INNATE is going twenty years
this year so there may be one or two things happening later
in the year, and maybe some reflections, to mark the occasion.
Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? One minute you're
considering what to call the thing that's coming into being,
the next you're two decades down the road....
Walking to the promised
'Going for a walk' has a pedestrian tone about it (geddit?)
but there are a million and one ways to take a walk. Fast,
middling, slow (a slinge), with purpose and direction, without
these, in the city, the countryside, up hills and mountains,
on walking tracks, on open countryside. As a fundraiser for
voluntary groups, the sponsored walk is a well established
part of our culture, sometimes with additional historical
or cultural connotations as with Afri's famine walk in Co
Mayo, commemorating a real walk by real people in 1849, following
the Great Famine, when many died by the wayside coming back
from their vain search for relief. A political march, which
is merely an organised walk usually culminating in a rally,
is the commonest form of political protest or demonstration.
Alternatively, you can have a one person walk like that done
by our INNATE member Gordon Kelly when he walked right around
Ireland without any money.
There are a whole variety of ways of using the
walk politically. Sometimes peace walks pass through and are
gone like that. The recent 'Footprints for Peace' International
Walk for Disarmament which started in Dublin and came through
to Belfast, and all points inbetween, seemed a very good example
of a group getting prepared beforehand and doing their best
to interact with people as they went. An initial visit was
made more than half a year beforehand, and they followed up
particular links with nuclear-free towns/cities, Mayors for
Peace etc. This particular walk is continuing to wend its
way through Britain having protested at Faslane's nuclear
weapons facility and taking in other nuclear facilities en
route. One of the most amazing political events I have been
involved in, which I've written about before, was a 'slow
march' (almost imperceptibly slow) holding candles towards
dusk at Bishopscourt Radar Base, Co.Down, in the early mid-1980s;
surreal, powerful, human, magnificent.
The pilgrimage is another focused movement which
can be done on foot. Of course the word 'pilgrimage' may imply
a religious motive but there can equally, in the modern era,
be a social, cultural or political motive. It has been used
in Sri Lanka as a means of reconciliation. You would talk
of people going to Elvis Presley's Graceland on a 'pilgrimage',
only slightly tongue in cheek, but that is unlikely to be
done on foot. A slow walk, or even a fast walk which takes
its time getting there, has much more potential for interacting
with people and engaging them in discussion on issues that
matter to the walkers.
There is something impressive in this day and
age about people who eschew motorised transport and go on
foot. There is something humbling and levelling about being
on foot. Everyone is equal on foot (though walking a distance
may be more difficult for some than for others). On foot you
can stop and talk to others with no bother at all. The next
step up the mechanical ladder is of course the bicycle where
you can go much faster than on foot, and therefore cover more
distance, but you can still easily stop to interact with people.
As indicated above, it is possible to put a
foot wrong when organising a political walk. Being footloose
and fancy free is not an option; clear direction and organisation
are needed. But, if the shoe fits, wear it, and we could be
more imaginative in the ways we move under our own steam.
Walking and cycling, forms of propulsion which once seemed
threatened species because of the infernal combustion engine,
are the way of the future; in balance with nature, getting
your exercise and fitness as you go, they are what everywhere
should be designed around, yes, even in cities.
All that remains is for us to put our best foot
Beating about the Bush
One person travelling the wrong way backwards up his.........one
way street is George W Bush who took his contempt for the
international community, and specifically the UN, to new heights,
or depths, with his recent moves on climate change. Not content
with playing a spoiler concerning the existing institutions,
he seeks to get people together under the leadership of the
USA on the issue where, presumably, there will be no urgency
about the US doing anything and an avoidance of the only measure
that counts, i.e. greenhouse gas emissions per capita, in
making judgements and decisions. Yes, China may be coming
up fast behind the US on emissions but then China has more
than four times the population.
The appropriate analogy or metaphor for the
world changing course on this issue is of course the proverbial
oil tanker. Unable to stop or change course in the short term,
a large oil tanker is not very manoeuvrable in the short term,
and if something does suddenly loom up ahead then there could
be a serious crash. As an oil man surrounded by many oil men,
George W Bush should understand this metaphor. Except that
in this case, as best we understand it, the oil tanker is
the world and there are rocks close ahead, the rocks of climate
change are looming up mighty fast, and yet the oil tanker
is making few efforts to stop or change course. And the crash
of climate change could be disastrous for hundreds of millions
of people, making all the efforts for development in Africa,
for example, seem futile and almost irrelevant.
The USA is a great and powerful country with
a vibrant culture. It could have been instrumental in the
struggle for human rights, in the struggles for a decent living
for every man, woman, and child on this globe. It could still
play a powerful role in change. But, with economic clout and
selfish self interest at the heart of its administration,
it has been a prime denier of human rights and a major obstacle
to world progress on diverse issues including the greatest
issue of our time, climate change and global warming. That
is not likely to change in the rest of the current presidency.
Whether, and to what extent, it will change in the period
afterwards remains to be seen. George W Bush believes that
power grows out of a smoking gun, an automobile exhaust, and
humanity's freedom to pollute. It is difficult to come to
a sadder end than that.
Ireland - an island
with a middle
Our news piece about The Local Planet and where it comes from
(Co Offaly) reminds me of a story that comes from the time
of Mustard Seed, a gathering of alternatives held at the Glencree
Centre in Co Wicklow in 1976 which was organised by the SCM
(Student Christian Movement). There were several hundred people
there during the day and I'm sure a hundred and fifty staying,
including in a marquee in the main square (all of this would
be completely contrary to current health, safety and insurance
regulations). The driest, warmest, most spacious place for
yours truly to sleep when I did eventually try to get to bed
was....behind the reception counter, but as I quite like sleeping
under tables [this gets weirder and weirder - Ed] it was admirable.
At a later stage of the conference, to encourage
local networking, everyone divided into their geographical
locations around the island of Ireland - North Coast, North
East, East, Dublin, South East etc. However one attender came
up to the organisers after everyone had started caucus-ing
into their regional groups; they were from the Midlands but
there was no Midlands group announced! Basically the organisers
forgot that Ireland has an interior as well as an exterior.
It is certainly true that in a small island like ours there
is no one more than around 60 miles/100 kms from the sea but
there are a significant number of Irish counties where the
sea is not a relevant factor in life, it does not appear on
the radar so to speak. People in the interior counties do
not identify with the coast; it may be somewhere they visit
from time to time, but it is certainly not part of their identity
in any way. This is easily forgotten with the major cities
- Dublin, Belfast, Derry, Cork, Galway, Limerick - all on
the sea or within a stone's throw of it.
So, a small island we may be but please remember
there is a land-locked heart to it, which also has different
parts to it too......
- - - - - - -
That's me for this month, I hope the early
summer is treating you well. I also hope that you're on the
pushbike these days but I always remind people of Rule No.1
When Cycling in the Summer; keep your mouth closed. There
is nothing worse than being full of the joys of spring as
you waft along under your own power (or that of gravity as
you coast down a hill) - and swallowing an insect at 15 or
20 miles an hour. Unpleasant for all concerned. That's me
until July comes around the bend [I think you're already there
- Ed] and then we're in the real summer - Billy.
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).