[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]
Billy King shares his monthly thoughts
Here we are again. Isn’t it amazing how our actions can come back to haunt us, and pointing the finger leaves a number of fingers pointing back at us. Dunald Tromp was met with cries of “Lock him up!” at a major sports game he attended recently. Of course said POTUS has been in the middle of the swamp more than Hilary Clinton so it seems very appropriate, and I’m sure we will hear more of that slogan addressed to the man who popularised it. Personally I wouldn’t favour prison for Trump, more like 20,000 hours of community service in an extremely poor area of the US with no access to orange tan or hairdressers...
I caught most but not all of a recently reshown programme on the Peace Train of 1992 which appeared on Belfast community television NVTV - it has a tremendous back catalogue of community oriented material. It consisted of interviews with well known and not known at all individuals as the train travelled from Dublin to Belfast. There was another train travelled the other way, Belfast to Dublin and back. The aims of the Peace Train organisation of the 90s (well, founded 1989) can be found here and the entry beside that: “To enable the people on the island of Ireland to live their day-to-day lives free from political violence by highlighting single issues that transcend party political and ideological differences.....”
What I found amusing was that the filming of interviews was facilitated by the Provos who organised bomb scares either side of the two trains which got stuck for a couple of hours at Dunleer (halfway between Drogheda and Dundalk). So people got out and some of the interviews were held on the platform there. As well as intreviews with organisers, including Sam McAughtry, those featured included Paddy Devlin and Joan Burton. A Catholic seminarian came across very well when asked about the power that the Catholic church wielded south of the border (those were still, slightly, the days when such a question could sensibly be asked). Ordinary Dubs expressed their hopes for a peaceful shopping trip and friendly relations. It was an impressive accumulation of people. Pax Christi had a presence on the train and there was a welcome placard at Central Station from Pax Christi in Belfast.
During the Troubles there were many different peace initiatives, public and private. Many of those stories are forgotten or at best half remembered. However the importance of remembering such initiatives for peace – partly shown in initiatives like peace trails - here and here – is essential as part of moving forward. If we consider the Troubles as only the violence, then we do not have the experience to draw on of people working for peace, often in extremely difficult circumstances, and building a society in the North without violence and the threat of violence. And that, as you presumably well know, has a long road or iarnród to travel yet – and you might need a will of iron to see it through.
We organised a Limerick Limerick competition at the World Beyond War conference in....Limerick at the start of October. Inspired by David Swanson’s effort, quoted in the last issue, we felt it was the least we could do. Limericks were to be anything on the theme of peace. The prize??? The gleaming prize was publication here! So ladeeze and laddies, we bring you proudly give you our selection:
Our first, and it is, unusually, a two verse Limerick, was inspired by a late evening session in a back room of the bar at the hotel for the conference:
The people from World Beyond War
Came to Limerick today to explore
Solutions for Shannon
With locals like Lannon
And tomorrow they’ll protest some more
But for now they’ve a different mission
(Because we’ve never had prohibition)
They are sitting and drinking
And laughing and thinking
It’s a very strong Irish tradition
Another couple emanated from Tim Pluta:
Establish peace, get rid of war.
What makes doing this such a chore?
Ignorants get rich,
Truth, lies in the ditch,
And most of us don't want to kill anymore.
As a sign of cultural maturity,
Let's demilitarize world security.
Create a Culture of Peace,
Violent conflict will cease,
And we render all wars to obscurity.
And here is another, author anonymous:
There are many activists on Shannon
Working very hard for a ban on
Those US troops and arms
Passing through without alarms -
It‘s all about aggression
Yet another came from a well known figure in the peace movement:
We're faced with a Limerick deadline,
So we'd better come up with a headline:
The airport at Shannon's
For people, not cannon,
'Stop war flights' - now there's a good redline!
If we were to have a winner, which we don’t, I’d maybe go for the last one. However if you are inspired to create any further masterpieces in the same genre, we can of course consider publication of same here, you know where we are.
Flights of hateful fancy
The flights of fanciful language by retributive violence know no bounds. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a dangerous mass murderer but Donald Trump, in gloating about his extra-juridicial killing, stated that he “died like a dog, like a coward” “whimpering and crying”. Well, I don’t know how a dog is meant to die but as the US surveillance of the scene had no audio they have no knowledge that he died “whimpering and crying”. Another hate-filled fancy from POTUS.
As to the US operation, “The operation was exquisitely planned and executed,” Marine Corps General Ken McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, said. Trump called the operation ‘impeccable’. “Exquisite” in my dictionary comes up as “extremely beautiful and delicate” – a plan to wipe someone and his supporters out? Another flight of horrible fancy. Children died in the attack, apart from mentioning the adults.
ISIS may usually be a blood thirsty crew, caring nothing for human or any other rights. The US in aiming to murder a mass murderer to show that murdering people is wrong is not exactly in accord with human rights either. I don’t know whether the man in question aimed to kill a couple of children at the same time, which is anything but brave, but detonating a suicide vest is also not the act of a coward. All of the US language relating to this plays into the continuation of violence and might is right, which, unfortunately, is exactly where the USA is at. It also seeks to deny humanity to the opponent – he may have treated his perceived enemies as worse than dogs but he was human, whatever about his crimes against humanity.
Mindfulness and mindlessness
Yoga and mindfulness are pretty ubiquitous these days, not that everyone is doing some of it but it’s undoubtedly part of the zeitgeist, and there are thousands of options of joining in different forms of these practises. And that’s good. Peace begins with me, and within me. When popular jokes get made about such concepts, you know it is part of the culture; e.g. jokes about ‘practising winefulness’, or seeing a cartoon of a lazy husband, idling away with beers and the box, proclaiming to his hardworking wife that he has not being idle, he was practising mindfulness...
There was a little recent controversy when Bishop Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore advised schools in his diocese to have nothing to do with yoga since it was not compatible with Christian belief – specifically that “Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting...”. He does actually have a germ of truth in that some yoga or meditation, for example, can be in a Hindu or Buddhist context but there is nothing which says it has to be.
The bishop did refer to the acceptability of ‘Christian mindfulness’ - which posits it in a Christian framework – but that would not be acceptable to people of no faith or faiths other than Christian. All it takes, for adults anyway and whatever your beliefs, is a little shopping around to get a brand that you are comfortable with, and a few questions if you are unsure. However the bishop’s comments were only made, in a letter, to the Catholic schools of his diocese and therefore were perhaps blown out of proportion and context.
Nevertheless, in response to the bishop, an amusing letter from Dr John Kearns in ‘The Irish Times’ of 21/10/19 analysed all the subjects on the school curriculum to conclude they universally (from algebra through biology, history, geography and languages, even cookery) had non-Christian connections or roots – “Free our schools from the un-Christian tyranny of home economics!” he declared. So, there is a need not to throw the baby out with the Ba’ath water – to use an inappropriate analogy or pun I couldn’t resist as Ba’athism (certain forms of Arab nationalism) is largely secular.
Well, here we are in winter and the month when Christmas musak comes to assault us in shops – aaaaarrrrgghhh, that I hate. Instead of inviting me to buy, it incites me to want to leave the shop. Christmas, whether secular or religious or both according to your taste, can be a great season when you get there. But wading through the Christmas schmaltz is sometimes hard to do. It can make me a bit prickly and that’s before I even look for a bit of fresh holly, it’s berry annoying, yule presumably have the same experience.
See you soon, Billy.
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).