Vegetarianism Stalinism Part 3: Natalie Bennett and Thought Crimes

Mick noted the GB Green Party leader Natalie Bennett’s interview with Andrew Neil last week below. Much of the attention was focused on the Basic Income as Mick has noted. Also interesting was Ms. Bennett’s idea of replacing the Armed Forces with a Civil Defence Force whilst at the same time turning the British Defence Industry to making wind turbines: that at the same time as opposing the Global Arms Trade. The inconsistency in that position was pretty ably noted by Andrew Neil; however, a further inconsistency was not noted. Ms. Bennett suggested that it cease to be a criminal offence to be a member of what are currently proscribed organisations (ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the IRA were specifically mentioned by Neil). This policy was defended by Natalie Bennett explaining that: “You shouldn’t be punished for what you think”.

This is the same Natalie Bennett who defended the following Green Party Policy:

Get rid of any cabinet Ministers or senior governmental advisors who refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change or who won’t take the risks to the UK seriously

Ms. Bennett at the time insisted that even those in positions not directly related to climate science should face the sack if they did not accept man made climate change such as the Chief Medical Officer. Indeed it was clear that the Green Party felt they should all be asked their view on climate change and sacked if they held the “wrong view”. This from the woman who in relation to terrorists and their supporters said “You shouldn’t be punished for what you think”… Clearly Ms. Bennett’s Ministry of Truth strikes back with more Thought Crime before handing over to the Ministry of Love. The Gulags on the South Downs will be pretty full: though not with terrorists and it is unclear what the guards will be armed with. 2+2 does indeed equal 5.

,

  • David Crookes

    Tremendous posting, Turgon. Well done, and many thanks.

  • the rich get richer

    I hope Andrew Neill brings the same robust questioning to more established party leaders.
    Sadly with Andrew its kid gloves with the establishment leaders and a good kicking to the smaller parties.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The equasion of freedom of political belief for people in private life and its use by individuals in office to further private beliefs which may not have been part of their electoral manifesto, and their ability to influence a public policy they have issues with, are not actually one thing and should not be thought of as such. Thinking something and acting on something are different actions, and the clever propaganda manner that the posting has suggested they should be treated as the same thing is highly mendatious. Ms Bennet is being consistent in not actually opposing the right to think things, simply the right to act on them without some form of constraint.

    It is misleading to imply that someone out of power whose only recourse is to arguement, or in extreme cases violence, and someone in public office with the ability to effect policy against the general public good should be treated in exactly the same manner. The core issue here is how people may use their private beliefs to effect the lives of others. In a world incresingly suffering from massive climate swings, arguably those who deny climate change are an even greater danger to nature and the future of humanity itself than the men of violence! However, the real underlying requirement in all of this is to create constraints that inhibit those who may do us harm from doing so, and one of these constraints is free arguement. The real harm will only be effected by action. Where someone is in public office and may use their position to effect changes without constraint, this must be as subject to some form of censure and control over and above the ballot box, especially in a polity where the ballot box seems to change very little.

    “Clearly Ms. Bennett’s Ministry of Truth strikes back with more Thought Crime before handing over to the Ministry of Love. The Gulags on the South Downs will be pretty full.” This is a very vivid image, but in the light of the misleading nature of the article itself, perhaps a rather over simplistic and highly directive manner in which to end the piece. Reducing the whole posting to a few simple points, we are seemingly asked to permit free play of ideas and action for those in power while denying even ideas to those out of power. This is authorised in a final image that puts the onus of repression on someone representing a political party with litte real power. In the final analysis, might is always right, and anything that offers any radical solution to the problems that the power brokers have created is going to end in Stalinism.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Sadly the Greens are so far away from political reality. This Manifesto sounds more like the Monster Raving Loony Party. Of course we all have political dreams and our heavens but then we have to kick ourselves into reality and come up with a realistic agenda that is going to win votes ! In the big bad world of politics unattainable or unrealistic manifesto shall always keep such parties in the realms of dreamers and unelectable which is a shame as the Greens do have other policies which are very important for future generations.

  • chrisjones2

    Its just a green brand of fascism

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Funny word Fascism! What does it actually mean? I mean we all know what it means, don’t we, but what does it actually mean in this context?

    I would sincerely hope its not simply a convenient way of avoiding thinking about those issues I’m raising in my big posting.

  • carl marks

    Are his ideas on the military really that out of touch, the present system is unaffordable and not fit for purpose, aside from Trident (and outside of vague scenarios nobody can explain what use it is) and the recent absurdity of Aircraft carrier’s with no planes both of which cost’s Billions that could be redirected to the NHS, Education etc why do we need the ability to project force around the globe, to be honest it is not been very successful in History and let the Americans do there own dirty work.
    I would rather have a factory producing wind turbines than mines or incendiary bombs and how many hospital beds could you get for the price of a main battle tank?
    As for the international Arms Trade, should we not be opposed to this, is this not a overriding moral point, its not like we don’t know what these thing do to people, How many brutal dictator’s and terrorists round the world have murdered with british made weapons!
    The “if we don’t sell them somebody else will” argument is equally puerile whether its selling heroin or gun’s you are profiting from someone else’s misery.
    equally the “I just sold it, i have no moral responsibility if it is misused” is also bogus, I don’t think anybody on this site would accept it from the man who sold the RA semtex and im also sure that the family of a child who lost a leg from a britism made mine would feel the same.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear, T.E., “political reality” and an “agenda that is going to win votes” really are quite different things! If the big political parties were offering us anything approching reality, we would not be in this big long recession we keep coming out of every few months! And yes, “the Greens do have other policies which are very important for future generations”, which is what I’d call political reality in the long term. Something that no other party is even beginging to think about.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The Greens have had an easy ride till now. Good to see their whackier policies being exposed, any other party would be crucified for that kind of otherworldly half-wittery. Nice people and all, but scrapping the armed forces and decriminalising membership of terrorist groups shows quite a deep disconnection from reality.

    There are nasty people out there who think murder and bombing is a legitimate political weapon to further a cause – and act on it. And it’s not because our armed forces or anything that’s been done to them, though the terrorists pretend it is. It’s ideological – the IRA and UVF believed and IS still believe in blood sacrifice – mainly other people’s. Her views are pretty insulting to people in Northern Ireland in particular who have suffered so much from them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks carl, for your handling each issue raised and showing what utter nonsence they actually are. This is very much to the point. But the really mendatious thing about the posting is its seemingly willful confusion of private freedom of thought with the irresponsible manner in which those with their own private convictions, ideas not featured in their election manifestos, are all too willing to create policy based on these ideas when in governmemt. I’ve attempted to dissect these issues in my big posting.

  • carl marks

    Is the use of words like Stalinist and Fascism (chrisjones2) not a bit extreme, is it not offensive to the victims of those Hitler and Stalin!

    In a earlier thread in regard to the curry my Yogurt insult someone quoted, Martin Niemoller,s “First they came” and you rightly (in my opinion) pointed out the silliness of the comparing a insult to the horrors people suffered under hitler, Stalin was no kinder to many millions, surely you are doing here exactly what you objected to in a earlier thread!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Seaan – ‘Nail-In-Head’ ” “which is what I’d call political reality in the long term” to get to the long term plan a smaller political party needs to establish a vote base and constituency in the “short term” to do so it needs to attract voters from what you call the big political parties for this reason it’s manifesto needs to appeal to these target voters

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, the core issue here is the use of private conviction to force anything on anyone, I would think. People should be free to think what they want to, its when they attempt to force these things on anyone else, either through terrorist violence, or through unauthorised application of private convictions from a position of elected power, that any ideas become offensive and dangerious. The posting confuses these issues in order to favour the right of those in power to effect what they would, irrespective of their actual mandate. While this may not kill people directly, it may very well lead to situations where people have their lives ruined and despoiled by the private agenda pursued. And sometimes, such selfishness in the farming of laws and policy actually kills people, just as much as weapons do.

    The issue of decriminalising terrorist groups is far from a problem if the real core issue, the actions, not the ideas, of those in these groups is targeted. And the real failing of all current government is its failure to answer problems that arise, those problems that extremism feeds off. There would have been no need to criminalise an almost moribund IRA had it not been given the stimulious that the Unionist gross over-reaction to the civil rights movement ensured.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Sadly David, I feel we must disagree on this. I feel that the posting is mendatiously conflating two quite disparate things, cleverly, yes, but mendatiously.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You are perfectly right, T.E, about your interpretation of political reality! But a hundred years after Edward Bernays, and the careful management of the voting public’s opinions “for their own good”, I’d feel that quickly building a voting base by attracting voters from the big political parties would necessitate any Green Manifesto espousing those very short term policies that are at the root of the problem.

    I know we are in for a very long haul if the public is to be educated out of its addictions to the current “political realities” of centerism and led to analysising and addressing the very real issues that the Greens highlight intellegently. “Citizen Income” is one important Green theme that would stimulate grass roots enterprise, remove the poverty trap and reduce the immense bureacracy that administers the Puritan means tested system, but when Mick posted on this very significant part of the Green platform there were only four postings (two of them mine).

    Issues such as this are seriously proposed as possible solutions to seemingly intractable problems, but the media characterisation of the Green party as “looney” that most other posters automatically knee-jerk into means that they are not even given a glance. Would you rather the Greens were say, like “New Labour” was, in espousing those generally agreed solutions to problems that actually compound them? That would be one way to offer a realpolitick manifesto that would build a voter base fast, but perhaps the issue is not getting into power on any terms!

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Seaan If I was a smaller party like the Greens I would want an electoral system that would give me the best chance of return. I would be wishing to scrap the Majority First past the post voting system of Westminster Elections and advocating PR. Your point about becoming a “New Labour” has merits because they are going to pick up votes right across the political spectrum in a PR Election but I still need a solid base vote to eliminate other political parties. Thanks for the debate, interesting discussion.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You are spot on, T.E. about the blanking any serious reform party is going to encounter with the “first past the post” fixed lottery, and all those echos of eighteenth century “Rotten Borough” election by standing order.

    But the moment that the radical solutions that the Greens exist to offer an electorate are dropped, the entire reason to be a Green ends. If the New labour solution is going to work, why not simply join that wing of Labour and continue digging the flooding hole we are all in a tad deeper? And thanks for your excellent points also, good to find some serious discussion of these things!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Just remembered a story from Dave Trott (Gold Greenlees Trott Advertising in my day) used to publicise one of his books.

    “Explorers are walking through the jungle. Suddenly they hear a tiger roar. One explorer sits down and takes a pair of running shoes out of his backpack.

    ‘You’re crazy, you’ll never out-run a tiger,’ says the other explorer. ‘I don’t have to out-run the tiger,’ he replies.‘I just have to out-run you.’”

    Sure, he survives, but you have not actually answered the problem of the predator!

  • Turgon

    You can spin any way you like but the two simple facts are:

    Natalie Bennett stated regarding support for terrorist organisations: “You shouldn’t be punished for what you think”.

    Then on the issue of removing government advisors who did not accept what she defined as “The Consensus on Climate Change” she stated:

    “We would ask the government to remove them”

    Now keep trying to pretend there is a difference: as I stated earlier 2+2=5

    Sounds SeaanUiNeill like you would do well in the Ministry of Truth (or possibly Love)

  • carl marks

    “Then on the issue of removing government advisors who did not accept what she defined as “The Consensus on Climate Change” she stated:

    “We would ask the government to remove them”

    well yes climate change is no longer in question (that what she means by “consensus”) surely an advisor who does not believe the overwhelming scientific evidence on such a important subject ,should not be advising the government on it.

  • carl marks

    when what you think is what you are getting paid for and what you think is wrong, well you can think it but should you get paid for it!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Again, I’d ask in all seriousness, Turgon, that you should consider that removing someone using a public office for private agendas is not “punishing” them for their ideas in any meaningful sense, it is simply the native right of any voter to expect his government to avoid a situation where ideas without mandate are imposed on the public against their best interest. I recognise that this may be seen as “punishment” by the offender, but when was this not the case? I believe myself that no one should be punished for their ideas, only for their actions, but when we have a system so opaque as our own political system has become in its own self defence since the troubles, I would feel that those who have the power to invisibly harm the public should be open to scrutiny and, if culpable, dismissal, just as those using more overt violence should be stopped.

    This is not spin, and claiming that it is, is a very “Edward Bernays” evasion of real argument, a rather crude manipulation of the reader, is it not? Claiming “spin” simply seems to be a manner of avoiding the need to honestly face the contradiction which is unacknowledged in the response above. If terrorists should be constrained from harming the public, how much more so should those “respectable” people who would support the rape of nature and the destruction of our all too fragile ecosystem be removed from those sensitive situations where they may do harm?

  • Turgon

    You will note that Bennett specifically stated that the rule should apply even to advisors whose jobs had nothing at all to do with climate change policy.

    As I said inconsistent with “You shouldn’t be punished for what you think”

    2+2=5.

    When in a hole Carl stop digging

  • Turgon

    As I said to Carl Marks above:

    You will note that Bennett specifically stated that the rule should apply even to advisors whose jobs had nothing at all to do with climate change policy.

    As I said inconsistent with “You shouldn’t be punished for what you think”

    2+2=5.

    When in a hole stop digging

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Turgon, you know they way politics works! Advisors=influence, simple. It’s not as if the boundaries of departments and responsibilities are not at all “porous” in any way! During the troubles, anyone would have been uncomfortable at the thought of someone entirely sympathetic with PIRA working within the police. Having climate deniers scrutinised when they are in positions of power and influence is simply political hygiene.

    They should be free to think what they wish, certainly, simply their ability to impose private, unmandated opinions on others should not be countenanced in any democratic society.

  • carl marks

    well i could reply that combating climate change will be something that will affect every aspect of society,could you point out any government department that will not in some way be obliged to take action relating to climate change so any advisor on any subject will be advising on subjects with have implications for climate change.
    another point is the competence and impartiality of those who don’t accept climate change as a real and a very threatening reality at that. you have got to look at the wisdom of employing somebody who does not accept the overwhelming evidence and consensus which supports it! do we really want people so out of touch with reality as government advisors.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Turgon, this is not an answer to what I’m saying, simply blanking! I feel that this kind of evasion is quite unhelpful.

  • Turgon

    Quit the man playing

  • SeaanUiNeill

    In all sincerity, please realise that simply blanking a point with a few words of crude dismissal does not in any manner confirm your thesis! I’m trying to engage, please do not simply dismiss points raised by myself or others without answering them. Your argument contradicts itself by taking a simplistic point scoring interpretation of something much more complex.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have no wish for this to be in any way personal, Turgon, but you have in no manner answered the issues I’d raised about the complexity of the themes in my posting earlier this morning with anything other than abuse! You respond with evasions such as “2+2=5” but this is not an answer, simply a blanking move. I’m trying to question things you say, and would ask for a respectful answer rather than mendacious evasions. Your characterisation of any questioning of unmandated activity as “punishment” is at the very least highly suspect. It is issues such as this I’m concerned about, not you as a person, or those views you may hold. However, you must expect any simply propagandistic effort to be dismantled by argument from myself and others where it will seriously misinform the reader.

    And I’d always thought that Slugger was platform for measured debate, for argument in good faith, not simply a private forum for the unquestioned presentation of opinion.

  • Turgon

    As noted above. No more personal remarks. Full stop.

  • PaulT

    “Bennett suggested that it cease to be a criminal offence to be a member of what are currently proscribed organisations (ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the IRA were specifically mentioned by Neil).”

    Or the UDA, a perfectly legal organisation on 9th August 1992, but on 10th August 1992 it was a proscribed organisation, therefore criminalising it’s entire membership, who were subsequently arrested for the criminal offence of membership of a proscribed organisation.

    OK, I made the last bit up.

  • carl marks

    Indeed i forget our local groups in this respect, you can for all accounts be a senior member of the UVF (a active proscribed organisation) and serve on the policing board, and we have ex members of the IRA (well it disbanded the UVF didn’t) and Third Force (did it ever disband?) in important positions, very good point sort of muddy’s the waters doesn’t it!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’ve been all too aware of them in this context. Which is why I’ve been trying to draw a distinction between freedom of thought and opinion, and the employment of those private opinions in the development of public policy in situations where some mandate has neither been sought or given.

  • babyface finlayson

    She does not think people should be locked up for their opinions and at the same time she is lobbying the government not to use advisers with what she considers extreme and dangerous views, as she is surely entitled to do.
    As, for example, a Christian group might not want Richard Dawkins as a government adviser.
    Or we might not want someone as a government adviser who advocates lowering the age of consent for sexual activity, though as a private individual they would be entitled to hold those views.
    She may have been clumsy in the way she approached it but I think it is possible to hold those two points of view.

  • StevieG

    I am not sure of the point of the post. Are you not conflating ‘beliefs’ with ‘scientific consensus’? I care not for Natalie Bennetts view on the permitted beliefs above, but it does not tally as 2+2=5 in that I would actually agree with not allowing people to have influences and beliefs that are not in alignment with scientific fact. Beliefs do not have to have any rational basis (Ghosts, God, 6k yr old earth).

  • Turgon
  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you, BF, this issue of the difference between personal belief and the employment of such beliefs against others is the distinction I’ve been attempting to show Ms bennet is actually making, and which teh lead posting misrepresents.

  • Turgon

    Right so not believing in Climate Change is mentioned in the same breath as supporting paedophilia.

    Interesting juxtaposition of views. I sincerely hope that is not your position.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You shouldn’t be punished for what you think unless you are connected to an EEG machine that can effect another person.

  • carl marks

    again i ask is comparison’s to the world orwell built in 1984 and unfounded and (and vastly inappropriate ) use of words like Stalinist, not over egging the pudding.
    How many time’s have we heard unionists calling for the resignation or sacking of people in post’s whose worldview they disagree with.
    Every political party at some time or other call’s for the resignation or sacking of those they disagree with. how is this any different?

  • carl marks

    i think merely making a point, However we should be used to this, the same thing happen’s during debates on Gay rights, incest, beastility, and polygamy are thrown in to muddy waters for example.

  • babyface finlayson

    Turgon

    I am drawing an analogy. As the Greens view climate change as being a threat to the entire planet they no doubt consider it to be every bit as serious as paedophilia”
    Indeed as David Cameron has said; it is “one of the most serious threats facing our world”, so possibly he should be getting rid of any advisers who are climate change deniers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The problem Kevin, as I see it, is that this posting is a “look kittens” distraction posting, that is attempting to smear the Green party with an “inconsistency” issue in order to draw attention away from the very real social and climate issues that they, uniquely in the wee six, actually address. As I have mentioned elsewhere, the “Citizen Income” posting about Green regeneration policy which Mick put up in order to air a most significant issue has, notably, only attracted four comments, while this election spoiler has produced a cauldron of responses

    In my big posting I’ve attempted to show that the inconsistency which is highlighted is in actual fact only surface, and does not in any manner show a desire to “punish” people for what they may be thinking, but for what underhand influence they may deploy in what is still a very opaque political culture.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Their ideas aren’t illegal, their terrorism is. Where terrorism starts is with the very existence of organisations intent on killing people. Membership of such an organisation is not a freedom of conscience issue, it’s being by choice part of a murder gang. People should not have the ‘right’ to be in a terrorist organisation. Get real.

    There is a practical side to this too. We all agree anti-terrorist policing is a vitally important area that protects the public from being randomly slaughtered by these maniacs. If they aren’t allowed to arrest and seek convictions for people for membership of terror groups, it makes stopping attacks harder, not easier. Also if the groups aren’t illegal, I’m guessing that will reduce the extent to which the police can monitor their activities and foil attacks.

    The problem with the Green analysis seems to be in failing to account for individual choice and responsibility when it comes to terrorism. Yes terrorism can be in response to real issues and those issues should be dealt with regardless of the terrorism. But dealing with the issues terrorists complain about rarely eradicates terrorism, because terrorism is of course is not simply an inevitable response to having had a bad life or being unfairly treated. It is a deliberate choice to pursue one’s goals through the medium of extreme violence against others. It is impossible to deal with every issue people might have in such a way that there won’t be some nutter who still thinks he’s got the right to kill people for his beliefs.

    I worry that the Greens’ approach gives these homicidal maniacs a bit of a sick note excuse – “had to do it cos of Western oppression” or whatever, “it’s just another way of expressing yourself”, “I represent the oppressed” etc. It’s the pathetic self-serving nonsense of people who find importance and purpose for themselves in abusing other people. The Greens have been naive if they’ve mistaken how these people project themselves – they’re often very good at sounding like butter wouldn’t melt – for the reality of what they are, violent thugs. The ones who wrap their thuggery in a veneer of ‘conscience’ are the worst. They get to have a conscience because they are alive; their victims don’t.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’d think we’re pretty close on much of this one. “Their ideas aren’t illegal, their terrorism is.” As I’d said, actions, and any access to authority that might facilitate that action, are the problem, not what people think. I think that we both seem to loathe the use of violence to intimidate others into submitting to any agenda, but where we might differ is that for myself the violence of the state is not unproblematic.

    I’d feel that the methods used since the 1960s to counter terrorism across the world have been singularly unsuccessful at defending the public from violence, perhaps because those deploying these methods are often so wilfully confused about what constitutes threat. Something anecdotal. As a pacifist within the Civil Rights movement, I’ve experienced serious state intimidation and close connivance with non-state forces (Major Bunting/Paisley,etc) personally, instigated by those who would see threat in any endeavour to challenge injustice, no matter how clearly non-violent. Such people see the defence of the state in a very abstract manner, which does not necessarily incorporate the defence of peaceable citizens who legitimately disagree with state policy. I’d view the Green agenda as a serious attempt to draw a line between thinking dissent and the violent acting out of that disagreement. For those of us pacifist dissenters who have been caught between brutal terrorist violence and the self-serving violence of the state, the Sheehey Skiffingtons of this world, neither side have any moral high ground. In this context, the Greens attempt to rethink such issues seems refreshing.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “neither side have any moral high ground”

    We’ve been through this before and I won’t rehash, but obviously I regard that statement of moral equivalence between democratic states and terrorist groups as totally wrong and very dangerous. If we don’t believe in democratic processes and the capacity for a criminal justice system to do better than not having one, we really are lost as a society. It’s handing over control to the brutal and self-possessed; it is fundamentally unfair and it leads to barbarism. We have experienced the consequences of that morally vacuous approach in Northern Ireland already, with brutal terrorists tearing lives apart out of ‘conscience’, then being pandered to as if all they had done was express themselves – no more of this nonsense please.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Its not the democratic state/terrorist equation we’d disagree about really, MU. Its the manner in which many of those in authority in the late 1960s were themselves working to private agendas, and were utterly unaccountable to anything. This was my personal experience, not something I’ve read in book and become emotional about. With full accountability, I’d have trusted the police and the law utterly, but this just was not possible with the actual people one encountered. This moral vacuum in the apparatus of the state here was exactly one of those things I personally was protesting about in the late 1960s.

    And this flouting of common accountability is why there was no clear cut black hat/white hat on the cutting edge of experience for many of us, non-violent activists simply demanding that the rights others in Britain daily enjoyed should hold here. I do not think that this in any way excused the violence of the PIRA, I’m very much Ghandi and passive resistance myself, but there was serious moral turpitude on BOTH sides, and if there had not been PIRA would never have been able to do what they did. And yes, we were lost as a society, that’s exactly why it has been such a terrible fifty years.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but nothing that justified the taking of a single life – right?

    And on the “but for” test, there are several million other things without which PIRA wouldn’t have done what they did. If we’re looking for causes for their wild and barbaric behaviour, they really need to look hard in the mirror before blaming anyone else.

    I do realise though a lot of them were abused as children and I wouldn’t want to play down the trauma of that. But still, what they did in taking out their feelings through violence was deeply wrong – and it didn’t do anything to bring their abusers to justice. It was displacement activity. Since 98 it seems many formerly violent people are realising that much of their brutality came from what their elders taught them and did to them. Hopefully the next generation will be taught different lessons – credit is due to them for trying to break that cycle now.

    The state wasn’t great either, but really had quite limited capacity to produce the level of violence that emerged. We need to look more widely for its causes in society.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    MU, I see myself as someone very much in the middle of this, finding both parties entirely culpable in any number of ways, each suffering from the abuses of the other. No one side may claim sole possession of although I mixed with both communities in the 1960s and it was evident to me that those great social injustices perpetrated against our Catholic fellow citizens were simply regarded as right and normal across a surprisingly wide portion of the other community. But the entire process of rectifying this historical wrong both could, and should have been effected by peaceful means, as I’ve said, no secure black hat/white hat answers where one side can securely blame the other, both sides were grossly culpable, brutal and short-sighted in their action/reaction/reaction patterns. Both sets of elders, both within the apparatus of state and amongst paramilitary organisations trained their under generations in simple confrontation, certainly since the more generous empathies and curtsies of the pre-WWI period were buried after that war in violence and partition.

    “The state wasn’t great either, but really had quite limited capacity to produce the level of violence that emerged.” I’m not at all sure what you are trying to say with this. It is self-evidently wrong! Are you saying that the local police, the security services and the British army were more ill equipped and less organised than PIRA, etc?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No – that they had less influence on the wee boys and girls who grew up to be killers than their parents and community leaders.

    In looking for the causes of people becoming violent, violent to the level that we’ve seen in both loyalist and republican communities, I think the actions of the state are but one of many causes. Clearly they are not the main cause, because the violence from non-state groups has been out of all proportion to anything the state has done. So it can’t be explained a simple reaction to that.

    We should be looking at brutality within the culture more widely, inter-community brutality but also – and this was my point – intra-community brutality.

    In terms of influence, one’s home environment, peer group, role models, educators and community leaders surely have a much bigger input into what makes the individual than any external influences, though both are formative. Occasional interactions with police or officialdom, if unfair, I’m sure are a cause of anger and may result in aggressive feelings. But how those feelings are expressed is surely in large part down to cultural conditioning and that conditioning is through largely intra-community influences.

    In both loyalist and republican cultures there have been longstanding practices of the tolerance and even revering of the ability to use extreme personal violence – even without taking into account actual paramilitarism. They are “macho” cultures. So I’m saying it’s worth confronting, when looking at Troubles violence, the non-political as well as the political causes.

    We have had on both sides a relationship with violence that is notable, I think, for its ambivalence. There is an acceptance of violence as just part of life which I think massively fed – and still feeds – into the sheer amount of violence that communities produced. Explaining it as purely reactive, or a ‘political statement’ of some kind, just doesn’t tally with the level of violence unleashed. It’s those deep cultural attitudes to violence – bad attitudes – that we need to spend more time looking at, instead of us all blaming our violence on the other side.

    We can only speculate about the roles of abusive, violent schooling, bad parenting and poor community leadership in creating environments in which the young want to kill in cold blood. That’s not letting the state off the hook, but surely we need to look at *all* the influencers that created that bizarre glibness about murder that so many outsiders notice in Republican and Loyalist communities. I’m not buying that “the Brits did it to us” or indeed “the Provos did it to us”. Behaviour and attitudes simply don’t work like that.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you, MU, for the clarification. Certainly, no one area of influence could even begin to take direction the complexity of the situation when it began to get out of control. I was fixing on something else as a single theme, the culpability of the middle class protestants who let Bunting and Paisley represent them while tut-tutting all the way, but of course that was just one strand in a very thick rope, I too know this. I sincerely believe that we are entirely on the same page over the desire to avoid unhelpful or self-serving simplifications, and I fully endorse pretty much all of what you are saying.

    You are hitting my big problem here. In order to even begin to put enough down to approach anything big like this, the paragraphs suddenly begin add up and up and up. I could, literally write a book on this myself, which is exactly why I am stimulated to complain at any simplifications offered up as particular “causes” of it all.

    “We should be looking at brutality within the culture more widely, inter-community brutality but also – and this was my point – intra-community brutality.”

    The macho culture, the intense general hatred of art and creativity, the crude basic demand that learning and ideas only exist to get you a job (if your family cannot simply do that for you anymore), encoded habits of disrespect for an authority that for centuries has been partisan and self-interested, all these things exist elsewhere, certainly. Even “there is an acceptance of violence as just part of life which I think massively fed – and still feeds – into the sheer amount of violence that communities produced” is something I’ve seen in those parts of Los Angeles, for example, where you do not stop at lights if you do not want a sledgehammer in the windscreen. But I entirely believe that much of this is nurtured and given a particular local flavour by long roots that stretch back into our own self-engendered history, something I see as a collective deep memory, dangerous where it is misremembered in a partisan manner that all too easily encourage the dehumanisation of the “other”.

    I think also that being in a family that had links with those in power here, and had that contempt for them that such familiarity sometimes breeds, has given my own interpretations a slant. Although I’d utterly reject the violence, I cannot overstate this, I feel that the rottenness of the old system and its keepers meant that the reaction of “non-state groups” in the 1960s has not “been of all proportion to anything the state has done”. But what has been done has been done, and all the past can now do is offer some warnings for those of us who are trying to encourage some moderation and decency in the face of the simmering brutality that endures and endures.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    90 per cent of Troubles deaths were down to NI people practising terrorism; 10 per cent was the state. And prior to 1969, how many people had been killed that such a massive wave of terror was somehow a proportionate response?

    There does seem to be blindness over what terrorist violence is – that experiencing it is somehow comparable to experiencing social injustice. It’s on a whole different level: violent death inflicts almost immeasurable suffering on loved ones. Anyone taking it upon themselves to kill someone’s husband, wife, father, mother or child had better have one amazing reason for doing so. But the truth is in Northern Ireland, that reason was never there.