7/22: From Violence to Peace Culture (1)

EDITORIAL, 15 Aug 2011

#177 | Johan Galtung

Dear World Humanist Congress Participants, Fellow Humanists:

We believe in the primacy of human life and we believe in rationality.  Violence is contempt for life as our poet Nordahl Geieg puts it. You have chosen as the theme of this conference “Humanism and Peace”, and chosen me–rightly or wrongly considered by many the father of peace studies–to deliver this address “From Lack of Realism to Conflict Resolution”.

By lack of realism I mean the bloodletting of violence and war, solving nothing, leaving a legacy of trauma and glory, lust for more glory and for revenge to cancel the trauma.  By rationality I mean: reconciliation to handle the traumas of the past, mediation to resolve the conflicts of the present, and peace projects to build the peace of the future.

Peace studies are modeled on health studies, wrongly called “medicine”, the idea being that peace is to violence what health is to disease.  And the pathology is the most intractable that Norway has encountered; more so than the Nazi-German invasion on April 9, 1940: 7/22.  Why?  Because Norway is both a victim of atrocious terror by one single person, it seems; and a perpetrator of atrocious state terrorism in Afghanistan.  My task: diagnosis, prognosis and therapy.

7/22: Diagnosis.  I pick from daoism the need for a holistic-dialectical prognosis, not some two variables punctual school medicine thing.  We are dealing with two actors long at war–violent islamism, and violent West-USA-NATO-islamophobic christianism.  One battlefield is Afghanistan, close to China, considered by USA an ally of islamism. Another is the killing of people seen as traitors helping the enemy: Karzai+.  And a third was opened by Breivik–christian pro-Israel, European–killing people in Norway he seen as traitors helping the enemy: multi-culturalists-cultural marxists; Labor-led government, with its AUF. Islamists and islamophobes at war and both of them at war with Norway as an actor: an unbalanced, very unstable configuration.

7/22: Prognosis.  What is going to happen?  I pick from cognitive dissonance-consonance theory the search for images that are balanced.  The simplest way out is to talk only about Norway the victim, not the perpetrator. The second simplest is not to link the two, Norway at war in Afghanistan is “totally different, nothing to do with Utöya”.  But Norwegian sharp-shooters kill Taliban-Al Qaeda like Breivik killed AUF, justified by some theory far from reality.  Some soldiers find fighting better than sex, some find hunting better than killing, some reach back to viking times for a Norway bent on perennial war, like Quisling.  Very far from a peace nation. And in Afghanistan they burn Norwegian flags.  Some relish: Norway, how does your medicine taste?

I reach out to the bereaved of both, victims of insane theories–one terrorist, one state terrorist, equally detached from reality.  As Norway’s PM has said, Breivik will not destroy our democracy; we will have more democracy, more openness.  Like so many say in Afghanistan, the West-NATO will not destroy our islam and fight for a decentralized society with autonomous villages and several nations, in peace with all neighbors, beyond the divisions made by the British Empire, and sick and tired of being invaded. Any change we will decide ourselves.  Sow terrorism and reap unity against the terrorist: Norway right now.

Denial will not bring Norway anywhere: the islamist-islamophobe-Norway triangle with three violences demands an answer.  In our minds, and in reality, some positive relations will appear.  Beyond police inadequacy there will be people challenging extreme islamophobes to dialogue, and there will be hidden or real islamist-islamophobe cooperation against a common enemy, Norway–ominous but logical.

And then the third possibility: from warfare in Afghanistan to genuine dialogue with Taliban and others–perhaps best done by countries like Turkey, Russia and China–unblemished by killing, making West-USA-NATO (Norway) a forgettable, regrettable episode.

7/22 Therapy.  Three relations with three options: violence, neutral, dialogical-solution-oriented, 3x3x3 = 27 options. There is only one therapy: change negative relations into positive ones, from violence to dialogue and cooperation for mutual an equal benefit.

Solve the Afghanistan syndrome.  Stop the ridiculous war with no end in sight; enter the Taliban formula of respect for islam, a more developed islam, of a decentralized country in peace with all the neighbors, of a country no longer considered a pawn to be invaded.  USA-West-NATO-Norway is hardly in a position to do this – better leave it to Turkey-Russia-China.

Solve the inner Afghan problem.  Karzai+ has to extricate itself further from the commitment to the USA even to the point of demanding the immediate withdrawal. His and his regime’s future is for the Afghan people to decide, hopefully through dialogue, not violence.

Solve the islamophobe extreme right problem, by engaging them in dialogue, challenging them, not only by an even-eyed security police but with eye-sight both on the left and right.  Be well prepared. Identify the key weak point: that terrorism in Norway solidifies the people against the terrorist, far from any uprising of the kind Breivik hoped for, just like state terrorism in Afghanistan, including the Norwegian portion of it.  However, Norway will not be held accountable for its own bullets but for the whole NATO action down to the grandchildren of those killed: from an attack on one is an attack on all follows an attack from one is an attack from all. A Norway not drawing the obvious conclusion, that Afghans may like violence as little as we do, is a Norway producing even more insecurity for itself than it has up to now.  Revenge, down to the grandchildren, on both sides.

From violence culture to dialogue and theological cooperation.  Are we ready, are we mature?  The stakes are high.  Let us hope that rationality and not hard readings of abrahamic religions prevails.


[1]. Dedicated to the memory of Kristian Horn, also known Anti-christian Horn, a pioneer in the field of humanist ethics and non-church ceremonies–a guru and a friend. On April 9, 1956 the Norwegian Humanetisk Forbund was founded very near to where we are right now.  I was one of them, and Christen lives on in me and countless others through his words and deeds of inspiration.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 15 Aug 2011.

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5 Responses to “7/22: From Violence to Peace Culture (1)”

  1. Dear Johan,

    With all respect and admiration for your work, I’d ask your permission to put down her my interpretation of Rationality”. For you, Rationality means reconciliation to handle the traumas of the past, mediation to resolve the conflicts of the present, and peace projects to build the peace of the future.”

    For me, Rationality means: recognising that wars lead to suffering, traumas, premature loss of lives, etc. and what we can and should do to “prevent” these human tragedies. I have known many instances when traumatised people learnt that “handling their trauma” was equal to organising another war, taking revenge, etc.

    This unhealthy reasoning is, naturally, taught by all those involved in the War business, something that could NEVER happen if this business did not exist.

    Without weapons, tanks, air-fighters, land-mines, torture instruments, etc, etc, people would not be able to kill. Anybody killing anybody would be considered a murderer and sent.

    By not campaigning for the abolition of weapons, (except stun guns for the police when chasing a criminal who runs faster than the policeman), military vehicles, military schools, Armed Forces, etc, we are promoting war/s.

    Feelings of Patriotism, Nationalism, ethnic or religious pride, we are never going to stop, so why encourage those feelings to manifest themselves and explode?


    . In other words, they bring nothing positive, except for the Merchants of War or Merchants of Death.

  2. Udaya R. Tennakoon says:

    Very important article not only for peace study academia but also for politicains, policy makers and for the public.

  3. Udaya, if you refer to my comments, thank you very much.

    By the way, one of the sentences had two words missing: “to jail”. It should have read:

    “Anybody killing anybody would be considered a murderer and sent to jail.

    Also, the short sentence that came after my signature, should have been there “before” the signature.

    “Wars, in other words, bring nothing positive, except for the Merchants of War or Merchants of Death.”

  4. Dear Johanm,

    Thinking of your words “By lack of realism I mean the bloodletting of violence and war, solving nothing”. However, you don’t say “what” is war supposed to solve.

    Wars, as we all know, are big business. Big business for all those who “provide” wars, assisting in their creation: weapon scientists, weapon manufacturers, Banks, politicians, Press moguls, oil barons, Churches (they own thousands of shares in the military industry), Defense Ministers, Trade Ministers, Heads of Armed Forces, etc.

    For them, all very powerful and influential groups, wars “are” THE SOLUTION. For all these people, conflict resolution by dialogue would equal “personal” financial ruin. Don’t forget that wars are fought with “others’ money. If a country goes bankrupt through military conflict, the organisers of the conflict are not affected. They have become rich in the process.

    A friend of mine, assistant to Sadruddin Khan, when he was UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told me: whilst this Commission exists, we shall never see an end to wars and mass movements. They “have” to generate “Refugee Business”, (tents, sleeping bags, beds, pre-packed food, portable toilets, etc). This, my friend confirmed, was, like all other “war related” businesses – drugs, human trafficking, etc – very good news for the politicians involved.

    I end up by saying, by SHOUTING very loud !!!! the ONLY hope of PEACE in the world, can come from the abolition of everything military. OK, then, if two politicians, or two priests from different religions, or two men belonging to different ethnic groups dialogue but reach no agreement and fight, they’ll have to do it with their hands. If they both die in the fight, that will be the end of their story. If only one of them dies, the other will be considered a murderer and sent to jail. If both survive, they can still be penalised for inhuman, brutal behaviour.

    At the moment, the Press – in connivance with politicians – has no option but to make heros out of those who kill the most. Children whose fathers fly at great altitudes and supersonic speeds, dropping bombs, destroying buildings by the dozen and human lives by the hundreds, grow up with great admiration for their dads.

    We MUST campaign for the ABOLITION OF MILITARISM. With current communication and spying technology, any abuser of the abolition or ban, would be immediately detected, stopped and penalised. Not like the Abolition of Slavery, which happened 178 years ago and is still widely practiced today.

    These are my thoughts and proposals.


  5. I agree with Mr. galtung.