New Year Old Wishes Left and Right

EDITORIAL, 2 Jan 2017

#461 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

This New Year announces itself with bangs all over, not whimpers.

Pope Francis made a tour d’horizon on all continents, strongly denouncing the violence in favor of his alternative: negotiation.

Much violence is copycat or copyrat; violence being a la mode. Copying–aka learning–is not wrong. But it depends on what is copied.

Wish no. 1: copying peace rather than violence, for instance from ASEAN and the Nordic Community, making peace self-reinforcing.

Wish no. 2: reporting violence less prominently, more toward the end of newspapers-TV-radio news, and reporting peace upfront.

Wish no. 3:  understanding war better, not only how many killed but how many bereaved; understanding peace better as model for others.

Wish no. 4: introducing Yin/Yang in Western thought: no totally good or bad humans or states around; they are all improvable mixtures.

Wish no. 5: linking the good in ourselves to the good in others for peaceful cooperation, yet keeping the bad in mind, for security.

Wish no. 6: identifying unsolved conflicts and unconciled traumas that may lead to violence; solving the conflicts, healing the traumas.

Wish no. 7: globalizing traditional intra-state human rights to rule out killing and exploitation across state borders.

Wish no. 8: adding animal to human rights to reflect how much we have in common, like families, joy and grief, cooperation, symbiosis.

Wish no. 9: globalizing democracy giving voice to all affected by a decision, via UN, or directly by referenda across state borders.

Wish no. 10: dialoguing with the most belligerent–USA-Israel-UK-Turkey–to identify their legitimate goals and how they can be met.

And the erratic climate? A modest wish: a deeper understanding than a one-factor linear relation in a very complex finite world.

Diagnosis, Prognosis, Therapy

A focus on nonviolent remedies, not only critical analysis, makes us think-speak-act more positively.

This is not an all-or-nothing package. Any wish met somewhere is a move for peace and that person-medium-nation-state will be rewarded. The list is not “unrealistic”; the opposites often are. A closer look:

The first is an act of will; emphasizing how well we feel after a good meal or taking the meal for granted, waiting for hunger. Or both, but more on the former. Recommended.  Be conscious. You have a choice.

The same goes for No. 2 about the media. I think I can even guarantee that more peace-positive media will sell better unless it is simply unfounded naiveté. Look around, they will find a lot of peace.

Violence breeds violence.  Peace may breed peace by setting the tone and mobilizing copycats. That makes violence a source of sorrow and peace a source of joy, with multiple punishments for the violent and rewards for the peaceful.  But watch out: there may be peace in violence, using it as the Pope does to argue for peace, and violence in peace if taken for granted, not maintained like in a good marriage.

There is nothing wrong in wanting security, meaning no violence. But there is something wrong in focusing only on security: paranoia.

For wish no. 6 the word “root” is now frequently used, the media also asking what is at the root of this violence.  Next question; what is at the root of conflict: incompatibility, of trauma: past violence.

Wishes nos. 7 and 9 are globalizing and easily understood: intra-state human rights and democracy should be extended to inter-state.

No. 8 reflects what we have recently learned about animals from female researchers: how similar they are to us, with life expectancies from 20 (many) to 50-60 years.  However, how about our food habits?

Wish no. 10 focuses on helping the most belligerent states, not only criticizing them.  The method in Wish no. 6 has to be used, maybe with 5-10 countries volunteering for each one, not only the UN.

To repeat: not an all-or-nothing package, but a list of ideas shaped as wishes for 2017.  Anyone with other ideas, please stand up!

What do those old political riders, “left” and “right”, have to do with all of this?  They often stand for progressive vs reactionary.  To go straight to the conclusion: time has come to drop those terms.  Or, to give them a new content: left, progressive is to meet the basic needs of humans and nature; right, reactionary insult these needs.

Let us look more closely at those old terms.  Traditionally, left has been linked to solidarity with the working class, or generally with employees rather than employers. But watch out: Thatcher had a point about employers as the “hard working classes”, and employees as trade unionized into the opposite.

Left is also used for favoring the public sector, state-run, and right for favoring the private-sector. This became Plan vs Market, which has an old taste of the 19th century carried into the 20th. However, there are those who fare much worse than workers-employees, like lonely, old ladies, not captured by the left-right discourse.  Whether their interests are better served by the public or the private sectors of the economy may be difficult to tell in general terms. Maybe a mix, maybe in phases, now one, then the other; pragmatic?

Again, watch out. There is a basic point about the public sector, the state: in principle it has to answer to the parliament, which in turn has to answer to the people.  The more privatization, the more the country is deprived–deprivare–of democracy.  No doubt a major purpose of the privatization all over; there are laws about companies, enterprises, but not the direct control by a parliament.

Proposal: give left and right a new meaning. Left wing politics meets the basic needs of humans and nature, right wing insults them. Or drop the terms “left” and “right” as outmoded.

And deepen democracy by having elections not only nationally, but also, for instance in companies, enterprises. With general assemblies. And round tables. And people: as people-ism, populism, not only elitism.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 Jan 2017.

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3 Responses to “New Year Old Wishes Left and Right”

  1. Democratic cultures in small institutions, households. It, of course, also needs a prior comprehension of democratic values that remain non-negotiable. Second – each individual has a say and/or stake that is distinctly public-private with zero spill-overs unless a personal act of self-sacrifice or philanthropy.

    Starting households that then become corporate ones too.

  2. Tracy says:

    You are so wise and your points are quite valid. I only wish you could write in more common prose so that the average American could follow and understand. :-(

  3. Thank you Johan,
    May we all enshrine our deep being(s) in an overwhelming and contagious peaceful joy.
    > I love 5. Deeply !
    > I’ll work on 7 (State to State human rights to stop killing) and 9 (Improving democracy, everywhere, including may be within our own selves and for own – innner – decision processes: inform all along, compare outside the box, test with our own and other’s hearts, evaluate over and over, decide and become, make it experience, forge a joyful and assumed ethic, universal and sustainable, create the future, remain open and share; start all over whenever needed; to be both gentle – and decisive – with ourselves, but only gentle and freedom setting, empowering for others).
    > Regarding 6 (tools for peace), I’ll set the goal of peaceful long term infrastructures: universal understandable laws and practices; peace as a human right -> done at the UN last month, though not unanimously; peace in constitutions (lots to be done there to mainstream peace in all public policies – one of my fields of work – but not so hard to do, prevention of violence at all levels, peaceful settlement of disputes at all levels – mediation and other alternative dispute resolution methods – and most of all peaceful settlements not only in international but also national and local law; it is happening, needs support and work, it is a good bottom up approach, will have long term effects); non-militairsation of course… Do not forget to nurture (y)our peace zones, small or big, let them expand, move to the next stage !
    Reagarding 11 (new creation); I’ll add to come more frequently to the TMS page and eventually to contribute more.
    Thank you also to you Antonio !
    Who else ?
    Happy care.