Violence, War, and Their Impact

Linked with Johan Galtung – Norway, with Transcent, with The power of non-violence, with Kai Frithof Brand-Jacobsen – Romania & Canada & Norway, with The Transnational Foundation, and with TRANSCEND’s Advanced International Training Programme .

On Visible and Invisible Effects of Violence by Johan Galtung, by Johan Galtung, Norway. Pubished on Polylog.org, Forum for Intercultural Philosophy, 2004.

Some exerpts: … World: If we now define the world as a community of nations in addition to a community of states, in other words as an inter-nation system in addition to an inter-state system, then the effect of wars becomes even clearer. At the superficial level nations share religion and language. At the deeper level they share chosenness, glory and trauma; the CGT-complex. Wars are help define these kairos points. Contiguity around sacred places, and continuity to pay homage to sacred dates, project the nation into geography and history, as clearly seen by watching the names of metro stations and squares in a country referring to itself as la grande nation. Studies of national holidays and anthems, old conflict symbols, also bring out this clearly.


46 After the guns have become silent the war in the minds is still there: the Dichotomy of nations into two camps, the Manichean view of the camps as good–evil, friend–foe, as the struggle between God and Satan on earth, the Armageddon battle as the defining event; for short, the DMA-complex.
47 The pattern becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The DMA-complex in the minds survives the end of the war. Any sign that the enemy is still alive will trigger ready-made responses; in the absence of such signs other enemies will be found to complete the Gestalt formed by this type of cultural violence. The end of the Cold War is by now a classical case: the evaporation of the »East« as a conflict partner was unexpected; new enemies of the Nation (or super-Nation) are being excavated from History, with the help of God and Law. Wars wreak havoc with structures and cultures. And the more wars we have had, the more do we see the result as normal …

… Culture: Through each war humanity dies a little. But we are a sturdy species, otherwise we would have extinguished long time ago. There is more to us than the sad story told by focusing on war and violence only. If conflict, in the sense of incompatibility of goals, is ubiquitous, at all levels of human organization, from the intra-personal to the inter-regional, intra-global, inter-stellar for that matter, then we evidently also have some great conflict-transforming capacity.
52 More precisely, humanity must have great reservoirs of the three major components of a peace culture, or cultural peace as opposed to cultural violence: nonviolence, creativity, empathy. Wars and violence are travesties on these virtues and reduce human conflict-transforming capacity.
53 That wars are not nonviolent is more than a tautology. There may be self-imposed restraints in wars, operating on one or more sides, both ad bellum and in bello. But the point about nonviolence is to respond to violence and destruction with love, or less pathetically, with something constructive. Wars rule out that response as treason, and substitute a culture of secrets and deceits, lies and propaganda.
54 There is no denial that wars may be highly creative in their destructiveness. But the bottom line remains destruction, of life and property. Creativity in life-enhancement, in promoting Other, even »them«, is also ruled out as treason.
55 And the same applies to the third virtue: empathy, the capacity to understand Other from the inside, is high treason. In doing so Other’s behaviour becomes a consequence of his history. External causes become good reasons. The will to kill »them« may be subverted …

… Violence as Desease: an alternative image is developed, let us compare violence to disease, for instance to tuberculosis, TBC. A fruitful way of conceiving of any human pathology is in terms of interplay between exposure and resistance; in casu between micro-organisms operating under the right conditions (for them) of temperature and humidity, and the level of immunity of the body, which in turn has to do with the immune system, nutrition and living standard, mind and spirit. This all plays together holistically and synergistically. Of course some generalities can be identified, but they will never completely cover any individual case, leaving room for empathy with the individual patient and his total environment and history, combining the generalizing and the individualizing.
61 More particularly, studies show how TBC rates decreased more because of improved living standards (nutrition, housing, clothing) than because of artificial strengthening of immune systems through inoculation, and early diagnosis (X-ray). A disease cannot be detached from patient and context as an abstract entity with a life-cycle of its own, calling for generalized prevention, therapy and rehabilitation. Key aspects of exposure and resistance may be in the context in a broad sense, not in the disease-patient interface. Causal cycles pass body-mind-spirit, not only the body. And key causes may be far away from the symptoms. Include the full context, and the cycles may even be global (AIDS), and macro-historical (flu) …

… An alternative Image of Violence: What kind of discourse would we recommend to accommodate these considerations, focusing not only on the aetiology of a given outbreak of violence and war and on meaningful intervention, but also on the aftermath? Here is one tentative answer:
a. Direct (overt) violence is seen as having a pre-, side-, and after-history, in unbounded areas and intervals.
b. These histories can be traced in six spaces:
– Nature: as ecological deterioration – ecological improvement;
– Human (body, mind, spirit): as traumas-hatred – as glory-love;
– Social: as deepening of conflict – as healing of conflict;
– World: as deepening of conflict – as healing of conflict;
– Time: as the kairos of trauma or glory – as the khronos of peace;
– Culture: as deposits of trauma or glory – as deposits of peace.
c. These six spaces can be summarized into three:
– direct violence – peace: to nature and human body-mind-spirit;
– structural violence – structural peace: in social and world spaces, as
· vertical structural violence: repression and exploitation
· horizontal structural violence: parties too close – too remote
· structural peace: freedom and equity, adequate distance;
– cultural violence – cultural peace: legitimizing – delegitimizing violence.
… (Read the whole, very long article on polylog.org, Forum for Intercultural Philosophy, 2004).

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