Archive for December, 2012
By Jan Oberg
- A lecture at the World Peace Academy in Basel, Switzerland with words and photographs from his recent visit to Iran
By Jonathan Power
After the orgy of food, drink and presents at Christmas we will have a week to think of our sins before the New Year arrives and we have to make our promises to be better human beings in 2013. What resolutions will you make?
For each person there are probably a good dozen of things to consider but my humble suggestion is that we concentrate on drink, smoking and drugs. Should our governments ban them or limit them or shrug their shoulders and say this is a free society and you do what you want, as long as you only harm yourself? Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
From Frankfurt am Main, Caritas
How do social structures and handicaps–mental or physical, spiritual or material–relate to each other?
Answer: about the same way as social structures relate to other marginalized, even stigmatized, groups: women and non-whites, younger and older, workers, the physically and mentally ill, the handicapped, and other “deviants”. And at the world level the colonized and the imperialized, the less and the least developed countries, the pariahs.
What do they have in common? That somebody is on top of them in a hierarchy. They are different, hierarchies make them unequal, and hierarchies are strong and tend to be reborn. Those on top exclude those lower down as “deviant” from “normal”, included, society. They may even exploit them economically, use force militarily, decide over them politically, imprint their way of thinking on them culturally. Four types of power, four ways of exercising structural violence in hierarchies. Not strangely, we have had amazing revolts against such hierarchies in the last centuries under the banner of the human right to be different, yet equal. From the American revolution leaving clergy and aristocracy behind and the French beheading them via working class struggle for decent livelihood, colonies for freedom, countries to shake off capitalist or communist imperial yokes to poor countries for their share, women for parity, younger people to be taken seriously.
And age: it carries stigma as in white/gray hair, care when walking. 15 years beyond retirement age, I should be in Ruhestand, quietude, on a side-track, Abstellgleis; materially well but spiritually limited to hobbies like children to playing, excluded from the challenges of real work, for individual and social development, for new syntheses. Next stop: the cemetery. So I refused to retire, to become re-tired, tired again and again for lack of challenge; like exploring how concepts close to me may explain the hindrances, Behinderung, for handicapped. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
At last someone has done something sensible in the increasingly bitter fight between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands – and that is China. China announced at the weekend that it is taking the issue to the UN. China has never done anything like this before.
It can only have been decided at the highest level by the new president himself, Xi Jinping, who in the months before he was promoted leader worked to get the various conflicting parts of the Chinese bureaucracy and the armed forces to pull in the same direction on the issue of maritime disputes. Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
From Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany
The probability of a devastating Third World War is not zero, but very far away from 100%. Let us explore why.
The worst case scenario is a world war between the West–NATO, USA, EU with Japan-Taiwan-S. Korea–on the one hand, and the East—SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), Russia, China, Central Asia, with the observers India, Pakistan, Iran. With 4 vs 4 nuclear powers, and West vs Islam as a major theme.
In the center is the explosive mix of a divided territory, and a divided capital, by a wall.
We have been there before: the Cold War, Atlantic and Pacific theaters; 3 vs 2 nuclear powers, and West vs Communism as major theme.
In the center was the explosive mix of a divided Germany, and a divided capital, by a wall; and a divided Korea, by a zone.
And yet no direct, hot war, except by proxies; Korea, Viét Nam. Why? Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
Once again, perhaps in the most anguishing manner ever, the deadly shooting of 20 children (and 8 adults) between the ages of 5 and 10 at the Newton, Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary School, has left America in a stunned posture of tragic bemusement. Why should such incidents be happening here, especially in such a peaceful and affluent town?
The shock is accompanied by spontaneous outpourings of grief, bewilderment, empathy, communal esprit, and a sense of national tragedy. Such an unavoidably dark mood is officially confirmed by the well-crafted emotional message of the president, Barack Obama.
The template of response has become a national liturgy in light of the dismal pattern of public response: media sensationalism of a totalizing kind, at once enveloping, sentimental, and tasteless (endless interviewing of surviving children and teachers, and even family members of victims), but dutifully avoiding deeper questions relating to guns, violence, and cultural stimulants and conditioning. What are called ‘difficult issues’ in the media reduce to what some refer to as ‘reasonable gun control’ (that is, a ban on assault weapons, large magazine clips, and somewhat stiffer gun registration rules) and to improved procedures for identifying those suffering the kind of mental disorders that could erupt in violent sociopathic behavior. Read the rest of this entry »
By Richard Falk
In the aftermath of Khaled Mashaal’s emotional visit to Gaza in celebration of Hamas’ 25th anniversary, commentary in Israel and the West has focused on his remarks at a rally as ‘defiant’ and disclosing ‘the true face’ of Hamas. Emphasis was particularly placed on his dramatic pledge to recover the whole of historic Palestine, from the Mediterranean to Jordan, “inch by inch,” no matter how long such a process might take.
Mashaal also challenged the legitimacy of the Zionist project, and justified Palestinian resistance in whatever form it might assume, although disavowing the intention to attack civilians as such, and denying any complicity by Hamas in the November 21, 2012 incident in Israel when a bomb exploded in a Jerusalem bus.
These remarks certainly raise concerns for moderate Israelis who continue to advocate a two-state solution in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242, but at the same time, it is important to listen to Hamas fully before reaching any firm conclusions.
What Mashaal said in Gaza was at a rally dedicated to reaffirming its fundamental struggle in the immediate aftermath of the recent 8 day Israeli attack (code-named Pillar of Defense), and by a leader who for the first time in 45 years had openly dared to set foot in his occupied and oppressed homeland.
Mashaal is a leader who has lived in exile in several countries of the region since he was 11 years old, having been born in the Selwad neighborhood of Ramallah, then under Jordanian control. He is someone who in 1997 Israel had tried to murder in a notorious incident in Jordan in which only the capture of the Mossad perpetrators induced Israel to supply a life-saving antidote for the poison that had been sprayed into Mashaal’s ear in exchange for their release from Jordanian captivity. In Mashaal’s imagery, this return to Gaza was his ‘third birth,’ the first being in 1956 when he was born, the second when he survived the Israeli assassination attempt, and the third when he was able to kiss the ground upon entering Gaza. These biographical details seem relevant for an assessment of his public remarks. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jonathan Power
In Afghanistan the coalition of Western armed forces has lost 3,000 soldiers during its 10 years of war. In comparison the Soviet Union lost 15,000 during its 9 year long war between 1979 and 89. The Soviet Union politically had not much to show for it and it is a safe bet to say that the US and their NATO allies, unless they pull their finger out, will not have much on the political front to show for it by the time they complete in 2014 the withdrawal that has already begun.
As did the Soviet Union the US and NATO will leave behind better roads, schools, health clinics and the rest. In fact the last few years there has been a remarkable increase in Afghanistan’s growth rate with infant mortality falling fast and the number of children being educated rising rapidly but politics has a habit in Afghanistan of short-changing humanitarian gains.
But does this have to be so? Read the rest of this entry »