Archive for January, 2015

TFF PressInfo 301: Open Letter to Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum

By Kamran Mofid

Prof. Klaus Schwab,
Founder and Executive Chairman,
World Economic Forum

Dear Prof. Schwab,

I notice that you hope the 2015 WEF meeting will be a “starting point for a renaissance of global trust”. This is a noble aim, very important and timely. Thus, as the Founder of Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) I wish to endorse and support you in this aim.

Today in many parts of the world, the so-called market, and the values of consumerism, underpinned by the “Black Friday” values, have become increasingly dominant and are now seriously threatening our global future, both in terms of our care of the planet and in increasing societal rivarly and conflict.

In the process we have lost trust in everything. This is why I believe your aim is so important. In the global society in which we now all live, it is essential for our common survival and wellbeing that we build cultures of trust, being prepared to take risks for the common good.

Trust surely comes from the experience of a relationship – an in-depth experience – which by its nature is rooted in values that are not necessarily economic or monetary.

At the basis of such trust is an understanding that, in spite of our differences, we have our humanity in common. Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks of ‘that African thing, Ubuntu’ – the notion that a person is only a person through other persons. A person with ‘Ubuntu’ is open and available to others; all others, for we are incomplete without each other. Ubuntu echoes the insight of John Donne, that ‘No man is an island ….. I am involved in mankind’, and that was in the seventeenth century, long before globalisation and the Davos Forum.

Having said that, I firmly believe that if you truly wish to bring about an environment of trust between the 99% who have never come to Davos and the top 1% that always do, then, it is important to sincerely ask why there exists such a high level of mistrust beween the two?

Continue reading Kamran Mofid’s argument and proposals to the World Economic Forum at the homepage of Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI)

And read more about Dr. Kamram Mofid and the GCGI here.

Could it be the world is getting better?

By Jonathan Power

January 13th 2015.

We have much to be glum about at the onset of 2015- the latest is the killings by ultra Islamists of the cartoonists in Paris. But we are brainwashed with bad news. “If it bleeds it leads”. One plane crash is worth more airtime than news that we are winning the fight against early death.

The World Health Organization has some telling facts. Over the last two decades infant deaths have fallen by a half. Measle deaths by three-quarters and both tuberculosis and maternal deaths by a half. AIDs-related illnesses have been cut by over a quarter. In 1960 one in five children died before the age of 5. Today it is one in 20, and falling.

Developing countries have caught up far more quickly in health than in wealth. For instance, Vietnam has the same health as the US had in 1980 but at present the same income per head as the US had in 1920.

Despite the Great Recession of the last six years poverty has plummeted. Although most of that drop has happened in China and India it has also happened in most Third World countries.

Population growth is slowing. Read the rest of this entry »

Paris – and then?

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

January 12, 2015

What happened–known all over the world–is totally unacceptable and inexcusable. As inexcusable as 9/11, the coming Western attack and the Islamist retaliation, wherever. As inexcusable as the Western coups and mega-violence on Muslim lands since Iran 1953, massacring people as endowed with personality and identity as French cartoonists. But to the West they are not even statistics; “military secrets”.

However, the unacceptable is not unexplainable.

In this tragic saga of West-Islam violence, spiraling downwards, the way out is to identify the conflict, what is this violence about, and search for solutions. I wonder how many now pontificating on Paris–a city so deep in our hearts–have taken the trouble to sit down with someone identified with Al Qaeda, simply asking, “what does the world look like where you would like to live?” I always get the same answer: “a world where Islam is not trampled upon but respected.”

“Trampled upon” sounds physically violent. But there are two types of direct violence intended to harm, hurt: physical violence with arm-arms-army; and verbal violence, with words, symbols. For instance with cartoons, with a touch of art giving them some impunity; for some. A human being–body, mind, spirit–can be hit somatically, mentally, spiritually. Maybe symbolic violence even hits more deeply?

The naiveté in blaming the secret police for not having uncovered the brothers on time is crying to the heavens. What happened to Charlie Hebdo was as predictable Read the rest of this entry »

Banning nuclear bombs

By Jonathan Power

January 7th 2015

“Ban the Bomb!” When we were students many of us marched behind that banner, stamped with the now iconic image of the white outlines of a rocket on a black background. Even the ex-prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, who later joined President George W. Bush in going to war against Saddam Hussein, supported the cause when he was young.

Many of those students, now in their seventies, have given up the struggle. After all it seems unending with not too much to show for it, except it may have raised consciousness among Western leaders to attempt to limit proliferation.

President Barack Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, which cited his anti-nuclear efforts while a senator, has made cuts in nuclear weapons at a slower pace than preceding presidents, even than George W. Bush. Ironically it is Republican presidents- Reagan (who made a big push to abolish all of them) and father and son Bush who have cut the most. Conservatives have a better chance of carrying the day with popular, visceral, untrusting, opinion, the Congress and the military-industrial-academic complex than the liberals.

Critics of Obama point out that he is spending more than previous administrations to modernize the remaining arms and for authorizing a new generation of weapon carriers. It is the largest expansion of funding on nuclear weapons since the fall of the Soviet Union.

This sets a bad example to the other nuclear bomb nations, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, China, Israel, the UK and France. Ironically, Obama has said, “We have more nuclear weapons than we need”.

The White House defends its record. Read the rest of this entry »

In defense of freedom of expression

By Farhang Jahanpour

The Wednesday edition of Charlie Hebdo (a week after the barbaric attack by two deranged terrorists on its premises) carried a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad, with a caption “Je Suis Charlie”, with a tear drop on his face announcing, “all is forgiven”. It is not clear who is forgiven and for what, but if it refers to the terrorists it certainly is not appropriate.

This time the magazine did not publish only 60,000 copies as it usually does, but three million copies, thanks to the generous help that it has received from various sources and also with the help of cartoonists from all over the world.

Richard Malka, a Sephardic Jew, who saw ten colleagues and four of his co-religionists massacred on that dreadful day, was one of the first to call for the magazine to continue functioning. When asked whether they would publish more cartoons of Muhammad, he replied in an interview with France Info radio on Monday: “Naturally. We will not give in, otherwise all this won’t have meant anything.”

Free speech tops all other considerations

This is as it should be, because in the final analysis freedom of expression tops all other considerations, as it is at the root of all other liberties and the quality of life that we enjoy in democratic societies.

More than three million people demonstrated in Paris and other French cities on Sunday, carrying the sign “Je Suis Charlie”. This did not mean that they agreed with everything that Charlie Hebdo stood for, but they wished to uphold the right of that satirical magazine to express itself freely.

Only a few days before the attacks in Paris, Pen America published a disturbing report on “Global Chilling. The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers”, showing that mass surveillance by the United States and other governments had produced a very negative effect on free expression, leading to self-censorship. It further showed that concern about surveillance was almost as high among writers living in democracies (75%) as it was among those living in non-democratic states (80%). It would be tragic if the killing of a few journalists in Paris were allowed to result in greater self-censorship and to curtail freedom of expression.

The terrorists and those who wish to limit freedom of expression by violent means should learn that far from forcing others to silence, their acts will backfire and will have the opposite effect. If the terrorists intended to help the cause of Muslims in the world, it has had precisely the opposite effect and has intensified a climate of suspicion and cultural clash between Islam and the West.

It should be added that the terrorist outrage was not an Islamic act against Christians, Jews and secularists. It was the act of two terrorists against Muslims, Christians, Jews and people of no faith.

That vile act had nothing to do with Islam

In fact, after the carnage and the resulting anger, it is important to remember that Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 300: “We Are All Charlie” – but is that story so simple?

By Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

Eleven points as a reflection on the terror in Paris and – not the least – the reactions to it*:

1. What was this an attack on?
Was that attack an attack on freedom of speech as such, on democracy, even on the whole Western culture and lifestyle, as was maintained throughout? Or was it, more limited, a revenge directed at one weekly magazine for what some perceive as blasphemy?

2. Is freedom of expression practised or curtailed for various reasons?
How real is that freedom in the West? Just a couple of days before the Paris massacre PEN in the U.S. published a report – Global Chilling – finding that about 75% of writers report that they are influenced by the NSA listening and abstain from taking up certain subjects or perspectives? Self-censorship, in other words. Finally, most of the political leaders marching in Paris on Sunday January 11 have clamped down on media, such as Turkey and Egypt.

I must admit that I have experienced limitations in the practise of that freedom in my own work with Western media and it is decades ago I draw the conclusion that things like political correctness, ownership, commercial/market considerations and journalists’ need for good relations with power – e.g. to obtain interviews – play a role.

I’ve been on the ground in conflict zones and returned home to see reports so biased to tell very little of what I’ve seen myself. And we’ve recently seen lots of cases from the U.S. academic world where there’s been a clampdown on certain views, pulications, courses and professors – not the least in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Or, you look at the proportions between government fund available for peace research and military research in virtually every Western society; free research is a vital element in the self-understanding of the West. But how much of do we have?

3. Freedom doesn’t mean duty.
Is freedom of expression really 100% irrespective of how much the practise of that freedom is hurtful, offending, humiliating or discriminatory against other peoples, religions and cultures? Even if you can express your opinions freely it is not always what we should do.

I can still abstain from making a remark about somebody’s religious or political beliefs because I see no point in offending that person in regard to something he or she holds dear, even part of the identity. But, sure, I have the right to do so.

Using a right to the maximum isn’t necessarily the wisest or most mature thing to do. I draw the distinction between issues that touch personal identity – e.g. religion, nationality, gende – and other issues. It is neither fun nor wise to make satire on what people are.

One must indeed ask in the – chilling – times we live: What happened to words such as solidarity, respect, empathy and to the values of common humanity? There can be no rights without duties as Mohandas K. Gandhi briliantly expressed it.

4. Are anti-Semitic cartoons OK now?
Why is it so important to some media people and Je Suis Charlie people to accept or practise disdain, blasphemy, ridicule or depict (even naked) Muhamad when we know that Read the rest of this entry »

Positive peace – what is that?

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

January 5, 2015

Yes, what is it? Let us start this New Year on a positive note. Keeping in mind that peace is an honor word, like health, salvation for many: a focus of dreams and wishes, a summum bonum that should be both very precise and amenable to professional peace work and kept open, filled with new dreams and aspirations. Like for health, new aspects come up all the time; for instance in positive psychology.

Peace presupposes absence, or low level, of violence, direct as well as structural, and of the cultural violence justifying the other two. But we can also go for a more limited concept: absence of direct violence, of killing and wounding with arms, hurting with words. And we should include the absence of the attitudinal side of that, hatred.

All these absences, or low levels we can live with, like mild diseases–myopia, having a cold–add up to negative peace. Peace as absence. Not to be scorned at in any way, but only a step to peace. The typical case would be two states having nothing to do with each other; whether because they never did or decided better so, like a couple separating or divorcing. Another typical case would be real armistice, ceasefire not used to smuggle in arms or combatant rest, for redeployment. “Passive co-existence” covers negative peace quite well.

But any theory of peace has to go beyond that, at the micro level within-between persons; meso between social groups across faultlines; macro between states, nations; mega between regions, civilizations. And yet peace is an almost uncharted territory. Many rest content with the formula “win-win”, but that only means that they achieved the goals in the underlying conflicts, nothing more, nothing less. Read the rest of this entry »


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