Where Are We Heading?

EDITORIAL, 9 Jan 2012

#199 | Johan Galtung, 9 Jan 2012 - TRANSCEND Media Service

From Alfàs Del Pi, Spain

The clouds are dark.

And we sense one on the horizon, black; a point so far.  The name of the cloud: using a major war, even with Russia-China, to revive an economy in depression; destroying capital, rebuilding.

Depression?  Yes, because of the dismantling of the welfare state (The Nation, 2 January 2012), the withering away of livelihood that will show up as increasing morbidity and mortality, on the health indicators that are the only true measures of “development”.  With the health of nature, of course, also known as ecological stability.  When we need them most, the unemployment, health and pensions safety nets are torn apart, exposing the most vulnerable sector of society, older people, hit by costly diseases, and with no jobs.

The standard measure of recession, negative economic growth two quarters in succession, does not capture this.  It is a system indicator of economic activity measuring the value added of traded goods and services.  However, what is value added?  The power to define a price tag with a solid profit margin for oneself.  What is trading?  The idea that instead of producing oneself get the product through exchange.  Evidently, it is a measure favoring producers and traders, for real products for end consumption, and for financial products for buying and selling.  As the GNP-Gross National Product grows, so do they; as it shrinks they shrink in numbers, but not in wealth.  The top 1% are doing very well; they keep it all, no distribution to the 99%, thank you.

As has been pointed out millions of times: increase the ratio of consumption of products that have not passed through too long chains, with too many hands stretched out for commissions, and the livelihood may go up at the same time as there is little or no growth, or even negative growth as people cannot afford those artificially inflated prices of regular products.  And vice versa.

This is sheer power at work, not some mysterious anonymous and automatic “market forces”.  And that makes us ask where the power is located, and how it is changing.  Sarkar’s theory of social cycles may carry some message for us (see Shambushivananda Avadutha PROUT: Neo-Humanistic Economics. Mainz: Dharma Verlag, 1989; particularly Chapter 7: “Axioms of Prout”, with some interpretations added).

The point of departure is the Hindu caste system with Brahmins, Kshatriyahs, Vaishyahs and Shudras; translating into Intellectuals (including priests, artists), Warriors, Merchants and People, IWMP; lamenting that the pariah do not figure clearly in the cycle theory.  For Sarkar, each one carries a “mental color”, similar to mentalité in the French Annales school.  A basic axiom: at any time “in the flow of the social cycle one mental color is always dominant”.

Yet behind that “mental color”, sheer power is lurking.  The I, M, W elites steer people by normative, contractual and coercive power respectively; by cultural, economic and military power; by values, carrots and sticks, to use three parallel formulations. Sarkar explores the general dynamism of what we might call I-W-M-P systems, assuming that at any given time one of them rules the ground alone.  How do we predict who is next in line?  Yin/yang thinking gives us an answer: the carrier of the mental color most suppressed by the dominant group.  Another approach would be by asking: when X is dominant, which group, Y, suffers most?

When the Warriors are in power, Merchants may be operating but the Intellectuals less so.  They live by the word, not by the sword (and a few words like Stop! Fire!).  Nevertheless, Intellectuals in power have a major problem: who pays for their livelihood?  In the past the princes, the courts; more recently the state.  So they tend to be friendly to the state–socialism, social democracy–to the great chagrin of the Merchants who live neither by the sword, nor by the word, but by the gold.  They will make their power felt.

So, after the Warriors the Intellectuals, after the Intellectuals the Merchants, after the Merchants the People, W-I-M-P, and then after People?  The Warriors again.  The process is known as History, a spiral telling the incumbent “your time is up”, and the next in line “now is your turn”.  Your positive contributions of courage and valiance (W), creativity (I) and wealth-creation (M) are dwindling; the negative aspects have become dominant, repression (W), ritualism (I) and exploitation (M). Moreover, for all elite groups: arrogance.

Thus, W, the warriors, were in command during World War II and the early stages of the Cold War; I, intellectuals then put their mark on all societies marked by the important 1968 student-youth revolt; this lasted up to the Reagan-Thatcher 1985 revolution in favor of M, the merchants; still on.  The exploitation is rampant.  And then the people, P, come, in the Arab spring, as the indignant in Latin countries, the Occupy Movement, the most radical, in the USA, headed by OWS, Occupy Wall Street.  Right on.  Pure Sarkar.

What next?  Depends on the peoples’ revolt.  It is very clear that many of these elites do not give a damn about People suffering as their livelihood erodes, but are scared in their bones at the prospect of a revolt; “instability”, as they call it.  Hence, the three P manifestations use nonviolence, maybe more negatively than positively.  They are watched, police is used to teargas and pepper-spray them and to evict people foreclosed in a pathological economy; the violence being on the elite side.  More P, more W.  In the USA democracy has been abolished with a coup, not by the W military, but by M, the corporations; making politicians accountable to those who finance their campaign, not to P. In other words, we may have a rising revolt against two elites, WM/warrior-merchant, with repressive-exploitative mentalities at the same time in power.  Beyond Sarkar.

The stuff out of which that dark cloud is made.  Fight it.


Johan Galtung, Rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University, is author of A Theory of Development www.transcend.org/tup.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Jan 2012.

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3 Responses to “Where Are We Heading?”

  1. homo twitteratus says:

    Now this is probably the clearest statement and explanation I have read on what is going on since the shit started hitting the fan. I’m a fan now! Go Galtung.

  2. satoshi says:

    I was impressed by Prof. Galtung’s argument overall in the above editorial except the last two words, “Fight it.” Let me discuss the reasons why those words are the problem, in three folds as follows:

    First: It is about “Fight it” and the TRANSCEND method. The essence of the TRANSCEND method is to take the conflicting parties or the problem beyond the existing/conventional dimension. Any “fight” includes the element of resistance. If you resist to something, they will persist. If you fight or resist to something, you are in the structure of the “thesis vs. anti-thesis” or of “dualism.” If you “fight it,” it means that you are still in the existing/conventional dimension. If you attempt to solve the problem in the existing/conventional dimension by fighting it, it means that you are either not applying the TRANSCEND method to the problem or against the TRANSCEND method. The TRANSCNED method, therefore Prof. Galtung, teaches, “Go beyond the existing/conventional dimension.” In the new dimension with new perspectives, you can solve the problem. Prof. Galtung teaches the TRANSCEND method, meaning that you should go beyond the existing/conventional dimension. Accordingly, it is no wonder that he says, “Beyond Sarkar.” Understandable. Consistent. But then, in one line below, he says, “Fight it,” meaning that you should stay in the existing/conventional dimension by fighting the problem. What does all that mean? It means that Prof. Galtung is contradicting his TRANSCEND method; or perhaps he is expressing his dichotomy, oxymoron or something like that.

    Second: It is about “Fight it” as a non-peaceful/violent language. It is not very appropriate for the professor of “peace” studies to use the word, “fight,” even though he refers to either a “nonviolent fight” or a “struggle/effort to solve the problem.” It is because, in general, the word “fight” is associated with the image of a hostile encounter or hurting someone or something by force to achieve the goal. Is Prof. Galtung agitating the TMS readers in his editorial above? This issue could be much clearer if he used the expressions such as “Attack it,” “Beat it,” “Confront it,” “Crash it,” “Demolish it,” “Destroy it,” “Strike it,” or the like, instead of saying, “Fight it.” Nonviolence is not only a matter of the physical realm. It is also a matter of the linguistic realm and of the mental realm. Nonviolent thought (the mental realm) produces nonviolent words (the linguistic realm) that produce nonviolent attitude or behavior (the physical realm). If you use the word such as “fight” that is closely related to hostility or hurting when you resolve the problem, you are already unconsciously (or perhaps consciously) revealing what mental attitude you have when you attempt to solve the problem. If that is the case, even though you are nonviolent in the physical realm, you are violent in the linguistic level. The source of the linguistic level flows from the mental realm, as already mentioned. This implies that even though you are nonviolent in the physical realm, you are violent in the metal realm. Let me underscore this: If “peace” means “nonviolence” in this context of the discussion, “peace” is expressed through your attitude/behavior that stems from your linguistic realm that stems from your mental realm. Therefore, peaceful thinking/nonviolent thinking is the source of peace/nonviolence. Knowing as such, why do you use the word “fight” when you refer to a “peaceful” solution of the problem? Your use of such a non-peaceful/violent expression indicates that your mental realm is not very peaceful. Possibly, turbulent or unsettled. Use peaceful words and expressions, as far as possible and whenever possible, especially when you refer to something related to peace. Otherwise, “your peace in your mental realm” may be questioned.

    Third: It is about “Fight it” for “peace.” It can be interpreted that Prof. Galtung’s words, “Fight it,” in the above editorial, mean, “Fight it for peace (for both positive peace and negative peace or for one of them, depending on the context in his discussion above).” But peace can be attained only by “peaceful” means. It is generally considered that any peaceful means consists of at least three main peaceful elements: “Peaceful thought (the mental realm),” “Peaceful words (the linguistic realm)” and “Peaceful attitude/behavior/action (the physical realm).” It seems, judging from his editorial above, what Prof. Galtung means “fight it” is to be done by a “physically nonviolent” means. This indicates that his “nonviolent means” includes only “peaceful attitude/behavior/action” but not the rest of the two elements (i.e. “peaceful thought” and “peaceful words”) as mentioned above. Take a peace negotiation (in which, suppose, two negotiators are negotiating to make peace) as an example: If one of or both negotiators speak hostile words and express their aggressive attitude to their counterpart negotiator during the negotiation, it is highly likely that this negotiation will fail. Even though the negotiation itself is a “physically nonviolent” act, the negotiator’s words and attitude are the problem because the negotiator’s thought and words are still violent or at least non-peaceful. “Fight” is a violent act; whether it is done by the physical means, by the language or by the thought is not a question. No violent act brings about peace. Therefore, no fight for peace brings about peace. Accordingly, the thought of “fight for peace” is a contradicting thought. The expression of “fight for peace” is a contradicting expression. The act of “fight for peace” is a contradicting act. No contradicting thought brings about peace to the mental realm. No contradicting expression brings about peace to the linguistic realm. No contradicting act brings about peace to the physical realm. Therefore, if you fight something, no peace will be produced in the matter in question. If your goal is to produce peace, you cannot fight the problem in question. (Furthermore, if you fight something, it means that you are still in the existing/conventional dimension. Please recall what the TRANSCEND method teaches you. The founder of the TRANSCEND method is Prof. Galtung. Therefore, Prof. Galtung’s words, “Fight it (for peace),” contradict his method, as already mentioned.)

    Other than that, I was impressed by Prof. Galtung’s editorial overall as mentioned above. His argument and analysis are superb.

  3. satoshi says:

    By using this opportunity, let me discuss my stance or principles regarding my comments on the TMS website.

    While highly respecting someone (teacher, guru or someone else), I apply my critical thinking to his/her claim. It seems that some people (including, perhaps, some TMS readers) do not understand such stance. Many people, if they respect someone, blindly follow him/her or believe him/her. But I do not. I respect him/her but I do not follow him/her blindly. I do not blindly believe him/her. I examine his/her theory, teaching or argument critically. Unfortunately, some people are convinced that the practice of critical thinking as such is to show their enmity or a lack of respect to that respectable person.

    Before Copernicus and Galileo, students believed what their respectable teachers taught that the Earth was fixed at the center of the Universe. You cannot ridicule these students, because the mental attitude of many people today in this 21st Century is essentially the same as that of those students. How many people today in the world, for instance, believe or follow blindly the teaching or dogma of their political or religious leaders saying that it is a good/honorable thing to kill many people in the name of peace, of the national interest or of God? At the end of his life, Buddha said to his disciples, “Do not blindly follow my teaching. You should test my teaching in your everyday lives. If it does not work then, drop it.” Even Buddha requested his disciples to filter his teaching. What filter? It is the filter of critical thinking through the test in the disciples’ everyday lives.

    I wanted to explain the imperativeness of critical thinking to those who have tendency to believe their “respectable authority” without critical examinations. In addition, the imperativeness I mean here includes not only the critical thinking itself but also the maintenance of respect to the person who is considered as authoritative. But how shall I explain about it effectively? To use Buddha as an example in my explanation might be a good idea. Nonetheless, I was still wondering how to explain effectively about it to those who do not understand my stance. Then, when I was reading a book last night, I happened to find the following passages in that book, which may be able to explain, on behalf of me, the way I wanted to. So, let me cite the passages as follows:

    “But you have to remember, it is a fight but no longer a personal quarrel – not a desire to prove oneself superior but an inquiry to find the truth. The whole emphasis changes; it is about the victory of the true. The famous dictum in Indian history of philosophy is ‘Satyameva jayate’ – ‘Truth should win, no matter who is defeated.’ It is not arising out of an inferiority complex but it is coming out of really superior intelligence.
    “The tradition went to China, to Japan, and it spread to other fields, also. That is why if you see two Japanese boxers or aikido fighters or jujitsu or judo fighters, you will be surprised—first they bow down to each other with tremendous respect. There is no question of enmity.” (Source: “Power, Politics, and Change: What Can I Do to Help Make the World a Better Place?” by Osho, published by St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, (2011), p.71.)

    Let me add one example here: When I see on TV a press conference of the (Western) boxers who are to fight the boxing match, they show nothing but their enmity against each other. No respect is shown to their competitor. I do not understand why they show their enmity to their competitor, not respect. Their hostility against each other is beyond my understanding. For me, they look like fighting dogs rather than civilized people. (Boxing is a civilized sport. No?) Professional boxers fight, not because of their mutual hatered but because of their profession, because of their livelihood. Without the competitor, they cannot hold the match, meaning that they might lose their profession. Without the competitor, they cannot hold the match, meaning that they cannot earn money in the boxing match. Thus, the competitor is the essential business partner for any boxer. Why does the boxer not show his respect to his business partner? If I were a professional boxer, I would show my sincere respect to “my business partner.” Show your respect to your business partner and fight in the fair manner.

    Likewise, show your respect to your teacher, and apply your critical thinking to his/her teaching. Till then, you will never know if his/her teaching works in other people’s cases but not in your case and vice versa. If his/her teaching works in other people’s cases but not in your case, respect him/her because his/her teaching helps them. If his teaching works in your case but not in other people’s cases, respect him/her because his/her teaching helps you. If his/her teaching works both in other people’s cases and in your case, respect him/her, of course. If his/her teaching works neither in other people’s cases nor in your case, still respect him/her because you have learned a lot from him/her so far. In any case, let me emphasize, show your respect to your teacher, and apply your critical thinking to his/her teaching, theory, dogma or argument. (The word, “teacher” here used in the broadest sense. Therefore, the “teacher” refers not only to the school teacher but also anyone whom you respect and from whom you learn something. If you learn something from an article on the TMS website, and if you respect the author, then he/she is considered as your teacher (or at least, one of your teachers) in this context. Eiji Yoshikawa (1892-1962), the author of “Musahi,” said, “Everyone except me is my teacher.” He meant to say that he respected everyone, both his friends and foes because he could learn lessons in life from both of them.)

    Whether or not, your teacher’s teaching, theory, dogma or argument successfully passes the test of your critical thinking, you respect him/her, because you cannot deny the fact that he/she has helped you tread the path to the truth he/she believes and that you have trusted him/her accordingly. Being aware as such, you must not only respect him/her but also thank him/her.

    May peace be with Prof. Galtung. May peace be with the TMS editor and readers. May peace be with everyone else in the world.