Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Good Day For European Democracy

Anyone who believes in the right of democratic self-determination based on the desires of the majority population (cf. South Africa, Palestine/Israel, the Shia in Iraq etc) should rejoice at the news that the minority of a minority the IRA is apparently going to lay down their weapons and fully engage in the political process.

Besides, it allows those of us with Unionist tendencies to get under the skin of Leprechaun loving English fellow travelers who lust for a little celtic mystery (too mean?) by posting pictures of King Billy murals, comemorating the closing of catholic France's back door into protestant Britain and thus ensuring the survival of a proud and dissenting culture.

Anyway, enough busting on Walter Mondale. Here's the story from the BBC:
IRA says armed campaign is over
"The IRA has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign and says it will pursue exclusively peaceful means. In a long-awaited statement, the republican organisation said it would follow a democratic path ending more than 30 years of violence..."(read the rest...)


Brooklyn Jim said...

Democracy is all well and good when the majority isn't of the bigoted and triumphal sort (e.g., 30 years ago, Let's strip away all the minority's rights and treat them like dirt; and more recently, Let's continue to demand the right to parade through Catholic neighborhoods celebrating a centuries-old victory over them, and if they don't like it, we'll get violent on their asses).

The Israel-Palestine analogy is an interesting one. If you built enough settlements and moved enough Israelis into Palestinian territory to be a majority, then got them to vote on whether they wanted to be part of a Palestinian state, obviously they'd say no. But that would be viewed as a bit of a sham, wouldn't it?

Now if only Ian Paisley would voluntarily get his vocal chords ripped out...that's the kind of disarmament that could really lead to progress.

And no, I'm not condoning violence or terrorism. I fault the IRA for killing innocent people, but also for making it way too easy for the English to feel comfortable with holding on to their fragile imperialist mentality. ("This was our first land grab, and now that the U.S. and India and all those African countries and god-knows-where-else have fallen out of our grasp, we're going to hold on to it, dammit, and if we don't, the terrorists will have won!")

Jim said...

A revision to my Israel-Palestine analogy: I didn't mean to imply that Jews would be a majority in all of Palestinian be parallel to the Irish situation, you'd have to select a certain small area of Palestinian territory where Jews happen to be a (forced, cunningly deliberate) majority, and decide that within that area, the majority rules and whatever the Jews say goes, while the rest of Palestinian territory gets to be its own state, by and for Palestinians.

Also, South Africa is not a good analogy for Northern Ireland at all, because the majority were there first, much like the Irish were there on their own island first. The colonizers/exploiters/bigots in South Africa were forced to give up their grip on power. That is not what's happening with the IRA disarming.

And in case anyone thinks I'm exaggerating the bigotry thing, I have actually heard people from England in both America and Europe make derogatory remarks/jokes about Irish people, the way a racist in the U.S. would about blacks or Hispanics or any other number of marginalized folks.

weasel said...

I take it that you, while American, claim Irish antecedents? There are always extremists on both sides, BJ. And as for the excesses of Stormont, remember the reason the Army was sent in was to safeguard minority catholic rights. Much as the original Tudor planters were invited by catholic Irish chieftans, being paid in land grants for mercenary services against their rivals. We have been in Ireland longer than Europeans have been in North America; are you suggesting that over half a millenia of settlement is still "colonialism", especially where Protestants are in the majority having settled the mostly empty province of Ulster? By your logic, we had all better start pcking and give the whole of the US back to the native americans. Or do you agree that would be a touche impractical?

"Let's continue to demand the right to parade through Catholic neighborhoods celebrating a centuries-old victory over them, and if they don't like it, we'll get violent on their asses" I quite agree that the violence is unpleasant and unhelpful (although the music is good). In the same spirit we should cancel that centuries old march of triumphalism known as the 4th of July (the declaration of independence is only 87 years younger than the British Glorious Revolution and the removal of James II) and be done with Columbus Day parades as offensive to native americans.

weasel said...

Although lest it be said that I'm too simple a Unionist Jim, you might find this review of radical republican thought interesting: The Blanket.

Oh, as for the Irish jokes- they are rather infra dig and unacceptable among polite society in the UK, but were more akin to 'Polish' jokes; can one be racist about a member of the same ethnic group? Still not very nice to poke fun at people. I shall remember that next time I hear an English dentistry joke, or a Chris Rock routine.

weasel said...

And I agree- Paisley is a bitch. And this is probably why the world should stop Israel's settlements now, rather than wait 500 years for them to become established fact and then try to tackle the problem by blowing things up. I'll shut up now and yield the floor to the gentleman from Brooklyn.

Jim said...

I figured that would get you nice and riled up.


Re: Native Americans, they now constitute a tiny percentage of the population of the United States, whereas the majority of the people on the island of Ireland are Irish Catholic (though I avoided mentioning religion earlier because that oversimplifies the debate). I agree that it would be impractical to give Native Americans back the land they once called theirs. But it's a different story in Ireland.

Consider South Africa: since 1994, have whites been forced from their homes, deported to the Netherlands, stripped of their citizenship? No. They are a part of society, just not the dominating overlords they used to be. Similarly, in the united Ireland that will probably come to pass in 50 years (you know how those Catholics love to have kids, they'll be the majority in our lifetime), I seriously doubt Unionists/Protestants will be any worse off than they are now in any real sense.

Also intriguing to consider: the Republic of Ireland is now one of the wealthiest and most economically prosperous nations in Europe, while the last time I checked, Northern Ireland was much more economically stagnant. So you could argue that those people would be better off now had they been a part of a united Ireland for the past decade or so.

And yes, I am of Irish ancestry on both sides of my family, but there's a bit of English thrown in there too, so you can count some of my comments as partially self-deprecating.

Regarding your 4th of July comment, there's no parallel. 4th of July parades are held in America to celebrate American independence. A parallel would be if hundreds or thousands of Americans flew over to England and demanded a parade route on July 4th so we could jeer and yell Fuck you, England, we kicked your asses! Columbus Day parades are a bad idea all around. And to be completely honest, I hate parades of all kinds. The Mermaid Parade at Coney Island is entertaining because it's more about nudity and sea creatures than some bullshit holiday, but having seen it three times I realized that is, in fact, a parade like any other, and parades bore the shit out of me. So I won't be going again.

Re: Chris Rock, he makes fun of himself and of African-Americans, a group he belongs to, which makes it OK for him to make fun of other individuals and other groups. I was thinking about this English woman discussing her home renovations that were being done by Irish contractors, saying "You know the Irish, they weren't really doing any work. They're so lazy," or something like that. I don't remember what the Irish jokes were that I heard, but they were relatively harmless and told by a guy from somewhere up near Scotland who was very cool. It just reinforced for me, though, that there's still this sense of "we're better" in a lot of English people's dealings with the Irish.

And just so you don't think I was directing any ire (pun intended) at you personally, I should say that I've liked every person from England person I've ever met except that one bitch referenced in the last paragraph (she was the sister-in-law of a friend) and a few meathead jerks I met while traveling in Europe. I even like Bowles, if you can believe that! Just kidding, he's very likeable.

Jim said...

Uh, I meant to say "Every person from England" not "Every person from England person," in my last comment. Just in case there was any confusion.

Jim said...

Just to clear up a possibly confusing point introduced by an earlier comment (for anyone reading this who is not me or Weasel):

Per the Good Friday agreement, the whole of Ireland could become one unified country at some point in the future if a majority of the people in Northern Ireland vote for it. So when I said, " know how those Catholics love to have kids, they'll be the majority in our lifetime..." I was talking about the majority in the North only. Irish Catholics are already the majority by far when you add together those who live in the Republic of Ireland and those who live in the "occupied territories" (winking at Weasel there).

weasel said...

"(you know how those Catholics love to have kids, they'll be the majority in our lifetime)"

That's what I'm waiting for to switch allegiance. 15 years ago, When asked about Ulster, I told an interviewer at a Royal Air Force college scholarship board that I thought either the catholics would become the majority or the growth of the EU state would make Unionism moot. I think that contributed to my not getting the scholarship.

"last time I checked, Northern Ireland was much more economically stagnant" Could the reality of a 28 year long terrorist war and the continuing insecurity over the presence of armed sectarian gangs laboring under an uneasy truce be a factor there? Might that also have contributed to the surge of Ian Paisley's DUP at the expense of the more moderate, peace-inclined UUP? Did the IRA and Sinn Fein create the conditions that allowed Paisley to flourish?

"Native Americans, they now constitute a tiny percentage of the population of the United States" Once they were the entire population. We killed them and swarmed onto their land. Noe we are the majority. I see how this works.

"A parallel would be if hundreds or thousands of Americans flew over to England and demanded a parade route on July 4th so we could jeer and yell Fuck you, England, we kicked your asses!" You don't need to, there is Fox News on satellite to tell the world how much better America is than everyone else. Oh, and CNN et al (as in "typhoon in Java, 2 Americans dead"). "hundreds or thousands of Americans"? Surely that would be overkill in comparison to the few hundred hardcore Orange Order marchers who are held back from their provocative actions by an arm of the British state they claim to worship.

The question is are we in the business of correcting ancient wrongs (if so, I want compensation from Denmark for the viking raids) or in the business of tackling modern issues? Are Orangemen a majority, or are must Ulster residents of protestant ancestry like the ones I know; moderate, sick of all the bullshit, and just wanting to enjoy the system of government they voted for? If Britain and Ireland are economic and democratic equals (as they appear to me) I don't see what the difference is. Unless of course the ancient grievances and twisted nationalism of minorities on both sides of this argument are the way we want to proceed.

Speaking of Bowles, this whole post was put up just to tweak his nose, but I'm glad you weighed in.

weasel said...

As to the Chris Rock point, may I present Frank Carson and Dermot Morgan?

Jim said...

I agree with you on most things here. Especially that both sides need to progress from a new starting point and not from the "your great-great-grandfather hit my great-great-granduncle with a rock from a slingshot in 1857" vantage point.

What bothers me most, though, is two-part but related: people on both sides of the Atlantic being led to believe that the IRA is the only problem.

Although I agree that redressing ancient wrongs is impractical and counterproductive, it can be useful to keep in mind the superiority complex and vindictiveness of a majority when you give them control over a minority. As we are seeing more and more lately in the U.S. with the white-Republican-Christian majority, sometimes the extremists do get the upper hand when it comes to dictating policy and determining how those in a particular minority will live. I hope that moderates like those you know in Northern Ireland will prevail there, and it seems like there's a good chance they will.

But whenever the U.S. media covers Northern Ireland (I'm not well-versed enough in international media to drag them into this), the message that comes across is "There are these militant terrorists called the IRA who have fought against their Protestant neighbors and the British for decades, and aren't they terrible because they blow up people," as if that's the whole story. I bet you that a significant percentage of those Americans who have heard of the IRA have NOT ever heard of any of the Protestant paramilitary groups or the crimes and murders they've committed. That's what has always bothered me, that the story gets presented as "nationalism is violent, and on the other side you have lawfulness," when it's a hell of a lot more complicated than that.

I am not an IRA fan, I will say that definitively so there is no confusion. I think the world and their own part of it would be better off without them. But I wouldn't say they created the conditions that allowed Paisley and his ilk to flourish. Other way around. If Catholics didn't have to deal with so much discrimination and bullshit, the IRA wouldn't have been able to flourish in the first place. If the prevailing mindset on the Unionist side had been moderate and tolerant and cooperative in the first place, Catholics wouldn't have found themselves supportive of armed resistance (and let's not forget the killing of innocent civilians by British soldiers, though I have to get some work done today so that's all I'll say on the matter).

Also, I wasn't condoning the slaughter of Native Americans or the taking of their land, just arguing that turning the U.S. now into an "Indian" nation would be absurd considering that they're like 2% of the population (a much different situation than in Ireland). And I only said "hundreds or thousands" of Americans because this is a nation of 300 million and I wanted to use a figure that was a statistically small but still noticeable number. It was a stupid example though, I admit that.

weasel said...

We shall have to argue about this over beer (Harp for you, Greene King for me, methinks) when I come down to visit Bowles this autumn.

Listmaker said...

we want whisky drinker to start his blog again!

Jim said...

I would be honored to drink a few beers with you.

I was surprised to find in Ireland that people there think of Harp as shit beer. They questioned why I would ever want to drink it. But then, they were drinking MGD and Bud, so there you go.

Before you visit I'll have to further bias my historical perspective by finally reading the book of essays on Ireland by Marx and Engels that I picked up at a used bookstore a few years ago.

Have fun with Mr. and Mrs. Youthlarge-Listmaker this weekend, by the way.

Mondale said...

Oh my god, I'm too tired to read all of this and wont have time for a week or two. Weasel, you know where I stand and I guess anyone reading between the lines can work it out. But it's all so complicated. I'll be back soon. Jim, good man for remaining objective. Listmaker, don't cancel the diplomatic visit, he's alright really.

Debbie said...

"In the same spirit we should cancel that centuries old march of triumphalism known as the 4th of July and be done with Columbus Day Parades as offensive to Americans -Weasel

Columbus Day Parades are a bad idea all around

As a Puerto Rican I can tell you I am totally offended by Columbus Day.
Columbus and his band of merry murderers, rapers and pillagers have left a mark on Native Puerto Ricans (Tainos )as well. I have read about the horrors of "discovery" and the barbaric acts by Columbus and his people.
Yet, in Puerto Rico, there are school and streets named after Columbus . Statues of the man are erected in almost every town square.
Columbus Day is a big deal on the island too.
It's all so ignorant.

The question is are we in the business of correcting ancient wrongs-Weasel

Both sides need to progress from a new starting point

It all boils down to "I got dibs".
Don't you think?
Forgive my ignorance but that's what I get out of all this.

"This is mine,"
"No it's mine",
"I saw it first"
" No, I did"

Very interesting post

weasel said...

"good man for remaining objective", Bowlesy, Jim said many interesting things but I hardly think they can be classed as objective.... Anyway, as I hope you learned when dabbling in history at college the best any of us can hope for is the ability to recognise our own subjectivity.

Mondale said...

'Dabbling in History'
apologies to Dr Bookham.
The reason I didn't provide a 40,000 word dissertation upon the subject is because I can't be arsed. I actually share the opinion of most 'Brits' (to coin a derogatory term most often used by the Irish when referring to those of us born and raised on 'the mainland') That as long as they are no longer blowing each other or us up then for the time being all's pretty well and good. I appreciate that this negates crucial aspects of a 900 hundred year old struggle and recent decades of terror but that's just the way it is. My biggest sadness is that Gladstone didnt get all this sorted outin the 1880s.
(see, the bloody Irish? they get friends hating friends)
Now, I'm going on vacation.

Jim said...

I agree with Weasel that I was not being at all objective.

And I agree with Bowles that as long as no one is blowing anyone else up, that is a big improvement and most people will be a lot happier.

weasel said...

"dabbling in history" I knew that would piss you off (hee hee!). Now go and have a good vacation in the greatest little county on God's green earth.

Clokeeeey! said...

Is there any connection between this action (laying down arms) and what is happening in the western world with it's "war on terror"?
Not sure what point I'm trying to make, but it all seems coincidental in terms of timing.

weasel said...

I think they ran out of money and friends, Clokeeeey, hence that big bank robbery last year. No more collection cans in South Boston after 9/11, and no more love from Teddy Kennedy on St Paddys Day. Good point mate.

I also regret not mentioning earlier that the Republic of Ireland gave up their claim to Ulster a while back. If they can recognize a) the demographic realities and b) the officially imposed inequalities are gone can't we?

Jim said...

Sure, why not. But that doesn't mean we can't hope for different stewardship in the future.

And it's important to note that they didn't give it up unsolicited on its own as a pure gesture; it was all about compromise. They gave up that claim as part of the agreement that ensured that a majority in the north could at some future point vote to "go green." And of course, part of the agreement also involved the power-sharing arrangement, which itself sought to even out some of the inequalities that even up to then were still apparent to both interested and objective observers. The biggest motivation for the whole deal was the desire of the vast majority for peace. But from what I read at the time, there was a lot of hand-wringing in the Republic over having to vote to nullify that part of their constitution. They gave it up as a noble sacrifice in the hope that it would ultimately make people's lives better.