Tuesday 2 August 2011

34 - The original Boycott

April 27, 2011

Well, we're normally very fond of complainin' about the weather around here - but, for the last month, we've had practically no rain and more than our fair share of sunshine.  It's been like summer, recently, so we really haven't had anything ta girn about!  Fortunately, we do have a UK election comin' up, so we can complain about politicians, instead - can't we?  That's one thing I've noticed about this side of the Atlantic, we are very free in criticism of our politicians - unlike what I see of the United States, where a lot of people seem to hold them in awe - especially the president.  Any criticism of the president seems to be taken as criticism of the nation.

As you've probably gathered, there's a Royal Wedding about to take place in London - you've heard of William and Kate, I'm sure?  And, although this is a great opportunity for the press to go over the top reporting anything remotely connected to it, they are not averse to criticising the monarchy and even questioning the need for such an institution in this day and age.  We regard that as one of our basic freedoms - to moan about those who lead us.  We're not being disloyal or trying to 'bring down' the country.  That attitude applies in both parts of Ireland - and probably, in most of Europe, too.

But, from what I read on the internet, and listen to on the media - yes, we can listen to US TV news over here, too - there seems to be an attitude towards anyone who protests against government decisions, that they're anti-American?  Kind of reminds me of the McCarthy era!   For instance, the word, 'socialist', seems to be regarded as meaning communist - and a communist is apparently the next best thing (or worst thing) to a terrorist bomber!  So, someone protesting for basic workers rights such as collective bargaining for teachers and other public employees is suddenly regarded as almost an enemy of the state?  How on earth could that ever happen?

Over here, we can make fun of, or criticise, our leaders and government, without anyone regarding it as abnormal.  We don't ever put them on a pedestal - they're only men - or women! - after all!  
Remember, Ireland back in 1880 was the place where the word 'Boycott' was invented.  Charles Boycott was the land agent of an absentee landowner in the west of Ireland who - after a series of rent increases and poor harvests - refused to reduce his tenants rents and began to evict those tenants who couldn't pay.  Another land agent was murdered, but Charles Stewart Parnell - the Nationalist politician, who was himself a Protestant landowner - incidentally with an American mother!  - advised against any violence, but instead proposed that everyone in the area should ostracise the estate.

Work stopped in the fields and in the big house.  Local businesses  stopped trading with him and the postman even refused to deliver his letters!  Boycott was unable to hire anyone to harvest the crops he was responsible for until, eventually, some Orangemen from Cavan and Monaghan volunteered to carry out the work.  Even though the boycott was non-violent, and remained so, these men were escorted to Mayo by 1,000 police and soldiers - making it a very expensive harvest!  And the boycott still continued.

Soon the term, 'boycott', was being used in The Times and other publications and entered the English language as a term for organised isolation.  And the action has become a very popular, non-violent way of showing our displeasure against governments and corporations, who otherwise have very little regard for the poor, the weak, the environment, or anything else.

Today we have several international corporations which have more power than many small nations, and who often believe themselves to be above any local laws or restraints.  Often the only way to influence such corporations is by hitting them where it hurts them most - the bottom line!

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