Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Aesthetics as One Road to Peace?

By Johan Galtung

The eminent historian of Central and South India, William Dalrymple, had a remarkable article in The New York Review of Books (June 25, 2015): “The Renaissance of the Sultans”. Being a fan myself, this editorial column is very much based on that eye-opener.

The focus is on one Sultan, Ibrahim Adil Shah II, of the central Indian kingdom of Bijapur, between Mumbai and Goa; we are talking about early 17th century. The Sultan is described as “an erudite scholar, a lute player, poet, singer, calligrapher, chess master and aesthete”. How different from Western rulers with military-political skills; how similar to many Chinese rulers, emperors, mandarins with poetry, calligraphy and more as indelible part of their legitimacy.

However, the point of the story, as told by Dalrymple on the basis of the impressive works he reviews, goes far beyond describing what must have been a remarkable ruler. That ruler himself also goes beyond, even beyond this statement that “the two most beautiful things in the world are a lute and a beautiful woman”. He has a theory:

“Bringing together Hindu and Muslim traditions in an atmosphere of heterodox learning, and uniting Persians, Africans and Europeans in a cosmopolitan artistic meritocracy, Ibrahim presided over a free-thinking court in which art was a defining passion. For Ibrahim was literally obsessed with the power of art. In his poems he dwells on its ability to bring people together, and on the way that art, and particularly music, acted on the body and was capable of moving an individual to tears, or ecstasy, or a deep melancholic sadness”.

How true. We notice that he is not only bridging geographical gaps but also gaps in the body, seeking to reconcile “the old Greek medical ideas of the humors of the body” with Hindu ideas of reaching the human spirit through aesthetic appreciation.

Moreover, “through music and art he believed that his people could learn to look at each other with mutual understanding: They speak different languages, But they feel the same thing, The Turk and the Brahmin.”

Well, they hardly feel “the same thing”; but they feel, and good art engenders good feelings, visible to each other.

Nevertheless, art bringing people together Read the rest of this entry »

Gandhi and Mandela: Two South Africans

Johan Galtung

By Johan Galtung

Mohandas Gandhi invented the nonviolent approach to basic social change, Satyagraha, in South Africa in the early 20th century; Nelson Mandela presided over the birth of a one person-one vote democracy at the end of the century. Both were lawyers, trained in English Common Law; good in the sense of a keen consciousness of what is right and wrong, bad in the sense of a court process identifying who is in the wrong rather than solving underlying conflicts, and wrong in the sense of punishing the wrong-doer; violence rather than cooperation.

Both built on the positive side of law – the indelible rights of the people for whom they were fighting by comparing empirical facts with normative rights; immigrant Indians in the case of Gandhi, original inhabitants in South Africa, the Blacks, in the case of Mandela.

Gandhi (1869-1948) did not live to see equality between Indians and whites in South Africa, but in India, his mother-father land; Mandela (1918-2013) did. They won their struggles – but the societies that emerged still suffer from other and major ones.

A deep culture united them: the culture of law. Read the rest of this entry »

Churchill and Hitler – Two Europeans

Johan Galtung

By Johan Galtung

Who wrote this?

“The Aryan stock is bound to triumph”.

“The Dictator of the Red Citadel (Petrograd) – all Jews”

“The same evil prominence was obtained by Jews – in Hungary”

“The same phenomenon has been presented in Germany–preying”

“-the schemes of the international Jews /against/ spiritual hopes”

“-this worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization”

“-it played recognizable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution”

“-the mainspring in every subversive movement in the 19th century”

Churchill did. Here quoted from Robert Barsocchini in Countercurrents in February 2015. His point was not that Jews were active in many places, the point is that for Churchill they were the cause of all the revolutions, the root of evil, not, for instance, feudalism gone mad.

What does Churchill, a top politician, believe in? (same source):

“-the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years”

“-100,000 degenerate Britons sterilized /to save the/ British race”

“-the increasingly rapid growth of the feeble-minded insane classes”

“Two fifths of Cubans fighting Spanish are negroes–a black republic”

“Gandhi ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and trampled upon by an enormous elephant with the Viceroy seated”

Three million starved to death due to Empire policy. Churchill:

“why isn’t Gandhi dead yet?” Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 305: A theory of China

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

2 February 2015 at the Penang Institute, Penang

A theory serves comprehension, prediction and identification of conditions for change. Seven such historical-cultural pointers will be indicated for China; using the West in general, and the USA in particular, for comparisons. The presentation draws on countless dialogues in China over 40 years, since 1973.

* China: in time, as dynasties; West: in space as empires.

Look at a histomap combining world history and geography, time and space: China shows up through 4,000 years as relatively coherent dynasties with complex transitions – and the West as empires–birth-growth-peaking-decline-fall, like the Roman, UK and now US empires – duration vs bubbles that burst; as China-centric vs hegemonic. Read the rest of this entry »

Bringing peace in Pakistan

By Jonathan Power

January 27th 2015

It looks like the recent slaying of 130 school children by rabid Islamic extremists finally has brought a halt to the long time policy of Pakistan facing both ways. Pakistan, because of policies developed over decades by its all-powerful army and its intelligence service, the ISI, has long played both ends against the middle.

On one end is the West, especially the US, trying to tug Pakistan into its orbit, so that it becomes a strategic partner in defeating the Afghan Taliban and its associates, and bringing peaceful democracy to Afghanistan. At the other end is what has been seen as the need to encourage and support the Islamic warriors in their effort to wrest a good slice of Kashmir away from India and, besides that, to make sure that Afghanistan under American tutelage doesn’t fall into the reach of Indian influence and thus threaten Pakistan’s deepest interests.

This clash of policies hitherto has been settled, say many, in favour of the militants, with the ISI for decades giving them arms, training and direction. Read the rest of this entry »

An Octagon world: Conflict or cooperation. What can we learn from each other?

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

“They can choose to focus on the worst in others, criticizing, building on paranoia and worst case analysis, “security”. Or choose to focus on the best, with cooperation as dominant mode, conflict as recessive. They can cooperate for mutual and equal benefit like in good trade, exploring each others’ comparative political-cultural advantages. They can do it.”

Read this unusual global analysis here.

Civilization clashes Occident-Orient?

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Kuala Lumpur
IAIS-International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies & IIUM-International Islamic University of Malaysia

Yes, Islam and Christianity are on old Buddhist lands; with Muslim-Buddhist clashes in Sri Lanka, Myanmar.

Occident is the big space of the three Abrahamic religions Judaism-Christianity-Islam, with the secularisms of the first two, excluding each other. Indonesia-Philippines are in the Occident.

Orient is a big space spanned by Buddhism, which does not exclude others, not even violent state power; hence more complex. There are pure Buddhist countries: Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam; and mixed Buddhist countries, with other non-exclusive world views: in China with Daoism-Confucianism, in Japan with Kami shinto-Confucianism, and in Korea with Confucianism and Christianity.

The world religioscape started with Read the rest of this entry »

Blame the British for Hong Kong’s democratic deficit

By Jonathan Power

September 9th 2014

When 17 years ago the British lowered the Union Jack on their last remaining important colony, Hong Kong, Chris Patten, the governor, buried his face in his hands for the entire world to see and felt the profoundest sentiment a proud and ambitious politician could experience – failure.

It was indeed a personal failure to be added to his other great misfortune, the timing of elections back home in Britain that made it impossible for him to become prime minister. But on that damp evening it was the people of Hong Kong, those who knew him well could tell, that pierced his conscience. The British had let them down. They were giving up a colony having unaccountably failed not to leave it a functioning democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

What was history about? Look at the Histomap

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

John B. Sparks made a histomap in 1931—updated in 2010 (Metro Books) – a long, vertical chart covering “peoples and nations for 4,000 years”.

Time, history, is on the vertical axis, listing when of events and where in the space of peoples and nations. The chart starts with the Chinese, the Indians, Amorites (Babylon), Aegeans (Minoans and Mycenaeans), Hittites (Anatolia), Iranians and Greeks, goes on to the Romans, the British, the Huns (Mongols) and ends with Latin America, Europeans West and East (the EU is absent), the Middle East, sub-Sahara Africa, Russians and Americans, Asia as India, China and Japan; each part proportionate to their significance at the time. Debatable.

But let us focus on something crucial: the shape of the “peoples-nations” bubbles in world history, from a beginning to an end?

By and large exactly like that: a birth somewhere in this Einsteinian timespace, and a death. Two points, and between them: growth-maturity/flourishing-decline and fall. Expansion to a maximum, and contraction to a minimum. The law of anything organic? Given that they often thought they were forever, gifted with eternal life, history is about great expectations, glories–and great traumas. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo: Democracy’s crisis – 10 points

By Jan Oberg

Democracy is a core feature of Western society, normally understood as representative parliament – i.e. in free elections citizens vote for people to represent their interests for a parliament consisting of parties of which some form the government and some the opposition.

It’s not always included in the definitions that democracy requires a reasonable level of knowledge and information, freely available. For instance, one often hears that India is the world’s biggest democracy but 26% of the people are still illiterate (287 million people).

So the ”world’s largest democracy” also has the world’s largest population who can’t read and write. In comparison, China illiterate citizens make up about 3% and is regularly called a dictatorship.

Also, in a society where the persons running for office are – or have to be – extremely wealthy to pay for their campaign and where large corporations make multi-million dollar contributions to certain candidates (presumably not out of altruism), falls outside a reasonable definition of democracy – even though they may also not be dictatorships; there are many stations in-between the two.

Are young people giving up parliamentary democracy?

When I was in my high-school years – a few decades ago – and wanted to contribute to changing society for the better, the most natural thing to do – and the finest – was to join a political party. Not so today. My students in peace studies around the world often ask me at the end of a course and it is time to say goodbye whether I can help them somehow in making their career. Their career dreams may be to work for the UN, for human rights, the environment or starting their own NGO with a peace profile or set up their own consultancy firm for a better world.

Significantly, over all these years, only one single student asked me what I thought about contributing to peace and development by becoming a politician.

As is well-known, people today engage in social issues mainly through civil society and the use of social media as their primary tool. This is good from most perspectives and holds fascinating prospects for de facto global citizenship and action, but it does something to the old type of representative democracy.

When we talk about global crisis, people think much more of the environment, identity issues or warfare than of democracy being in crisis. I think it is in fundamental crisis for the the following reasons. Read the rest of this entry »


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