Johan Galtung - Dialogue

[The following is the transcription of Johan Galtung's Dialogue. It remains unedited at present, but will be updated shortly]

I have already 25 questions, and I'll try to deal with as many of them as possible. And I'm extremely grateful to the organisers for getting the dialogue open this way. In other words I'm not giving a talk.

I'll start with a definition of peace. When I say that peace is the opposite of violence and not of war, that's a very incomplete definition. That it is not the opposite of war seems to me to be obvious. The most important violence in the 80's was men against women. If you take the number of women projected from the 1980's census data a hundred million women disappeared - through abortion, and infanticide and other methods. To call a world where that is happening, even if there should happen to be no war, to call that peace, is nonsense. This is negation of violence. So my definition of peace is the following - peace is the ability to handle conflict constructively and without violence. When I say constructively, I mean driving history forward, finding new solutions.

What is a conflict? Do not confuse the concept of conflict with violence. Conflict is not the same as violence. Conflict is parties which have incompatible goals. Parties which stand in each others way, they think, because they are presuming things that they think are incompatible. I disagree with Edith Hanson about her emphasis on differences. I don't think difference is the point at all. The point is that the concrete people with their different religious beliefs, with different skin colours, may have different goals. And those goals may be economic, political, military, cultural, whatever. And it is when these goals are incompatible that the problem comes. Difference is a very minor point. The conflict between the Germans and the Jews in Nazi Germany was not because the Jews were different, but it was because both Jews and Germans were of the opinion that they were chosen by God. And Hitler's idea was that there was space for only one chosen group. The way he went about it was one of the most atrocious in humankind, but you will never get a handle on that conflict unless you understand what it was about. You can say that the first thing is not to suffer from delusions. Try to find out what the conflict is, and then try to transcend it by being creative.

So let me go to one of your questions. What are the elements in globalisation that increase conflict? Can they be transformed? An excellent question! I would say there are three elements in globalisation that increase conflict. We have 2000 nations and 8000 additional cultures in the world. Some of them are of the opinion that they are exceptional and they are chosen by God, or somebody else, and for that reason they believe they deserve a particularly high position. The second basic problem with globalisation is class. We are now in a situation where fifty per-cent of humanity live on less than two dollars a day. That's 210 yen, why don't you try it tomorrow, and see how you like it. 1.7 billion people live on less than one dollar a day. The numbers are increasing more than the population growth. The whole thing called economic growth and development is a scam. The third problem with globalisation is that there is one country in the world that thinks it is extraordinarily exceptional. And directly under God. So directly under God that there is space for nothing between God and that country. No space for the United Nations, no space for international law. The name of the country is of course the United States of America. I'm just back from a meeting with the former Secretary of Defence of the U.S.A., Robert MacNamara. There were about 40 people in the room, and he said to us "in all likelihood the United States of America will lead the world into a nuclear holocaust in the 21st century". And my question to all of you is "what have you done to stop the United States, what have you done you from Japan done to stop the United States, what have you, the professor from Norway [Galtung] done to stop the United States? That's all! So everybody says "we're trying, we're trying." You're not good enough!! Do it better!!

So, how do we transcend this? Let me start with "class." let us think in terms of global citizenship, global human rights and (omission) fair world. We can afford paying all those people much more than two dollars a day to live. The only thing we have to get rid of is the idea that you don't deserve money unless you work. But in order to work you have to have a job. That is today impossible for one single reason. it does not have to do with globalisation. It does not have to do with privatisation, but it has to do with increasing productivity. That is one way of transcending it. The (omission) fair world, global human rights, the right to a life in dignity, and the duty to pay global taxes, on international speculation, on international travel, on international telephone calls, on your e-mail. It could be one per (omission).And it would compensate sufficiently.

How do we handle the problem of nations? By having one global human right, which is the right to live, in the world, inside your own language and your own religion, and a duty, not to tolerate others, but to respect them, and have dialogue. The duty of dialogue. The duty to think and to say "You are different from me, how fantastic! What can I learn from you? And what would you like to learn from me?" Now globalisation of human rights, is a typical example of transcendence of a problem. How do we handle the United States of America? The former joint chiefs of staff, the top military men said that "America was created by divine providence, in order to bring order to the world." That was Colin Powell. He successor, John (omission) said, "the United States is a global nation, with global interests." Now if you find a private person talking like that you would say that the guy is probably psychiatrically off. If people high up in the United States talk like that it's called patriotism. We have a problem. Any one of us can sit quietly, softly with an American friend, take his hand, feel the pulse, and say: "Will you repeat after me - The United States is a nation and a country like all the others, and we're going to join the human race, not at the top, but like all the others." In the meantime it may be necessary not to follow the United States. I think what will happen fairly quickly now, within five years time, is that the number of countries who have turned around, and said that United States has been leading them down the wrong alley [will increase]. Is that violent or non-violent? No it is not - it depends on the spirit in which you do it. It depends on what you do to help your fellow Americans. I would say it's a collective disease. And there will be only one sufferer. There was once a country called the Soviet Union, which was convinced that they had been selected, chosen, not by god, because they didn't believe in God. So who chose them? History! History one day came to Lenin, and said "Lenin, Vladimir Illyich, stand up! You have been given the task of leading your country into socialism, and from there to this one more country called "communism." They believed in it. They stopped believing in it around Spring 1956, three years after the death of Stalin. One day the same process will happen to some other chosen peoples. If we wish to live in one world together, we don't have space at the top for particularly chosen people. We are all chosen - six billion chosen human beings. And we have no right to see ourselves above nature. We live within nature. But I will not develop that theme - Satish and others will develop it.

Is equality in theory and practice consistent with globalisation? Yes it is. But it is not consistent with perverse globalisation, and the globalisation that we have today, is economically led by one country, militarily by one country, politically by one country, and culturally by one country. That particular country, the United States, defeated two countries, during the Second World War, and they were countries that also were chosen, be that by the Sun Goddess, or by the Nordic Gods. That meant they had the mental structure which was compatible with this particular way of thinking. They became the most faithful servants of the United States of America - Japan and Germany. I'm emphasising this so much because so many of the questions deal with globalisation.

In your own experience what are the signs that tell you when conflicts are revealing their creative sides? Similarly, what alerts you to the fact that conflicts are shifting back from creativity to violence? When I'm sitting with a Prime Minister, or a President in dialogue. The model is a conversation, the model is a good seminar. The voices are controlled. There is a Ping-Pong process of ideas going back and forth. So what is my sign that the moment for creativity has come? I'll tell you what my sign is - silence. There will be silence on the other side. Because if the other side has a good argument against, they would say it. Silence means there is work going on. At that point you never push .You change too much.

How do I know that violence is probably coming up? That's because they think they have exhausted all possibilities without violence. You can take the simplest little example, which I have used very, very often, training people in creativity. How can two children, kids, sitting at a table, with an orange on the table, handle that situation. I have sixteen different answers for that question. One of them is that they fight it out. Another one is an answer I heard at a school in India: "You don't have to do anything - you just watch the orange - it's so beautiful." That's not the western answer, because the western answer is "Do something, for heaven's sake! It cannot just sit there." Now you have one violent possibility, and fifteen non-violent ones. Imagine that you know only two non-violent and one is to sit looking at it, but you get bored of this. And the other one is to throw a coin. And for some reason they don't work, then the only left is to fight. You see working for peace is to expand the spectrum of non-violent possibilities. So I said to the president of a Latin American country. His country has been at war with a neighbouring country four times over a piece of territory of 500 square kilometres. The name of the two countries is Equador and Peru. He asks me "Professor Galtung, you are a conflict specialist, what is your advice? We haven't been able to agree on a border." So knowing Latin America I suggested how about owning that territory together - as a bi-national territory, with a natural park?" Then he said, "nobody has ever said that - the idea is excellent but it's too new. It will take at least thirty years to get used to it." Three years they has a peace treaty, with a bi-national territory, and a natural park. The point about it is that in that territory, new things can grow. Don't think it is solved by that. One of you asks:" Could it be that solving a conflict opens for a new conflict?" Yes it does. This goes on and on and on, and after that it goes on and on and on. They could start quarreling about how to administer that territory.

One of you asks: "What is the right timing, what is a good time to do something in a conflict?" With due respect the question is wrong. It is a military question. You see the military approach is to find out when can you take the other party by surprise, or when is he so fatigued that he will capitulate? You wait for the right moment. It's a linear approach. Any military leader knows this extremely well. That is not the approach to get peace. Peace is a permanent ongoing process. You can win with non-violence in southern parts of the United States, and you lose because you don't continue with non-violence. It is not, to use a military expression, a single shot effect.

In international relations at what level, national, regional or global, should conflict transformation begin? In a very basic guide to conflict transformation there is no linearity. If you think that you should start with one factor and then it will somehow go from there, you are on the wrong track. Think holistically. If you have a conflict, identify 24 points where you can do something. And better to do a little bit with all 24, than one giant step with one of them. it maybe the wrong approach. And the world doesn't hang together that way. That is not a military model but a mechanical model. When you are driving a car, and you are coming to a curb, it's a good idea to turn the wheel - I'd recommend that. And it's a good idea in that case, not to start pumping up the tyres, checking the paint, and things of that kind. That's because the car is a strongly coupled system, whereas the social systems are linked. In other words very mulitple approaches. And individual citizens play a role. In 1918 there was a group of Swedish women in a little town south of Gottenburg in Sweden. They had a meeting about how Europe and the world should look after the end of the First World War. And they issued a manifesto with 20 points. The United States had a bright consul, in Gottenburg, who travelled 50 kilometres to that little town and got the manifesto and sent it to Washington. President Wilson took 14 points. That's President Wilson's 14 points. Unfortunately he forgot to quote. I don't understand why. Why? You see this is basic. It has to do with archetypes. We have, unfortunately, two archetypes of peace. The archetype is that basic figure in your thought. Deep down in you. So one archetype is that peace comes from the man. From President Wilson, from Lloyd George, from Churchill. And you should be grateful. There may be a couple of them, and they usually have a meeting through the night, and at five o'clock in the morning they open the doors, to be admired. And they come out with a sheet of paper, with signatures on it. That's one archetype. The second archetype is the saint working at the bottom of society. That was Gandhi, that was Martin Luther King. These are the two archetypes. This is not what happens in the world today. What happens in the world today is that you find thousands, literally speaking, millions of common citizens inspired by the peace movement during the cold war, organised right now in 475 different organisations, working on peace problems all over the world. It is neither one single person at the top, nor one single person at the bottom, nor was Gandhi a single person, but the journalists made him into one, by the western fascination with the single person, steered by their archetypes.

One of you asks "What is the bright, creative side of conflict in Kosovo?" I would say absolutely none. It was mishandled from the very beginning. It would even have been easy to solve Yugoslavia. Self-determination for the Croats, and for the Serbs in Croatia. Self-determination for the Bosnians, and for the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia. Self-determination for the Albanians, and for the Serbs in Kosovo. You end up with about 12 republics. You do not end up with a federation but possibly a confederation. All the Yugoslav politicians that I had occasion to dialogue with had no problem with that solution, with the possible exception of some right-wing Croats. What was the problem? The problem was not in Yugoslavia. The problem was not in the United States of America. The problem was in the Vatican, in Vienna, in Bonn and in Brussels. The most naive thing you can do in conflict is to confuse the conflict formation with the conflict arena. That's what Germans did. The conflict arena is where the action is, that's where the violence is, and of course it is fascinating. The conflict formation are all those who have a stake in the conflict, and who are pulling the levers behind. This unfortunately is the usual construction. (omission)

Can you ever make peace by making war? I would say no. And the reason why is very simple. If war generates, as Arden [??]said yesterday, a genealogy of hatred, that goes through time. It was fantastic the civil war solved the problem of slavery? Well the first war was fought not because of slavery, it was fought mainly because of conflict over federation/confederation. What came out of it? Out of it came a giant United States as an alliance between the chosen ones in the north and the soldiers in the south. Maybe you solve one conflict at the expense of another. Maybe the lust for revenge of the south was channeled into the U.S. imperialism that exploded at the end of the 1890's. How about the Second World War, they defeated Japan, didn't they? The fascist military dictatorship. Well we don't know the end of the story. We don't know the end of the story. Could it be that this Japanese inclination to hang onto the U.S. in a military alliance, is an effort to get even, with their Asian neighbours? That of course is what the Asian neighbours think. Could it be that there is something to it? In that case what did you solve? Wars happen, don't confuse them with methods, or with peace. What you win is a ceasefire, which is not the same as peace. It may be changed into a peace, but that requires very hard work.

And at this point, I've taken some of your excellent questions. My wife will give a very brief summary. I'll only wish the 30 of you who have signed up for my workshop, welcome to my room. There will be two and a half hours workshop and we will start a little bit early, a little bit before one o'clock. There is much to go through. You will have half an hour discussion, and I'm sorry to say you will be trained, and you may even risk learning something. I apologise, but such is life at times. Thank you!

[This was followed by several questions from the audience and delegates. Click here to continue]

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