Colombia Revisited: Ultra-Stability!


Johan Galtung, 24 Oct 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service

From Bogotá, Colombia

Pick a day, like 17 October, the day of the raza, Columbus Day, celebrated here 5 days later.  And look at the headlines:

El Tiempo: 63 percent lack work with dignity (earning enough to survive)

[structural violence hitting six out of ten Colombians]

El Nuevo Siglo: (President) Santos: Terrorist acts are increasing

[direct guerrilla (FARC-ELN) and paramilitary (AUC) violence]

Once upon a time, the flagrant inequity in Colombia inspired revolutions for basic change.  Of change there has been little.  Of violence there has been much, for decades, revolutionary and contra-revolutionary and governmental; young Colombians killing each other, sorrow, hatred; suffering at the bottom of society; kidnappings, narco-trafficking; complex interwoven pathologies all. And behind and above we hear US voices, “seek and destroy”, “never negotiate with terrorists”, “Plan Colombia”, to eliminate drugs.

Last time, May 2008, invited to Pensar Colombia, reflections on Colombia, after the Senate president Nancy Gutiérrez and the country president Alvaro Uríbe, I congratulated the latter on his economic plan–“for 40 percent of the Colombian people”, having done some homework.  Today 37 percent, quoting El Tiempo; 6 in 10 are marginalized.

Ultra-stability.  Both violences institutionalized, built into the structure-culture DNA; how!—could it last a century or two?

Los poderes fácticos, thousandfolds of triples of landowner-military-clergy brothers at the top of society, that solid Iberian export-product–Franco’s pillars in Spain.  Nowhere surviving so well as in Colombia.  Like Spain, the other side is not winning the civil war.  Unlike Spain, winds of change are weak.

The day may come for the Final Solution ala Sri Lanka: they are encircled, killed off one by one, then by the dozens, then hundreds, butchered; at the advice of somebody, you know who.

State monopoly on direct violence overshadows social justice; the class conflict over poverty-inequality is pushed aside.  OK, eliminate FARC-ELN, they capitulate, laying down arms.  And the whole issue remains, the abysmal inequity.  Like the Sinhala-Tamil problem in Sri Lanka.  Like the Basque problem in Spain; ETA lays down arms, fine, but then what?  81 percent of Spaniards want an outcome in terms of winners and losers (La Razón 16 October 2011)–“with no political concessions” insists the successor party to Franco’s falange.   And after some years the violence erupts again.

Ultra-stability: institutionalized structural violence, and ritualized warfare; legitimized by multi-party democracy licensed to exploit and kill if only the parliament agrees.  The narco-traffic finances poor and rich.  The violence follows the flow of US arms and money, with a counter-flow of drugs, paying good commissions when the drugs change hands. End consumption mainly in the USA. Or destruction, being selling-buying drugs, like derivatives?

But, there are exits from these well protected pathologies:

[1] Winds of change are blowing; outside if not inside Colombia.  The US empire falls, the hold on Colombia weakens.  Like US elites, they own native lands (res communis res nullius).  Next door, the bottom of society is lifted up; the indigenous, Mother Earth have voices; constitutions define Crimes Against Nature.  Strong winds.

[2] The narco-traffic is a regional, not a Colombian problem.  Plan Colombia for production only will never work.  A Plan USA for consumption, and a Plan Mexico+ for distribution, are needed, with reports, transparency and accountability to UN bodies.  Military measures alone will never work; too many depend on narco money for livelihood.  Social development in Latin America, and spiritual in North America, are needed to close the social and spiritual gaps filled with narco money and narco drugs, as Fernando Montiel says.

[3] The bottom of Colombian society has to be lifted up, community by community, starting with the worst, employing the neediest.  Like in China, the public-private-civil society-technical sectors have to cooperate in micro-companies for basic needs, coordinated by local authorities; like local, cooperative production to meet the basic needs of the most needy for affordable food-water, clothes, housing, health, education.  This will ultimately increase the buying power at the bottom, making the wheels of the economy run faster.  Everybody will benefit.

[4] Invite FARC-ELN to participate in this giant enterprise, in principle to their liking, laying down arms.  Some of them have social experiences that would be helpful.  Individuals may join if not yet the organizations; negotiations with them only about laying down arms are probably useless at present (‘Francisco Galán’, ex ELN negotiator, El Tiempo, 18 Oct 2011).

[5] FARC-ELN should learn from the Arab spring, now also in Wall Street: violence does not work, nonviolence may.  They would have come so much further had they not given in to the Colombian violence culture.  They should have struggled with negative and positive, gandhian, nonviolence, not with Kalashnikovs.  Moreover, each killing by them confirms what entrenched exploitative elites fear: if they come up, they will treat us as badly as or worse than we have treated them.  FARC violence reinforces ultra-stability.

A change is needed from Obama’s residual imperialism to Ron Paul’s no wars, no bases.  And to an Antanas Mockus in Colombia?  The natural context for Colombia are the next door neighbors in Grupo Andino.  Moreover, the Latin America-Caribbean region is coming quickly; and Colombia, like Japan, may fall between them. Rather a giant social project to lift the bottom up, without threatening the top.  The development goal of the millennium.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Oct 2011.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Colombia Revisited: Ultra-Stability!, is included. Thank you.

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3 Responses to “Colombia Revisited: Ultra-Stability!”

  1. satoshi says:

    It is 24 October 2011 today. Happy birthday, Prof. Galtung!

    While I was reading Prof. Galtung’s editorial as above, I remembered some of Einstein’s sayings. Let me introduce three sayings of his, among others, together with my brief comments as follows:

    First: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.” So, some people, after forgotten what they learned at school, have kept structural and cultural violence? If that is the case, is it because of their education at school or because of the nature of them is essentially violent?

    Second: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” This saying can be a good counter statement to “ultra stability.” What is the “ultra stability”? Prof. Galtung briefly and precisely describes it in the above editorial: “institutionalized structural violence, and ritualized warfare; legitimized by multi-party democracy licensed to exploit and kill if only the parliament agrees.” Unfortunately, the ultra stability as such can often be seen at “allegedly peaceful states” in many areas of the world today. Anyhow, let’s move to the opposite direction, (as Einstein says) which means “peace” – direct peace, structural peace, cultural peace and any other kinds of genuine and authentic peace.

    Third: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” This means that a violent conflict cannot be solved by violent means. Only “peaceful means” can solve the conflict. May “peaceful means” be introduced to Columbia (and to the rest of the world as well).

  2. I agree with Mr. galtung.