I was born in West Belfast in 1939 and, although I have done quite a bit of travelling, I still l... more
I was born in West Belfast in 1939 and, although I have done quite a bit of travelling, I still live there. That makes me 69 years of age this year, 2008, and still committed to contributing to social,economic,cultural and political change in our world..... although now probably more in hope than anticipation. I have a wonderful wife, who should have thrown me out many years ago, and a caring and supportive family of two sons, four daughters and eleven grandchildren at the last count.
My despondency about the possibility of change at his stage in our species development is possibly more to do with a lifetime in various struggles, perhaps sometimes naively, sustained by the conviction that change was both possible and indeed, given the insanity of our existing socio-economic relationships, was inevitable. Yet real change never happened even though I lived though a time in the latter part of the last century when that belief was supported by conditions of apparent change in many countries across our world which, while far from perfect, gave an indication that, at least, structural political revolution was possible. The required socio-economic change did not, however, follow the structural confrontation in any meaningful sense; indeed we just seemed to have developed new mechanisms for the exercise of power by those who sought this goal in whatever form.
More worrying are two other factors.
Firstly is the fact that we, on the “left” as they say, seem to have learned little or nothing from a widened perception of our species ability to engage in intense periods of self-inflicted horror, blatant economic abuses, and misused and abused opportunities for change; by and large we still spend our time arguing about who is right in their interpretation of the various economic or philosophical texts which flow from the late eighteenth century; we still play our own little power games in our various organisations.
Secondly is the immense and increasing power of those who control our existing socio-economic relationships and the structures which support them. In particular I am in awe and apprehension of their almost total domination of the media and its manipulating impact on those who are central to any change process; their use and abuse of the political structures which are, supposedly, democratic; their ability to distort basic human needs into vehicles of hate and destruction. I am slowly, very slowly, very reluctantly, having to ask myself if it is possible that this indeed “ is the end of history.”
Despite this questioning I still am, and have been, for the past 30 plus years very involved in working in and between our communities in the North of Ireland exploring new means and methods of inter-communication, trying to help construct a working-class consciousness which will confront the sectarianism which has so bedevilled us for generations, and in particular exploring ways to involve our young people in the struggle for change.
I have also developed initiatives around the needs of our young people particularly those who are perceived as being engaged in “anti-social behaviours”. For instance in the late 1970\'s I set-up and managed the West Belfast Auto Project to develop new responses to the behaviour of our young “joy-riders”. During the intense period of “our troubles” our respective paramilitary groups “knee-capped” (shot) something like 3,000 of our young people and I wanted to provide an alternative to this process and begin to understand what was driving our young people to engage this particular behaviour. I should say that during this time I learned more from those involved with me than they did from me. I have also initiated a number of other projects directed at responding to the needs and abilities of our young adults.
I also continue my attempt to make a contribution, however small, to the very necessary debate on the questions which continue to trouble me: Is meaningful change possible? Do we need to have a new perspective from which to build a new society – is it more about the need to understand human behaviour, our internalised drivers and their relationship to external conditions than simply about the promotion of new structural relationships? What, if any, is the role of violence in the process of change?
These and many other questions haunt me and, despite my awareness of the shortness of time, for myself and, perhaps, for our world, I still want to make a contribution to the search for answers. In sharing my questioning I should also say that I am heartened by the work of Michael Albert, Noam Chomsky, all those involved in the work of Z Communications and those many people throughout our world in their various organisations who work, struggle and suffer to confront exploitation and human abuse in all its forms.
Along with the above I enjoy playing and sharing music, particularly Irish music, using banjo and mouthorgan and bodhran ( Irish marching drum); with some friends I raise a few pounds with my music for various charities, travel and meet people in various countries and try to do what I can to respond to the needs of those many individuals and collectives across our world who have it much worse than I, and mine, do at this time. I am particularly concerned about the needs of the Palestinian and the Chechen people and do what little I can to create awareness of their suffering and raise a little money to assist with their pressing needs.
There are a number of other initiatives in various stages of development which I would be glad to share at some stage. Please don\'t hesitate to contact me if there is any information you want about the situation in the North of Ireland or to touch on some of the issues mentioned above.