Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

8 April 1999 Edition

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Television: Different worlds

by Sean O DonaĆ­le

Dropping The No.10 for Dilli (RTE1)
The South Bank Show (UTV)
Chasing The Tiger (BBC1)
Billy Connolly's Tour of Australia (BBC1)
``When I see all those nuns running up and down the streets of Dublin, campaigning for indigenous struggles in faraway places and not a word about our own struggle.'' So said Des Wilson a few moons ago, when I, then a naive student, interviewed him.

Republicans, although to the fore in international struggle, ``have rightly been cynical about Dublin-based international solidarity campaigns, often hindered by lefties who blatantly ignore the many similarities with our own struggle and in some cases even attempt to marginalise republican involvement.

To let it this negate the just cause of many such campaigns would be wrong, particularly the plight of East Timor, occupied by Indonesia since 1975 and subjected to a sustained campaign of genocide which has seen the deaths of over 250,000 people, one-third of its population.

Tom Hyland, a Ballyfermot bus driver, changed the course of his life after accidentally stumbling across a television documentary which included footage of the massacre of 270 students by the Indonesian military.

This documentary unfortunately resorts to patronising platitudes of Tom Hyland, the founder of Ireland's highly effective East Timor Solidarity Campaign, and would have been better advised to highlight the complicity of Western states in the genocide. This includes the USA's green light for the Indonesian invasion, Britain's continued sale of military jets to Suharto and his successor (which makes a mockery of Tony Blair's recent claim: ``We are a people of peace'') and Australia's role in extracting oil from the region, which is where the heart of the issue lies. As pointed out by Hyland, western concern for the ``plight of small nations'' depends on the economic benefits, be it Kuwaiti oil or Turkish military bases.

An anonymous Australian nun spoke of her shame at her government's betrayal of the East Timorese, 60,000 of whom died fighting for Australia in the Second World War. They were promised at the time ``your friends will not forget you''.

With friends like that...

A million light years away, on UTV's South Bank Show, Dolly Parton was busy promoting her own theme park, Dollyworld, which recreates her Tennessee mountain home and replays all her old favourite ditties, such as ``I will Always Love You'', ``Islands in the Stream'' etc.

Contrary to her stereotyping in the media as a dumb blonde who hasn't seen her toes for twenty years, Dolly is very much in control of her destiny and is an astute businesswoman.

Identified at an early age as ``a gal with a future'' by her Bible-thumping family, Dolly was taken under the wing of ``ole uncle Bill'', performing in Nashville honky tonks and fighting off those old men like a country girl does.

From meagre beginnings - ``we was as poor as church mice'' - and surviving on a diet of ``bread and boloney'', the affable hillbilly finally got her break in 1967 and it was all onwards and outwards thereafter, with the smash hit ``I Will Always Love You'' selling 30 million copies, quickly followed by an acting career, but she was always ``the mountain girl''.

Chasing Tigers was yet another depressing environmental documentary about the ever-decreasing numbers of wild animals on the planet, in this case the tiger, which has fallen in numbers from 80,000 to 5,000 and is in stark danger of extinction, victims of ``Jeeves old boy'' and his ilk shooting some beasts for the Empire and poverty striken indians, in search of a quick grand, the guaranteed price for the sale of Tiger skin and bones, highly prized for medicinal purposes in China and Japan. The virility-challenged in these Asian countries can purchase a four-foot Tiger penis, steep it in liquid for six months, down the juice, and Bob's your uncle - Me, I'll stick to the Viagra!

And finally, I worked off my latest crushing hangover watching Billy Connolly (you either love him or hate him), who was busy exploring the opal mines of mid-Australia and looking for sheilas and men in sleeveless shirts while downing a few tinnies and blowing their didgereedoos.

Time for the millennium baby!

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1