Archive for the ‘Political’ Category

Evolving democracy

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 »

If you want peace, don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy

A personal pledge provoked by the debates about Syria

Summary

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 »

TFF PressInfo # 402: Trump’s Pre-Fascism and Progressive Populist Opportunities

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 »

Is violence-war a cause or a symptom?

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 »

TFF PressInfo # 398: Syria and Aleppo – Old news media falling

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 »

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 »

Impressions of Damascus and its amazing, kind people

There is plenty of goods in Damascus' shops and women getting "beauty" surgery

TFF Conflict and Peace Report Syria # 2

I’ve only passed through Damascus once before, in 2002 on my way to Baghdad. What meets you today is a beautiful city with checkpoints all over the place, your car trunk will be opened and papers checked. Seemingly useless explosives detectors are used – useless because they don’t catch that many drivers here today have a revolver or hand-grenade under their seat.

But you’d probably be surprised, like I was, at how normal it otherwise feels. At the surface.

Traffic is intense, pollution thick, shops are filled with goods, I see fewer beggars here than in Lund, Sweden. People enjoy excellent food (I haven’t had such good meals for long) at restaurants with live music and entertain themselves at the omnipresent cafés.

As everywhere else in war zones, people whose lives have been shattered in many ways – and there are few here in Damascus who have not been hit one way or the other by the war – do their best to maintain some kind of normality.

I’ve seen it elsewhere such as in Sarajevo – the women in particular dress up elegantly and often sexily in the public space, hang out with friends, drink cappuccinos and check their mobiles incessantly to be and to appear as someone in control although life is close to unbearable. Human pride and determination comes out very strongly in war zones – as much, I would say, as human evil.

That said, for the less privileged life is extremely hard. Prices on many basic good have gone up 10x over the last 5 years. Salaries haven’t followed. A soldier gets about USD 50 a month, people working in offices perhaps US$ 70. Many citizens live on UN food packages.

In short, the same totally inhuman consequences of sanctions – the allegedly “soft” instrument – as in Iraq: only hitting innocent people, destroying the middle class and boosting the already rampant corruption. (More about this later when I know more).

What will surprise you is Read the rest of this entry »

TFF Peace and Conflict Mission to Syria # 1

By Jan Oberg

Damascus, Syria, December 9, 2016


I’m writing to you from war-torn Syria where the suffering of the people is beyond comprehension, heart-breaking.

The war in and on Syria has been started in spring 2011 – the underlying conflicts much much earlier.

What our media have shown us is snipers, bombings, killings, ruins, dead bodies and press conferences with Western politicians.

But did you “see” the underlying conflicts?

Get an understanding of what the problems standing between the parties are?



Did you get the impression that weapons is the only thing “they” understand?

Did you feel hopeless about it all? Confused? Depressed because of all the human suffering?

That peace is impossible?

If so it’s because we are missing a huge part of the picture. We need something else.

Small everyday joys in Damascus



We need to switch from – repetitive and depressive – war and violence reporting to conflict and peace reporting.

We need a focus on issues, history and structures instead of appointing one side and one person as the problem.

We must supplement the focus on weapons and fighters and focus on human potentials.

We must scrap the garbage theory that peace is about good guys winning and bad ones losing.

We must listen to all the parties, not just out own politicians and media.

And we must look at common interests and ways out of the violence and ask: Who can do what for a better Syria in the future, a Syria with people at peace with each other and the world.

Are you interested in new ways of understanding conflicts?

Then – being in Syria until Christmas – I am available.

In two ways:

1. I will post short articles based upon these other approaches at the TFF Associates blog.

2. I have been here in beautiful, historical Damascus the last 5 days and will go to several places – Aleppo on Saturday.

I’m available to media and others who take interest in what is going on here in a conflict and peace perspective.


Contact:

janoberg@mac.com

Swedish iPhone +46 738 52 52 00

Syrian mobile +963 941 35 36 52

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janoberg.se – for updates, messaging and phone.

Skype: janoberg

And it is soon Christmas in this multi-confessional, secularised place

A better world has less violence, less war

By Johan Galtung

The National Society of High School Scholars, Claes Nobel World Betterment Award

The Carter Center

3 Dec 2016

I am very grateful for the 2016 Claes Nobel World Betterment Award – Claes being the great grandnephew of Alfred – and to the NSHSS-National Society for High School Scholars, here at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Let me start by praising you for your dedication to Education, focusing on the high school–in the middle, after K and grade school, before college and graduate school–on teachers and students, learning and doing research, treating them with respect, bestowing dignity.

Society has institutions, like Family, Work and Economy. Sports get too much attention, Education too little.

Politics is about leading and being led, Military is about killing not to be killed.

These two get you into trouble. I have heard this afternoon much about leading, leaders, led. Führer and Duce are German and Italian for leader, “duce” also from educare, educate. Hitler and Mussolini.

Be careful. This is vertical and hierarchical even without nazism and fascism. Today we want horizontal social landscapes, with people relating equitably and harmoniously, through shared memberships and networks, both horizontal and inclusive. For mutual inspiration.

As to killing: the USA killed more than 20 million in 37 countries only after 1945 WWII; and has intervened 248 times militarily in other countries since Thomas Jefferson started in Libya in 1801. 20 million killed means 200 million bereaved–family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. They do not take easily to this type of US leadership.

And less than a century earlier two groups of Americans practiced those very same skills and leadership on each other. The Civil War.

Such was history. How about solving the underlying conflicts?

Instead of the 1850 compromise of shame, “keep slavery but give up the confederacy”, how about “keep much autonomy, but give up slavery”; for a Community of American States, not U.S.A but C.A.S? And in 1924, how about dropping the Versailles Treaty, removing Hitler’s best card? Read the rest of this entry »

Trump’s beefed up economics

By Jonathan Power

Donald Trump is changing the right wing’s economic spots. He is doing what Franklin Roosevelt did at the time of the Great Depression by increasing government spending – although it was the rearmament brought on by entering World War 2 that was an even more important factor in lifting America out of the doldrums.

He is following what Hitler did so successfully before World War 2 when he rebuilt Germany’s economic strength with autobahns and industrial subsidies (not rearmament in the beginning, as is often said). He is walking in the footsteps of President Richard Nixon who when he changed course with a new economic policy said, “We are all Keynesians now”.

John Maynard Keynes was the greatest economist who ever lived.

For reasons that were shameful, politicians have not listened to his advice as often as they should. The Germans, with their urge to austerity, have gone the other way, carrying (or pushing) nearly every European state with them, apart from Poland and Sweden which did not follow the herd and now have the best economic growth record of the last few years.

But Obama has certainly been Keynesian. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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