I am a seeker of truth, a lover of wisdom and a crusader for social justice; three life assets in great demand but now in very short supply. There is a hefty price we are paying for this state of affairs in terms of life destroyed at all levels of discernment, including the life support systems of the planet and society that nourish us, sustain us and allow us to grow, develop and flourish.
This scarcity of truth, wisdom and social justice is not natural in the sense that it was not preordained by the physical laws of the universe or the workings of nature. This scarcity was manufactured by the hubris of a small group of people hell-bent on dominating and controlling the planet’s resources by using the methods and technologies of distraction, deception and deprivation to destroy the essentials needed to live a flourishing life.
As Professor John McMurtry laments:
The air, soil and water cumulatively degrade and disappear; the climates and oceans destabilize without connection; species become extinct at a spasm rate across continents; pollution cycles and volumes rise endangering life systems on all planes in synergistic despoliation; the world’s forests, meadows and fisheries are cumulatively destroyed by the profit drivers of globalization; food pollinators, songbirds, coral reefs and large animals crash in unconnected response; public sectors and services are defunded and privatized as tax evasion by the rich multiplies; the global food system produces more and more disabling junk and wastes; non-contagious diseases multiply to the world’s biggest killer; the global financial system issues money out of control while collapsing in productive investment; the vocational future of the next generations is erased across the world; official lies and corruption are normalized as public relations. All the trends are one-way, degenerate, and undeniable.– Winning the War of the World | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization by Prof John McMurtry
McMurtry has diagnosed this global systemic disorder as a cancer that invades its social life host without resistance from its social immune system, a causal explanation that moved me to study and take seriously given my expertise as a life-care provider. I see all too frequently the effect of cancer growth on individual patient’s lives as the life support systems within their bodies are systematically destroyed by the invading and metastasing cancer until the demise of the life host that “feeds” the cancer.
At the base of this global systemic disorder is a systemic value disorder. McMurtry goes into more detail in his books Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market as an Ethical System (1998), The Cancer Stage of Capitalism First Edition (1999), Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy (2002), and The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure Second Edition. Basically he shows in pains-taking detail why the life predicaments we are in are fundamentally because money-value has trumped life-value in almost all of our deliberations and until we wake up to this realisation and put in life-value above money-value, the one-way degenerate and undeniable trend of life despoliation will not mend.
In trying to come to a better understanding of the root of this life injustice, a verse from Scriptures comes readily to mind:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.– NIV Ephesians 6:12, 14-16
What I have learnt over the years in interpreting the scriptures in my pursuit for truth, wisdom and social justice, is that “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” are not without but exist deep within our psyche, within our individual and collective unconscious. Synchronistically, a few days ago, I came across an article by Paul Levy that connected McMurtry’s global cancer system with the unrecognised cancer within our psyche.
“The key to succumbing to cancer is the immune-system’s failure to recognize and respond to the rogue code of what is attacking it. McMurtry writes that “the ultimate problem is that the disorder has not been recognized for what it is.” Without recognizing what McMurtry also calls “the great disorder,” we remain lost in its symptoms, distracted from the root of the problem, as the pathology endlessly deepens. When what attacks an organism is not recognized, a malignant system mutation has occurred. We always know that a civilization is breaking down when it excludes recognition of and social response to its own degenerate trends.
The carcinogenic invasive agent avoids detection, as it suppresses, disables and eventually hijacks the immune system of the host. The disease incessantly attacks all systems and institutions that can successfully overcome it. When the social immune system recognizes the invasive element and corrective feedback loops begin to respond to the disorder, they are invariably targeted, invaded and diverted to feed the pathology, deepening the global disorder rather than resolving it. The fact that the immune system is compromised to the point that the disease isn’t even recognized is showing us that one of the fundamental channels of the cancer’s operations is the human psyche.
Official policies keep feeding the metastasizing cancer, even while the system is in the process of bankrupting (i.e., killing) itself, which is the tell-tale sign of life-host capture by the carcinogen. In a financial and corporate global coup d’etat, the ravenous appetite of the financial juggernaut (Matt Taibbi’s infamous and aptly named “vampire squid”) continually subjugates governments and the rule of law to protect itself from any accountability. Individuals, political movements and institutions can unwittingly become mere instruments of these deeper, more powerful forces. Like a body’s immune system being co-opted and turned into an accomplice of the very disease that it is supposed to monitor, instead of governments and courts reining in the carcinogenic invader, they have become its primary enforcers, paralyzed and subsumed by the disease. Though taken over to a large degree, our judiciary is still slightly independent, which is one of the few remaining safeguards left against full takeover by the cancer.” – The Psychological Depths of “The Cancer Stage of Capitalism”, Healing Our Collective Sickness – Review of Prof. John McMurtry’s Book).”
Having made this connection with the cancer without and the cancer within, it behooves us to get to the root of the conflict between our value wars within and the global market and life economy without. Revealingly, this conflict links to many wars past and present, and until we are able to surgically unearth and uproot the tentacles of subjugation of this cancer, we will never find or be at peace with ourselves, one another and with Mother Earth.
Interestingly, by turning to the life-work of the “Father of Peace Studies,” Norwegian Johan Galtung, we have begun to explicate the hidden cultural and structural forces at play in the degenerate trends of violence to our life supporting systems within and without. (Please see his landmark article: Cultural Violence by Johan Galtung (1990) for more details.)
Here are two article by Rajkumar Bobichand explaining Galtung’s work by making the connection linking violence and peace to the provision of human needs.
“We understand that Violence is any physical, emotional, verbal, institutional, structural or spiritual behaviour, attitude, policy or condition that diminishes, dominates or destroys others and ourselves. Violence is one of the possible responses to specific conflict situations. This does not imply that violence is unavoidable. Violence is not inevitable and it must not be confused with conflict.
In other words, Violence consists of actions, words, attitudes, structures or systems that cause physical, psychological, social or environmental damage and/or prevent people from reaching their full human potential (Fisher et al. 2000). Violence can be deeply structured into the system of relationships, within socio-economic and political arrangements, and even in the culture of a society and of a global system. Therefore, systemic violence can in turn be a root causes of conflict, as well a behavioural response to a specific conflict situation.
Johan Galtung (1969), made a clear distinction between Structural Violence, Cultural Violence and Direct Violence. These ideas are connected to his distinction depending on how it operates between three inter-related forms of violence (Structural-Cultural-Direct) where Structural Violence is at the left end and Cultural Violence is at the right end of the base of a Triangle invisibly while Direct violence is on the vertex visibly.
According to Galtung’s Violence Triangle (1969), Cultural and Structural Violence cause Direct Violence. Direct Violence reinforces Structural and Cultural violence. Direct Violence, Physical and/or verbal, is visible as behaviour in the triangle. However, this action does not come out of nowhere; its roots are cultural and structural.
Direct violence can take many forms. In its classic form, it involves the use of physical force, like killing or torture, rape and sexual assault, and beatings. Further, we understand that verbal violence, like humiliation or put downs, is also becoming more widely recognised as violence. Johan Galtung, further, describes direct violence as the “avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs or life which makes it impossible or difficult for people to meet their needs or achieve their full potential. Threat to use force is also recognised as violence.”
Cultural violence is the prevailing attitudes and beliefs that we have been taught since childhood and that surround us in daily life about the power and necessity of violence. We can consider the example of telling of history which glorifies records and reports wars and military victories rather than people’s nonviolent agitation, movements, rebellions or the triumphs of connections and collaborations. Almost all cultures recognise that killing a person is murder, but killing tens, hundreds or thousands during a declared conflict is called ‘war’ or killing of innocent people by the security forces are often declared as caught in the crossfire.
Structural violence exists when some groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc are assumed to have, and in fact do have, more access to goods, resources, and opportunities than other groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc, and this unequal advantage is built into the very social, political and economic systems that govern societies, states and the world. These tendencies may be overt such as Apartheid or more subtle such as traditions or tendency to award some groups privileges over another. Constitutional privileges of Job reservations and financial supports in the name of the welfare of the “tribes or backwards” and non-uniform land law, which bans one group to own landed property in their own land while other groups are free to own landed property wherever they want are also examples of structural violence.
Theories of structural violence explore how political, economic and cultural structures result in the occurrence of avoidable violence, most commonly seen as the deprivation of basic human needs (will be discussed later). Structural theorists attempt to link personal suffering with political, social and cultural choices. Johan Galtung’s original definition included a lack of human agency; that is the violence is not a direct act of any decision or action made by a particular person but a result of an unequal distribution of resources.
Here, we must also understand “institutional violence”. “Institutional violence” is often mistaken for structural violence, but this is not the case. “Institutional violence” should be used to refer to violence perpetrated by institutions like companies, universities, corporations, organisations as opposed to individuals. The fact that women are paid less at an establishment than men is an act of direct violence by that specific establishment. It is true that there is a relationship with structural violence as there is between interpersonal violence and structural violence. And Structural violence is the most problematic area to be addressed for conflict transformation. – Understanding Violence Triangle And Structural Violence
“We know that many conflicts, which seemed resolved, recur once again over time. It is because the conflict was not really resolved and addressed the roots of the conflict. There are also many situations, which have been described as peaceful, and become violent once again and protracted. This is also because the conflict was not transformed by addressing the systemic failures and structural violence to guarantee compatible relations between the parties. Moreover, the kind of peace established was negative peace and positive peace was not built by meeting the needs even though interests of the parties are fulfilled. Positive peace can only be built by meeting Basic Human Needs. There are many intractable and protracted conflicts, which occur as basic human needs are not met.
Humans need a number of essentials to survive. According to the renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow (1954) and the conflict scholar John Burton (1990), these essentials go beyond just food, water, and shelter. They include both physical and non-physical elements needed for human growth and development, as well as all those things humans are innately driven to attain.
For Maslow, needs are hierarchical in nature. That is, each need has a specific ranking or order of obtainment. Maslow’s needs pyramid starts with the basic items of food, water, and shelter. These are followed by the need for safety and security, then belonging or love, self-esteem, and finally, personal fulfillment. Burton and other needs theorists who have adopted Maslow’s ideas to conflict theory, however, perceive human needs in a different way — as an emergent collection of human development essentials. Furthermore, they contend needs do not have a hierarchical order. Rather, needs are sought simultaneously in an intense and relentless manner. Needs theorists’ list of human essentials include: Safety/Security – the need for structure, predictability, stability, and freedom from fear and anxiety; Belongingness/Love – the need to be accepted by others and to have strong personal ties with one’s family, friends, and identity groups; Self-esteem – the need to be recognized by oneself and others as strong, competent, and capable. It also includes the need to know that one has some effect on her/his environment; Personal fulfillment – the need to reach one’s potential in all areas of life; Identity – goes beyond a psychological “sense of self.” Burton and other human needs theorists define identity as a sense of self in relation to the outside world. Identity becomes a problem when one’s identity is not recognized as legitimate, or when it is considered inferior or is threatened by others with different identifications; Cultural security – is related to identity, the need for recognition of one’s language, traditions, religion, cultural values, ideas, and concepts; Freedom – is the condition of having no physical, political, or civil restraints; having the capacity to exercise choice in all aspects of one’s life; Distributive justice – is the need for the fair allocation of resources among all members of a community; Participation – is the need to be able to actively partake in and influence civil society.
According to Johan Galtung (1969) one of the pioneers of Basic Human Needs Approach and who established the distinction between Negative Peace and Positive Peace, the basic human needs are categorized as – Survival, Well-being, Identity and Freedom. In other words, human needs to survive. With survival, human naturally needs to live with well-being. Human naturally needs identity to live with dignity. If a human cannot have his/her respectable identity, his existence is in question. Over and above these, the most critical is the freedom to determine how to survive, how can be well-being; and which identity to be embraced.
Why the Concept of Human Needs Matters?
John Burton, pioneer of human needs theorist and others argue that one of the primary causes of protracted or intractable conflict is people’s unyielding drive to meet their unmet needs on the individual, group, and societal level. For example, many conflict and peace theorists and practitioners agree that the Palestinian conflict involves the unmet needs of identity and security. Countless Palestinians feel that their legitimate identity is being denied them, both personally and nationally. Numerous Israelis feel that they have no security individually because of suicide bombings, nationally because their state is not recognized by many of their close neighbours. Israeli and Palestinian unmet needs directly and deeply affect all the other issues associated with this conflict. Consequently, if a resolution is to be found, the needs of Palestinian identity and Israeli security must be addressed and satisfied on all levels.
Human needs theorists further offer a new dimension to conflict theory. This approach provides an important conceptual tool that not only connects and addresses human needs on all levels. Furthermore, it recognises the existence of negotiable and non-negotiable issues. That is, needs theorists understand that needs, unlike interests, cannot be traded, suppressed, or bargained for. Basic human needs are uncompromisable and indivisible. Thus, the human needs approach makes a case for turning away from traditional negotiation models that do not take into account nonnegotiable issues. These include interest-based negotiation models that view conflict in terms of win-win or other consensus-based solutions, and conventional power models (primarily used in the field of negotiation and international relations) that construct conflict and conflict management in terms of factual and zero-sum game perspectives.
The human needs approach, on the other hand, supports collaborative and multifaceted problem-solving models and related techniques, such as problem-solving workshops or an analytical problem-solving process. These models take into account the complexity of human life and the insistent nature of human needs. Problem-solving approaches also analyse the fundamental sources of conflict, while maintaining a focus on fulfilling peoples’ unmet needs. In addition, they involve the interested parties in finding and developing acceptable ways to meet the needs of all concerned.
Human needs theorists further understand that although needs cannot be compromised, they can be addressed in a generally win-win or positive-sum way. An example of this win-win or positive sum process can be gleaned from the Kosovo conflict. When the Albanians obtained protective security, the Serbs also gained this protection, so both sides gained.
Nevertheless, most scholars and practitioners agree that issues of identity, security, and recognition, are critical in many or even most intractable conflicts. They may not be the only issue, but they are one of the important issues that must be dealt with if an intractable conflict is to be transformed. Ignoring the underlying needs and just negotiating the interests may at times lead to a short-term settlement, but it rarely will lead to long-term resolution. If basic human needs are not met, there cannot be positive peace. If basic human needs are denied, it is certain to use any means – violent or non-violent – available to them to meet their basic needs.” – Basic Human Needs Approach For Positive Peace
(Please see: The Universal Human Life Necessities: The Life Ground of Economics and Human Rights Defined by Professor John McMurtry that goes further than Maslow and Burton in connecting human needs to human rights.)
At this point in time, we now need to address the root cause of this structural and cultural violence, by delving into deep psychology to discern the principalities of darkness responsible for the dire predicament we are in. This is absolutely necessary for us to do collectively if we are to bring to light that which has been hidden in the shadows over the years. It is only by identifying and bringing to individual and collective awareness the cancer of the psyche within would we be able to win the war within and keep the peace both within and without.
In his paper entitled CRAFTING PEACE: ON THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE TRANSCEND APPROACH, Johan Galtung divides the field of psychology into four quadrants:
He explains: “At the conscious level there is awareness or easy retrieval, a test being ability to verbalize. At the subconscious level there is no awareness, retrieval is difficult/painful, and not possible under normal circumstances. Professional help may be needed to construct a map of the subconscious from manifest indicators.”
Professor John McMurtry has already highlighted the manifest indicators of this global cancer system and it appears to be linked to subconscious processes of deep cognition and deep emotions hiding in the shadows that have been repressed and projected onto the world stage.
Johan Galtung brings it all together by singling out a single global actor and connecting the dots of the pathologies within to the pathologies without in his article entitled Global Projections of Deep-Rooted U.S. Pathologies. This is summarized in the table below which has been reproduced from the article and is worthy of further reflection.
“This program or code has a name: patriotism. At the individual level it is usually known as narcissism/paranoia and machismo.
A genealogy has been indicated for the 21 constituent archetypes, starting with timeless mechanisms of repression and projection. As peace is conceived of as a virtue, and violence as a vice, the latter is denied in Self and the former in Other. With the priorities reversed RP mechanisms would also have been reversed; with yin/yang perspectives realism might prevail. The mechanisms serve to organize the universe, and will work with extra ease if that universe is already seen as Self/Other dualist (dichotomous and manichean) settings for repression/projection.”
Unless we come face to face and heart to heart with the demons within and be able to verbalise that which is repressed within and projected onto others without, the vicious cycle of life-destruction, cultural and structural violence and unhealthy life choices and unhealthy environmental exposures will persist. There is so much at stake so as not to be complacent and not make this a collective effort of collective enlightenment as opposed to collective endarkenment. Unless we reset and rebase our cosmology on integral and fully life coherent principles and effect the greatest turning from our collective suicide pact with the principalities of endarkenment, we would end up destroying ourselves and all that is worthwhile living.
It is now time to embrace the paradigm shift of the mind initiated by Prof John McMurtry and kindred life-minded spirits like Johan Galtung to one that eradicates the cancerous invasion at its core and immunizes us against its relapse now protected by life-value principles.
In this post-truth, alternative facts, fake news era, let not truth, wisdom and social justice be in short supply. A reinterpretation of the scriptures based on principles that value life can guide us to produce, distribute and consume them in abundance:
“For our struggle is not against each other (99%), but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world (1%) and against the principalities of the cancerous mindset…Stand firm then, with the belt of the Way, the Truth and the Life buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of social justice in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of life and peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith in life’s wisdom, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of life destruction.”
Go in peace to live and serve each other.
May Godspeed be with us.