New year – old wishes left and right

By Johan Galtung

This New Year announces itself with bangs all over, not whimpers.

Pope Francis made a tour d’horizon on all continents, strongly denouncing the violence in favor of his alternative: negotiation.

Much violence is copycat or copyrat; violence being a la mode. Copying–aka learning–is not wrong. But it depends on what is copied.

Here my 10-11 wishes:

Wish no. 1: copying peace rather than violence, for instance from ASEAN and the Nordic Community, making peace self-reinforcing.

Wish no. 2: reporting violence less prominently, more toward the end of newspapers-TV-radio news, and reporting peace upfront.

Wish no. 3: understanding war better, not only how many killed but how many bereaved; understanding peace better as model for others.

Wish no. 4: introducing Yin/Yang in Western thought: no totally good or bad humans or states around; they are all improvable mixtures.

Wish no. 5: linking the good in ourselves to the good in others for peaceful cooperation, yet keeping the bad in mind, for security.

Wish no. 6: identifying unsolved conflicts and unconciled traumas that may lead to violence; solving the conflicts, healing the traumas.

Wish no. 7: globalizing traditional intra-state human rights to rule out killing and exploitation across state borders.

Wish no. 8: adding animal to human rights to reflect how much we have in common, like families, joy and grief, cooperation, symbiosis.

Wish no. 9: globalizing democracy giving voice to all affected by a decision, via UN, or directly by referenda across state borders.

Wish no. 10: dialoguing with the most belligerent–USA-Israel-UK-Turkey–to identify their legitimate goals and how they can be met.

And the erratic climate? A modest wish: a deeper understanding than a one-factor linear relation in a very complex finite world.

Diagnosis, Prognosis, Therapy

A focus on nonviolent remedies, not only critical analysis, makes us think-speak-act more positively.

This is not an all-or-nothing package. Any wish met somewhere is a move for peace and that person-medium-nation-state will be rewarded. The list is not “unrealistic”; the opposites often are. A closer look:

The first is an act of will; emphasizing how well we feel after a good meal or taking the meal for granted, waiting for hunger. Or both, but more on the former. Recommended. Be conscious. You have a choice.

The same goes for No. 2 about the media. I think I can even guarantee that more peace-positive media will sell better unless it is simply unfounded naiveté. Look around, they will find a lot of peace.

Violence breeds violence. Peace may breed peace by setting the tone and mobilizing copycats. That makes violence a source of sorrow and peace a source of joy, with multiple punishments for the violent and rewards for the peaceful. But watch out: there may be peace in violence, using it as the Pope does to argue for peace, and violence in peace if taken for granted, not maintained like in a good marriage.

There is nothing wrong in wanting security, meaning no violence. But there is something wrong in focusing only on security: paranoia.

For wish no. 6 the word “root” is now frequently used, the media also asking what is at the root of this violence. Next question; what is at the root of conflict: incompatibility, of trauma: past violence.

Wishes nos. 7 and 9 are globalizing and easily understood: intra-state human rights and democracy should be extended to inter-state.

No. 8 reflects what we have recently learned about animals from female researchers: how similar they are to us, with life expectancies from 20 (many) to 50-60 years. However, how about our food habits?

Wish no. 10 focuses on helping the most belligerent states, not only criticizing them. The method in Wish no. 6 has to be used, maybe with 5-10 countries volunteering for each one, not only the UN.

To repeat: not an all-or-nothing package, but a list of ideas shaped as wishes for 2017. Anyone with other ideas, please stand up!

What do those old political riders, “left” and “right”, have to do with all of this? They often stand for progressive vs reactionary. To go straight to the conclusion: time has come to drop those terms. Or, to give them a new content: left, progressive is to meet the basic needs of humans and nature; right, reactionary insult these needs.

Let us look more closely at those old terms. Traditionally, left has been linked to solidarity with the working class, or generally with employees rather than employers. But watch out: Thatcher had a point about employers as the “hard working classes”, and employees as trade unionized into the opposite.

Left is also used for favoring the public sector, state-run, and right for favoring the private-sector. This became Plan vs Market, which has an old taste of the 19th century carried into the 20th. However, there are those who fare much worse than workers-employees, like lonely, old ladies, not captured by the left-right discourse. Whether their interests are better served by the public or the private sectors of the economy may be difficult to tell in general terms. Maybe a mix, maybe in phases, now one, then the other; pragmatic?

Again, watch out. There is a basic point about the public sector, the state: in principle it has to answer to the parliament, which in turn has to answer to the people. The more privatization, the more the country is deprived–deprivare–of democracy. No doubt a major purpose of the privatization all over; there are laws about companies, enterprises, but not the direct control by a parliament.

Proposal: give left and right a new meaning. Left wing politics meets the basic needs of humans and nature, right wing insults them. Or drop the terms “left” and “right” as outmoded.

And deepen democracy by having elections not only nationally, but also, for instance in companies, enterprises. With general assemblies. And round tables. And people: as people-ism, populism, not only elitism.

Originally published at the Transcend Media Service, TMS, here.

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