Archive for the ‘Theories and concepts’ Category

Welcoming the Fascists to Charlottesville

By David Swanson

Here is the original: Welcoming the Fascists to Charlottesville

August 10, 2017

I have mixed emotions about the fact that I’ll be missing the latest big fascism rally here in Charlottesville, because I’ll be elsewhere participating in kayak trainings for an upcoming Flotilla to the Pentagon for Peace and the Environment.

I’m delighted to miss the fascism and the racism and the hatred and the gun-toting lunacy. I’m sorry to miss being here to speak against it.

I’m hopeful that there might be something resembling a disciplined nonviolent and nonhateful opposition presence, but strongly suspect that a small number of violent and hateful opponents of racism will ruin that.

I’m thrilled that taking down a racist war monument has gone mainstream. I’m depressed that, even though the legal delay in taking it down is based on its being a war monument, one side wants it down for being racist, the other side wants it up for being racist, and everybody is perfectly happy to pack the town with war monuments.

I dread the possibility of hearing that the racists again chanted “Russia is our friend!” meaning that they believe without evidence that Russia corrupted the U.S. election and they are grateful for it, but I’m hopeful that they have moved on to other bizarre chants — though my hope is minimal that anyone might chant “Russia is our friend” and mean by it that they’d like to build peace and friendship between Americans and Russians.

As I’ve written in the past, I think ignoring the racists and their rallies is wrong, and I think confronting them with a hostile shouting match is wrong. Speaking out in favor of love and sanity and understanding is right. We will again this week see some of each of those approaches. We’re also likely to see another abuse of power by a militarized police force. (Remember when Americans used to think of the police as the most prominent violent racists? When was that, about a month ago?)

The inclination to ignore the racists and hope they’ll fade away into history like trials by ordeal or dueling is strong. Judging by popular social norms and their dwindling membership, the KKK seems to be on the way out. Why give them or their suit-and-tie allies any attention that could help promote them?

Well, for one thing, violent racism is not on the way out if we’re judging by presidential elections, hate crimes, police crimes, the prison system, the choice of communities to run gas pipelines through, or many other factors. And the only way my comment on “social norms” in the previous paragraph makes any sense is if we write off the generally accepted bombing of seven dark-skinned Muslim nations as somehow non-racist.

A truly nonviolent approach toward people who believe they are taking a stand for justice as they perceive it is not a protest but an invitation. Not long ago, in Texas, a group planned an anti-Muslim protest at a mosque. A violent anti-anti-Muslim crowd showed up. The Muslims from the mosque placed themselves between the two groups, asking their would-be defenders to leave, and then inviting the anti-Muslim demonstrators to join them at a restaurant to talk things over. They did so.

I’d love to see skilled mediators and others of good will and good heart extend an invitation to the racists visiting Charlottesville to come unarmed to discuss in small groups, without cameras or audiences, what it is that divides us. Might some of them recognize the humanity of those they scapegoat if some of us recognized the injustices they’ve faced or the unfairness they perceive in affirmative action or in the acceptability of “whites” only as a topic for insults, not as a source of pride in the manner permitted all other racial and ethnic groupings?

We live in a country that has made its biggest social project war, a country that has concentrated its wealth beyond medieval levels, a country that consequently experiences incredible levels of unnecessary suffering exacerbated by awareness of its unnecessity and unfairness. Yet what we have of social supports for education, training, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and income is distributed in non-universal, divisive manners that encourage us to fight among ourselves. The KKK members who came to Charlottesville last month, and most of the racists who will show up this week, are not wealthy. They’re not living off the exploitation of workers or prisoners or pollution or war. They’ve just chosen a particularly harmful object for their blame, as compared with those who blame the Republicans or the Democrats or the media.

When they come to condemn us for seeking to remove a statue, we shouldn’t look down at them like grand generals astride monster-sized horses. We should welcome them to explain themselves.

Continue reading here…

End of Nuclearism or the End of the World: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares

By Richard Falk

We are living amid contradictions whether we like it or not, driving expectations about the future toward opposite extremes.

Increasingly plausible are fears that the ‘sixth extinction’ will encompass the human species, or at least, throw human society back to a technology of sticks and stones, with a habitat limited to caves and forests.

This dark vision is countered by gene-editing designer promises of virtual immortality and super-wise beings programming super-intelligent machines, enabling a life of leisure, luxury, and security for all.

Whether the reality of such a scientistic future would be also dark is a matter of conjecture, but from a survival perspective, it offers an optimistic scenario.

On political levels, a similar set of polar scenarios are gaining ground in the moral imagination, producing national leaders who seem comfortable embracing an apocalyptic telos without a second thought.

The peoples of the world, entrapped in a predatory phase of global capitalism, are using their democratic prerogative to shut down dissent, rationality, and science. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in Dystopian Times

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
The text below is drawn from a talk given at the Spring Festival of the Arts in Beirut, Lebanon on 15 June 2017. Comments welcome.

How can we understand the present unfolding world order, with special reference to its relevance for developments in the Middle East? In my view a fundamental reversal of political expectations has taken place that calls for a new assessment of what is going on, and where the region and the world seem to be heading.

Twenty-five years ago there were three widely held beliefs about future trends on a global level: the assured preeminence of the United States; the continuing globalization of the world economy; and the expanding democratization of national governance arrangements.

It was also assumed that these trends were more or less descriptive of regional realities, including the Middle East.

Each of these trends that seemed so descriptive 25 years ago now seems to be completely out of touch with what is happening around us that is very disappointing when compared with earlier expectations, no where more so than in the Middle East.

These disillusioning changes of perception are contributing to a growing anxiety about what the future portends for all of us.

In addition to these changes of expectation as to international behavioral patterns, there exist a cluster of deeper tensions that concern the very nature of the human condition, extending to challenges directed at the sustainability and quality of life on the planet.

One unfortunate consequence of the preoccupation with these disturbing recent international political realities is that much needed attention is diverted away from these more fundamental issues of an ecological, technological, and cultural character.

As an American, I am especially conscious of the enormous and costly diversionary impact that the Trump presidency is having in weakening the understanding and planning needed if humanity is to have any realistic chance of coping with these emerging threats of great magnitude that have never been confronted in the past.

The most serious menace posed by Donald Trump, who is most accurately regarded as the first right-wing populist tweeting demagogue of the digital age, is his extraordinary talent to shift the conversation from the awkwardly significant to the banal trivial.

He is exerting a great influence on public discourse not only in America but in the world, especially by diluting our perceptions of crucial issues affecting the human species as a whole, including climate change as connected to the related decline of biodiversity, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the destabilizing effects of these technologies of the digital age especially when applied to security arrangements and the broad spectrum of societal policies bearing on individual and collective human wellbeing.

Under the weight of these threats it is not surprising that a dystopian moment is beginning to dominate the cultural imagination.

It discloses itself through a fascination with post-apocalyptic films and an interest in older literary dystopias such as Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale. These books that imagined a future that is in some respects our present are being widely read and discussed as if guidebooks to a set on conditions that were not anticipated.

Within the American political space the fragility of American democracy was prefigured in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here as well in scary premonitions of the imminence of digital age fascism put forward in the recent radical feminist post-apocalyptic novel, The Book of Joan (2017) by Lidia Yuknavitch.

Also indicative of the foreboding quality of the prevailing Zeitgeist is a bestselling booklet that is a collection of identifying markers of tyranny by the prominent historian, Timothy Snyder, with a deliberately provocative title and a pedagogical rationale, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017).

This ‘dystopian moment’ is reinforced by the absence of positive scenarios of the future, and the dismissal of the utopian imagination as worse than irrelevant because it allegedly created receptivity to promises that when translated into political reality produce totalitarian nightmares.

In effect, utopias, correctly understood, have themselves become in these dark times a disguised form of dystopia.

A recovery of societal confidence is a key precondition of envisioning a better future. Its loss is one dimension of the crisis confronting humanity at this time, and these days such failures of moral and political imagination are generally overlooked in the public sphere that is obsessively focused on the latest daily episode in the Trump political soap opera.

Naomi Klein reminds us in a recent interview, “Trump is not the crisis but the symptom of the crisis.” The point is that we must make the effort to grasp the social and political forces that gave rise to Trump and Trumpism. Klein also insisted that the negativity of progressive thinking in recent decades has had little political traction because it fails to present a positive alternative to the angry negativity of right-wing populism that targets the established order.

Klein’s new book has the title No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

Her text impressively couples a necessary critique of Trump’s pernicious leadership with an affirmative vision of how to move the political process in emancipatory directions. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a way of reducing ethnic disputes?

By Jonathan Power

August 8th. 2017

It’s not that many years ago that Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, commenting on the outbreak of separatist ethnic strife in the 1990s in countries such as Somalia, Zaire, Rwanda, East Timor and ex-Yugoslavia, asked. “Where will it end? Will it end with 5,000 countries?”

It was a serious misjudgement. Separatist wars have fallen sharply. Minorities are not fighting for their own patch of territory at the rate they were. Since 1993 the number of wars of self-determination has been halved.

The list of countries where the problems of ethnic conflict looked potentially ominous but which are now vastly improved is a long one.

Baltic nationalists have moderated their treatment of their Russian minorities. Hungarians in Slovakia and Romania are no longer under threat. After a long war Croatia is respecting minorities.

Conflicts between the central government and India’s Mizo people, the Gaguaz minority in Moldova and the Chakma tribal group in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hills have all diminished. One of Russia’s most important but least-noted achievements has been its peacefully-arrived-at power-sharing agreements with Tatarstan, Bashkiria and forty other regions.

A list almost as long can still be made for ethnic disputes unsolved.

But what we have learnt in the last few years is that the pool of ethnic conflicts is not infinite; that the ultra-pessimism of just a few years ago was misplaced; and that human beings can settle for less, as long as the dominant party recognizes the underdog’s integrity and gives it enough room for manoeuvre.

Nevertheless, there is no time for complacency as a new report by Britain’s Minority Rights Group makes clear. Read the rest of this entry »

Guide to this blog and other TFF materials

Welcome to this blog where you’ll find almost everything posted over the years by TFF Associates – a group of experts on international issues who are committed to the UN Charter norm that peace shall be established by peaceful means.

Together with the present homepage and older homepages (see menus) that means an estimated 7000-8000 articles. We believe it to be one of the largest reservoirs of research-based pro-peace writings published continuously between 1985 and today. In various ways the content here reflect a very significant period in the history of humanity and international affairs, albeit with a focus on some issues and places more than others.

In addition, there are articles, videos, analyses etc that we do not publish here, only elsewhere – namely on TFF Facebook and Jan Oberg Public Figure profile, on Jan Oberg Facebook profile, on the online magazine “Transnational Affairs”, on TFF YouTube, on TFF Vimeo and – closely related – on Jan Oberg’s blog. Google+ and Twitter carry the same materials as we post on Facebook.

We hope you’ll browse, follow and discuss wherever it suits you best and share links with friends, colleagues, students, media people etc.

What’s right? What’s left?

By Jonathan Power

July 11th 2017

It goes back to the French revolution of 1789. At the Revolutionary Convention the most radical of the insurgents decided to seat themselves on the left side. “Why not on the other side, the right side, the place of rectitude, where law and the higher rights resided, when man’s best hand could be raised in righteous honour?” wrote Melvin Lasky in what was then Britain’s most influential intellectual monthly, Encounter.

“Anyway they went left, and man’s political passions have never been the same since.”

When Oskar Lafontaine, the German finance minister, broke with Chancellor Gerhard Schroder in the early days of the last Social Democratic government, he explained it was “because my heart beats on the left.”

The right could never say that, even the liberal-inclined, ex-prime minister of the UK, David Cameron.

When Humpty-Dumpty insisted on his own “master-meanings” he reassured Alice, “When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra.”

British Leftists sometimes stretch their minds to work out if Prospect, today´s most influential monthly, is left or right. I tell them that it is hard to tell most of the time which is how an intellectual magazine should be. They shouldn’t be asking the question.

Perhaps if they and the rest of us want to study the ambiguities and contradictions of intellectual leftists they should be informed that once upon a time – a hundred and seventy years ago – there was a writer, a philosopher, who spent most of his time in the British Museum and who moved his family from down-at-heel Soho to elegant Primrose Hill.

He wanted his maturing daughters to have the chance of meeting a better class of men. His wife too was pleased because she could now invite ladies to tea. A suitor of one his daughters was given the door as he seemed unstable with his revolutionary opinions.

He wrote soon after that he thought the “historical” process had already started to undermine “bourgeois society”. Read the rest of this entry »

Peaceful Societies – Where Are They?

By Johan Galtung

3 July 2017

There are many of them – of different kinds – in world geography. We can try to identify the characteristics of their peacefulness.

Or we can start by identifying belligerent societies and then see peaceful societies as their negations. Let us try this one first.

Belligerent societies have a track record of violence across border, on the territory of others, often invoking “defense”– preventive, pre-emptive, proactive. For that they need weapons, arms, as an army or not. And the weapons, with their carriers, must be long range, offensive, to work across borders, inside another society.

By negating, we get three characteristics of peaceful societies:

1) having only short range defensive weapons for defensive defense;

2) having no weapons, arms, at all, nor the capacity to make them;

3) having a track record of no war, no attack across borders.

Comment:

No. 3, no track record, is no guarantee for the future.

No. 2, no arms, is no guarantee they cannot start making or importing.

No. 1, defensive defense, is no guarantee against longer range arms.

Peaceful societies may change? Yes, so may belligerent societies. They may stop attacking others, abolish their army (Costa Rica) or not get one–about 30 societies–or have defensive defense (Switzerland).

Have a look at the world: about 200 societies, countries, states. There may be border skirmishes, but attacks are rare. One reason: very few can afford submarines, ocean navy, tanks, bombers, missiles. An army only to defend the borders – the inland with militia – and if occupied non-military defense–rooted in doctrine to be credible, costs less.

Most countries practice offensive defence unwittingly.

The [1]->[2]->[3] scenario is a good peaceful society policy.

However, look at another approach. Read the rest of this entry »

The BAN Treaty – why it’s significant and why some have isolated themselves from civilisation

By Jan Oberg

The Debate on PressTV with Jim Walsh, MIT

And here the link to a partial transcript

Overcoming nuclear crises

By Richard Falk* and David Krieger**

TFF PressInfo # 420
June 30, 2017

Prefatory Note
This jointly authored essay was initially published in The Hill on May 30, 2017 under the title, “Averting the Ticking Time Bomb of Nukes in North Korea.” We did not choose such a title that is doubly misleading: our contention is not that North Korea is the core of the problem, but rather the retention of nuclear weapons by all of the states pose both crises in the context of counter-proliferation geopolitics and with respect to the possession, deployment, and development of the weaponry itself; a second objection is with the title given the piece by editors at The Hill.

While acknowledging the practice of media outlets to decide on titles without seeking prior approval from authors, this title is particularly objectionable. The term ‘nukes’ gives an almost friendly shorthand to these most horrific of weapons, and strikes a tone that trivializes what should be regarded at all times with solemnity.

Alarmingly, tensions between the United States and North Korea have again reached crisis proportions. The United States wants North Korea to curtail any further development of its nuclear weapons program, as well as to stop testing its missiles. North Korea evidently seeks to bolster its security by acquiring a sufficiently robust deterrent capability to discourage an attack by the United States.

The unpredictable leaders of both countries are pursuing extremely provocative and destabilizing patterns of behavior. Where such a dangerous interaction leads no one can now foresee. The risk of this tense situation spiralling out of control should not be minimized.

It is urgent that all governments concerned make a sober reassessment in a timely manner. The following questions need to be addressed:

• What can be done to defuse this escalating crisis?

• What should be done to prevent further crises in the future?

• What could be learned from recurrent crises involving nuclear weapons states?

It is discouraging that the White House continues to rely mainly on threat diplomacy. It has not worked in responding to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions for the past few decades, and it is crucial to try a different approach.

Currently, there are mixed signals that such a shift may be underway. President Trump has turned to China, imploring that it use its leverage to induce Kim Jong-un to back down, and has even mentioned the possibility of inviting Kim for crisis-resolving talks. Also relevant and hopeful is the election of Moon Jae-in as the new president of South Korea, and his insistent calls for improved relations with the North.

In the end, no reasonable person would opt for another war on the Korean Peninsula. The only rational alternative is diplomacy. But what kind of diplomacy?

American reliance on threat and punitive diplomacy has never succeeded in the past and is almost certain to fail now. We assuredly need diplomacy, but of a different character.

It is time to abandon coercive diplomacy and develop an approach that can be described as restorative diplomacy. Coercive diplomacy relies on a zero/sum calculus consisting of military threats, sanctions, and a variety of punitive measures. Read the rest of this entry »

Washington’s new threat against Syria, Russia and Iran: Invitation to false flag operation

By Farhang Jahanpour
TFF Board member

June 29, 2017

TFF PressInfo # 419

On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It went on to say: “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, followed that statement by tweeting, “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

On Tuesday morning, speaking on BBC 4 Today programme, the British Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon was asked how Britain would respond to another American attack on Syria, and he responded “we will support” future US action in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

With these unsubstantiated statements on Syria, the Trump Administration is dragging the world towards the law of the jungle. As if the situation in the Middle East was not bad enough, these warlike statements have made the situation much worse, and are in fact leading us towards a major confrontation in the Middle East with unimaginable consequences.

Some 14 years ago, in total violation of international law and without any authorization by the Security Council, former US President George W. Bush launched a barbaric attack on Iraq, which destroyed the country, killed and wounded more than a million people, and gave rise to ISIS that has since waged a campaign of terrorism throughout the world.

Far from having learned any lessons from that disastrous mistake, the Trump Administration seems intent on committing a similar mistake on a grander scale. During the campaign, Candidate Trump accused the former US Administration of having created ISIS, not indirectly but deliberately. He spoke about America having spent six trillion dollars on illegal wars in the Middle East and having nothing to show for it. He vowed that he would not be interested in regime change and was intent on resolving international disputes through negotiations and deals.

Whether he has changed his mind or whether the neocons in the Administration and the deep state have infiltrated and dominated his administration makes little difference. The clear fact is that the Trump Administration is acting in a dangerous and arrogant way and is dragging the world towards another catastrophe.

Shortly after coming to power, President Donald Trump and his disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn singled Iran out for condemnation and put her on notice, despite the fact that the Iranian government had spent hundreds of hours in constructive talks not only with the United States, but with all the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and had reached a landmark agreement that was then endorsed by the Security Council.

The agreement blocked all the paths to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, even if she ever had any intention of manufacturing them, something that Iran has denied, and years of investigation have not provided a shred of evidence to the contrary.

President Trump chose Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabi fundamentalism that has provided the ideological framework for nearly all the militant Sunni terrorist groups from Al Qaeda, to the Taliban, to Boko Haram and finally to ISIS and its various affiliates, which have created mayhem throughout the world, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, as the venue for his first foreign visit. While in Riyadh, he bizarrely formed a “coalition against extremism” with Saudi leaders at its head.

However, as Trump made absolutely clear in his speech to the unelected Arab monarchs, the main aim of the coalition was to unite those Sunni potentates against Iran.

In the past few weeks, America has launched a number of attacks on the positions of the forces allied with the Syrian government in their battle against ISIS. On 18th May and 6th June, Read the rest of this entry »

 

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