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Billy King


Nonviolence News



These are regular editorials produced alongside the corresponding issues on Nonviolent News.

Issue 141: June/July 2006

Also in this editorial:

There’s violence and there’s violence
Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a violent man, prepared to kill anyone, behead anyone, be ruthless for the cause. But when we saw a framed photo of his head, killed by a US airstrike in Iaq, it was just like the medieval practise of putting a head on a spike; ‘here he is, we got him, let this be a warning to you’.

There are many different kinds of violence. The ruthless violence of insurgents in Iraq is one kind of violence. The ruthless violence of US and allied bombing in Iraq is another, or the destruction of a city like Falluja. In the case of the Haditha massacre it sounds like US troops may have been high on drugs and/or alcohol – more than shades of Vietnam. The difference between killing someone at close quarters or killing them from a gunship or fighter plane hundreds or thousands of metres away is only in the ease with which the perpetrators of the latter may be able to feel emotional distance; the effect, death and destruction, is the same, or possibly worse, comparable to no warning car or suicide bombs.

The western world needs to rethink its violence – which of course includes the passive violence of poverty, global injustice, global warming and so on – and how it relates to the rest of the world. Bush and Blair thought they were doing a noble, decent thing in going into a war in Iraq (despite what many people told them) and found themselves up to their knees in blood. They thought they were making another part of the world safe for democracy when what they were doing was allowing sectarianism to flourish.

The leading superpower or superpowers of the world have always, but always, had a misplaced notion of their role and how others see them (which leaves little excuse for Tony Blair to back Bush, beyond the faded trappings of Britain’s ‘white man’s burden’). But wealth could be used differently, not to impose military ‘solutions’ which are merely imposing more intransigent problems but to liberate humanity through clean drinking water, a halt to further causes of global warming, and support for justice of all kinds. With the UK set to spend £25 billion, or possibly more, on a replacement for their Trident nuclear weapons system this is not just a question for the USA. With a policy which looked to share with, rather than shaft, the world, the USA and UK would discover have true friends, rather than interests, all over the globe.

Last chance salon
Once more the Northern Ireland Assembly has a ‘last chance’ as it runs until November. As we have often said before, it is never the ‘last chance’ – there is always another one beyond. But, that said, the faster that an assembly is up and running the better for the North. The Good Friday Agreement system did not itself set up a brilliant piece of political infrastructure but it is good enough to be going on with, and hopefully in the fullness of time something which is more satisfactory for the long term can emerge.

The DUP is still playing hard ball and shows no sign of being willing to cooperate with others at this stage. This uncooperativeness is a mixture of principle and a desire to show who’s boss now. But while there is always another chance you can also miss the boat – and have to wait for another one to come in. And missing the boat is dangerous because others who have also missed the boat may decide to engage in other activities; there is, for example, no serious problem in people drifting from Sinn Féin to join republican groups not supporting ceasefires but it happens and it is not impossible that defections could prove problematic in the future, especially if Sinn Féin has nothing to show for its dedication to the Good Friday agreement. This is not a scenario unfolding at the moment but it is not impossible.

The British government’s only attempted carrot to date has been a promise that if the Executive is back up and running at Stormont by November they and the Assembly can decide the fate of the North’s education system (the current plan is to get rid of post-11+ selection but the two large unionist parties are keen to retain it). However, until the DUP decides to work together with others, and that would still mean Ian Paisley coming out for power-sharing, the prospect is simply more direct rule from Britain for the North

Meanwhile public opinion has shown itself more for its silence and apathy than anything. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement emerged because for a brief while politicians felt the pressure from their supporters and ‘the public’ to make compromises for the common good. Unless public pressure builds up – including among DUP supporters who actually found local rule appealing when it operated – to support a resolution, Ian Paisley and the DUP are likely to sit on their political laurels for some time yet.

Eco-Awareness Eco-Awareness
Larry Speight brings us his monthly column:

Food Security

I notice on my almost daily journeys through the Ulster countryside that except for crops grown in the occasional polyester tunnels, often set on a concrete base, little farming is taking place. One can travel for miles and see fields without crops growing in them, fields without grazing horses, donkeys, cattle or sheep. The occasional farmer that I do see during the summer months is in a machine cutting grass for hay. It would seem as if a pestilence has struck the land, that a disease has killed most of the people. Certainly a peasant farmer from a drought stricken country in Africa would be nothing less than amazed by the absence of farming on such green and fertile fields. Visual evidence would suggest that farming in Ulster, if not the whole island, is a declining occupation. One reason is the origin of most of the food on sale in shops. Our daily fare of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, cucumber, peas and potatoes, not to mention a whole range of fruit and herbs, are imported from abroad. It does not occur to most shoppers that this mass importation of food, while our fields lie fallow, is a sign that the international economic order is askew, and dangerously so.

While it is good for the health of the land that no chemicals are being spread, wild flowers are able to grow and insects multiply, for the Earth as a whole, the decline of farming in Ireland is an ecological disaster. Crops grown on an industrial scale in the poor countries of the world such as Brazil, Kenya and the Philippines, sustained by an array of toxic chemicals and mined water, then flown thousands of miles, transported hundreds more by road, is nothing less than an assault on our fragile planet, most especially in regard to the global warming emissions involved. The disaster that awaits us is that when this oil-based food is no longer available because of high oil prices and water shortages in the countries where it is grown, the skills necessary to farm our own food will have been lost. In my estimate this will happen within the coming fifteen years, which means that schools especially in rural areas, should be teaching children ecologically friendly farming skills, and a sense of love and affinity for the land.

In addition, farmers should be given every encouragement to farm in an ecologically sustainable way, not only so that the Earth is enriched and there is healthy locally produced ‘ensouled food’ on our table, but so that when the time comes when mass imported oil-based food is no longer economically feasible there will be a pool of farming skills that can be taught to others. What is really astounding about the decline of farming in Ireland is that the statutory authorities, and the general public, are unconcerned about what our food security situation will be like a few years from now. By way of contrast, the government spares no effort, or money, in pursuing the illusion of military security.

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