Johan Galtung - Dialogue Questions

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

Omido Vafa:

Thank you Professor Galtung, and just a question about a very simple matter. We have a conflict happening for many years in Palestine/Israel - that region. I notice here that you were a conflict resolution translator for Israeli's and Palestinians. I was just wondering what was your advice during that time, that you gave, concerning human nature, anger and if they can control their anger.

Johan Galtung:

Be careful about human nature. Human nature has been blamed for everything. It used to be blamed for slavery and colonialism. It was in their human nature. It happened to be in Britain particularly. And particularly the United States. Don't blame poor human nature. I have two other words for you that also end with "ture" - "culture" and "structure." And you will go very far with these two if you want to explain the conflicts phenomena. Now, my advice has been since 1971 the following: a Palestinian state, with exactly the same rights as the Israeli state; that Jordan and Egypt lease some territory to the Palestinian state because it is so small; that the two states divide up equitable friendly relations. Israel has been against the state, and the Palestinians have not been good at giving an image of good friendly relations. And that all of this happens with the accepting of the Middle-East community. And the Middle-East community will give equal attention to the Palestinian issue and to the Kurdish issue. And to the border conflicts of Iraq. That the so called "big powers" in the world, the big vultures, stay off. The best thing they can do is to keep away. And if they want a committee together, where they sit and keep awake together, let them have it. And then they can meet with each other every day if that's what they want. The whole process steered by the United Nations, in neglecting article 12, meaning a United Nations dominated by journalists. And I will claim that this (ommission)

Nakajima Yuko:

I really appreciate your suggestion in the creativity for the emphasis to apply for that in the conflict transformation. Or I should say the transformation of the coloured violent system itself. But how do we nurture the creativity in ones mind?

Johan Galtung

It's a very, very good question. I can tell you one thing you can do. If you are working in a conflict, don't only listen to what they say but listen to what they don't say. So let us say that you've interested in Ecuador and Peru, and you listen to two presidents. And you notice that they take it for granted that the problem is to draw a border. So maybe they are caught, not by where they disagree, namely where the border should be. But they are prisoners of the idea of a border. Your creativity, then, is to challenge the common assumption, and find something along that line. I can take the old example: You are standing on the North Pole, and somebody says Johan, move 10cm but you are not permitted to go south. You look down and everything is south, until I get the idea, but that's the bright idea [Johan jumps up and down]. I move 10cm. So the point is you do something extraparadimatic. You get out of the paradime that you have been a prisoner of. I can give you many, many examples. Tommorow in the workshop, we'll go through some of them, and you will be challenged to develop that creativity. And I will discuss it.

Anna Zyzniewska:

I have a quick question regarding the recent U.S. senate not signing the treaty against non-profileration. Why do you think they didn't sign it?

Johan Galtung:

There are six examples along the same line. They haven't signed off the criminal court, they didn't want the debt relief, they didn't want [to sign] the anti-personal landmines, they still have not paid their dues to the United Nations (and when they want to pay it, it's with conditions). The reason is very simple. If you are the country above other countries, you think the nuclear test ban is excellent for the others. It's a good law for the rest of the world, not for me, because I am exceptional. Thanks for the question. It is just a question of exceptionalism. You have God on top, then the United States, then the United Nations, and all those other things - international law. I cannot say it often enough - the U.S. has to get out of that attitude. Is that anti-American? No. It's a friendly statement to my American friends. To be anti-American is to let them continue, until they suffer terribly. Everybody else in human history who has been on that line, has suffered terribly in the end. I can be anti-U.S. hegemony without being anti-American. I can be anti-Quisling without being anti-Norwegian. I can be anti-Japanese militarism, without being anti-Japanese. I can be anti-Hitler without being anti-German. So please don't use the vocabulary "anti-American."

Chris Summerville:

Here in Japan most of us consider ourselves to be living a very peaceful lifestyle, and we consider ourselves peaceful people, and we rarely come into situations of conflict, and yet here in Japan and in many developed countries, our lifestyle is based on invisible violence. I just wonder if you could comment on that.

Johan Galtung:

I agree with you entirely. I call it structural violence. I don't call it just passive violence. The reason why I call it structural violence is to direct the attention to the structure that generates it. That strucure is no less than capitalism. One of asked the question about its incompatibility with peace. But capitalism can be modified. What is wrong is not the market idea, that people buy and sell, what is wrong - I'll not go into that - it'll take too much time - is the role that money plays. Imagine you modify capitalism, the way the social democrats have done by having a mixed economy between a private and a public sector. In addition to that you introduce a welfare state. You satisfy basic needs at the bottom. In addition to that you introduce the local community, and you have a subsistence economy around the world at the local level. The person who showed the way is the Bengali, the Bangladeshi, Mohammad Younis, with his Grameen Bank, and now with his Grameen cellular telephone. It needed an enormous amount of ingenuity which is in direct line with Gandhi's (omission). It is just a little bit updated. All of that can be done. The thing that to my mind will not help you much is that instead of eating three meals, eat two meals. I'm not quite sure that the surplus that is generated by that will go to the poor in poor countries. I have some suspicions about where it will end up. So I agree with you, we are living and exploiting, but I think the basic point is to change the structure, so that it doesn't generate that colossal inequity. The situation is getting worse and worse. It's not getting better. And Seattle will be, as Satish has pointed out, a demonstration of the governmental failure to get out of their own paradime. And on November 30, those of you who follow on the internet will know that Nov.30 is the day you should have an astounding number of NGO's in the streets. And that will be the opposite voice. That is today a basic conflict formation.

Hiro Iyuri:

(omission) I think that once people gather they want to be superior to others. Is that true?

Johan Galtung:

I would look at structure and culture. We have structures that put some people high up in society and others low down. If the structure is vertical to start with, you have been programmed to try to be above. And that is the reason why you try to buy a better motorbike than your neighbour, because it's already programmed in the structure. Imagine now that you make a less vertical, more egalitarian, social structure. In the Scandinavian countries we have prided ourselves on having a little bit of that, the same as the case in New Zealand, for instance. Then this is less important, and you don't bother so much. You may also need some training in how to relate in an egalitarian way. And I pointed out that Group 21 has already done a fantastic transcendence by initiating this dialogue process. Now if you look at culture. You will find most cultures being in-egalitarian. Some (omission), the Buddhists less so. Although I'm sometimes a little bit worried about the social status of the Bodhisattva. And whether the Bodhisattva can manage to remain egalitarian. I've seen a couple of Bodhisattvas around and they tend to become a little bit arrogant, and if they're not arrogant they tend to withdraw, in a sense, which may be a cheap way out. But maybe these cultures can be changed. So again I say don't blame poor human nature. We know that we have the inclinations, we have the potentials, to be very bad, and very nice. We behave in such a way that the nice side comes out, but you may have to learn it, and it may be that your culture and structure do not teach you that. The last example: our Western culture is individualistic and competitive. The basic point is to beat your neighbour - at exams, at games, in court, in battle. It's not a good way of doing it. And you can easily imagine schools where teamwork is the rule. You can have alternative dispute resolution, where creative conflict resolution is the rule, and not to beat the other side. And you can avoid battles simply by asking "what is the conflict about? And let us try to find the topic and solve it." Indonesia and East Timor - the world forgot to listen to the Indonesians. Maybe they had a couple of good points. If they had listened to Indonesia, we would have avoided the violence. If they had listened to the Serbs, we would have avoided the violence, and yet, we would've had an independent Croatia, and probably Kosovo, and an independent East Timor. It's only that these two had a couple of points that were not taken into account. So, that's my kind of answer.

Andy Natusch:

I'm from the U.S. My question is perhaps by defining the people or the nation, I was wondering if you could define exactly why the U.S. has so much power? How have they become this way? Why is it that it's such a powerful nation? Is it the people, the geography, the government? What is it?

Johan Galtung:

It's a rather long lecture you're asking for now, from an Americanologist. In 1620 something catastrophic happened. The select puritans, the pilgrims were migrating from (omission), and there was this sermon they were listening to by a priest called Cotton Mather [??]. And Cotton Mather said that there was once a chosen people called the Israelis, and they were chosen by God. But the condition was that they obeyed God. "Now if you look at a map there is no Zion. There is no Israel. So evidently they didn't obey God." And then Cotton Mather said "you are the new Canaan. The new Israel. You will make it." New Canaan is a city in Conneticut. And they baptised their godgiven children with Jewish names. You've got an enormous amount of Raphaels and Sauls and Josephs crawling around. It was quite tough for Jews, when the (omission)Allia [??] came in 1881 and discovered all these Jewish archetypes around. What was the U.S. reaction to them. They started hating Jews. And I'll tell you why. If you steal something from a person you'd better hate him, because you are going to get conflicts so prepare yourself by hatred. Now that hatred did not survive Schwam[??]. Or to be more American, it didn't survive the television about Schwam which is much more important. That's where they got it from. I think they stepped into some rather unfortunate shoes. And Orthodox Jews in Israel are still in those shoes. They became strong, essentially through extremely hard work, and essentially through one formula: by giving everybody a new beginning. The people they got from Europe, we in Europe, sent the scum, the people at the bottom. And we were just happy, "Get going, get going, take the first trip, as quickly as possible." It was the U.S. that gave them a chance. Unfortunately they killed ten million natives in the process, but they gave them a chance; out of which came an extremely rich, powerful and arrogant nation. Now there are exceptions. And the basic exceptions from the Midlands, England: the Quakers. They came to Pennsylvania, the pilgrims came to Massachusetts, the Devonshire gentlemen came to Virginia, the Scottish, Irish, English, border riffraff came to the Appalachians and became cops and soldiers. So if you're from the Appalachians you know where you come from. Riffraff! But I'm willing to entertain exceptions. Enough! Now the point of that is an amazing point. The Quakers and their kind have stayed at about ten per-cent all the time. When Bush launched his war against Iraq I was asked by somebody how much support he will get in the population, I said ninety. It was eighty nine per-cent. It took a couple of months to build it. So the reason I'm saying that is there is a certain constancy in U.S. where this is concerned. It's a tough job to work against it, but the work has to be done. If you want to do it, you are not alone. There are men who also will join in it. It's a beautiful country, a beautiful nation. There is just a little therapy that is needed, to put it right. And since your neighbour is from Israel there is a little therapy somewhere in that country. I should add to that that we Norwegians know we've chosen by God, and if you just look at the globe and you will see that we are the closest to God of anybody. Just why do you think we are located up in the north? That's because God placed us there. But don't tell anybody because we have discovered it's better not to talk about it. Because people get so jealous, you see? They cannot take it, and that's been the mistake of the Americans and the Jews - actually you should learn from us.

Ayelet Meir:

My original question was to elaborate on Israel, but he stole my question. But you did mention that we both needed a lot of therapy, and I wonder if it doesn't start from a very micro kind of attitude that we all have. And you talk mainly on the global, even regional scale. But what about the very, very personal level. You talked about human nature, and about culture, and about structure, but what about even smaller kind of scaling. Because I do believe that it's all the same.

Johan Galtung:

You know what Freud taught us, and you don't have to believe in everything he said, but he taught us a very important thing. That there is something called the subconscious. And I think he was wrong in saying there are only evil things in the subconscious. You have all kinds of ideas of which you are not conscious. And the other thing that Freud said was if you want to understand yourself, better be aware of it. And then you look at it. And when you look at it, you may come to the conclusion that I don't want to believe in, and you may change it. So what I've been saying at the micro level is that there is a collective sub-conscious. And it is shared by the Israeli right (omission) and it has to be put on the table and it has to be discussed. And exactly the same advice at the individual level. You'll find many marriages manage it, and they manage to transcend - others don't manage it. And the word that I use when I'm asked to do some marriage therapy. The word that I use is "life-project." What is your life-project? Why do want to be married? What is the purpose of the whole thing? And they are thrown off balance and they don't have an answer, and they say "it's to raise our children." OK, but the children are gone, they're not interested in being raised by you anymore. They have been raised enough. And some of them say "too much!" Now in that case, a common joint life-project. And that is fantastic for them. And that they'll work on it. And that means also that you are aware of the forces down in your own subconscious. And I repeat again that they are not all evil. There are many good things. I think that Freud in a sense was a good Christian, in putting the devil down and God up. So we put the devil down in the subconscious towards the id and God was the mother who came and whispered super-ego commands in your ear when you were at your weakest, because you are suckling her breast. So that was the mother's trick. Now that kind of story I don't believe in. But otherwise I think Freud has been a great teacher for us.

Veri Farina: How would you define our education by means of peace?

Johan Galtung: Do you mean peace in education or education in peace?

Veri Farina: Both.

Johan Galtung:

I don't think it is a curriculum. I think it's a question of living it. And I think that all of us can be conflict resolution workers. If you have a little bit of talent for quiet soft dialogues with all the parties in a conflict. And don't believe there are only two. Listen to there wishes and their fears. And then comes that intuitive jump when you see a vision. And you share that with them. If they can develop it, much better, but often they're blinded by hatred, and cannot do it. And you continue that dialogue. In that process you will help them, and you will listen, and you will grow together. Now in addition to that a couple of points to make. And some of it might be a good idea to bring into the creative process. You know to end at this point my thesis is this: that to know more about handling conflict, is at the same order of magnitude as literacy, democracy and personal hygiene. And one of those things that changed your life. And I think that you'll find yourself that you'll get much more out of life. With more creativity and more sensitivity. So I'll see some of you tomorrow, and I'm very much looking forward to it. Thank you so much.

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