The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
From Where Springs Hope
We hang the petty thieves
and appoint the great ones to public office - Aesop
Anthony McIntyre • 20.10.03

Watching George Monbiot speak at the Elmwood Hall is simultaneously an uplifting and depressing experience. Uplifting because he lances a boil of boredom induced by the political discourse that permeates our endless discussion about the peace process. Listening to the politicians from here talking about themselves and their self serving problems while lying through their teeth about what they have done, are doing, and will continue to do for a better society and demanding that everybody from London via Dublin to Washington pay attention to them, merely confirms Bernard Bailey's view that 'when they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.' Nauseating tossers who would spend an eternity debating flags and emblems as they sup the same fine wine at pig only banquets, but who couldn’t find a few minutes to turn up for a cancer services debate. And who now want us to sit on tenterhooks while they nudge each other's snout out of the trough slobbering over whether it is right to have an election or not. They have been out of Stormont a year and who really misses them? Monbiot's sense of something other than himself is the antidote to the lot of them.

But his description of world poverty and the struggle that confronts those seeking to eradicate it, takes the wind out of the sails. What joy is obtained from forgetting our political knuckle shufflers dissipates quickly as Monbiot tackles real issues which are literally life or death for countless millions of people.

The New Ireland Group and The de Borda Institute hosted the public lecture delivered by him entitled ‘Unionism, Nationalism or Globalisation.’ The organisers could easily have left out the first two as globalisation was the only thing that the audience gathered for. Seriously, who would pay five quid to hear somebody sensible talk about the crew of pirates that seek to govern us? Between them they manage to shipwreck everything before sliding off to scream to Blair 'Cap'n, Cap'n, they did it.'

That Paddy Sloan of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Association chaired, given the subject matter, indicated an acknowledgement that human rights were social and economic and could not be marginalised to the political sphere as yearned for by the political right. Although Philip Orr and Peter Emerson from the host groups also spoke and were lively and witty, it was the George Monbiot show and that's what people paid to see. He introduced people to the central ideas in his book, The Age Of Consent, and suggested that globalisation opened up opportunities for the disadvantaged to organise and blunt the incisors of capital. I was surprised that the Socialist Workers Party activists did not throw any questions his way. He was very critical of Marxism in his book, blaming Marx himself rather than his offshoots for the murderous virus that beset the ostensibly emancipatory project almost from its inception. The SWP is hard to knock. They do the work and if their activists disappeared off the streets of Belfast tomorrow morning the city would almost certainly be declared a radical free zone. And, as people, for the most part they are sociable. They like the craic and the banter and no matter how fiercely you debate with them, at the end of it, it is the end of it. Nothing carries over. Unlike some of the Marxist Moonies I have met over the years, they won’t hyperventilate just because you think Trotsky was wrong on something like the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in Outer Mongolia …

But they do display a trait which infuriates some and irritates most. And it is the same whether you are in Southampton or Belfast, Manchester of Dublin. Any event you attend - and George Monbiot’s lecture was no different - on the way in they are standing shoving their paper into your face. And just before the event ends they scarper from the hall to meet you with the same paper on your way back out. You might be sitting beside one all night but you’ll be beaten to the door by her. The problem is not the paper as much of it is good reading - when is Eamon McCann anything but stimulating? But the manner in which the activists gather to sell it, almost in the fashion of performing a cult-like ritual, creates an image of the theatre of the absurd and casts a shadow of the ridiculous over a group of people who are otherwise very serious and committed activists. It gives them the appearance of the sandwich board men in the town who try to catch the unwary on a Saturday and who, if you are unfortunate enough to pause momentarily, will howl nonsense about God and the devil at you. If they are what populates heaven, then it is hell for me.

Having said that, whatever the irritation, Brid Smith, a senior SWP activist is now in a prison cell because of her role in opposing the bin tax in Dublin. A socialist political prisoner, she has pushed her political conviction beyond the boundaries that the state defines as lawful. She has broken the law but only to avoid becoming a criminal by obeying it.

Ultimately, it will be names like Brid Smith and George Monbiot that will come to be associated with future radical projects. Whether locally or globally they are pushing in the same direction - against the structures of cupidity and avarice. It is not an open door and the forces determined to keep it in position are powerful beyond belief. When the gentle chords of George Monbiot’s voice caressed the Elmwood Hall, outlining for his listeners the destructive power of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, our own strength seemed like that of a flower in the path of a tank. From where springs hope at moments like that? Brid Smith, Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Lisa Carroll, Christine Heffernan….






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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

20 October 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


The Big Fella and the Big Lad
Breandán Ó Muirthile


Sabotaging the Fight for Freedom
Liam O Comain


Republicanism: Relevant and Not Going Away
TJ O Conchuir


Anti-Racism Network Statement for Endorsement
Davy Carlin


From Where Springs Hope
Anthony McIntyre


Trashing Free Software
Toni Solo


18 October 2003


Hold Onto Your Guns
Liam O Comain


Loyalist Violence
Newton Emerson


Sleeping With the Enemy
Kathleen O Halloran


Whatever Happened to the Anti War Movement?
Brendan O'Neill


Free Joe & Clare
Davy Carlin


Theodor Adorno
Liam O Ruairc


The Desaparecidos
Anthony McIntyre


The Letters Page has been updated.




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