Archive for the ‘Culture & religion’ Category

The dangers of populism waxing

By Jonathan Power

April 4th 2017

The long talked-about referendum in Turkey will happen on April 16th. In effect voters have to decide whether the president, Recep Erdogan, in theory the incumbent of a relatively modest political post, should now be given the powers of the president and prime minister together.

Combined with a large majority in Parliament he would have enormous power to shape Turkey around his pro-Islamic agenda. Although working within a democratic system Erdogan is in many ways a populist, rather in the mould of President Donald Trump.

Shortly after his Justice and Development Party first won an election in 2003 I was in Turkey and my first question to the people I interviewed was does the party have a “secret agenda”- that is was planning at some future date to make the country Islamist. “Definitely not”, was the almost universal response.

How wrong they were. Or perhaps they weren’t. Maybe over the years Erdogan has changed his spots.

Either way Turkey now confronts a situation where populism, Islamism and nationalism are becoming Turkey’s dominant forces. This is dangerous for Turkey.

Its highly educated, secular-minded, middle class will have less influence and indeed will be singled out and prosecuted, as many journalists, professors, novelists and judges are these days. Turkey will become even more anti the European Union – and what a mistake it was not to admit Turkey when twelve years ago it was knocking loudly on the door and was rebuffed.

The Islamist forces so strong today would have been Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 410: The meaninglessness of war: Aleppo Photo Series # 6

By Jan Oberg



Lund, Sweden – March 24, 2017




Can the almost total destruction of Eastern Aleppo be used constructively? 


Only if we are willing to ask and dialogue about this: 


Why does the world go on investing US$ 2000 billion annually in warfare and US$ 30 in all the UN does – only to create destruction of people, places, past and future?


How absurd, how meaningless – indeed how far must it go to destroy the West itself – before we learn to conflict intelligently?


The Meaninglessness Of War by Jan Oberg on Exposure

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I’ve see much destruction during my work in conflict zones the last 25 years. But nothing compares with Aleppo and the destruction of Syria and its people.

Nothing – absolutely nothing – can justify this barbarian process, not even an alleged dictatorship and ruthless regime policies. 


We must learn from Aleppo and all the other places:


- to hate violence and war, not each other;

- to stop siding with some presumed good violence that shall combat evil violence because there is no (good) violence that is better than dialogue;


- to criminalize arms trade to conflict zones and never let a private arms trader or goverment at large when they profit and make peace impossible;


- to learn the tools of conflict-resolution and do what we have all promised to do: struggle first for peace by peaceful means as stated in the UN Charter.


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My photo series “The Meaninglessness of War: Aleppo” aim to encourage you to think deeply – much deeper than siding with one or the other side. 


We need a tectonic shift in the theories and practises of international politics and conflict management. ASAP.


Otherwise the rest will one day be just that: Silence. 


A global Aleppo.


Side instead with peace, decency, truth and humanity. And learn your Gandhi and other wise thinkers. Get out of the box! The group think! 


And the future of the world will be so much more promising. Even bright.

The Meaninglessness Of War: Aleppo

All the photo series at Exposure.

The “Karma Year” and Current Conflicts

March 6, 2017

By Johan Galtung

An Unstable World: Analysis, Forecasting, Solutions

Take current deep conflicts in our unstable world and go back in time, aided by dialogue with the parties about “when did it go wrong”. Chances are a year will emerge. There was a basic event, or process, polarizing something that used to be more cohesive. A faultline had emerged that can last for centuries, more or less polarized, up till today, and beyond, if there is no intervention.

The faultlines function like tectonic plates. Nothing may happen for long periods. Then they shock against each other, with earthquakes geo-physically; Norway-, Euro-, World-quakes socially.

The tern “karma year” is used. Not destiny-Schicksal-skjebne; too deterministic. Karma is destiny that can be changed through awareness.

The reader will find on the next page…

History: Epochs or Trends – Medieval Spain


20 February 2017

By Johan Galtung

Visions of the Past for Constructing a Future: Historiography of Spain

The distinction made by Fernand Braudel between events, trends and permanents, was a gift to historiography, how we conceive of history. This essay favors trends over epochs, seeing epochs as some kind of static racism or prejudice in time–“those people, at that epoch, were like that”, blinding us both to the diversity and to the dynamism.

History unfolds over or in time, the basic variable, the X axis. The events are points. The trends are curves of any shape, not necessarily continuous, could also be “jumpy”. And the permanents are horizontal lines set at a certain value.

Points, curves, lines – with texts indicative of highly complex proactio-actio-reactio relations.

History is the totality. However, trends accommodate the others. Trends are initiated or terminated by events. Trends may together generate events. Permanence is also a trend; lines are also curves.

Trends were identified for an epoch in time, Middle Ages, and a region in space, Spain. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 405: Keep focus on Aleppo and global dimensions of Syria

By Jan Oberg

Three perspectives on the Syrian conflict formation

The Syrian conflict formation is hugely more complicated than we’ve been told by Western politicians (all mainstream in spite of democratic features) and mainstream/dependent media.

To some there are only internal aspects and it’s called a civil war only. That’s a necessary but not sufficient aspect.

The same goes for the only regional perspective focusing on e.g. the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iran’s, Saudi-Arabia’s, Turkey’s roles and policies.

To others, everything can be explained from the point of view of Western interventionism/imperialism. That’s also a necessary but not sufficient aspect.

To understand anything of the Syrian conflict formation – and there are very many layers, dimensions and participants over the last 100 years – we need all three basic approaches.

But given that Westerners are likely to have been informed by Western media and politicians they are likely to grossly underestimate the third, the Western-global dimension.

And that narrative is likely to be politically correct, to underestimate the nasty sides of the West the last good 100 years in the region and present the West as basically good guys interested in peace, democracy and freedom.

This bias has been reinforced by what is probably the most massive marketing/public relation effort in any modern war – in the style of the fake news story about Saddam’s soldiers throwing out babies from their incubators in Kuwait City. In order words, pure invention/lies/planted stories/rumours and PSYOPs – psychological operations selling unverifiable stories to influence our hearts and mind in a single policy-promoting direction.

The US/CIA involvement in Syria over the last 68 years is well-documented and easy to access – but never pointed out by the intellectually lazy who think it is enough to just point out that everything is the fault of the “dictator” and his “regime”.

The US worked on deliberately de-stabilising Syria years before 2011 (as documented by WikiLeaks and others) when the peaceful demonstrations took place. The Western military support to RIOTs (Rebels, Insurgents, Opposition and Terrorists – most of the latter) was stepped up and while many point out that the US under Obama didn’t “do anything”, it can be argued that NATO countries acted in a variety of ways, too many and wrong-headed ways – none of them serving a politically negotiated solution, peace or democracy in Syria.

The agenda was foreign interference, promoted military foreign presence (aggression) in international law terms and regime change. One more regimes change, that is, after the earlier completely failed ones in Iraq and Libya.

A series of Western NGOs – no longer Non but NEAR-Governmental Organisations – were part and parcel of the policy, increasingly involved and funded by the Western/NATO/Turkish-Saudi-Gulf-Israeli strategy of de-stabilization – such as US-based Avaaz and French foreign ministry manufactured media outfits such as the Syrian Media Incubator Aleppo Media Centre, the SMART News Agency, the media work of the White Helmets which did humanitarian work only among RIOT fighters and relatives (and stole the name of Syrian Civilian Defence from Syria’s own organisation with that name from 1953).

They came in on the civilian media narrative-creating side. And there are others. Since the days of Yugoslavia, think tanks, human rights and humanitarian organisations have been drawn in – and accepted – to serve specific political interventionist agendas in spite of calling themselves independent, not-for-profit etc. This co-optations spells, potentially, the end of civil society as well as of the open and critical debate about governments’ policies.

All of this continued and was stepped up also after it had become clear that the legitimate, peaceful, democratic, anti-govenment opposition in Syria had been completely sidelined and/or overtaken by Syrian militants and foreigners with guns in their hands.

The West did not get cold feet, it stepped up it regime-change policies in all kinds of ways, regrettably also by massive NGO-investments in proxi- and other pro-war campaigns.

No one thought of the consequences for the huge majority of the innocent Syrian people who had never touched a gun, or thought of doing so.

From the Jibrin Reception Center, note the footwear © Jan Oberg 2016

And two more perspectives: Don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy only – it’s war-promoting

No one seems to even have asked the question Read the rest of this entry »

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Photo story: The destruction of Eastern Aleppo

By Jan Oberg

This is one of several stories I just have to tell.
You can see the original in large format here.


The destruction of Eastern Aleppo, Syria by Jan Oberg on Exposure

Subscribe to this Exposure page. Then you’ll automatically receive a mail when new photo (and text) stories are posted.

Grateful too if you share with others or on social media. We need help to spread a broader truth about the conflict in and around Syria.

Here a little more as background to the coming series:

TFF Photo Story



Lund, Sweden, December 27, 2016

Of course you have seen media images of the destruction in Syria. But not these taken in mid-December when Eastern Aleppo was liberated.

We live in a time when images – real and fake – influence perceptions more than ever.

My photos are real. Documentary. They reflect my role as witness on the spot at a time when only a handful of Westerners were present.

At a time, too, when all the mainstream media were conspicuously absent – as were the dual-purpose White Helmets who have delivered quite a few of the theatrical images from this war.

As a conflict and peace researcher and photographer I take pride in using not only analytical texts but also the medium of photography.

I am anyhow unable to describe just in words what I have seen.

Thanks to modern technology the small, smart, independent and truthful of this world can compete, to some extent, with the multi-billion dollar marketing and propaganda machines.

This is the first of a series to appear in weeks to come that will give you an impression of both life in Damascus, Eastern Aleppo’s destruction, the destruction in Aleppo’s old town, the human victims of this horrific war on Syria, the celebrations at the liberation of Aleppo etc. 

I do not believe that pictures of wars and victims will, in and of themselves, lead people to think of peace. Hiroshima films have done little to eliminate nuclear weapons. 

But in this particular case I do believe it is necessary to document just how big, systematic and unjustified the destruction of Aleppo has been – not only for those who built it and lived there over 7000 years but also to humanity, to all of us.

With what right did all the parties contribute to this utterly heartless and meaningless destruction? 

How did it come to this surreal level of violence wrought upon a historic cultural and industrial city and its vast majority of innocent fellow human beings? 

Will we ever learn – not only that war is stupid but also that this type of destruction cannot conveniently for some be blamed on one single side? 

All parties who used violence have blood on their hands.

Aleppo’s blood.   

This is the first of a series of stories that I must tell as a witness to an event that more intelligent and civilised generations in the future will have nothing but contempt for.

And if you ask me which side I am on, the answer is simple:

I’m on No government’s. No military’s. No leader’s.

I’m on the side of the tens of thousands of innocent, suffering Syrian citizens. Nobody deserves this!

I am on the side of the underlying, perfectly legitimate conflicts and not on the side of anybody’s violence.

And I do admit to have a particular problem with those – many – who interfered violently in the internal affairs of Syria and did only harm and no good.

Syria’s future is for the Syrians – all of them – to decide.

TFF PressInfo # 394: The State of the World Right Now: A Macro View

By Johan Galtung

“View” meaning not only a glimpse from above, but a position taken on the world on which the US electorate is now dumping Donald Trump.

That world is today basically multi-polar, maybe with 8 poles: 1) Anglo-America, 2) Latin America-Caribbean, 3) African Unity, 4) Islam-OIC from Casablanca to Mindanao, 5) European Union, 6) Russia more region than state, 7) SAARC from Nepal to Sri Lanka, 8. ASEAN, Australia-New Zealand. [See list of abbreviations with links to the mentioned organisations under the article]

And thre is the multi-regional Shanghai Cooperation Organization, SCO, with China and Russia, Islamic countries, India and Pakistan.

There is a waning state reality, smaller states being increasingly absorbed into regions.

There is a waxing region reality with the above eight; adding West Asian, Central Asian and Northeast Asian regions, maybe eleven.

There is a global reality based on IGOs, inter-governmental organizations, with the United Nations on top; TNCs, the transnational corporations, with the US-based on top so far; and INGOs, international non-governmental organizations, with religions on top.

Now, insert into all of that something concrete from William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report #146 and his Rogue State.

From WWII, the USA has: Read the rest of this entry »

“Humanity Knows No Borders”

By Hans Graf Sponeck

Freiburg, 1 October 2016

1. The global sky is full of dark clouds. There is reason, there must be reason, for concern. Humanity has to take time out to reflect. To-day is a good occasion to do so, especially since we have among us Haifa al Mansour and Solmaz Panahi who, together with her mother, has joined us on behalf of Jafar Panahi, her father.

The Kant Foundation is honouring two artists from the Middle East, one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Iran. They have taken Immanuel Kant’s demand of yesteryear seriously and have shown the courage to use their minds with all the consequences that this has entailed. They have been swimming against the currents, they have built bridges and they have climbed mountains that try to separate people.

2. The community of nations has created an impressive body of law which is as densely woven as the most magnificent carpets one can find in the Middle East. Life in all its facets is well protected by such law – or so it seems! The UN Charter remains the supreme road map for human life with peace. It echoes what many thinkers and humanists throughout centuries have proclaimed. Can there be any disagreement that the usefulness of a map lies in its use?

3. Emotions? Feelings? – important as they are, must be in harmony with reason! The irrational rejection of Europe by Britain would not have happened if feelings and reason had been in balance! How much more evidence do we need to accept that humanity knows no borders?

4. Let me pause here for a moment and interject… Read the rest of this entry »

Europe’s ongoing failure handling refugees

By Jan Oberg

- speaking out on PressTV on September 24, 2016

 

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