Archive for the ‘Theories and concepts’ Category
By Johan Galtung
February 13, 2017
What is the essence of democracy?
“Rule with the consent of the ruled” implies two classes of people, Rulers and Ruled; concretely State and People, Statism. “Free and Fair Elections” implies voting for a Parliament; Parliamentarism. Together, a three-tier power structure State-Parliament-People; with People controlling Parliament, and Parliament controlling State.
In 2016 some voting differed from what State-Parliament expected; leading to talk about elitist vs populist democracy – from statism and parliamentarism to peopleism. A crisis. And talk about post-democracy.
Another answer about democratic essence is “one-tier self-ruling units”; no rulers vs ruled, and decisions are made by general assemblies for all. This is often referred to as Anarchism, “no structure”. A misnomer: there is no State and no Parliament, but many assemblies. A concrete interpretation would be Localism, the units being local authorities – LAs, municipalities; the assemblies being their municipal councils.
A key dimension then becomes the level of state control of LAs. In Spain, with an anarchist ideological tradition, the LAs are strong.
A different, not institutional – more philosophical, intellectual in general – answer would pick up words like transparency and dialogue.
Democracy is a context with everything in the open, no closed doors, available to everlasting people dialogue: by way of the word, logos. Fine for people who are good with words.
How about those who are not, Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
On the occasion of NATO’s defence minister meeting on February 15-16 discussing NATO, Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and the eternal threat images which are fake – with former Assistant Secretary of Defence of the United States, Mr. Lawrence J. Korb.
I’m afraid he got some stuff wrong such as the establishment of NATO and whether or not Kosovo is part of the Balkans.
He also believed that NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia-Kosovo had a UN Security Council mandate.
Enjoy those small moment and the rest where I am trying to present some more general thourght on why the whole NATO philosophy is outdated – the only point where I agree with President Trump…
Media experience and policy
What they don’t seem to have acknowledged is that tons of Westerners are being interviewed and do commenting (like myself for years) at these media. Here is Mr. Korb with me at Iran’s international TV channel.
What they also don’t know is something I am sorry to report: I’ve met attempts at manipulation and “editing” and censorship with a series of Western mainstream media, not the least in my native Denmark, but I have not experience any of that even once with Russia Today and PressTV. Very decent professionals!
So much for the free press and for the propaganda channels. My personal problems is, which is which?
By Johan Galtung
Two important words enriching each other. “Nonviolent” easily becomes bla-bla, and “economy” is too general. But, does “nonviolent” make a difference for the better to the economy? And vice versa, can “economy” make “nonviolent” more positive, beyond resistance to evil?
Let us start with “economy”, here conceived of as a cycle with three poles: Nature, Production, Consumption. And three processes: Extraction from Nature, Distribution from Production to Consumption, and Pollution from Production-Consumption back to Nature. The cycle flow is in that order: Nature → Production → Consumption → Nature.
A simple summary of the economy: humans extract resources from nature, produce-process for (end) consumption, and sends what they cannot consume back to nature (but economists, like book-keepers, left out the Nature part). And we want it all to be nonviolent!
“Do no harm!”, nonviolent, is insufficient. “Peace”, “peaceful” include positive peace–Peace Economics, A Theory of Development are my books (TRANSCEND University Press, 2012, 2010)–with “do good!”.
And: Nature can evolve better without us, not we without Nature. Read the rest of this entry »
A personal pledge provoked by the debates about Syria
About 95% of all debates about conflicts and war that we see in politics, mainstream media, the Internet and social media focus on the violence, who uses more or less of it and who is, therefore, the evil party.
This approach places direct violence – such as human rights violations, killings, bombings etc. – in the centre of the attention and that is unfortunate because violence is always only a symptom. I call this the simplifying or reductionist approach; invariably it has populist connotations too and usually ends up in mud-slinging.
I argue in this analysis that this reductionist approach is counterproductive and that – because of the defining characteristics of these debates – the underlying conflicts/problems that cause the violence are never in focus and that no international complex conflict can be explained even rudimentarily by asserting that one single individual’s personality or behaviour is the root cause, the problem or the conflict itself.
Secondly, I explain what makes the reductionist approach so typical and ‘natural’ in the eyes of Westerners. We have to be aware of the deficits of this entire approach to conflict which, I argue, is also related to Western ways of thinking, including Christianity. (You may jump this section if you are more attracted to practical implications than to philosophy).
The third section deals with the conflict and peace approach as an alternative – arguing that only through that can we arrive at the necessary dimension: How can the violence stop and how can the conflicting parties change their perceptions, attitudes and the problem/conflict that stands between them so that peace can unfold. Like the science of medicine, it has a focus on the disease and we do a Diagnosis, Prognosis and Treatment by finding the root causes rather than just treating symptoms.
Finally I make the pledge to never again participate in discussions within the reductionist discourse of the violence and who-is-good-and-who-is-bad. I will spend my energy, instead, on the constructive conflict and peace approach that is also the only one that will benefit the innocent victims in conflict zone, the people who have never even thought of taking up arms.
In short, it is a refusal to let the violence and ‘evil’ individuals take centre stage in any discourse and instead look at problems and their resolution together with peace-building and thus – Gandhian style – let non-violence and peace-making by peaceful means take centre stage:
Since this author is a peace and future researcher, I shall no longer participate in any discussion or debate about a conflict or war in which the main focus is on the direct violence and one or more participants point out that they know who the bad guy is and seek to frame or place me on this or that or the other side.
Under “PS” you’ll find my four-part view on matter of justice which of course is part and parcel of peace-building.
• • •
I’ve experienced it repeatedly over the last good 20 years, since the bad old days of Yugoslavia’s dissolution wars and I see it now, only more viciously, in the discussions about Syria in the old media as well as the social media:
If you are not clearly supporting party A to a conflict you must be a supporter of B.
From that follows:
Since I am in favour of the good guy A, you are a bad guy because you side with B (or don’t side with A).
This approach can be categorised as simplistic and reductionist. It prevents an understanding of what a conflict is about and hinders peace thinking and proposals.
It also amounts to legitimating more war.
This approach is wrong and counterproductive because invariably it:
1) builds on the assumption that there are only two sides in a conflict; that is never the case in complex international conflict;
2) builds on the either/or fallacy that you must be pro-B since you are not pro-A, overlooking the simply fact that one could also sympathize with party C and/or M and/or V; alternatively that all participants behave in such a manner that you sympathise with no one;
3) focuses on parties, or actors, and not on the underlying problems that make the parties fight each other;
4) satisfies people’s more or less narcissistic need for being right and being confirmed as being morally superior – irrespective of whether or not they understand the issues;
5) builds implicitly upon the assumption that the two parties represent Good and Evil and that all of the good ones are on one side, all of the bad ones on the other;
6) creates endless, sterile debates Read the rest of this entry »
The Dismal Cartography of the Pre-Fascist State
January 25, 2017
Points of Departure
Listening to Donald Trump’s inaugural speech on January 20th led me to muse about what it might mean to live in a pre-fascist state. After reflecting on key passages and conversations with friends, I came to the view that all the elements were in place, although set before us with the imprecision of a demagogue.
Yet I do not doubt that there are many ideologues waiting in the wings, perhaps now comfortably situated in the West Wing, ready to cover the conceptual rough spots, and supply an ideological overlay, and add the semblance of coherence.
Considering the daily outrages emanating from the White House since the inaugural jolt, the coming years will be rough riding for all of us, with many cruelties being readied for those most vulnerable.
Of course, the Woman’s March on January 21st was temporarily redemptive, and if such energy can be sustained potentially transformative. It is odd to contemplate, but there just may be tacit and effective cooperation between the national security deep state and a progressive populism converging around their divergent reasons for being deeply opposed to the shock and awe of the Trump presidency. Trump may invent ‘alternative facts’ to restore his narcissistic self-esteem, but when it comes to program he has sadly so far been true to his word! This alone should encourage a unified, energetic, and determined opposition. If the Tea Party could do it, why can’t we?
The Pre-Fascist Moment
First, it is necessary to set forth the case for viewing Trump’s Inaugural Address as a pre-fascist plea:
1) Locating power and legitimacy in the people, but only those whose support was instrumental in the election of the new president; the popular majority that were opposed are presumed irrelevant, or worse;
2) Denigrating the political class of both political parties as corrupt and responsible for the decline of the country and the hardships inflicted on his followers;
3) Presuming mass and unconditional trust in the great leader who promises a rupture with the past, Read the rest of this entry »
By Johan Galtung
Receiving Dr Honoris Causa, Universidad Madrid Complutense, 27 Jan 2017
Dear Rector, dear Jury!
I receive this great honor bestowed upon me in deep gratitude and pride, promising to try to live up to it.
I will now share with you some words about how I got launched on the track for which you honor me, peace studies and peace practice.
Like so many, I felt desperate about the wars in our enlightened century and continent and asked, Why? What can we do to avoid this suffering, not only the wounded and dead, but the countless bereaved?
From my family I knew a little about health studies and had been struck by the fruitful distinction between cause and symptom. The symptom is on the surface of the body, like fever; but the root cause is deeper down, inside, a sepsis. A major breakthrough. “Treat the cause, not the symptom” became a new rationality. Cooling the body makes some sense, but it isn’t the cure; and even less treating a swollen ankle that could be a symptom of a serious heart illness.
My illness was war, my wellness was peace.
Was war a cause with horrible effects with nobody really winning, or could war be a symptom of something deep down in the “body politic”, a “root cause”? Of something preceding war and violence in general, which if removed would also remove, or at least reduce, war and violence? But what?
This was important because if we accept violence as the root cause then we link it to the human body or humanity as such, not only as innate, but as inevitable. We would have to learn to live with it and with its effects, some of them summarized in “war breeds war”.
War rhetoric actually pointed in two directions: “someone blocking what we are entitled to” and “revenge for unjust wars against us”. The first points to conflict, “incompatible goals”; the second to trauma, “wounds from past violence”. I have stayed with those two.
This liberates human nature from being the cause Read the rest of this entry »
By Chaiwat Satha-Anand,
At the 16th International Peace Research Association (IPRA) conference held in Brisbane, Australia in 1996 under the guidance of Ralph Summy with the theme” Creating Nonviolent Future”, Glenn D.Paige began his keynote address titled: “To Leap Beyond Yet Nearer Bring: from war to peace to nonviolence to nonkilling” by recounting another IPRA meeting held in Yokohama, in 1980.
At that meeting, a question was raised as to whether it would be possible for IPRA to take up the subject of “nonviolence”.
A distinguished European researcher responded in the negative saying that nonviolence “would discredit peace research”.
Six years later in 1986 at the IPRA conference held in Sussex, Theodore Herman convened what I believe to be the first IPRA nonviolence commission. Later in 1988 at the IPRA meeting held in Rio de Janeiro, Herman asked Paige to help convene the next nonviolence commission. Paige became the convenor of the nonviolence commission in the 1990 IPRA conference held in Groningen, Netherlands. [Papers from this conference were published in Gandhi Marg Vol.14 No.1 (April-June 1992)]
I attended the first IPRA conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1988. Glenn Paige was my teacher and mentor. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg and David Swanson
Commenting on Iran’s international PressTV on the inauguration of Donald Trump and the legacy of Barrack Obama
By Johan Galtung
Two closely related points, as a starter.
This column has argued Lifting the Bottom Up as economic approach in all weathers, bad, fair, good, to mitigate any suffering, and for them to enter the economy as producers and consumers, not as “cases”.
This column has also argued judging Trump not by his poisoning words, nor by commentators’ words, but by his deeds. White-male-workers-no college is not the US bottom, but they were heading down. Now lifted up the Trump way, by keeping/bringing back industry to the “Rust Belt”. Ford Motor Company just did that, GM may be next.
If outsourcing to Mexico – under the euphemism “trade” served poor Mexican workers, maybe–but it serves rich elites in both countries.
45 percent tariff on Chinese goods: a non-starter. US homes are filled with affordable “Made in China”. To de-industrialize was US stupidity; to re-industrialize will take time. Keep what is, bring back what was. Other countries may learn from Trump and not trade themselves away.
The general 2017 world economic outlook is bad. Key problem for the West: industry is now also in the hands of other countries to meet their demands and for exports (Chindia). How could that happen? Because:
Economists have a Theory I of diachronic stages, from primary via secondary to tertiary sectors, agriculture->industry->services. Time for services has come, domestically, and as export to import food and manufactures. TI promotes trade; but makes societies vulnerable if trade fails, and may cause huge primary-secondary sector unemployment.
Hence, alternative Theory II: synchronic co-existence of sectors, at state-provincial-local levels. Each sector is a way of life that appeals to different persons or to the same person at different stages. TII promotes self-reliance–not self-sufficiency, filling gaps with trade–high employment if automation is controlled and not seen as a law of nature, personal enrichment, and protection of nature. Read the rest of this entry »
By Jan Oberg
A moment of world history missed by quite a few
I was in Aleppo December 10-14, 2016 and the Eastern part was finally liberated on the 12th.
Beyond any doubt, this was a world historic moment: because of Aleppo’s importance as city in Syria and the Middle East, its status as UNESCO World Heritage site, as turning point in the soon 6 year long war in and on Syria. And because of the almost 100.000 people who came out of 4,5 years of hell-like occupation and because of the sheer proportions of the destruction.
Remarkably, there were no leading Western media present, also not those who were in Damascus and thus had a media visa. Most reported from very far away or from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, Istanbul or Berlin.
I happened to be the only one from Scandinavia and among the first dozen of people – mostly media people – to get into the East of the city and see the devastation and talk with the exhausted but immensely happy people.
I had the opportunity to visit the Hanano district, the old town, Ramouseh, Sheikh Saeed, the huge industrial zone Shaykh Najjar and the Jinin reception zone to which the people in need of humanitarian assistance arrived.
Old media reactions
From a normal professional media perspective, my presence there as well as my photos should, given the importance of Aleppo and its human dimensions – have attracted some interest, perhaps even been seen as a scoop. Particularly by those who had no reporter on the ground.
Well, not exactly so.
TFF’s media list counts some 4000 adresses worldwide – individuals as well as editorial offices – of which about 700 in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. All received a couple of messages that I would be in Syria and how to reach me.
One Danish newspaper, left-wing Arbejderen made an interview upon my return.
No other media did.
Here some examples of how the old media in Scandinavia tried to perform their little tricks. They are all respected, professional media with a record of decency – not sensational yellow press. Read the rest of this entry »