January 30th, 2010

white noise in a white room: bloody sunday 1972

elvis costello (née declan patrick macmanus)meant what he said and was quite close to the truth when he used the term ' white niggers' in his song 'oliver's army'. the song was based on a trip to belfast in the late 70's at the time still immersed in the ubiquitous ' troubles'. no matter what sort of blood shed is going about where ever in the world it's always, he observed, some working class lad who is gotten to do the killing. and get killed, he might have added. with a maddeningly chipper keyboard backing based on abba's 'dancing queen', the song lists or slyly makes veiled references to britian's formerly occupied states and territories including still inhabited northern ireland , historically known as ulster, separated out from free ireland in 1920, it's catholic minority set adrift amid the royalist protestant majority. irish catholics were systematically deprived of their civil rights and murdered for protesting the injustice. costello posits the soldiers and the oppressed both as victims of their government.

all this oppression and bloodshed was nothing new for ireland's catholics. the oliver referred to is oliver cromwell who conducted a campaign against the kingdom of ireland, which was then dominated by but technically separate from what was , after the execution of charles 1, the short lived republican commonwealth of england. this campaign is viewed by some as attempted genocide. after the slaughter,it reduced the irish catholics specifically to slave status, some literally. they were deprived of the right to land ownership, previously having been the largest group of landlords, catholicism was banned, the priests were murdered and citizens were sold into slavery to the american colonies and the west indies. this happened in 1650. it set the stage for ireland's future- being a future full of bloody sundays.

"By an uncompleted process of terror, by an iniquitous land settlement, by the virtual proscription of the Catholic religion, by the bloody deeds already described, he cut new gulfs between the nations and the creeds. 'Hell or Connaught' were the terms he thrust upon the native inhabitants, and they for their part, across three hundred years, have used as their keenest expression of hatred 'The Curse of Cromwell on you.' ... Upon all of us there still lies 'the curse of Cromwell'."-winston churchill.

after cromwell ,catholic ireland was reduced to centuries of spiraling starvation and deprivtion by being stripped of about every right imaginable. any course that would lead to self improvement was made illegal. representing 80 percent of the population, catholics by law were denied the right to educate themselves and could not own or lease land nor could they enter a profession. they could not vote nor hold political office. by 1801 ,ireland was made part of the united kingdom which then proceeded to use it's best and most fertile fields to raise cattle for the roast beefs to have plenty of roast beef. the irish,all tenants, near starvation perpetually anyhow, were forced to work lands not given over to food crops. what food that was grown was exported out of the country even at the height of the famine.only left the shitty, rocky soil for their own use, they grew the only thing that would grow in such conditions- potatoes. ireland was one big plantation and the irish the unfed slaves, denied every course that could buy their freedom- something available even then to african slaves.one irishman who ended up in the american south before the civil war opined that even the black slaves were generally fed better than the irish tenant serfs. although slavery was abolished in britian and her colonies in the 1830s, treating the irish catholics like slaves and starving them into extinction in the 1860s was apparently cause for no great moral outrage.

when the potato blight hit, england did everything in its' power to pathologically ensure wiping out the population. john mitchell was found guilty of treason and transported to bermuda for observing:

"The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the Famine."- john mitchell, the last conquest of ireland( perhaps). 1861

between 1846 and the early 1850's over one million died in the great famine in ireland. mr. mitten's mother's family were part of the great emigration to the new world- landing in canada.the largest grave site outside of ireland for victims of the famine-many of whom died of disease on ships trying to escape- is on grosse isle in québec.

there have been many bloody sundays for the irish although today( jan. 30th) is the anniversary of the one in 1972 aka the bogside massacre - the murder of unarmed irish catholic civil rights protesters by the british army in northern ireland.

the base for most of the contentions over ireland- besides the religious issue- is focused on tenants rights in an agrarian culture- a leftover from the feudal system. deprived of wealth, the right to obtain wealth and land and thus political power the lot of the irish catholics was perpetual indentured servitude and political alienation on top of being cast ethnically as barbaric, stupid sub-humans and depraved papists devoted to the pope not the crown. through the 1880s , england attempted to reform ireland's land laws but more often then not used what were referred to as 'coercion laws' to strip people of their few rights in order to control their agitation and occasional uprisings that included a bloody sunday in 1887.

while england fought the germans in ww 1, the irish fought for their independence. although the uk was preparing to grant home rule in 1914,carving northern protestant royalist ireland out of a free catholic republican ireland,the war froze the process. some of the irish decided fuck this shit and rather than enlisting in his majesty's army decided the time was neigh to throw the british out. the cranberries song ' zombie ' is about the easter uprising of 1916 in dublin- in which nationalist irish openly revolted and declared the irish republic. the british put down the rebellion but the modern bloody insurrection that will refuse to go away was born.

after a slaughtering of british spies by the IRA, operatives of the crown open fire at a football game killing irish civilians, turning everyone and their dog against britian. it's another bloody sunday, this time in 1920. free ireland, severed from the united kingdom is declared in 1922 minus, by agreement, northern ireland. once the english are shown the door, a civil war breaks out. eventually northern ireland alone continues this war against itself with dribs and drabs of free ireland's militant ira involvement- it's long festering orgy of murder and retribution.

by the 1960's the catholic minority of northern ireland did not much support interference from their brothers to the south. they were more concerned with the erosion of their civil rights and the every day hardships that came from being politically alienated and dis-empowered by the majority protestants who lived in perpetual fear of any sort of equality for the catholics, equality which might lead to being ruled by them. catholics were discriminated against in housing and voting rights and in employment.protestants marched through catholic areas in provocation. the british passed a special powers act which allowed interment without trial. the british army was sent in to protect the catholics, who needed the help, however when they started demonstrating peacefully for their civil rights first the police and finally the army turned on them violently. it would cement the troubles and drag a furiously reignited thousands of years of strife and misery into the 1990's.

many early punk songs address the situation in ireland. strafed with economic unrest, inner city riots and the troubles or perceptions there of the punks of the uk had more cause and intimately close reasons for nihilism and rebellion unlike fairly well to do, politically stable americans- who also seemed angry but it can be said, at what, really? safe as houses while sections of brixton burned to the ground and bombs went off in northern ireland. the clash went off about ' white riots' and wanting one after witnessing blacks rioting in opposition to the police and stark poverty in england. but the clash were english and mostly of the middle class. it took an irish boy like elvis to point out the white riots were happening- in northern ireland also over not just poverty but also over being treated as second class citizens in a western democracy.

many songs have been written about bloody sunday 1972, when british forces opened fire on unarmed fleeing civil rights marchers in derry.it occurred in full view of the media and despite the british army's protests to the opposite no proof has ever been found showing those killed to have been armed. many were shot in the back .after wards hundreds were rounded up and imprisoned without trial.

in the early 70's the british were found guilty in the hague of torturing their northern irish prisoners. they even water boarded them to extract not information but confessions to alleged crimes.white torture refers to forms of torture which leave psychological scars not physical harm. gang of four's 'ether 'is about the white torture of the irish prisoners,who were hooded, overloaded with clothing, stood tip toed against walls and subjected to white noise.

" we don't torture/ we're a civilized nation"

an armalite rifle is an extremely light weight, easily disassembled/ concealed powerful gun the provisional ira was fond of using.

i could not have made this post without information from the bloody sunday trust. their site can be found here: http://www.bloodysundaytrust.org/