Texas Preview

It is now less than a month until I fly off to the United States …more precisely the liberal part of Texas.

Just to recap on what I will be doing. Well for several years I have been contributing off and on to American websites. One of the really good friendships I have made is with a history professor at a university in Texas.

She has invited me to speak to her post-grad students on three occasions next month. At one level it is an ordeal…I am not a public speaker. And I am not a “qualified” lecturer. Luckily there will only be about twelve people in the audience.

The general subject is Terrorism……and specifically intervention by United States. My friend’s specialist area is Latin America. She thought it would be interesting to get another perspective on Terrorism and Conflict Resolution. And this is what I will be doing. Let me say therefore that I am a “source” rather than an “academic”.

So it is an ordeal in some ways but potentially very liberating. The AGREED object of the discussions…..”lectures” seems the wrong word…. is to challenge an American group. Is for example USA imperialist (which most Americans would deny) or anti-imperialist (as they believe)? We in Europe have different perspectives and indeed those of us who are British, French, German, Spanish etc have a different perspective to those who are Irish, Algerian, Polish and Argentinian.

In other words …”imperial nations” tend to think of themselves as bringing civilisation to the word and horrified that the rest of the world is not grateful. Yet USA is somehow different from the rest of the world. It is…….I believe…..a theory or an idea ……more than it is a nation state as understood by the rest of the world.

Ireland is…..obviously….Ireland. But USA has actually changed. In 1783 it was the eastern seaboard …..then thru purchase and conquest….much of it imperialist and genocidal in nature it has changed its borders. And even in Civil War times, a lot of thought went into expanding USA into Central America. Now the irony is that a lot of this expansion was carried out by people (including the Irish) migrating from tyranny in Europe.

Those of us who have spent any time chatting to IrishAmericans will know that many are anti-British as a default reaction. But in many ways “imperialist” about American Foreign Policy. It is against ths background that I will be talking to American students….the object of the exercise not to be confrontational but to point up some inconsistencies. Can I be subtle?

You all know that I am extremely skeptical about Conflict Resolution….and as it is par for the course for Americans to come over here and lecture me on Conflict Resolution ….then surely I am entitled to go over to Texas and tell them where they have been going wrong for centuries….yes I CAN be subtle.

My position has always been that Peace comes as a consequence of War. Peace in World War Two came about when Hiroshima and Nagasaki had atom bombs fall on them. A peace negotiated in 1942 would have been very different. A European Peace Treaty in 1941 would have been a different “Peace” to May 1945.

In the American context, a negotiated settlement could have prevented the Civil War….at least arguably…..but the result would have been different.

Take our “Flegs” dispute. The week before the City Hall decision, I wrote a piece (for Texas)which contained a  reference to the removal of the Irish Flag (Divis Street 1964). I would expect American students to be outraged at nasty Brits. But think on this. In many American schools, children take a pledge of allegiance to the American Flag. Sioux children do it in Montana  and Apache children do it in Arizona and Hispanic children do it in California and…..Texas. And for that matter it is a pledge made by black and white children in “confederate” South Carolina and Alabama.

So I would argue that a homogenous society can only really be brought about by the total defeat of one side by another. Again the defeat of Nazi Germany led to a de-Nazification process. And indeed the defeat of South Vietnam led to the opening of re-education camps. Are the Conflict Resolutionists in Norn Iron’s Golden Halo so very different ? They want to re-educate us to become lets getalongerist liberal unionists…….but the awkward thing is that the Good Friday Agreement ackmowledged no victor or defeated side. We cant impose victory and defeat.

Increasingly I believe that the Good Friday Agreement is a failure. It was founded on a Big Lie (Creative Ambiguity) for the Common Good. It was undermined by the St Andrews Agreement. Further undermined by a lack of will to implement (for example) a Bill of Rights, Truth & Reconciliation and an Irish Language Act. And further undermined by “conflict resolutionists” imposing a set of beliefs on us.

So how am  tackling the lectures. Well first off I have written (too long…..it will be edited savagely) a piece on the World I was born into (the childhood years 1952-1969) and the increasing awareness in the 1960s of what it meant to be a Catholic in Norn Iron….an interesting sidebar is that the Troubles broke out on the very same weekend that Woodstock was happening in USA. This is an over-long piece but I have recorded it and sent it to my friend in USA. It lasts about 45 minutes.

On the TO DO LIST…….still to be written and/or recorded.

Phase 2…..I want to explain the American connexion from the Colonists to Bill Clinton and how Americn involvement was actually non existent. That the presentation of shamrock in the White House on St Patricks Day is in fact a sham (no pun intended) and I link USA-Irish involvent to a kinda alternative USA in 1847…..Frederick Douglas (black) Choctaw Indians (native American) San Patricio Regt (Mexican) and Captain Marye of Virginia (a future Confederate). I also want to bring in the Ulster-Scots/Scotch Irish and their re-invention here as an ethnic minority…..I see parallels with angry white men (rednecks) in USA.

Phase 3…..Lost Lives. I want to take ten names from the Mckitterick (et others) book Lost Lives. People I knew. Necessarily the people I knew who were killed are MOSTLY but not exclusively West Belfast Catholics….including IRA people….but I want it to as representative as possible. Not sure that I actually need to record this on video. It might be enough to just write this and print off about twenty copies. ……more as background notes.

Phase 4…….I think this is the Arc  of Events in 1971-72 which changed my life. I have already written about this in this Blog……….but Internment, McGurks Bar, Bloody Sunday, Claudy Bomb and Bloody Friday Bombing all happened within a year and brought me from being a naive 19 year old to being…….an only slightly less naive 20 year old. I think that should be recorded on camera.

Phase 5……the Anecdotes. The lighter side. If you know the song “Body of An American” by the Pogues, you will be familiar with the line “there were uncles giving lectures on ancient Irish history”…….well I AM THAT UNCLE. I think it is a simple fact that even when we discuss the most serious of Troubles incidents….sooner or later we fall into “The Troubles According To My Da” (Martin Lynch) mode and start getting into the lighter side of the Troubles. Itwas not ALL bad.

Phase 6……and finally…..(and “about time” you say). …having started with the World that I was born into in 1952……I want to contrast with the World into which my grandchildren are born….the Future and the contrived attempts (MTV Awards, Titanic, Derry City of Culture crap) to make us feel good about ourselves.

Looking forward to it.

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22 Responses to Texas Preview

  1. factual says:

    Hope they’re paying you well for all this.

  2. factual says:

    Tip #1: Keep it simple. People tend to overprepare when doing this sort of thing for the first time, and make things over-detailed.

    Tip #2: Keep it interactive.. You would be best to ask for questions early on and take the lead from those – a discussion rather than a lecture – because you may find it hard to guage the level of the students with the risk nobody really is interacting with you.

    Tip #3: ask for the going per lecture rate at the university in question. Otherwise you’re being exploited by the universitty.

  3. factual says:

    Remember FJH this is a privilige, a responsibility, and an opportunity. Take it seriously. I hope it goes well.

  4. bangordub says:

    Excellent and thought provoking post. I look forward to regular updates? Don’t underestimate your ability to influence your audience. At the end of the day content always outweighs presentation and style.

  5. bangordub says:

    Suggestion: Make your entrance in a balaclava.
    Then ask them for their reaction.

  6. bangordub says:

    Thats a point! You could sit talking to them with a scissors and hat

  7. factual says:

    People in Texas are lovely. It is one of the more friendly of the US states.

  8. Hope it goes well. I’ve been to a fair bit of America but never Texas though I have met a fair few Texans and liked them.

  9. Great post FJH,

    I mirror most of the comments above when I say that I hope you have fun, enjoy yourself and that it all goes well. I would love the chance to see your work whenever suits of course as I find it all very interesting stuff.

    I have to also agree with Factual on most of his points above, as someone who has spent years at Uni on recently interacting with the students there makes it more memorable, personable and easier for all parties. It is very daunting at the beginning however when you get in the swing of things and have built a rapport you feel like you are talking to a bunch of friends much like at a dinner as opposed to standing/sitting up at the front and ‘lecturing’ them.

    Also, I always do some breathing exercises just to calm myself down and focus on the fact that I am not as bad as my worst nightmares would have me think, and you are not either!

    • I appreciate this very much FC. When I took early retirement in March 2005, I had already applied for QUB in September 2005.
      I’m not particularly worried about finance….but I would dearly have liked a job for say three years using the new degree in a way that wiped out 32 years in a job far removed from my interests.
      It’s an irony that I have been offered this chance 4,500 miles away. Nervous and Excited in equal measure.
      The good thing is that it feels like I will be learning to drive or learning to swim a long way from home. If I screw up…it won’t matter.

      • It is a bit mad that this is all happening now, but just enjoy yourself, you may get a liking for it, you never know. These guys/students would not turn up or pick a course that they had no interest in, after all they have to pay a massive sum for it and you do have a lot of experience and interest in the field.

        I suspect that they will be probing in their questions especially as you are a primary source in many respects and they may not get too many chances like this again. Out of curiosity, is it postgrads or undergrads who you will be making your presentations to?

      • Yes they are post grads. The College resumes on Monday 14th. the actual class is capped at I think…12….but a few people from the Faculty and a few others who have shown some interest will be there.

      • Postgrads, then they are there because they are genuinely interested in the subject matter. I applied and was offered a place on a post grad in the States and it came in at $50k after receipt of a scholarship and that is before I put a roof over my head or fed myself, so tbh if they are taking this course they have a massive interest and will be fairly attentive.

        Also, I have always found US students to be excellent and on the money, I am always amazed with their energy and drive, they put us to shame and I always come away saying to myself ‘that’s why they run the show everywhere’, I suspect you will too.

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