evidence that they encountered discrimination in their new communities.”

How’s about that then. Another very different piece I will refer to here indicates that our cousins the Neanderthals were caring and compassionate to those who could not reciprocate. A severely disabled child with Down’s Syndrome (possibly from a couple of hundred thousand years ago!) survived to the age of six which implies that their mother received lots of help from others. There is no mention of possible support from the Da but that could have been an important part of it too, I don’t know and no one will ever know except those people aeons ago. Caring and sharing is in our DNA – and except for those from Africa we do all literally have Neanderthal DNA in us.

It is my wont at this time of year to quote Christy Moore’s definition of holidays, in his old song Lisdoonvarna, when he says “When summer comes around each year / They come here and we go there’”. I wish you time and space to get your head showered (with Irish rainfall rates that is likely to be literal) but a good break anyway. Summer goes by in a flash [of lightning? – Ed], be good to yourself and each other until I see you again in September, Billy.