The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Not Losing His Way
Anthony McIntyre • 11. 10. 03

When Fortnight rang me on Monday morning and asked would I like to interview George Monbiot, I readily responded. Belfast is home to so few radicals that the in-house conversation amongst its own denizens has grown stale. So the opportunity to speak with one who would expand our limited intellectual horizons seemed like a gateway to a certain freedom. The only hoop I had to jump through in order to access the interviewee was to read his book, The Age Of Consent, in two days. What quickly followed was a hasty juggling of an already packed schedule. It was the only way to find the time to read. Feeding the ducks with my daughter Firinne would have to go back to another day, a meeting of the Left to discuss providing an electoral alternative to the establishment parties would need to be missed, and breakfast with a friend, Alex, could just go uneaten … for now.

Fortunately, the book was easily read. Monbiot’s knowledge and experience are so profound, that he has no call to resort to the language of the obscurantist with which to shield and disguise a particular intellectual paucity and, contiguously, terrify the readers out of being more assertive in their will to question. On my way across town to meet him in the Fortnight office, I stopped to buy a book out of the Fontana Modern Masters series on John Keynes. It was so long since I had read Keynes, that I had all but forgotten his role in the Bretton Woods conference. George Monbiot had brought him back with a bang and seriously restructured the manner in which Keynes may be read from a radical perspective.

The interview went well. He was entertaining, witty, profound and above all possessed of a passion for the poor of the world. It was easy to see that I was not in the company of some bombastic intellectual who knew lots about everything in the abstract. This man had tramped the poorest regions in the world and had been beaten or hounded out of some of them by the police opposed to his probing. While many of us here in Ireland take to the streets about Iraq, Afghanistan, Chile, Palestine, Turkey or wherever, merely speaking with George Monbiot prompts the notion that our activity is a bit like learning to swim in the library. Most of us have never set foot in the countries we protest about; many of us could not find them on a map. He, of course, is too polite to even remotely suggest that.

The interview completed, we walked across the damp streets to Vincent’s in Botanic Avenue for a meal. I had hoped he came via Manchester rather than London. As it seems to rain as much on Mancunians as it does on Belfast inhabitants he would hardly notice the difference. I was tempted to say ‘dull politicians - dull weather’, only that might have prompted him to feel that if one causes the other then it must rain here non-stop. Having listened to him for an hour I opted to explain something of my own perspective to him, expressing the view that the republican struggle had been fatally compromised. Our leaders were going to World Economic Forums in New York to stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s exploiters, breaking our picket lines and leaving us behind them in their rush to gallop off into the Bush-Blair war summit at Hillsborough. ‘George, just set aside everything else - this struggle in Ireland was never about acquiring the ability to administer British capitalist rule, close down hospitals and acute health services and introduce PFI or PPP’. He smiled, took a breath and exhaled, ‘definitely not.’

By now, matters were running late and when we finally reached the restaurant our host was impatiently counting down the seconds as the meals seemed interminably slow in arriving. Eventually they did, and while worth the waiting, they were rushed down leaving no time for the type of conversation that if missed out on leaves you coming away feeling you were overcharged. What you really pay for you do not get, and through no fault of the staff.

Once in the Elmwood Hall, it was clear that George Monbiot, author of the Captive State, had a captive audience. But disappointingly, there seemed to be very few republicans there. I wondered about the radicalism of the jails, where had it all gone? It seemed as if the most anti-systemic of prisoners had opted to close their eyes, switch off their memories and dive headlong into the morass behind their leaders, not to save them or pull them back out of it but to drown alongside them in the muck of centre-right politics. Those H-Block die-hard revolutionaries who held forth in cell 26 vehemently opposing the most innocuous of compromises on mundane jail matters - they are now even the subject of ridicule and ribaldry within Sinn Fein ranks - prefer the perks of assisting in the Lord Mayoral office, to actually doing something for the ‘wretched of the earth’ they so often preached about behind bars. The cosy bed of conformity for them and a hospital trolley for the victims of the health strategies they are eager to support. Somebody somewhere lost their way.

By the time we left the Elmwood Hall it was clear that George Monbiot hadn’t lost his.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

12 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Tribalism is little more than the lowest common denominator
Thomas Gore


Separation vs. Segregation
Eamon Sweeney


The Legitimacy of Our Struggle
Liam O Comain


Not Losing His Way
Anthony McIntyre


A Hero of Reknown
Kathleen O Halloran


West Belfast - Childhood and the Wars
Davy Carlin


Abduction of Republican
32 County Sovereignty Committee


RSF attend Sardinian Conference
Des Dalton


6 October 2003


Tangled Times
Eamon McCann


Heroes and Villains
Tommy Gorman


Who Was Responsible?
Michael Kearney


Costello Commemoration
Paul Little


Uncharted Waters
Anthony McIntyre


Date Change: Anti Racist Network Meeting
Davy Carlin


Coming Soon to the United States?
Toni Solo




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