Johan Galtung, a Norwegian academic, is universally
hailed as one of the most influential thinkers in
the field of peace research and conflict resolution.
1981 he advanced a new theory on violence and its
various manifestations in modern society. This theory
articulated the difference between direct and structural
base level these distinctions are exemplified in the
If we say that a child has been murdered, this is
as a consequence of direct violence. However if we
say that children die as a result of poverty, then
this is as a result of an inherent flaw in the societal
structure. That is to say that children have died
as a result of structural violence.
third type of violence, he contended was that of cultural
Cultural violence is a form of violence that leads
us to be blinded to, or aids us in justifying the
two previous forms of violence.
end direct violence by changing conflict behaviours,
structural violence by removing unjust structures
and cultural violence by changing attitudes.
added to this a further distinction. That was a distinction
between negative or positive peace. Negative peace
is characterised simply by an absence of direct violence,
which in itself does not indicate a full and lasting
end to conflict.
Positive peace is present when structural and cultural
violence have been overcome as well, so all three
strands combine to create a permanent and lasting
end to conflict.
envisaged peace research search extending beyond the
boundaries of simply preventing future war. For him
it needed to include the examination of the conditions
required for truly peaceful relations between the
dominant and the exploited, those who are ruled and
those who rule, men and women, western and non western
societies and humanitys use of technology in
relation to nature.
to all of Johan Galtungs theory was the quest
for positive peace using the tools of human empathy,
solidarity and community, and the breaking down of
structural violence, by exposing it in all its
forms and transforming the dependency of structural
violence on imperialism and oppression. Suggested
alternatives to transform the nature of structural
violence reached as far as the consideration of non-western
cosmologies such as Buddhism.
all this starting to have any relevance yet?
clarity and nobility of this theory as a utopian model
or tool in the search for positive peace is more than
admirable. Poor Johan however has obviously not spent
many wet and dreary November evenings in the six counties,
watching party political broadcasts, that are trying
to persuade us to vote in an election to an assembly
that does not actually exist. I would also venture
to suggest that any of our Buddhist counterparts in
their right minds would not touch this place with
the imaginary barge pole that John Taylor said he
would not touch the Belfast Agreement with on Good
the various broadcasts, it is unfathomable to equate
their sickly celluloid sheen and ever so sincerely
spoken sycophantic commentary with the ignominy and
recrimination that all these parties lustily indulged
in, merely one week ago after the collapse of the
choreographed re-ignition of the executive.
Margaret Thatcher was persuaded to use an advertising
agency to full and unfortunately devastatingly successful
effect for the first time in British politics in the
1980s, public relations has inherited the mantle
of spewing out catch phrases where once politicians
debated things called policies.
may remember policies. They were considered very popular
at one time.
Briefly, the idea behind them was to place your (ill)
considered thoughts on social advancement in the public
arena and ask us poor plebs to vote on which ones
we believed would at least go some way to enhancing
our daily lot.
relations and the Good Friday accord have always been
the best of friends.
have been made to believe that the political and economic
link to Britain is secure, and Republicans after thirty
years of conflict have come to the conclusion that
the gateway to a reunified island is to share an assembly
with people of a diametrically opposed belief. This
is despite the fact that devolution for Northern Ireland,
even if it were fully implemented would be little
more than a token parliament with all the power of
a set of dodgy market stall batteries.
addition, throw in the fact that this assembly will
sit in the place that for
fifty years was a world class edifice for the type
of structural violence we have seen defined, that
improvement has been made is not in doubt. That Republicanism
and nationalism in general has sucked up a lot of
highly distasteful ideological compromise is not in
doubt. That the relative absence, or acceptable level
of violence, that has brought us to the negative peace
stage, is actually progress is not in doubt. Certain
portions of republican opinion may well have a valid
point when it says that violence is not a principle
of republicanism, it was only ever a tactic. However
we still await a more weighty explanation of that
to its non-combative victims or to the relatives of
those who died for a tactic;an explanation at least
more weighty than an apology can cover.
is in doubt is the ability of our political class
to recognise the fact that voters are no longer high
on the sentimentality of April 1998. At this time
the god of governmental public relations was happy
to use the whole island as a sounding board for peace
to maximise the statistical effect of a supposed political
utopia that was just tantalisingly out of the reach
of our straining fingertips. All we had to do was
place a sequence of numbers on a ballot paper, to
guarantee an unhindered future.
years after we elected the first executive, we are
being again asked to mark the spot to speculatively
reassemble a body that, whether you agree with it
or not, cannot actually reconvene without the say
so of another house on the neighbouring island. Even
if it does reconvene, what has there been to assure
us that it will be anymore workable than it has been
Yet again, the search for peace, real peace, has been
sacrificed to the hustings.
No party here has yet come close to a formula for
a positive peace, simply because structural violence
still exists in its embryonic nucleus, just
the same as it has done since its conception
at the islands division in 1921. This is not helped
at all by the fact that we still use cultural violence
as a stick to beat away the fact we have failed to
address core issues. True, we may not kill each other
as much as we used to. And despite the expedient truculence
of David Trimble, the majority of the republican machinery
of war has been eradicated. However whilst still at
the whim of our beneficentpolitical masters
across the water little is likely to progress.
may construe my thoughts as archaic. Perhaps they
are, but they are free of the waffle of public relations.
Whilst in the process of gradual withdrawal the British
managed to chastise us like we were their political
children. They tell us that if we act like good little
boys and girls we can have our assembly back. Never
ever, were they responsible for sowing the seeds of
conflict. They only intervened to save us from laying
total waste to each other in 1969. They were never
here before that turbulent year.
If they are not already on board, then everyone should
agree that further violence will do nothing to advance
any cause in this state. If the GFA is to have a hope
of working however our politicians must realise that
playing the blame game is a non-starter. This is not
a politically mature society. We do not have politicians
who realise that there is a world beyond the fringes
of the western Atlantic. We are a society comprised
of two plain and plainly opposite ideas. It is a simple
conclusion to arrive at.
all the cards on the table and get on with it or rip
it up and start again.
We can either have political limbo or co-operate,
no matter how distasteful that may be to some. There
can be no return to the past.
all the glitzy advertising campaigns, I fear that
the electorate may be about to express that very sentiment
in the coming poll. We are the perfect example of
how untrue the old saying, you get the government
you deserve, actually is. None of the voters in this
state deserve this lot.
Johan Galtung was born in Oslo in 1930. Each year
in his native city the Nobel Prize for Peace is awarded.
Johan Galtungs theories have been employed all
over the earth by the United Nations as a model for
rebuilding damaged societies riven by war. Johan Galtung
has never been nominated for this prize.
Trimble is a Nobel Laureate in the field of peace.
Now thats what I call good public relations!
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