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Billy King

Number 264: November 2018

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Billy King shares his monthly thoughts

Hello again, as winter is here. I only have a couple of miniature roses so it would be a bit futile of me to say the last rose of summer has departed and gone; however the last home grown courgette is becoming a dim memory, and the last of the runner beans has just about run its course though it may be a few weeks before I pick the runner beans I have let grow big for next year’s seeds. Anyway, here are my few comments on recent happenings at home and abroad.

The answer to gun killings is clearly more guns
The synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, USA, on 27/10/18 which killed eleven Jewish worshippers, and injured another six, was a worrying return to deathly anti-Semitism. While it was strongly condemned by President Trump, the same day as the killings he said the outcome of the deadly shooting would have been different had an armed guard been in place -"If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him". Clearly all schools, hospitals, places of religious worship, homes, shops (“Shoplifters will be shot”), children’s playgrounds, streets and fields should have armed guards. That should guarantee full employment (along with undertakers/morticians).

Oh yes. Blame the victims. Don’t blame a president who has done more than possibly any other US president in living memory to divide the country and ridicule perceived enemies and strangers, those who are different to ‘us’ righteous folks, setting them up for attack. Meanwhile the arrested suspect in the previous pipe bomb mailings in the USA is a big Trump fan. But above all don’t blame appalling gun laws which make such an attack possible.

The argument that ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ is nonsense, in that it is the ‘words’ which may lead to the sticks and stones being thrown in the first place. In Northern Ireland the late Ian Paisley was an expert for most of his life in finding the right words to belittle and besmirch, egging people on to hatred and violence via the dehumanisation of ‘the other’. Once someone ceases to be an individual and becomes simply one of a hated group then that person easily becomes a target for a real and bloody attack. Donald Trump is an expert at this game.

In relation to the Christian tradition, taking Trump’s advice could lead to a revival of that old hymn ‘Onward Christian soldiers’, while the congregation marches in to the church in military formation; readings indicating the pacifism of Jesus would be banned or adapted to fit the new reality (‘Loving your enemy’ would become ‘Gunning for your enemy’). And, instead of aiming for bums on seats, religious leaders could try to bring about more guns on seats. The Christian ‘Just War’ theory would be further bolstered (unholstered?) to indicate that for a war to be considered ‘just’ it would simply have to be authorised by Donald Trump, full stop; the church militant at work, I mean church military. The Sermon on the Mount would be considered way, way out of date and completely rewritten (“Blessed are the gun toters for they shall blast their way to heaven”) and relabelled ‘The Sermon on the Mounting Threat from Muslims and Other People We Do Not Like’.

Mind you the Christian churches, most of them, aren’t doing too badly (= atrociously) in support for militarism as it is – you just have to wander in to somewhere like St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast to learn that, doubling as it does as a British Army or military museum.

Frack it anyway
The little matter of small earthquakes has been holding up the first fracking in England (by Cuadrilla in Lancashire). Even if it does get going there I feel the likelihood is that the shale gas reached will be a bit of a damp squib, to use an appropriate or inappropriate metaphor. I hope that I will be proved right but I don’t really know. However in any case what a waste it is, and at what a risk. In Northern Ireland the prospecting companies came up with zilch and handed in the drilling equipment, and the Republic managed to ban it. What, no ripping apart the millions and millions of years old substructure of the earth in Ireland? No chemicals going down or coming up? No additional unconventional carbon fuel sources being exploited? No industrialisation of the countryside? Really, what is the world coming to?

There’s a good set of pics of English resistance to fracking from The Gordian.

The Pres back in his des res
Incumbent president Michael D Higgins managed to romp home in the Re:public’s presidential election. While he is seriously circumscribed in what he can say and do in the role he occupies, it was interesting to see a communication before the election from PANA, the Peace And Neutrality Alliance, about a response Michael D made to Roger Cole, chair of PANA:

“Thank you for your recent letter on peace and neutrality. This is a subject which I know you and a majority of the Irish population recognise as very important for Ireland and our future. You rightly identify that it would be inappropriate for an incumbent President to give a personal view on issues of government policy or potential legislation and this is a constraint on my answers to your specific questions. However, it is a matter of public record that I have often in the past spoken about the importance of Ireland’s principled commitment to a tradition of neutrality and multi-lateralism, strengthening, as it does, our international reputation as honest brokers and peacemakers.

“I have also addressed these issues as President and may I offer just two recent examples; The peacekeeping role of the Irish Defence Forces is something I have frequently highlighted and honoured, most recently in a speech at Dublin Castle on 24th June last where I noted that; This tradition (of peacekeeping) is an essential component of Ireland’s foreign policy, driven as it is “ by the very values and principles that have guided the actions of our state on the international stage ever since independence – a commitment to multilateralism and to the values of peace, international security, and global justice.” .......In another recent speech to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Concern Worldwide, I spoke about the dangers of a new acceleration in the global arms trade, stating, “…. A reminder, if any were needed, that peace is made more difficult, even at times impossible, when powerful interlocuters arm and support warring parties. “ Michael D included links to the full texts of his speeches referred to here and here. There is a pic of President Higgins, not that he was that then, receiving the Sean MacBride Peace Prize of the International Peace Bureau in 1992 at here.

Meanwhile Peter Casey managed to increase his vote by around 20% (to end second in the presidential election on 23%) by disparaging Travellers. This worrying development has been well analysed in the Irish media and would seem to indicate a mixture of anti-Traveller racism and a supposed admiration for ‘plain speaking’ (= generally pretty ignorant speaking if you ask me) and opportunism among conservative elements in society. Let’s hope Casey drifts back to the oblivion which he so richly deserves; I hope he doesn’t drag on.

One dead, fourteen million starving
It’s an interesting world we live in. We are a strange bunch of people in what gets our concern and attention. The calamitous situation of people in Yemen, being bombed to hell (sic) by Saudi Arabia with a lot of help from the West including copious British armaments, received no attention. The backing of the repressive and reactionary Saudi regime by ‘the West’ received little attention. Thirteen or fourteen million people risking starvation in the Houthi held area of Yemen did not hold much sway, not did regular deaths of civilians in bombing there, including many children.

Then one Saudi journalist in exile, and thorn in the side of the Saudi regime, entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. He was trying to regularise his marital situation so he could marry his fiancée. He was swiftly murdered by a Saudi hit squad, his body cut up and disposed of. Perhaps because of the bizarre location and manner of his death and the fact he was known in the West (although President Erdogan in Turkey has been milking the case too and had audio and/or video evidence), his cause has been taken up and broader questions have begun to be asked about Saudi Arabia, its ‘reforming’ crown prince, and its role in Yemen.

Don’t get me wrong. Jamal Khashoggi died a brutal and totally undeserved death and his case deserves all the attention it can get. You can say he died for love, and if his case has shone a spotlight on Saudi Arabia and on the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, with at least a small possibility of moving away from the apocalypse that is looming there, then that is great and would be a lasting memorial to him.

So did ‘we’ need such an unconventional death of a Saudi dissident to start to look at matters which should have been under the spotlight anyway, and much time previously? The situation in Yemen is tragic but our lack of attention to such matters can only be described as sad. Very sad.

-

Well, there we go, Christmas is coming up fast on the back straight and the year is drawing on. Until we meet in December, 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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