The dialectical pace of history

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(pour la version française, voir en dessous)

History does not progress at an even rate, but by long periods of slow development punctuated by sudden revolutionary changes, as described by dialectical philosophy.

The news in CPNN this month illustrate the slowness of the development of the culture of peace.

The development of the peace process which led to this month’s signing of a peace accord in Colombia comes after a half century of war and many years of peace negotiations. The case is similar for the progress towards a peace accord with the communist movement in the Philippines. When I took part in the UNESCO international conference for a culture of peace in the Philippines twenty years ago, negotiations were already underway.

Development is similarly slow for city peace commissions. We began the New Haven City Peace Commission in the 1980’s and it is still trying to find its identity. The newest city peace commission, that of Santos, Brazil, was begun six years ago, and only this year has it been officially formalized. As they say: ” It is a long walk on a road that builds itself as we walk over it; we cannot see the end of it, but it is known that the end is a much better place than the one we are living today.”

Human rights are widely recognized and respected today, but the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ignored and unknown for the first 40 years after its adoption by the United Nations. It was only after the Nobel Peace Prize to Amnesty International in 1977 that it began to get recognition. The equivalent UN resolution for a culture of peace was adopted in 1999. If the same pace is followed as that for human rights, it may not gain universal recognition for another 25 years!

When development is very slow, it is hard to see. As the activists of the new Ashland Culture of Peace Commission state, “we need to acknowledge the important and often unnoticed work that is being done in our community that moves us toward a better world.”

The culture of war has dominated humanity for more than 5000 years. Should we expect it to be replaced by a culture of peace in a short period of time?

On the other hand, at the present time, there are other historical tendencies developing that may come quickly to the point of sudden revolutionary change. In his most recent column, Johan Galtung considers that “the world ‘right now’ [is] so unstable with imbalances everywhere that what we are living is fluxes and jumps. . . . power imbalance that can lead to war ‘before it is too late’, to passive coexistence, or to active coexistence, peace.  Very, very dynamic indeed.  No stability.”

The “peace” mentioned by Galtung would seem to be a relative peace in the sense of the absece of war, caused by the exhaustion of the warring parties. However, even if that comes about, we will still be far from the culture of peace that we need and that is developing much too slowly.

      • Le rythme dialectique de l’histoire

        L’histoire ne progresse pas à un rythme constant, mais par de longues périodes de développement lent entrecoupées de changements soudains et révolutionaires comme le définit la philosophie dialectique.

        Les nouvelles de CPNN ce mois-ci illustrent la lenteur du développement de la culture de la paix.

        Le développement du processus de paix qui a conduit à la signature d’un accord de paix en Colombie ce mois-ci aboutit après un demi-siècle de guerre et de nombreuses années de négociations. Le cas est similaire pour les progrès vers un accord de paix avec le mouvement communiste aux Philippines. Quand j’ai pris part à la conférence internationale de l’UNESCO pour une culture de la paix aux Philippines il y a vingt ans, les négociations étaient déjà en cours.

        Le développement est similairement lent pour les commissions de paix des villes. Nous avons débuté la Commission de Paix de la Ville de New Haven (USA) dans les années 1980, mais elle chereche est encore son identité. La toute derrière commission municipale de la paix, celle de Santos, au Brésil, commencé il y a six ans, n’a été officiellement formalisé que cette année. Comme le disent ses membres: «C’est une longue marche sur une route qui se construit alors que nous marchons dessus, nous ne pouvons pas en voir la fin, mais nous sommes sûr que la fin est un endroit bien meilleur que celui où nous vivons aujourd’hui.”

        Les Droits de l’Homme sont largement reconnus et respectés aujourd’hui, mais la Déclaration universelle des Droits de l’Homme a été ignorée, voire inconnue les 40 premières années suivant son adoption par les Nations Unies. Ce fut seulement après le Prix Nobel de la Paix décerné à Amnesty International, en 1977, qu’il a commencé à aovir une reconnaissance. La résolution de l’ONU équivalente pour une culture de la paix a été adoptée en 1999. Si le même rythme est suivi, nous devrons attendre encore 25 ans pour une reconaissance universelle !!

        Lorsque le développement est très lent, il est difficile de le voir. Comme disent les militants de la Commission de la cultre de la paix de Ashland, “nous devons reconnaître le travail important et souvent inaperçu qui se fait dans notre communauté qui nous pousse vers un monde meilleur.”

        La culture de la guerre a dominé l’humanité depuis plus de 5000 ans. Faut-ils attendre à son remplacement par une culture de la paix dans un court laps de temps ??

        D’autre part, à l’heure actuelle, il existe des tendances historiques en développement qui peuvent venir rapidement au point de changement soudaine et révolutionnaire. Dans sa chronique plus récente, Johan Galtung estime que «le monde en ce moment ‘[est] si instable avec des déséquilibres partout et ce que nous vivons sont des flux et des sauts…. Déséquilibres du pouvoir qui peuvent conduire à la guerre “avant qu’il ne soit trop tard”, à la coexistence passive, ou à la coexistence actif, i.e. la paix. Très, très dynamique en effet. Pas de stabilité.”

        La «paix» mentionné par Galtung semble d’être une paix relative dans le sens de l’absence de guerre, provoquée par l’épuisement des partries belligérantes. Cependant, même si cela arrive, nous serons encore loin de la culture de la paix dont nous avons besoin et qui se développe beaucoup trop lentement.

  • Importance of Truth Commissions

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    First, Truth Commissions are important because they break the secrecy of the state which is one of the key defenses of the culture of war.

    This month, as described in the CPNN bulletin, there are several examples of this.  The US government, and in particular its CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) has kept secret the details of its torture of prisoners in Guantanamo and elsewhere in recent years, as well as its invasion of Panama in 1989.   Despite opposition by the CIA, the torture report by the US Senate has revealed details of the torture, while the upcoming Truth Commission in Panama promises to reveal details of the invasion.   Similarly, despite a law by the Israeli authorities that forbids discussion of the Nakba, the NGO Zochrot has launched a Truth Commission to discuss it.  Other Truth Commissions in Canada, Brazil and Burundi  are revealing atrocities previously previously shrouded in secrecy by their states.

    Second, they promote such key aspects of  a culture of peace as human rights and democracy, by revealing and condemning their violations.

    And third, Truth Commissions are designed to launch the process of reconciliation, a process that will be necessary for the transition from the culture of war to a culture of peace. The classic example is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa in the transition from Apartheid to democracy under the leadership of Bishop Desmond Tutu and the presidency of Nelson Mandela.  Since then, according to Amnesty International, there have been truth commission in more than 25 countries (as of 2007), most of them dedicated to reconciliation as well as truth.  The commissions mentioned here continue this important historical trend.

    Other than Canada, today’s commissions are still far from the stage of reconciliation.  Those in Burundi and Panama are just getting underway.  The Truth Commission in Brazil is still far from the stage of reconciliation, and there is so much opposition that one doubts that the U.S. Senate will be able to go beyond its initial stage and achieve any reconciliation.

    It is not surprising that the cases of Israel and the United States are the furthest from reconciliation.  Israel is supported by the U.S. and the American empire is the center of the culture of war in the 21st Century, having organized torture not only in Guantanamo, but also in countries around the world, especially in Latin America.  See a similar analysis by the dean of peace researchers, Johan Galtung.  The strong defense of state secrecy by the U.S. and Israel  is revealed by the continued house arrest of Mordecai Vanunu in Israel for having revealed its nuclear arsenal and the continuing attempts by the U.S. to capture and punish Julian Assange and Edward Snowden for having divulged its secrets.

    In my utopian novel about how we arrive at a culture of peace, I imagine that one of the key moments is when Jerusalem, after a process like that of South Africa (with the involvement of Bishop Tutu), becomes an international city of peace where people of all religions are able to coexist with mutual respect.  As for the United States, I can only that its empire will crash like that of the Soviet Union, giving us the chance to establish a radically new economic and political system in the world.

     

     

    The Use and Misuse of Human Rights

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    In this month’s CPNN bulletin, we consider both positive and negative sides of the discourse about human rights.

    On the positive side, the state of human rights is a good indicator of progress towards a culture of peace. In this regard, the lead taken by Latin American countries to ratify and enforce human rights treaties reflects the fact, often noted in this blog, that they are the most advanced continent towards a culture of peace. The rights of women, of democratic participation, of sustainable equitable development, of honest information, all these are essential components of a culture of peace.

    On the negative side, there is often a great deal of hypocrisy in the international accusations of human rights violations. This dates from the days of the Cold War when Western accusations of human rights violations in the socialist countries of the East were used as a propaganda arm of the culture of war. We see the same thing being done today as the United States, with the help of the commercial media, and (unfortunately) the leading human rights organizations, is accusing Venezuela of human rights violations in its handling of the mass political demonstrations. Actually, these demonstrations are being orchestrated by the United States as a means of overthrowing the government that was elected there. There is a further danger that the U.S. will use the pretext from this propaganda to justify a military intervention, using the so-called “right of humanitarian intervention.”.

    There are two major components to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: political and economic. During the Cold War while the West refused to accept the economic provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they attacked the East for their record on political rights. In fact, the West continues to be deficient in guaranteeing economic rights to its citizens. Recently, in doing a report on the state of the culture of peace in my American city, I found that human rights was the one aspect of the culture of peace that is going backwards. Each year, Americans have less and less economic rights such as food, shelter, employment and trade union representation. Meanwhile, the US government continues to use political human rights as a propaganda tool to attack other governments that they wish to overthrow.

    In fact, history shows that any good concept can be mis-used. That is true for Culture of Peace, just as it has been true for Human Rights. For example, if you search “culture of peace” in Google news, you will often find statements by Israeli officials criticizing the Palestinians for their lack of a culture of peace. What hypocrisy!!!

    Words are not enough. For this reason, one of the basic rules of CPNN is that articles must refer to specific actions: “Reports should refer to specific events, projects or productions rather than be vague and over-generalized abstract comments. .. they do not have to be “breaking news.” Instead, they may reflect the “slow news” of processes that develop slowly over long periods of time.”