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Billy King shares his monthly thoughts -
Bring out the trum pets, bring out the gongs (mine’s an OBE please, ‘OBE’ possibly named after Obi Wan-Kenobi of Star Wars fame), harp on about it, even have a go on the vuvuzelas, that time of year has come again where we present our Adolf Awards, the most prestigious, glamorous, incredibly tacky awards around. The red carpet for the winners is only red because of the blood spilt getting there, literally or figuratively.
Our Adolf Awards, named after the best known non-gentle man of the twentieth century with that first name, are given for conspicuous disservice to peace, human rights, the environment and political advancement in general (and a few other things besides). Ladies and gentlemen, without more ado about nothing, here are our awards for 2011, given for actions and inactions over the last year.
Agent provocateur of the year: Mark ‘Stone’ Kennedy. This British policeman bedded and boarded his way around the British and European environmental movements (including in Germany and Ireland) and was always at the front of the queue with a demand for more militant action. But it would seem that he did learn the error of his ways and, to some extent, jump ship.
Worst domestic policy proposals of the year: It has to be the OFMDFM proposals, emanating from a cobbled together cock-up between the DUP and Sinn Féin, for Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) in the North which was really about none of these things, and seemed to ineffectively advocate an inchoate policy on Lack of Cohesion, Sharing and Integration. Nul points.
Warmonger of the Year A-war-d: Sorry, it has to be Barack-room Obama again for continuing the sorry spectacle that is the Afghan war unabated. He could have made many moves to negotiate a non-violent way out while supporting the Afghan people. He has chosen the, failed, military way.
Inadvertent promotion of feminism Award: Silvio Burlesque-only whose old fashioned MCP (male chauvinist pig) behaviour has continued to remind Italy and the world of the values of feminism and a more progressive approach to relationships and indeed to politics.
Survivor of the year (North): Peter Robinson. Peter Robinson managed to escape relatively unscathed politically, whatever about the personal cost, from the sex and financial scandals which engulfed his wife, Iris – although he lost his Westminster seat at the UK general election. While some of what he did personally raised questions, his perseverance in the face of such a maelstrom won him some admiration - but there is no more talk of the Swish Family Robinson.
Survivor of the year (Republic): Brian Cowen – a survivor until recently, which is quite remarkable. Even if Fianna Fail pulls back some support near the date of the general election in the Republic, as they usually do, it will almost certainly be their worst result since they were formed and entered politics, and Cowen will in any case be nowhere to be seen in the new Dáil. An interesting example of a ship (the Fianna Fail parliamentary party) deciding to go down with their captain, or at least only ditch him properly as Taoiseach when the ship went down, the compromise apparently having been to ditch him as leader of the Fianna Failed tribe. You would assume he is surviving personally by getting out.
Environmental Disaster of the Year: BP for their Gulf of Mexico oil spill, caused by cost-cutting and sloppy work and planning by them and others. Wildlife ended up with oil on its faces and death, BP with a huge dollop of egg on their faces and profits.
Pirates of the year award: The Israeli state and armed forces for their attacks on boats in international waters, especially the Mavi Marmara where they sought to justify their brutal actions by the reaction it engendered through its military style assault; nine people were killed – many shot at close range - and dozens more injured. Somali pirates, you have nothing on this.
Exploiters of the Year: Those who were involved in liberalising food markets, and those who profit from speculating in food prices. You have blood and hunger on your hands as poor people around the world struggle to feed themselves and their families – though drought most likely occasioned by global warming has a role in massive food price rises as well. Another atrocious example of unregulated capitalism.
Unfinished business of the year award (Human Rights): The Saville report found the shooting of 14 unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday in Derry, on 30th January 1972, to be unjustified and unjustifiable. The unfinished business is whether the soldiers who lied and perjured themselves at the time, including to the Widgery ‘enquiry’, will be prosecuted – or, even more unlikely, those who put them in the position they were placed. But, after 38 years, some small justice was done.
Unfinished business of the year award (Environment): The failure to get a climate change act into operation in the Republic before the election, despite the presence of the Green party in a coalition government.
M for Madness Award: The M3 motorway was opened in June, taking the government-approved route through the Tara-Skyrne valley and close to the Hill of Tara, thus providing another illustration of the Irish government’s centralised, ’we know best’ approach to environmental and developmental matters. Ditto Rossport.
The Haven’t Gone Away Award for Northern Ireland Violence: To the loyalist paramilitaries who shot dead Bobby Moffat on the Shankill in May, and the military republicans who continue to want to bomb their way to not get to the negotiating table.
That completes the deliberations from the jury for the Adolf Awards. A roll on the drums – but don’t roll too hard because a) you may break them or b) fall off [Are you trying to drum this joke into us – you used that last year – Ed] [Beat it, loser – Billy]
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At the end of December TV3 had a programme Having a Laugh – Great Irish Comedy TV Moments that I watched. I’m a bit of a divil for an old bit of comedy but the most interesting comment in the whole programme, I thought, was from Tommy Tiernan who said, and I paraphrase from memory, that in Britain there is no word for, or concept of, ‘divilment’. Very interesting as a reflection of Irish and British cultures. So what does ‘divilment’ mean? To me, craic and divarsion with a slight barb or edge, perhaps tomfoolery and practical jokes, or a joke which is partly at someone else’s expense but not too brutal, not out to ‘get’ them, and messing about in a humorous way.
I suppose in terms of origin it comes from ‘devil’ + ‘ment’ and was originally a term which was uniquely negative or derogatory but as time went on it came to mean something lighter, the speaker perhaps having a twinkle in the eye when the word is mentioned. ”Yes, they get up to no good but sure tis only divilment”, i.e. they’re not really bad even if some of what they do might be construed as such, they’re really decent enough, the devilment may be only the exuberance of youth. It is recognition of human nature, recognition of humanity, recognition of the fact that maybe ‘we’ were like that once (or twice and again). Maybe there are other terms in Britain which covers this. But it seems strange to even think of a world that didn’t have ‘divilment’ in it.
And, to finish off, I’ll quote an expression from the Midlands – yes Ireland has a centre rather than just outsides and there is more to that centre than Brian Cowen – “That bates Banagher and Banagher bates the divil”, from the town in Offaly on the banks of the Shannon. Meaning; that is beyond the beyond.
Actually ‘Arctic’, as in the weather before and over Christmas. I hope both you and your water pipes escaped unscathed, what was it, - 18.7° C in Castlederg, and I never thought I’d be cycling about in daytime Belfast at - 7° or - 8°. Pretty wild, and the poor birds had a rough time of it with many wild birds never seen near a suburban garden trying to take shelter there. Whether an absence of sunspot activity means we’re in for a mini-Ice Age, I don’t know but I would emphasise that this doesn’t negate concerns about global warming and its effects.
I did manage to get about on my trusty two-wheeled commuting steed during this time. Taking care to ride slowly, and able to put my feet down on the ground straight away concentrating on the roadway all the time,, if I wobbled once I kept going, if I wobbled twice on the one stretch then I got off and walked for a bit. On one ungritted corner relatively near home, it was literally a spectator sport to watch the cars go sliding by, quite frequently into each other, not very pleasant. Anyway, I managed to ride unscathed.
Then more recently, without any snow but on a cold and frosty morning I went out to the greengrocers on the main road to get marmalade oranges which I had been awaiting. Taking great care cycling on the frosty bits, I had a brief spell on another main road before home, and, wham, went down like a tonne of bricks on black ice on this road where it looked fine. With my body and ego slightly bruised, I was lucky to escape relatively unscathed, the fact that the traffic lights had just changed meant there were no cars coming at any speed to do me damage. It definitely was not a case of wobble and wham, just wham. A woman coming from a neighbouring school came over to check I was OK and not in shock. I took my time at home to check I was all right before venturing out on two wheels again, having taped up a gear change casing which had smashed when I hit the road, and tended to my minor wounds and torn trousers. Not an experience I would like to repeat. Self inflicted this time though unlike my last crash when a car tipped me over.
Is “How to train your dragon” a pacifist/nonviolent film? Discuss. It is interesting to be even able to ask the question and discuss it because usually you’re more likely to be disgusted by the violence showing on the big screen in blockbuster fillums. This is the tale (in a DreamWorks animated film which came out in 2010) of a Viking lad called Hiccup - where most of the Vikings seem to have Scottish accents! - on a far North island who is keen to join in doing his bit of Dragon Slaying, despite the fact that he is small and not very strong. But he does capture a dragon, and not just any old dragon, but he cannot bring himself to kill it. In fact he sees its fear and that makes him identify with it. The rest changes the course of this ‘Viking’ story though he has to go through many trials and tribulations to get the rest of his community to understand the nature of dragons is radically different to how they were thought to be.
Basically dragons and Viking humans each saw themselves as protecting their own kind (that explained dragon attacks) and, treated with kindness and with no threat, dragons also show kindness or tenderness - and a willingness to carry Vikings on their backs as they fly. The film is anthropomorphic (showing animals – in this case imaginary ones – as having human characteristics) and anthropocentric but it does question the idea of warfare for warfare’s sake, and does portray a different way of relating to ‘the other’, and to ‘old enemies’, breaking through received notions of how affairs should be conducted. Whether anyone would extrapolate from ‘Dragons’ to ‘other real world enemies’ as in Iraqis, Afghans etc etc (the West’s list of enemies) is highly debateable however.
The final battle where the Vikings and dragons are on the same side is certainly an argument against it being a ‘pacifist’ film, even if the enemy in this case is a great oppressor. And in typical all-age cartoon style, it generally does not show death or pain, even in the early battle scenes – and the hero comes to consciousness after major bodily trauma not shown to have experienced any pain or suffering which is, frankly, unbelievable except in it being the fairy tale which it is.
But it is ‘How to train your dragon’ and not ‘How to train your dragoon’ so we’ll give it a bit of latitude. Enjoyable enough, it does not drag on, and worth a look if you stumble across it but it seems to be spawning follow ups and franchises, having been successful at the box office – so our final caption might be about ‘How to strain your dragon to the limit’.
Well, that’s me for the first Colm of the New Year, next time I write spring will be beckoning a little, I have seen the snowdrops peeping out in what started out as a very cold winter. A final comment is to revisit my December comments on pondering the universe where I mentioned current estimates of the number of Earth-like planets in our galaxy, and also a bit about our lack of preparedness for meeting Others Out There through our violence and selfishness. The drollest comment I found on all this was in a thread on The Guardian website where Insirgentz said 'Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.' Ho, ho, ho, but it is something to ponder. Anyways, until next month, take care and take care of each other, Billy.
PS If you haven’t seen ‘The Pipe’ on the big screen and have the opportunity to do so, then do so (worth it for the scenery let alone the politics). This is the Risteard O Domhnaill film on Shell at Rossport and community reactions to it all. And if you don’t have the chance for the big screen, or want to see it again, it’s scheduled for TG4 on Wednesday 9th February.
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).