A NEW book by Kilkee’s Peadar King, What in the World? Political Travels in Africa, Asia and the Americas is being launched as part of the Ennis Book Festival on March 2.
It comes on the back of his TV show What in the World? that has been shown every year on RTÉ since the late ’90s.
“What it is really, is a reflection on that experience, an account of the people we met and the places we went to. It tries to locate those places and those experiences in some kind of political context.
“For example, in Latin America we were interested in looking at the political change that has taken place and the drift to left wing parties and left-wing governments, how that’s impacting on the poor, indigenous people and people who have been excluded heretofore by the dominant political classes in those countries.”
A former pupil of St Flannan’s College, he went into teaching and worked at the Vocational School in Ennis and the Comprehensive in Shannon, before taking a rather more uncertain path.
“It’s a precarious world and the pull of a pensionable job doing something I enjoyed as well, was difficult to leave. But it was like having a stone in your shoe, I had to stop at some stage, take it out and see if I could walk better with the stone out. I’ve really enjoyed it, at this stage I don’t see myself going back teaching.”
Now having travelled widely, he feels that Ireland is guilty of a great amount of navel gazing.
“I think there’s a degree of self obsession in this country and I think we are ultimately preoccupied with Ireland’s contribution to the world and how we fare in the world.
“I actually think we have an exaggerated sense of our own importance and that has precluded us and become a barrier to us listening to what the voices of people outside the country are saying about how the world is constructed, about issues like equality, about use of the resources of the world, issues like climate change and so on. It’s very difficult to get those issues discussed here except from our own perspective.”
The book should appeal to a few different audiences.
“I think it will appeal to backpackers for example, people who have travelled or are about to travel to places like South East Asia, Latin America or Africa. There’s a whole chapter on Cambodia and we look at what happened in the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and what happened in the International Criminal Court. We also looked at Laos in terms of what has happened almost 50 years after the ending of the Vietnam War and the effects that cluster bombs have.
“It’s also interesting for people who are involved in education and teaching, I think it’s a good, short and accessible introduction to a lot of countries that people might be talking about in classrooms.”
He hopes it will tell people something about how people live in areas they know very little about.
“I would hope that people would regard it as intellectually rewarding as well and that it would inform people about worlds that are largely hidden by mainstream media.”
While there is a lot about politics, the fact that it’s also about visiting different countries makes it more accessible, he feels.
“Because it’s a travelogue I think its quite accessible, when I feel I’m getting bogged down in the politics and the history I say we had to navigate this stream or we met these people or we had this to eat.”
He says the book’s ultimate argument is that many have been left behind by contemporary economics.
“In terms of conclusion, what I’m simply saying is that the current model of globalisation and by extension the current model of capitalism has failed the poor of the world. I’m also saying that in this country we are becoming more and more isolated and introspective, notwithstanding the fact that we are more and more dependent on the globalised world.”
The book has just hit the shelves although the launch isn’t happening until the start of next month.
“We’re having a launch on March 2 in the Temple Gate Hotel at 6pm. Liam Nashe, with whom I work a bit now and who used to teach in Flannan’s, he’s going to launch it, along with Denis Halliday. Denis Halliday is the former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, in other words, he was second to Kofi Annan, he’s coming to Ennis especially to launch the book.”