2012: The Davids and the Goliaths

EDITORIAL, 2 January 2012

#198 | Johan Galtung, 2 Jan 2012 - TRANSCEND Media Service

The story (1 Samuel 17:41-57) is a staple children’s tale, and a figure of thought used everywhere.  The apparently powerless, a boy, against the apparently powerful, a nine-foot tall giant.  A narrow valley offering no escape, armies pitted against each other.  David emerges, challenging the giant to battle–and wins.  According to the Old Testament God was on his side; others might point to wits, courage, self-confidence, a slingshot and a collection of stones.  One stone found the vulnerable spot in Goliath’s armor, and that was it.  Keep God out of it.

A metaphor for world history and for the year we are entering.  The new and young pitted against the old-fashioned and old.  Among the slingshots the IEDs, the improvised explosive devices.  Or new ideas.  Or new goods and services. In all three realms of power: military, cultural, and economic.  The young generation sees the issues in a new way; that is their privilege.  Moreover, the old generation has heard so often that they are the world’s only superpowers that they actually believe it.  If Goliath had done some good intelligence work, he might have known about the stones and been very unimpressed. The slingshot he may not even have understood closed as he was to new ideas.

Poor Goliath!  Some space for pity for the overconfident giant?  Whereas David, yes, very clever, very arrogant.  Nevertheless, could he, and Saul, not have struck a good deal, showing the power in a non-lethal way?  Did he have to become a military genius inspiring the many napoleons of the world?  How about turning his talents toward peace?

Goliath expires.  The story sides with the winner, as usual.  Yet History whispers in the ears of Goliath, “OK, your time was up.  David outsmarted you.  However, I’ll tell you one thing: every David will sooner or later become a Goliath, victim of his own success.  Look at Israel then, and today.  Every Goliath was a David once.”

Looking at the world from above, four giant goliaths stand out: the West–actually two goliath twins USA/EU–Russia/India/China.  China? Is that not the super-david challenging all the rest with very smart ideas?  Yes, China is also that, and teaches us that there may be a goliath-david-goliath-david cycle at work.  It dies around 1910, the end of the Ch’ing dynasty’s goliathism, and reincarnates as a david. However, goliath dying from hyper-capitalist economy sustained by growing inequality, a contagious disease it seems, manages to infect it.  In addition, China is so eager to overdo and undo that falling giant that closeness disables its immunity devices.  How lethal, it remains to be seen.

However, goliathism is deeper.  It is not Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid!” nor Mother Jones’ “It’s the inequality, stupid!”  It is the stupidity, stupid!  Democracy vs autocracy seems to have little to do with it; size, much.  A history of davids fighting against odds turning into stupid goliaths, victims of their own successes.  But they should know the handwriting on the wall by now.  Look at the economies of the twin goliaths in the West, or the Russian classical third world resource economy, or the Indian never coming off the ground with it abysmal inequality.  Look at Japan, once a david with a new, booming economy very different from Western economies; persuaded to go West by that center of contagion, Harvard Business School, down it went, not even qualifying for goliath status.  With nothing smart in sight.  It is pure stupidity, stupid!

And the davids?  All over the place.  Very many of them in the Arab-Muslim world, a fallen goliath from Ottoman-Caliphate times now pulling itself together.  Its slingshot?  Elements of IEDs, no doubt. Needle-prick terrorism against a giant goliath state terrorism, a goliath specialty.  However, looming above that there is also nonviolence, political smartness, self-reliance.  Going their own joint ways, South-South cooperation, leaving the goliaths to their devices.

The goliaths, nine-foot tall, armored like dinosaurs, enter those narrow valleys, an Iraq, an Afghanistan to meet their destiny, the slingshots waiting for them; and they back off in retreat.  Too stupid to learn, too resilient: Libya proves irresistible, blind to “Gaddafi accepts peace plan offered by African peers” (The Washington Post, April 11 2011).  African peers.  A lot of davids among them, also in the making. Like Truth & Reconciliation, a slingshot aimed at nothing less than traditional jurisprudence.  Go for that, they said, with Gaddafi, not for that (goliath) ICC-International Criminal Court.

Syria and Iran wait, down the road.  Not that the goliaths and their smaller allies do not have some good arguments and goals.  The problem is that nine-foot tall method of the twins USA-NATO.

So, what is the message?  Davids all over the world unite, you have only your goliaths to lose?  Something like that, but with a major proviso: use david’s nonviolent slingshots.  Assad, please repeat Gaddafi as just quoted, and come up with a peace plan for Syria. Arab peers, please be more persistent than African peers.  Iran, please open for inspections; come up with a peace plan for West Asia.  Goliaths in the West, how about some reason, some smartness? You know perfectly well that an ever-expanding Israel is a major part of the problem; come up with a peace plan for the Middle East.  Call a major UN Conference for Security and Cooperation in West Asia (or the Middle East) for peace plans to meet, challenge each other, arriving at something.

David knew what he wanted, so did Goliath: to slay each other.  We have had enough of that.  Smartness yes, but nonviolent, and of the positive variety, taking in, not only on, the adversary.  The davids of the world should be generous to the world’s goliaths.  Offer them space at all tables as observers, with no monopoly on the menu.  Let the Icelands and Argentines teach them how to get their economies in order.  Reduce the armor; save!  Get down from nine feet to normal.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 January 2012.

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: 2012: The Davids and the Goliaths, is included. Thank you.

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4 Responses to “2012: The Davids and the Goliaths”

  1. […] – TRANSCEND Media Service Titolo originale: The Davids and the Goliaths http://www.transcend.org/tms/2012/01/2012-the-davids-and-the-goliaths/ Stampa questo articolo Non ci sono […]

  2. satoshi says:

    Allow me make two comments as follows:

    First: In the above editorial, the young man “David” implies the young peace researcher “Johan Galtung.” Likewise, “Goliath” in the same editorial suggests the “tremendous difficulties and adversaries that the young researcher faced in his early days of peace research.” In other words, “David” in the above editorial is “young Johan Galtung in disguise.” (If you would like to know about even a tip of the iceberg of these difficulties and adversaries that the pioneer of peace studies encountered at that time, see, for example, Johan Galtung, “Peace: Research • Education • Action: Essays in Peace Research,” vol. I, pp. 17-18, Christian Ejlers, Copenhagen (1975). ) By referring to one of the well-known stories in the Bible, Prof. Galtung described himself. It does not matter whether or not he was aware that he was essentially writing about himself when he was preparing the above editorial. In this regard, please recall the fact that Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is essentially a portrait of himself in disguise although it is true that he hired Mona Lisa, a local woman, as the model for his painting. (Some researchers argue that da Vinci was fully aware of what he was doing then; he was painting his portrait in disguise when he was painting Mona Lisa’s portrait.) If you thoroughly devote yourself to your work, the work will emerge as “yourself in disguise.” This is an unexpected effect for most of those who devoted themselves to their work. Max Weber presented the similar discussion in his “Wissenschaft als Beruf (Geistige Arbeit als Beruf).” As a sociologist, Prof. Galtung must have read it some (or nearly) six decades ago or so.

    As the story of the young man David constitutes an essential part of the history of Israelites, the story of the young peace researcher Johan Galtung constitutes an essential part of the history of peace studies.

    Second: Prof. Galtung’s editorial above may have reminded some TMS readers of Margaret Mead’s famous and encouraging words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Please be aware that sometimes Prof. Galtung uses the plural forms, “Davids,” and “Goliaths” in his editorial above.)

    By using this opportunity, let me comment on her words as cited above: She says that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. In principle, I agree with her. But I believe that you need to change yourself before you will change the world. You are the primary and ultimate person to change and to be changed. If people want to change their world, each individual in that world is responsible for their own change prior to the change of their world. How is it possible to change the world if each individual in the world remains the same as before? Suppose that the world has changed; now the world is new, but if people in the new world think, speak and behave the way they were doing in the old world, what kind of new world is it? What kind of change is it? Is it a genuine change? …Still not clear for you? Then, imagine as follows: You have successfully changed the world into a “peaceful world,” but people in that world have remained the way they were the same as before – hostile, aggressive, pugnacious and/or full of hatred against each other. What do you think of this “peaceful world”? (Now you understand one of the main reasons why most social revolutions in the past have produced oppressive societies, almost all of which are far from true liberation, far from social justice and far from the spirit of fundamental human rights.)

    As such, I believe that it might be appropriate to add the following words to Mead’s words above: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people need to change themselves before they will change the world; indeed, it is the only way to change the world, which ever has.”

    If people in the world change themselves, the world will change itself accordingly. If everybody in the world changes, the whole world will also change. Everybody is the cause of peace. World peace is the effect. World peace begins with you, by you and from you.

    All the best, Prof. Galtung! May peace be with you, TMS readers and everyone else in the world!

    • Prof. Galtung replies:

      Well, well; under oath, I did not for a second think like that, I was thinking of a stupid aircraft carrier somewhere in the Indian Ocean and some simple IEDs ten dollars a piece–.

      And what the Bible does not have is a theory of davids and goliaths. That davids easily become goliaths in the longer run may happen to all of us, we better watch out or have others watch us.

      It happened to PRIO in Oslo recently with the director coming out publicly distancing himself from a critical minded very talented Swedish senior researcher who had carefully read the whole Manifesto by Breivik to locate sources of inspiration, for him, and of course came upon Israel–citing among many things that the date chosen by Breivik, 22 July, was the date the Templars conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and the date Haganah-Irgun headed by later Isareli prime ministers did their terrorist attack on King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Among the many hypotheses to be explored, but PRIO is not supposed to deviate from the USA-Europe-Israel goliath. There was the type of attack I remember, and the director yielded to it. Good-bye academic freedom, when we need it most.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. satoshi says:

    Another comment:

    “Prof. Galtung’s Message in the Above Editorial and What His TRANSCEND Method Teaches.”

    While my last comments above may be relating to the “outer-shell” of Prof. Galtung’s discussion in his editorial, this comment may be relating to the core of his discussion or to something near the core. Among others that are relating to the core or something near the core, let me focus on the structure of his discussion.

    Prof. Galtung, in his editorial above, encourages, “Resist to the evil.” His message in his editorial is essentially like this: “Unite those who are on this side! And oppose/resist (in nonviolence) to those who are on the other side!” His discussion above is overall based on the exact opposing concepts – the formula is the traditional Western style, “the thesis vs. the antithesis”: In this formula, each of them attempts to defeat or overcome the other. Why does each of them attempt to defeat or overcome the other? Because it is considered that, for each of them, the opposite is the “problem.” Therefore, if one of them defeats or overcomes the other, it is considered that the “problem” is solved. Examples: “David(s) vs. Goliath(s)”; “Peace power vs. War/Violent power”; “Good vs. Bad”; “God vs. Satan”; “The Ruling class vs. the Ruled class”; “The Bourgeoisie vs. the Proletariat”; “Capitalism vs. Communism/Socialism”; “The Allied Power vs. the Axis Power”; and so on and so forth. George W. Bush’s “War on terrorism” was also in this structure of the exact opposing concepts. The Cold War was also in this structure. Both sides opposed against each other so that both of them built up stronger and larger amount weapons against each other. The result was the intensified armed race.

    The structure of the exact opposing concepts as such steps up the conflict in that structure and does not solve the problem in the long run (even if one of the conflicting parties “successfully” suppresses the other in the relatively short run). Mother Teresa was one of those people who knew that the exact opposing concepts did not solve the conflict. When invited to an anti-war rally, she said, “If you hold an anti-war rally, I shall not attend. But if you hold a Pro-Peace rally invite me.” She was aware that the anti-war rally was based on the above mentioned formula: the thesis vs. the antithesis: “war vs. anti-war.”

    Given the above formula, you think that if you remove or overcome the opposing power, the problem will be solved, as mentioned. Unfortunately, things are not so simple. If you remove or overcome the current opposing power, another (the second of) much stronger opposing power will appear in front of you. If you successfully remove or overcome the second one, the third one that is far much stronger opposing power will appear in front of you. And so on and so forth. It is endless. Medical industries face the same type of dilemma “happily”: When a new medicine to cure the conventional disease is invented, another more formidable disease is found. When a newer medicine for that more formidable disease is invented, another far more formidable disease is found. It is endless (so that medical industries can survive permanently). Good luck, medical industries!

    If you resist to your opponents, they will persist. Jesus of Nazareth was truly a wise man. He said, “Do not resist to the evil.” He said neither, “Oppose to the evil” nor, “Remove or overcome the evil.” He knew that any conflict or any opposing relation/structure was unable to be solved by removing or overcoming the opposing power. He knew that non-resistance was the key to solve the problem in the long run. The philosophy of Zen also teaches non-resistance: “When it rains, let it rain. When it snows, let it snow. When it blows, let it blow.” The essence of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolence is also “non-resistance.” In fact, the British policemen in India were unable to keep on beating the people with non-resistance. Although Gandhi was not a Christian, he knew the essence of Jesus’ teaching as mentioned above: “Do not resist to the evil.” When asked a question what if the Pakistani Army would invade India, Gandhi answered that he and his people would receive them with a warm welcome. He referred to the spirit of non-resistance.

    The TRANSCEND method teaches us to go beyond the opposing relation/structure. The TRANSCEND method teaches us that it is no use for us to struggle (including the resistance) in the existing or conventional dimension (i.e. the conflicting situation, condition or framework) and that we should go beyond that dimension so that we will be in a new dimension (with perspectives) in which we will be able to solve the problem. If you resist to the evil, it means that you are still in the existing or conventional dimension so that you are not yet gone beyond it. If you are still in the existing or conventional dimension, the conflict with your opponent cannot be solved. The problem can be solved only when you are gone beyond that dimension. As far as you maintain the mental attitude in the exact opposing concepts, you will inevitably oppose or resist to your opponent. As far as you oppose or resist to your opponent, you cannot go beyond the existing or conventional dimension in which both of you, conflicting parties, are opposing against each other. If that is the case, the resistance to your opponent (or the “evil” or whatever you name them) is against the TRANSCEND method.

    Buddhism teaches not only nonviolence but also the transcendence of the above mentioned formula: the thesis vs. the antithesis. The Heart Sutra (Prajnapramita Hrdaya Sutra), allegedly the essence of the Buddhism according to some people, teaches, “Go beyond, go beyond and go beyond completely…” These words, containing the essence of the TRANSCEND method, are quoted in the Chapter 9 (p. 123) of the “Handbook of Peace and Conflict Studies,” edited by Charles Webel and Johan Galtung, published by Routledge, New York (USA) and Oxon (UK), 2007. (For more information about this book, visit: http://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Peace-Conflict-Studies-Charles/dp/0415483190/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1325880890&sr=1-1) Do not resist to them. Instead, go beyond their dimension.

    But Prof. Galtung’s message in his editorial above seems to contradict with his TRANSCEND method, because the structure of his editorial is based on the exact opposing concepts: “David(s) vs. Goliath(s),” as mentioned above. Let me elaborate it more as follows: In his editorial above, Prof. Galtung encourages us to oppose/resist to those who are on the other side, while he teaches us, in his TRANSCEND method in his lectures and through his books, to go beyond the conflicting situation. However, as mentioned already, as far as you are opposing or resisting to your opponent, it means that you are still in the same existing or conventional dimension in which you are conflicting with your opponent. How is it possible for you to go beyond that dimension while you are opposing or resisting to your opponent in the existing or conventional dimension? You cannot do two completely different things at the same time. You cannot stay in the existing or conventional dimension while you are going beyond that dimension at the same time. Is Prof. Galtung aware of this contradiction between the message in his editorial above and what his TRANSCEND method teaches? Or if that is not a contradiction, is his editorial message an expression of his dichotomy, oxymoron or what?

    Having said that above, my respect for Prof. Galtung remains the same. Discussion is discussion. Respect is respect. Any academic subject, including peace studies, requires those who study it to be equipped with critical thinking. None of those who study it is required to follow someone’s theory or teaching without critically examining it, regardless of the successful achievements or the fame of the person who made that theory or teaching. History shows that leaders of oppressive political authorities and those of religious authorities always demanded that their people be acted in obedience without question, to the power of the authorities. But this is obviously not the case for any peace-loving people. Peace studies, among its many other objectives, also aims at liberation from such blind obedience. The founder of peace studies is neither an authoritarian leader nor a religious leader. Thus, he does not require those who study his theory to believe it blindly. “To respect someone” and “to follow his view without critically examining it” are two different things.

    Peace studies is an academic subject, as mentioned above. Accordingly, any theory of an academic subject is constantly under rigorous critical examinations and reexaminations. The theory of the founder of peace studies is no exception. Why is Prof. Galtung authoritative in peace studies? It is not simply because he is the father of peace studies; it is actually because he has successfully passed all these rigorous critical examinations and reexaminations given by academicians and practitioners for over the decades. More than half a century! You can establish a new academic discipline if you wish, and then you can claim that you are the father of the new academic discipline. But it is another thing whether you will successfully pass various rigorous critical examinations and reexaminations given by academicians and practitioners.

    Once again, all the best, Prof. Galtung! And thank you very much, Antonio, for conveying Prof. Galtung’s message! Thank you very much also for dedicating yourself to the preparation of this outstandingly inspiring website every week!