CULTURE OF PEACE AND WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES
WHAT IS A CULTURE OF PEACE AND WHAT ARE THE OBSTACLES?
The 2nd Humanity Conference Earth Human Peace Forum,
International Graduate University for Peace, Seoul, 02/03/03
By Johan Galtung, dr hc mult, Professor of Peace Studies
Director, TRANSCEND: A Peace and Development Network
1. Cultures of peace. A culture of peace is a culture that
promotes peace. But what is peace? I have two metaphors.
The first metaphor is health, like „peace is to violence what
health is to disease“. A person can be healthy, a person, a
group, a state, a nation, a region, a civilization can be
peaceful. A world can be peaceful, at least better than today.
But we also talk of peace between persons, groups and so on.
The second metaphor is love. Love is the union of body, mind and
spirit, or, to be more precise, the union of those unions. The
miracle of sex and physical tenderness. The miracle of two minds
sharing joy and suffering, sukha and dukkha as buddhists would
say, resonating in harmony. And the miracle of two persons having
a joint project beyond themselves including reflecting
constructively on the union of body and mind.
So let us lift this to two societies, two states, including
what is foremost on your mind thinking of the uprising against
Japanese colonialism 84 years ago, March 1 1919: two Korean
states. The body, that is the economy. The mind, that is the
polity. And the spirit, that is the culture, particularly the
deep, collectively shared, subconscious culture. I have left out
the fourth source of power, the military. My concern is peace by
peaceful means. And to all those working on „just war“ in these
days of USA-Iraq crisis And USA-Korean Peninsula crisis I would
suggest as an exercise to explore „just slavery“, „just
colonialism“, „just patriarchy, suppressing women“ first. Maybe
the idea occurs that evils should be abolished, not justified.
Unfortunately, many institutes and universities doing peace
studies are actually doing war studies, counting violent conflicts
meticulously, analyzing them, sometimes looking into how they
ended, the cease-fire. But one thing is a cease-fire process,
sometimes with a third party stepping in, punishing them if they
break the cease-fire, rewarding them if they do not, making the
cease-fire pay for itself.
This may or may not be a good approach to peace, but it is
not the same as a peace process. Peace, as pointed out using the
love metaphor, is a positive relation between parties, of union,
togetherness. The condition is mutual respect, dignity, equality,
reciprocity. In all three areas, spirit, mind and body; culture,
polity, economy. Let us look at all three.
The International Graduate University for Peace is to be
congratulated in being the first university, and the first after
the pathbreaking work of the former Director General of the
UNESCO, Federico Mayor Zaragoza, in putting culture up front in
the work for peace. In your case it takes the form of a focus on
the spiritual treasures of all cultures, starting with your own,
the ancient Korean culture across the North-South divide and the
possibly even more important East-West divide.
Each culture, in my experience, has some kind of gift to a
world culture of peace, like the Western equality for the law, the
Polynesian ho’o pono pono, the Somali shir, the Cheyenne calumet.
Sometimes we have to dig to find it. And the idea of a big world
parade of contributions to that world culture is excellent, even
I am a little bit less convinced about the Peace Olympic games.
It could be too competitive, with gold, silver and bronze medals
when we need dialogue and mutual learning.
To demonstrate the point about spiritual richness permit to
list what I in my little life, a tiny second in the history of
world cultures, have learnt from the world religions:
From Judaism: that truth is not a declaration of faith but a
process through dialogue with no end, like in the Talmud.
From Protestant Christianity: the Lutheran hier stehe ich, ich
kann nicht anders, here I am, I have no alternative; the
significance of individual conscience and responsibility; and
equality in the face of the Creator.
From Catholic Christianity: the distinction between peccato and
peccatore, between sin and sinners, of a stand against the sin but
at the same time pardoning, forgiving the sinner.
From Orthodox Christianity: the optimism of Sunday Christianity as
opposed to the necrophilic Friday Christianities of the other two:
Christ has arisen, is among us.
From Islam: the truth of Sura 8:61, when the Other shows an
inclination toward peace that so do you; peace breeds peace. And
the truth of zakat, of sharing with the poor.
From Hinduism: the trinitarian construction of the world, as
Creation, Preservation and Destruction. Applied to conflict this
means: pursuing creation by seeing conflict a challenge to be
creative, preserving the parties, avoiding destruction.
From Buddhism/Jainism: nonviolence, ahimsa of course, but then to
all life, bringing in the whole earth, not only the human part,
and the earth-human interface. And as a part of this what in
Japanese buddhism is known as engi, that everything hangs
together, causation is co-dependent, no beginning, no end; nobody
is totally guilty or totally innocent, we all share responsibility
is reducing dukkha, suffering and increasing sukha, fulfillment,
liberation for all, including ourselves.
From Confucianism: the principle of isomorphic harmony, harmony
inside ourselves, inner peace, in the family, school at work, in
society, in the country and the nation, in the region and the
civilization; with all levels inspiring each other.
From Daoism: the principle of yin-yang, the good in the bad and
the bad in the good, and the bad in the good in the bad and good
in the bad in the good and so on; a complexity far beyond Western
From Humanism: the idea of basic human needs, to some extent
reflected in the basic human rights as a general guide-line for
human action in general and politics/economics in particular.
Recommendation: pick the best from all! – don’t waste much
time wrestling with strange, obscure, even anti-peace messages.
The major sociopolitical obstacles to a culture of peace, is,
indeed, a culture of war and violence. Like in the media.
We see it on television. The minor factor is the display of
unbridled violence with the victim lying in his/her own blood and
the perpetrator escaping. The first major factor is the lack of
display of the invisible effects of violence, the sorrow suffered
by the bereaved, the trauma, the hatred, the urge for revenge and
revanche; and the sense of glory in the perpetrator who got away
with it. And the second major factor is the lack of display of
alternative ways of handling conflict, through conflict
transformation, empathy, nonviolence, creativity. No „TV violence
study“ has covered all three adequately.
From interpersonal violence there is a direct link to
interstate wars. There is a war journalism that systematically
focuses on violence and who wins, like a soccer game, leaving out
the invisible effects and the alternatives. Peace journalism
starts with two questions. What is the conflict about? And what
are the possible solutions? A president who has nothing better
than „the conflict is between good and evil“ and „the solution is
to crush evil“, will not survive sustained questioning. Except as
sheer war propaganda, in a war culture.
But the war culture is also bases on what is said; like
being a Chosen People by the Almighty, accountable only to Him.
The world order has their God on top, then the Chosen People under
God (leaving no space for international law and human rights),
then Chosen Allies, then the Rest, including the UN. They see
themselves as exceptional, with the right, even the duty to be in
breach of human rights and UN resolutions, whether the Almighty is
Yahweh, God or Alla’h.
Peace can only be based on equality and equity. A structure
with basic inequality, inequity, asymmetry–not giving to others
what they demand for themselves–is a recipe for basic trouble,
sooner or later. Equality for the law is a Western contribution to
a culture of peace; exceptionalism is the opposite, hence anti-
peace. This goes for genders and generations, for the groups in
society, for states and nations, for regions and civilizations.
The war culture is based on Chosenness, Glory and Trauma,
backed up by Dualism, Manicheism and the promise of a violent
encounter, and Armageddon. CGT, DMA. These days we hear it from
fundamentalist terrorists and fundamentalist state terrorists. So,
Moderates all over the world unite! we have only fundamentalists
to lose. In a peace culture of Empathy, Creativity, Nonviolence.
The human spirit is capable of accommodating cultures of war
and cultures of peace; like the human body is capable of hosting
both pathogens like HIV dangerous to self and other and sanogens
like vitamins. The same goes for the culture of any society. We
have to open our hearts to the immense significance of the human
spirit for a more peaceful civilization, driving out anti-peace!
But peace is made neither by culture alone, nor by politics
and economics alone. It is made by all three, synergistically.
The formula for peace is always equality, equity, and mutual
respect. We have to learn to celebrate not only the peace
elements in our own culture but also in others. „I celebrate your
gift to humanity and you celebrate mine“ is a good basis. And to
celebrate what we share: the joint Korean cultural roots, as well
as the positive elements in juche and Christianity.
In these days of crisis, let us apply these ideas to the
Korean peninsula and to USA-Iraq, as concrete peace proposals.
2. The Korean peninsula: A TRANSCEND Perspective On New Moves
Direct negotiations Pyongyang-Washington presuppose mutual
respect and no losers. The US concept is negotiation=dictation,
wanting North Korea to submit, not to discuss who broke what in
the 1994 agreement. If Clinton-Carter style negotiations are out,
then less USA focus and more North-South focus is needed:
 Time has come for the complex process of disinviting the
US bases on Korean soil; probably the key factor preventing
significant steps toward unification of the Korean nation. Given
the US faith in democracy disinvitation would have to come from:
– a democratically elected government; failing that, from
– a democratically elected parliament; failing that, from
– the majority in a referendum; failing that, from
– an impeccable public opinion survey.
A first step: the USA is invited to stipulate conditions for
withdrawal of bases. Is it unification at the level of
– a confederation? – a federation? – a unitary state?
Or, is it
– collapse of the DPRK, internally or through conquest?
– verified dismantling, or destruction, of any nuclear capacity?
Or, the same for China? Or is it never, meaning occupation,
compatible with a key document in US policy making, JCS 570/2 from
1944, and with the 1996 pincer movement on Eurasia from 1996:
expanding NATO eastward and AMPO (the USA-Japan alliance, with
South Korea and Taiwan as de facto members) from 1996?
A second step: regardless of answer or non-answer to the
question above: a flexible time-table for withdrawal emerges.
A third step: Both South and North Korea alliance free.
 Time has come for coordinated North-South Korean moves
towards an East Asian Common Market/Community, EAC. The others
would be China, Taiwan and Viet Nam (also as a bridge to ASEAN),
and Japan. Japan is problematic both in its subordination to US
policy and its failure to come clean in a reconciliation process
but should always be considered a potential member. Both Koreas
should insist that without Japan normalizing relations to North
Korea (including compensation and apology) and with the zainichi
relations with the Korean nation have not been normalized.
The EAC would outnumber an expanded EU by a factor of 3+, and
the USA by a factor of 5+ with hardworking people informed by a
Confucian ethic and high growth rates in Viet Nam and China to be
copied by North Korea when they are ready for the same post-
socialist approach. A model for a coordinated North-South
approach would be the tacit West-East German cooperation in the
European Common Market/Community relations 1958-1990. A clear goal
would be a Land Super Highway/railway Tokyo-(tunnel)-Seoul-
Pyongyang-Beijing-(Hong Kong and/or Chengdu)-Ho Chi Minh; and a
Sea Super Highway Tokyo-Naha-Taipeh-Hong Kong-Da Nang. Seat of EAC
institutions: Okinawa (like Luxembourg-Belgium for EU).
 Time has come for work on a jointly acceptable history
of the Korean War. There is enormous ideological investment in
the construction of „the Korean war“. However, with Cheju and
April 3, Kwangju and May 18, and new information about how the war
was fought now coming out in the open A Joint North-South History
Commission might arrive at agreement on basic facts, also on pre-
June 1950 history. Merely to set up such a joint commission
(building on the work of the Korea Truth Commission) will have
considerable impact, some of it problematic. (033).
3. USA-IRAQ: THERE ARE ALTERNATIVES – AND RESISTANCE IS POSSIBLE
The ceaseless bombing and imminent invasion of Iraq by the USA and
allies, particularly the UK, is one more step in the geo-fascist
march toward world hegemony. It is „fascist“ because of ruthless
use of blunt state power, only „geo“ as long as some US democracy
is left. Serving a three-point agenda–oil, bases and Israel–
other points have been brought up to legitimize war.
But these points can all be solved by governments, building
on successful governmental diplomacy after the Second World War.
3a. A Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East,
CSCME, modeled on the Helsinki Conference for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, CSCE, 1973-75. The initiative was taken by
a small country, Finland, the veto making the UN inadequate.
Today Germany could take the imitative, or, even better, the EU.
Participants would be Middle Eastern/West Asian countries, with
Germany/EU as facilitators, and the conference would last years.
Iraq, Kurdistan and Israel-Palestine would be on the agenda.
3b. An image of a possible outcome for Iraq:
– as a federation with a Kurdish, a Sunni and a Shia part;
– Kuwait as an independent state could be associated with Iraq,
with open borders, shared harbor facilities, joint oil regime;
– a lasting UN inspection regime for weapons of mass destruction,
making the point that this also applies to Israel;
– a UN election monitoring of free elections for a possible regime
change, making the point that this also applies to the USA;
– lifting of sanctions, with emergency relief for hunger, DU, etc.
3c. An image of a possible outcome for Kurdistan:
– guaranteed human rights for Kurds in the countries they live;
– high level autonomy for Kurds but no division with secession;
– a confederation of Kurdish autonomies with passport, governance.
3d. An image of a possible outcome for Israel-Palestine:
– full recognition of Palestine within UN 242/338, capital in EJ;
– Jordan and Egypt lease some land to Palestine for some time;
– two Palestinian cantons in Israel (with some right of return);
– two Israeli cantons on the West Bank (with some right to remain);
– a Middle East Community Syria-Lebanon-Palestine-Israel-Jordan-
Egypt modeled after the European Community, with open borders for
trade and tourism, and economic/cultural/political cooperation;
– a Truth and Reconciliation process to undo horrors of the past
Nothing of this is particularly radical. To the contrary, it
is actually surprisingly simple, easily envisaged with a little
restructuring here and there. So, what are the objections?
We do not have the time, we have to focus on something we can
do now! True, a conference of that type might well take five
years. But for Germany-France-Russia to launch the idea would only
take five minutes, and those five minutes might have considerable
impact. The basic point is to deal with all parties in dignity.
3d. Massive boycott of US export products.
There is talk of boycott of US products all over, building on
successful action against the apartheid regime in South Africa,
against Deutsche Shell in the North Sea, and against the French
nuclear testing in Polynesia. The triggering event would be an
invasion of Iraq, boycott would include the UK and participating
countries, and apply to Israel if a transfer operation is started.
The purpose of the boycott is to turn US corporations against
US belligerence and disrespect for treaties and world cooperation.
The boycott would cover consumer goods from movies, CocaCola-
MacDonald to cars, capital goods of all kinds and finance goods
like dollars (use euros, yen and others) and US bonds and stocks,
demanding that governments do not buy and with corporations divest
from US firms, starting with the most reprehensible corporations.
The average profit of a US corporation is around 6%, meaning
that even modest participation will have major impact. Even a 3%
decline in sales will place the trustees/executives in a dilemma
between loyalty to Washington geofascism and their own profits.
Likely counter-measures against a boycott will include:
– pressure on governments to outlaw boycott; problematic because
market freedom is a major part of neoliberal ideology;
– corporations asking Washington for compensation; problematic
given the US economy in general and the federal budget;
– decreasing expenditure by laying off more workers; problematic
because collective protests are now increasing very quickly.
– US boycott of products from boycotting countries; problematic
given US consumer dependence on foreign products, and solidarity,
buying from US-boycotted countries.
The boycott should be informed by gandhian nonviolence. The
purpose is to reduce and eliminate the US military and economic
grip on the world, not to kill US children. An emergency relief
program for those who suffer in the US should be considered. The
target is the US Empire, not the US Republic.
What happened to dealing with the USA with dignity? The
dignity is there, but not for the illegitimate aspects of US
foreign policy; they have to be resisted. A policy like this,
making a strong distinction between the US Republic and the US
Empire, is not „anti-American“, meaning being against everything
American. There is good in the bad and bad in the good; relieve
the USA of sin by refusing to cooperate, and then have the best
possible relation with that marvelous people.
Put differently: there is nothing in conflict and peace
theory saying that we shall build compromises to everything and
treat everybody equally. The conflict between slave and slave-
owner, between colonialist and colony, was not solved by
compromise but by resisting evil. Incidentally this resistance is
also a part of the Hindu, not just the gandhian, tradition and
found in other spiritual traditions as well.
Some words about the economics of peace. Taking basic needs
and equity as our guidelines the first goal is satisfaction of
basic needs, probably best done locally and nationally. And the
second goal is equity, equal exchange guiding trade relations in
the global space. What could be more important goals for economic
activity than to give people a life in dignity, and build
relations between countries that are equitable.
We cannot permit an economy to kill people at the tune of
100,000 a day, a quarter of that starving, the other three
quarters suffering the deficit in affordable health services. And
we cannot permit trade relations grabbing the natural resources of
other peoples, and even protecting the robbery by military means.
In short, we have work to do. Let good spirits guide us.