Why That Much Violence These Days?

EDITORIAL, 13 Jul 2009

#70 | Johan Galtung

We find it all over, right now in the streets of Tegucigalpa, Tehran, Urumqi; as massive killing in connection with US-Allies attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, and elsewhere.  There will probably be much more, looking at the world conflict maps.

    Politically, each nation ruled not by its own kind but by some “majority”, however sharing, distributive, democratic, but of some other kind–and there are very many of them, at least 1,900– produces victims of violence, with huge potential for many more.

    Economically, all the victims of a brutal capitalism, and it is exactly that, capital-ism, transporting capital upward from low to high making low lower and high higher so they die at the bottom and speculate the system into crisis at the top.  Again, there are very many of these victims, so far at the bottom.  But the system is so insane, and the focus on “bailout” rather than “stimulus” makes it even more so that major revolutions are highly likely.

    Militarily, we have the new military order, the postmodern warfare between state terrorism and terrorism with civilians–women, children, the old–not as “collateral damage” but as targets.  And once again, there are very many of those victims.

the major clash of civilizations, the Christian attack on the rest of the world since 1492, making evangelism a part of the general colonial-imperial package perpetrated on the world, is abating.  But that a clash produces counter-clashes, particularly in the light of all the above, stands to reason.

the direct and structural violence against women, as unborn, newborn, as children, for trafficking, sexualized violence and violent sex, as exploited labor all over inside and outside marriage, are rampant and have been so for a long time.  Not strange that so many women preferred monastery to marriage.

And yet why that much violence right now?

    Easy access to arms is one.  The major arms producers are the veto powers in the UN.  Judged by their long entries under human rights–except for France–in Amnesty International 2009 report, they are also major producers of anti-human crimes.  This does not pass unnoticed, and their veto-right makes the UN increasingly not only irrelevant but counterproductive, on the way to oblivion.

    Education is a second.  Literacy is increasing enormously and one consequence is access to information that makes death by starvation or preventable-curable diseases not look inevitable, but the product of totally unacceptable economies.  People all over the world read and watch information about the economic crisis also hitting the rich and draw their conclusion: this is man-made, exactly by men; hence avoidable, not a law of nature.

    Human rights-democracy is a third.  There is so much talk about the right to be master of one’s own destiny, to decide in matters concerning oneself, that people and peoples all over the world want to go beyond rhetoric.  That rhetoric was decisive in the struggle against an institution run by leading democracies, colonialism: the inconsistency was too flagrant.  The same applies to the internal colonization of all those “minorities”–because this is about power and rights, not numbers–around the world.

    Neo-religious awakening is a fourth.  Less theocratic and dogmatic, more normative, making religious correctness political correctness; not excluding such secular values as education and human rights-democracy, not only in the Christian but also in the Islamic and other worlds.  Those who believed that not only God but also religion was dead underestimated the religions as huge reservoirs of human wisdom about rights and obligations, with no secular substitutes able to produce equally compelling norms.

Woman emancipation is a fifth,
producing a backlash.  As Göran Therborn says in his brilliant global history-sociology, Between Sex and Power: Family in the World, 1900-2000, by 2000 patriarchy had become “the big loser of the twentieth century”.  Once it was aristocracy, they hit back, like in Europe.  Then the capitalist class, they hit back, like in and from the USA. Will men, unprepared for this, accept their abdication hands down?

But we need, we must have, education, human rights-democracy, women emancipation!  And we cannot accept religious superstition with a divine mandate to kill believed in by so many adherents of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism-Christianity-Islam!  Sure, but be aware that these four propositions are revolutionary in their implications.  They carry new deals of cards in their wake, and holders of the old losing cards do not take that prospect gladly.

When the world’s leading powers can get away with their violence and means thereof with impunity, even protected by a veto, we should not be surprised if many draw the conclusion that violence cannot be that wrong.  If they resort to violence to uphold their privileges we should not be surprised if others use violence to obtain some.  If they do not even have concepts of conflict resolution but see the goals by others as illegitimate at best and as rhetoric to conceal their evil nature at worst, then how do we get what humanity so much needs, a culture of conflict resolution as a part of a more general culture of peace?  Even more important than control of arms and abolition of veto power. Instead we get an ICC twisted into an African Criminal Court run by the worst of the colonizers, the Dutch.

Yes, there is today less warfare among states.  But much more among classes, nations, faiths and genders, aided by a fading state system.  And other systems enter, with the habits of the old.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Jul 2009.

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