Previous editorials

Current editorial

February 2021

December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020

December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019

December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018

December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017

December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016 (supplement)

December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015

December supplement
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014

December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013

December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012

December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011

December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010

December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009

December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008

December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007

December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006

December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005

December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004

December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003

December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
July 200
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002

December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
February 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000

16 Ravensdene Park,
Belfast BT6 0DA,
Northern Ireland.
Tel: 028 9064 7106
Fax: 028 9064 7106

This is an archive of material
mainly from 1992 until December 2020.
Please go to our CURRENT WEBSITE
for material from January 2021 onwards.
What's new?

Billy King


Nonviolence News



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

Number 202: September 2012

[Return to related issue of Nonviolence News]

Human citizens of the world

For those who watched them, the Olympics were an impressive display of sporting prowess, of athleticism. There was the thrill of seeing the best in the world compete in sports where they had been preparing themselves for years, and there were many impressive performances and thrilling competitions. But it is competitive sport. Usually three people get medals, in team sports somewhat more, but there are only a limited number of winners. There were many more losers than winners.

For those for whom competing in the Olympics was enough of a feat, then getting to that stage was an achievement. For many others there was the tragedy of, and coming to terms with, failure, of years of preparation not being rewarded with success. Such are the vagaries of competitive sport. The Paralympics provides another take on this with the added dimension of athletes overcoming the obstacles of disability.

But there are other aspects of the Olympics. It is often referred to as the 'Olympic Movement'. But it is not so much a movement - beyond the enormous work done by athletes behind the scenes - and more Big Business - potentially for the host country and certainly for the corporate sponsors who generally produce a load of rubbish which they seek to touch with gold by being associated with competitive athleticism of the first order.

Furthermore, the Olympics is generally nationalism masquerading as internationalism. Yes, it is meant to be a great international spectacle but it is made up of competing nationalisms. Hands up anyone who was not, metaphorically at least, cheering on their country's sports people, even (as with Irish people) in a 'sport' like boxing which, while demanding great fitness, is mainly about hitting other people hard. So this 'international' event can actually enhance 'nationalism'. Maybe you will say this is a harmless form of nationalism, and channelled in a positive way, but there is still that element of division, of one-upmanship.

How we can foster the notion that we are citizens of the world is a difficult question to tackle. The attempt to create a 'European' (= western European) identity through the EU likewise has its plus and minus points. Europe has come a long way since the Second World War, the war in the former Yugoslavia notwithstanding, and relations between states are exponentially better than they were. The danger here is that this 'European' identity as defined by the EU will form not only a military expression but will become, in resource disputes or wars later this century, a negative and self-interested entity on the world stage, impacting for ill on poorer parts of the globe.

As it is, people in Ireland are often in thrall to the myths associated with the USA, and in this regard Ireland can be closer to Boston than Berlin. And if it is not in thrall to US myths then it can be in thrall to US military and economic power - the latter presumably being why in relation to the former the Irish government has thrown neutrality to the four winds to support US military imperialism or neo-imperialism by giving Shannon airport to the USA, no questions asked.

While it is dangerous to uncritically blame 'the media' (since this puts the blame on just the messenger), there is the fact that it generally reflects and reinforces the interests that people have ('people' in this context being a mixture of readers and owners). A hurricane hitting the Gulf coast of the USA is covered in exhaustive detail. Tropical storms which devastate, say, the Philippines leaving countless people homeless and many dead get one or two news reports in 'quality' news reporting before the story is quickly lost. Are the Filipinos not as worthy of our attention as US Americans? Apparently not.

How we foster an 'internationalist' perspective is a difficult task when what many people want is their worldview and prejudices reinforced since this makes them - us - feel comfortable and superior, even if they feel others are a 'threat'. Some politicians - and not just in the West - specialise in the politics of fear and threat as a means to try to manipulate the support of their people.

There is no short cut to helping people realise that they should consider themselves citizens of the world and human beings first of all. Humour can be part of it - as with the 'national identity' car sticker proclaiming 'Earth'. Being well informed though quality news programmes and specialist media like 'The New Internationalist' is another. While there is currently a huge ecological threat through global warming, the green movement is a very considerable force for emphasising a world identity since clearly everything is linked (though most of the rich and powerful like to pretend that things are 'business as usual' you could say it is 'business as usual with the deck chairs on the Titanic'). Our educational systems, however, need to make further strides to show children and young students that we are citizens of the world first and foremost. Building multinational platforms and alliances for trade unions and for peace and progressive movements in general is a vital aspect of combating profit-seeking multinationals and death dealers.

We all have a role to play, and our own prejudices to overcome. There is nothing wrong with local or indeed national identity and pride. These can be forces for good and progress, and defences against care-less megacultural and multinational forces which wish to treat people as solely economic and consumer entities. Local is good. But thinking globally and acting locally is part of it, tempered by 'thinking locally' where the local does not trump the global but forms a positive identity which appreciates other local identities elsewhere and the need for us all to be well grounded in so many ways.

There should be no contradiction between us thinking locally and globally at the same time, marrying what is good for our locality and community with what is good for the world. This may seem like altruism beyond belief. It is actually self interest regarding the preservation of the species - especially ecologically. The threat from global warming is to us all but primarily to those too poor to be able to adapt fast enough to cope with what may be vicious changes in food and commodity production, and in weather and sea levels. And that could mean more authoritarian government and less human rights in many parts of the world.

Thinking corporately - as most of the powers that be in business and governments seem to do - is a recipe for disaster, and we are on the threshold of just such a disaster which it will take rather more effort to avoid than is currently being expended. If the world continues in its current corporate mode, with emphasis on economic growth and damn the consequences, then there will be an ecological armageddon for many in the world. This is likely also to be a military armageddon for these same people, and possibly others, as resource disputes escalate and turn to violence and war.

Moving to a global identity is also not easy when the United Nations is so weak - we don't mean militarily, we mean in authority and resources - and national self interest continues to dictate matters. Which comes first - the chicken or UN reform or the egg of changes in perception by the people of powerful nations? If people cannot be persuaded by the need to avoid the worst excesses of global warming then there is little hope of developing a world identity, a global consciousness. But perhaps, just perhaps, through enormous effort, enough people can realise that we really are in this together even if some (generally the poor) will suffer far more than others.

Peace and ecology go hand in hand. Peace will be increasingly impossible if world temperature goes up the tubes. Building a global identity which gives its place to localism and nationalism but is considered more important than these is a key part of human development and survival. It is the only way in which humanity will emerge with self respect and any degree of positive stability and peace in the latter part of the 21st century. If we simply batten down nationalist and corporate hatches the result will be something terrible to behold.

- - - - - -


Larry Speight brings us his monthly column -

Death and Rebirth

One of the most important pieces of research on climate change was published this summer by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (Best). Its key finding, accepted by many climate change sceptics, is that the disruption of weather patterns is due to human-induced warming of the planet. This means that the severe drought across most of the United States this summer, forest fires in southern Europe, floods in S.E. Asia, high levels of humidity in the Mediterranean, record-breaking amounts of rain in Ireland and Britain and the loss of 100,000 sq km of ice a day in Arctic during August is almost certainty due to climate change.

These weather scourges are the realization of the prophecy of Chief Seattle (1854) that one day 'we we will suffocate in our own waste'. The world of middle-age memory will never be again and we should mourn. We should also be displeased with ourselves as we have failed our children, future generations and all the species in the web of life. The industry and commerce of the past 250 years, and most especially the last 70 has shattered a paradigm. One of the perennial tenets of society is that our children and our children's children will have a quality of life equal to or better than we had. This will never be. We have crossed a line in history and are now living in the era of climate chaos.

Concerned citizens, environmental campaigners and politicians hope that ultimate catastrophe can be averted. Most of the formulas offered simply don't cut it. Green consumerism is an illusion; the technological re-engineering of the earth's climate, such as placing giant mirrors above the stratosphere to deflect the rays of the sun, are likely to have Frankenstein results, and more eco-efficient machines lead, paradoxically, to greater energy consumption. What is required to reduce the warming of the planet, which given the state of today's environment will only occur centuries from now, is a universal change of mindset on par with the Enlightenment.

What we learn from Irish mythology is that substantial change, the birth of a new era or consciousness only occurs on the event of death. Peter O'Connor in Beyond The Mist (2000) writes: "We know from story after story, myth after myth, that there cannot be any birth or renewal until death has occurred." (p. 8) Applying this insight to the environment means that we will not be disposed to address the issue of climate chaos, the loss of biodiversity, the collapse of the life-support systems of the planet and structural injustice until we place the idea of endless economic growth and our arrogance towards other species in a coffin and bury them in the ground.

Even as flooded rivers flow through our streets and food prices rise because of failed harvests the witch-doctors of our civilisation never cease chanting that only faith in never-ending growth will save us from economic misery and environmental woe. We refuse to allow failed ideas about the good life to die. The mass media, big business, the education system and mainstream politicians play a crucial role in defining a meaningful life in consumerist terms.

There has to be finality to the idea that meaning, purpose, sense of belonging and self-realization lie in having and our readiness to use violence to obtain and hold. When the sod is placed on the coffin of this paradigm a psychology of compassion and eco-sensitivity is likely to become the defining feature of how we live enabling us to begin the task of healing the Earth and devising institutions that ensure everyone can live a life free from deprivation.

A new paradigm won't materialise from wishful thinking. Our historic responsibility is to sow the seeds of positive change.

Copyright INNATE 2021