Afghan and German Deep Cultures at War

EDITORIAL, 10 Oct 2011

#185 | Johan Galtung, 10 Oct 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service

Koblenz, Germany – Keynote Speech at the German Federal Armed Forces: Coping with Culture (Deutsche Bundeswehr, “Innere Führung”)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This lecture is dedicated to your hero and my personal good friend, Wolf Graf von Baudissin, who coined the term “innere Führung“, inner steering.  My talk is about collective inner steering, worldviews, often subconscious, as natural and normal as to be in no need of articulation.  And yet that is what we need, based on countless dialogues with Afghans and Germans of many varieties.

Afghans are autonomous mountain people living mainly in 25,000 autonomous, self-reliant villages. Divided into, say, 6-8 nations, the Pashtoons were split by the Durand border drawn by imperialists.  This is where Alexander the Great became the Small.  Even the Mongols gave up; the British were beaten in 1842-1878-1919, as were the Soviets in the 1979 invasion. Moreover, the US 7 October 2001 invasion, backed by a coalition of the willing–Germany and Norway being members–seem to get nowhere.

My dialogues with taliban and others point to three clear goals: no secularization, no unitary state under Kabul, no more invasions.  Three reasons for fighting; on a scale 0-3, most Afghans are probably 1 or 2.  Their muslim monotheism, with a strong we-culture and much sharing, rules out any rule by infidels and any capitulation.  Their time perspective is unlimited and their umma comprises 57 Organization of Islamic Cooperation-OIC countries with 1,560 million muslims.  Their experience staving off intruders is their strength.

What does Afghanistan brings to mind?  Switzerland, of course. 6,000 autonomous municipalities, 4 nations surviving as a loose nation-based federation with high local autonomy, good relations with neighbors, neutrality.  In a TRANSCEND mediation in February 2001 a five-point solution emerged:

  1. coalition with taliban,
  2. a federation degrading Kabul,
  3. a Central Asian community with all neighbors and open borders,
  4. basic needs for all nations and genders,
  5. peacekeeping by the United Nations Security Council and the OIC.

Nevertheless, a leading Afghan politician present said, “Fine, but the Americans will attack us in October for bases and pipelines”.  And they did.

If Afghans draw the conclusion from history that we survive by staying the same, the Germans draw the opposite conclusion.  German history is high drama.  The First and Second Reich had the Lord, God, as the guide, the Kaiser gratia Dei as His representative on Earth, surrounded by a gradually modernizing court and army, with subjects trained in obedience; the enemies, created by the 1054 and 1095 schisms, were orthodox and muslim.  And jews.  The First World War destroyed all that: the Kaiser abdicated, the court receded to the background, and so did the Lord; the people were confused as Russians, Serbs and Jews stayed as enemies–the latter as defined by Martin Luther.  In came Hitler.  God became Providence incorporating Wotan, Kaiser became Führer, the court became the Party, added to army and industrialists.  And People got steering from above, from the outside.  The key enemies were the same, Jews, Russians, Serbs.  The rest, as they say, is history.

And the Second World War destroyed all that.  Again, the positions of God as ultimate guide and of His representative on earth were vacant.  The former was occupied by Washington and Moscow, the latter by Adenauer and Ulbricht.  The people, well seasoned in obedience, followed suit in two varieties of Germans divided, like the Pashtoons, by imperialists.  For the Jews the Final Solution, for Russians terrible suffering, but in the end Nazi Germany was beaten by them.  From the Serbs an irritating guerrilla; they got a belated beating, eagerly, in Kosovo/a.

From Washington a new Trinity emanated: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy; focused on acts of commission, not omission, individual not collective human rights, debates/voting, not dialogue/consensus.  Very Western.       The Muslims were almost forgotten but then Washington was hit by 9/11.  Unlimited solidarity with Washington became German foreign policy, defending their security at Hindukush.  Having arrived at the new Trinity the Germans felt entitled, nay, obliged to spread that gospel to the “failed” Afghans.  So they did.  The rest we know.

Ladies and gentlemen, may we make a little jump ad absurdum? A village at Hindukush has long-range weapons and has decided to defend its security in Berlin.  Being good kantians Germans immediately recognize the Afghan right to generalize.  Historians have identified Berlin as a major source of insecurity for others, also for Afghans.  And their ethnologists have studied German culture and found the same Sendungsbewusstsein in all epochs.  Thus, Germans tried to win hearts and minds of people they conquered, like Norwegians, building roads with one hand and torturing, imprisoning, killing with the other; like in Afghanistan.  The ambiguity communicated badly: we hate them.

The German people seem to accept almost anything, the Lord in two varieties, Kaiser I and II, Führer, Superpowers in two varieties.  Time has come to normalize that country as a loose cultural federation with numerous autonomous municipalities.  And they found a delicious concept, Heimat, the local, the organic, to build on.  The mountains are few. And Germans are too homogeneous.  A Norwegian has proposed a division in Wein-Katholiken, Bier-Katholiken, Bier-Protestanten, claiming that nazism was an alliance of the latter two, with some opposition from the former.  But the typology was found too Nordic, too alcoholic.

Am I making fun of the whole inter-cultural exercise?  No. Like Sun Tzu I believe in knowing not only Other but also Self.  But not on imposing Self on Other, also known as colonialism.  Dialogue yes, exchanges yes, cloning no.  Some will grasp what is offered, others will pretend and use it against the donor.  As Germans forced back to a highly ambiguous Heimat past would do.

Let Afghans be Afghans.  Hold the Swiss model high. Let muslims help muslims.  Stop the nonsense about running the world from Central Asia; let central Asians find their own form.  Germany has a message, and it is Article 23, unification; by Schengen borders.  And Martin Luther’s preface to the first printed Qur’an, in Latin, Basel 1541.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Oct 2011.

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2 Responses to “Afghan and German Deep Cultures at War”

  1. satoshi says:

    Let me pick up two remarks, among others, from Prof. Galtung’s editorial above:

    First: Prof. Galtung applies the essence of Lao Tzu’s teaching to Afghanistan: “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” (Needless to say, Afghans are not “enemies” in this context. Thus, Prof.Galtung uses the word “Other.”)

    Second: Prof. Galtung also makes one more important remark: “Let Afghans be Afghans.” Hilda Charlton (1906-1988) would also say, “I do not encourage anything or anybody. Let it happen or let them be. Likewise, let Afghans be Afghans.” If you are not yourself, who are you? If Afghans are not Afghans, who are they? Let Afghans be themselves as you let you be yourself.

    Thank you, Prof.Galtung, for these imperative remarks!

  2. I agree with Mr. galtung.