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?

This is the kind of thing I am working on. Talking with all parties, not criticizing, not moralizing; simply asking “how does the USA-Germany-Afghanistan-Middle East-Europe-Ukraine-West/Islam-World look like where you would like to live-that you would like to see?”

Put more simply, asking them What’s Up, and get detailed answers.

Donald Trump, New York Times asked General James Mattis (Secretary of Defense designate): “We don’t win wars anymore. Waterboarding?”

General Mattis: “I never found it useful. Give me some cigarettes and drinks, and we’ll do better”. Create the atmosphere, talk with them.

Get the goals of all parties, test them for legitimacy, and then bridge legitimate goals of all parties through creativity. I never, in countless dialogues working on 150 conflicts, found any party without at least one reasonable point to build on.

The first time was in 1958, in Charlottesville VA. I came with my students in my PhD level conflict course at Columbia University, in sociology, and we conducted about 2000 interviews about de-segregation, since 1954 the Law of the Land “with all deliberate speed”, dividing blacks from white segregationists from white integrationists.

The city wanted de-segregation, but peacefully. We knew all parties, and came up with an idea that bridged what looked like two incompatible goals.

It does not escape my attention that you have partnership with CIA for recruitment, possible jobs. Not my favorite institution, making enemies by defining them as such, selecting for extra-judicial killing, making USA the world leader in torturing, is doing it, rendition, teaching others, in addition to USA being the world’s most belligerent country.

How about making CIA a better, more positive institution?

Do not torture captured “terrorists”, but ask them what they would like to see, what their goals are.

Do not start by demanding that they down their arms, no more IEDs; start by asking them why they think they need the arms.

Chances are you will find something reasonable; like I did with three Taliban in Afghanistan, with Al Qaeda somewhere, with US State Department and a Pentagon general in Washington DC; all very violent.

Do not say, ‘Do this! Do not do that’! Do it, or not, yourself. As Gandhi said, “Be the Future you want to see!” He did not say, ‘Preach’.

You may think, like I do, that you have discovered something as, ‘If you want to reduce violence and war by killing and violence, it only breeds more violence; you solve conflicts, heal traumas.’

Rather identify and solve underlying conflicts. Let your action, your acts speak, not words and admonitions. Let your track record speak for itself, not a gramophone record.

Then, when somebody asks how you do it, or how did you think before you spoke to yourself and did it–share. Be open, no secrets anywhere, invite difficult queries, be grateful, learn from others.

We are potentially talking about saving thousands, millions of human lives – multiply that by a factor of at least 10 for the bereaved, and add for fostering cultures and structures of war and violence.

Needless to say, never monetize. Human lives do not carry price tags; they carry the most precious of all gifts, life. Do not take it, create it, preserve it, eventually nature will end it.

The priceless has no price.

In so doing, do not compete with anybody. The Buddhist line is better: compete with yourself. Ask yourself how what you do can be done better.

And when you are up against the harshest criticism always ask, “Is there something to it, something I can learn from it”?

Christmas is coming, your A Cappella sang about Rudi the red-nosed reindeer; rare in Georgia, but not in my reindeer country Norway; flocks of them, thousands, with seasonal furs, blending with nature, running, swimming. Do they have a leader? Oh yes, some old male the others recognize for knowing and sharing the tricks. By doing them.

Originally published at Transcend Media Service, TMS, here.

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