August 16, 2007

Everything old is new again: peace studies and the “new reality”

David Thompson, on False Consciousness and the modern “peace studies” movement led by Norwegian Marxist and professor Johann Galtung:

Galtung is the founder of the “peace university”, Transcend, which stresses “a new reality” in conflict resolution and reporting – one based largely on “recognising the validity of the other” and avoiding descriptive terms like “barbarous” and “terrorist”. How that “new reality” would address the actual realities of jihadist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah isn’t entirely clear; but it appears to involve squinting and delusion, along with the flattening of moral values, including basics like who did what to whom, or wishes to, and disdaining Western preferences as by default wicked and “self-righteous”, while excusing or ignoring the vividly self-righteous ambitions of the jihadist movements themselves and their ideological cheerleaders.

Interviewed for Australia’s The World Today, Galtung offered a reassuring, even whimsical, view of Islamic theocracy: “The basic point in democracy is that a rule is by the consent of the people, and in the Islamic world that consent is very much in terms of to what extent Islamic values are being enacted.” Again, it isn’t clear how this rosy formulation addresses the preferences and liberties of, say, women, non-Muslims or gay people, whose relationship with orthodox Islamic values and the politics of the mosque may be somewhat less congenial.

Of course, this “new reality” that Galtung pushes is, as an intellectual exercise, at least, hardly new. In fact, its effects can be seen everywhere, from academic historiography to the work of an advocacy media orthodoxy that has internalized the call to forge such “new realities” by creating, as drafts of history, narratives that are concerned more with capturing “larger truths” (of the media’s own determination) than they are at describing occurrences or stringing together something so pedestrian as “facts.”

Too, Galtung’s “new reality” is nothing more than Said’s Orientalism directed toward “conflict resolution,” with the “resolution” always favoring a type of “tolerance” that amounts to deifying cultural and moral relativism — and a decidedly skewed relativism at that: descriptive phrases that would tend toward judgment, when they come from within the dominant western Enlightenment paradigm, must be avoided, the argument goes, so that the Other is not demonized based on cultural norms he is under no obligation to abide. After all, how can one recognize the “validity” of the Other if one is predisposed to categorizing his behaviors in (arbitrary) moral terms — rather than in terms that are context-specific (which is simply another way of saying specific to a given culture — followers of which, it follows, are the only ones with the requisite rhetorical authority and “authenticity” to pass judgment on themselves)?

Regular readers have met this formulation before, of course, given that it lies at the very heart of multicultural dogma — the long-term design of which is to de-stabilize universals and create meaning that is answerable only to consensus. Which, though it is often packaged and sold as empowering (for instance, in interpretive studies, where the author’s intent is no longer a controlling factor, and instead “the people” — or interpretive community — are granted final dominion over individual intellectual property), is, in fact, akin to precisely that idea of “democracy” that our founders rejected, recognizing that such a system must necessarily lead to mob rule.

From the perspective of interpretation theory, the mob rule analogue is the “interpretive community” that is granted the power to assign meaning — with a willingness to agree to adopt a particular meaning in the greatest numbers all that is required for codification: with no common ground from which to “judge” meaning (in the absence of concerns over authorial intent, meaning is transferred to those whose own intentions paramount), meaning itself is simply a matter of aggression and will. And this is precisely what we see in the cultural analogue of the mob rule paradigm, where “democratization” is deployed as a euphemism for a consensus-driven (and so potentially politically expedient) view of values and morality.

None of which is very “new,” at all.

Also not new is the attempt to enforce such a paradigm of relativism (which, ironically, is the precursor not to universal “tolerance” but to power-driven totalitarianism) by insisting that those dominant cultures who value “values” or who embrace universals, surrender them in favor of the “new reality” in which the universals of “the Other” are to be (again, ironically) validated as a matter of course.

Or, to put it more simply: who are we to judge that the Other routinely judges? — a formulation that boldly an unabashedly wears its central incoherence (that we must agree to our own cultural invalidation in order to “validate” the Other) as a badge of virtue.

And this is what David is getting at when he writes that the “new reality” being pushed by Gatlung “appears to involve squinting and delusion, along with the flattening of moral values, including basics like who did what to whom, or wishes to, and disdaining Western preferences as by default wicked and “self-righteous”, while excusing or ignoring the vividly self-righteous ambitions of the jihadist movements themselves and their ideological cheerleaders.”

From my perspective, I don’t find anything at all accidental in such an ideological stance: the ability to destroy or marginalize universals; the ability to enforce “tolerance” of the kind that is, by western liberal standards, intolerant of free expression; and the ability to grant “the masses” final determination over “meaning” — all of these are carefully-considered philosophical maneuvers in the aid of an epistemology that is resolutely material, and so resolutely given over to power dynamics.

Which is why it not surprising to find “the masses” being “guided” toward specific narratives by those seeking political power and cultural control — even as they take great pains to sell their dupes on their own “independence of mind.”

“Fight the dominant paradigm” — when it becomes the rallying cry of those seeking to institute a new dominant paradigm — becomes its own sort of performative irony.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 11:55am
32 comments | Trackback

Comments (32)

  1. Yep. There’s them “lumps of meat” masses again. Damn good thing the Professor is around to tell tham what to think, huh?

    Old Marxists never die, they just smell that way.

    SB: ploughman certain
    giddyap, Dobbin!

  2. It never ceases to amaze me that, on the one hand, peace organizations like Galtung’s push the meme of understanding, reflection on another’s views while, on the other hand, instantly demonizing western ideals and nations due to their inherently imperialistic pursuit of filthy lucre. Can you imagine for one secoind this insulated poseur running anything resembling a government?

    When one dives deep in to the far left sea one is advised to bring a flashlight, ear plugs, and a 30 day supply of Dramamine.

  3. And beef jerky — though that holds true for just about any situation.

  4. Hey, you apparently didn’t get the memo about the word mob. Of course, you’re quoting the Fathersâ„¢, so maybe they’re the ones mistakenly confusing the “will of the people” with “the mob.” Stupid old white guys they all were.

  5. Perhaps we should think of it as positive discrimination for thugs, brutes and psychopaths. That, or a mixture of Marxist fantasy and narcissistic role-play. Writ large.

  6. Mmmmmmmmm… beef jerky……

  7. peace organizations like Galtung’s push the meme of understanding, reflection on another’s views

    Ever notice how these memes of understanding are always directed in the same direction? You never hear these clowns calling on the jihadis to be toleratant of the Jooooooooooooooos or other assorted infidels. Maybe because these peace studies folks know that the folks from the US of A will not behead them for calling for understanding, while the jihadis? Not so much.

  8. “It never ceases to amaze me that, on the one hand, peace organizations like Galtung’s push the meme of understanding, reflection on another’s views while, on the other hand, instantly demonizing western ideals and nations due to their inherently imperialistic pursuit of filthy lucre. Can you imagine for one secoind this insulated poseur running anything resembling a government?”

    Well, yeah, I can. Hillary ’08! Or, for the watered down, not quite done yet version, Obama.

  9. JD, exactly, my friend. Exactly. It is easy to expend energy on the West, as they know full well, they will be met with, at the worst, antipathy, and at the best acknowledgment/agreement. Not so with the jihadis. It’s been my experience that most of these people are simply cowards. Pick and choose pacifism.

  10. Conflict Resolution and Peace

    In this course Herr Professor will teach you to:

    say Allah so you don’t offend anybody while appearing Enlightened;

    give all your money to the dictator so he can starve you while appearing Enlightened;

    use the correct homophobe, Islamophobe, sexist, racist, environmental denier, xenophobe, class warfarist language to retain power which will emotionally blackmail the Other for disobeying the Enlightened.

    Cost for course: $20,000 per semester taught by some undergrad Herr Professor pees-on

  11. Do these “peace studies” folks recommend the same strategy in dealing with, say, the Klan or Aryan Brotherhood? Hmm?

  12. “Pick and choose pacifism.”

    Robert A. Heinlien pointed out that Einstein wrote that famous letter to President Roosevelt urging that America build the A-bomb.

    Other than that, he was a pacifist.

  13. Brother Squid, how good to see you!
    Can’t say the same. *punch*
    Ouch! Why did you do that?
    Don’t like pacifists. They piss me off. *punch*
    Ow! I think you just broke my nose!
    Quit yer whinin’ Makes me grumpy. Grumpy enough to do this. *punch*
    What causes such outbursts, Brother Squid? I’m certain that if we just talk to one another, we can reach an accord.
    Outbursts? You misunderstand. I’m simply a bully who likes to beat up on pacifist wimps. *punch*
    But that’s barbarous!
    Such labels are counterproductive, Galtung. You said so yourself. *punch*
    You really need to stop that, Squid. You’re starting to upset me.
    Calm down, professor. Violence never solved anything. *punch*
    Ow! No, I mean it. I don’t think I can put up with this abuse for much longer.
    But professor, surely it is wrong to strike back in anger. You must Transcend your anger, and allow me to do this *punch* indefinitely. It is your way.
    You are right, Brother Squid. I shall continue to reason with you until we reach an understanding.
    That’s too bad, Galtung. Because the only thing there is to understand is that I really like punching you. *punch*

  14. Can I still carry a big stick? Just asking?

  15. I wonder if any of those courses at Peace U will actually mention the word “Evil”…

  16. Pynchon’s influence sure permeates slowly. He first deified the “the mobility” (true derivation!) in MASON & DIXON, 10 years ago.

    Great artist. Lousy philosopher.

  17. Plus, mechanical ducks!

  18. Jeff-

    Was the “blockquote” supposed to end before “Again, it isn’t clear how this rosy formulation addresses…”?

  19. Do you think mechanical ducks would scare away that gaggle of Canadian geese that shit all over my lawn every morning?

  20. Not to mention The Big Cheese.

  21. Too bad we wasted Zarq. As guest speaker he’d be high demand, and the audience participation segment would have been quite exciting.

  22. Fletch —

    No, that’s just where Galtung ends and David Thompson begins.

  23. Galtung says “The basic point in democracy is that a rule is by the consent of the people.”

    Galtung evangelizes an extreme condition of relativism. Millions of Nordic Germans exterminated Jewish humans they perceived as inferior through such consent. Approximately 40 million well-educated, merchant-class, educators and property owning Chinese were equally regarded by the consent of the peasantry as not worthy of life and likewise exterminated. A supportive Soviet peasantry acknowledged Stalin’s paranoia and determined that tens of millions of educated Russians (along with inferior Georgians, Ukrainians, Latvians, Mongols, Uzbeks, and various other lesser peoples, not to mention those unthinkable persons who actually chose to be of less worth, such as the deviant gays and other human perversions) were likewise unnecessary and merited removal. Pol Pot only accounted for an approximate four million individuals who didn’t meet the criteria. History is ripe with self-important individuals who promise a complicit peasantry undelivered rewards in exchange for the removal of Galtung’s Invalids.

    Galtung’s rationale permits this construct and his kind write the Doctrine for the Church of the Extermination. They are the cause for genocide worldwide and rational persons should recognize his ideas for what they are. Humans need to recognize this diseased thinking for what it is if we are ever to evolve past the damaged rationalizing models of thought that brought nearly one hundred million lives to an unfortunate end in the 20th century.

  24. #

    Comment by ducktrapper on 8/16 @ 3:24 pm #

    Can I still carry a big stick? Just asking?

    Ooooo. And soft cushy shoes! Sos we can sneak up on em!

  25. …the Church of the Extermination.

    Good.

  26. They need to have campuses in Riyadh, Jeddah, Tehran, Waziristan, Gaza… you get the drift.

  27. The basic point in democracy is that a rule is by the consent of the people, and in the Islamic world that consent is very much in terms of to what extent Islamic values are being enacted.

    What does this mean? I mean, WTF does it really mean? Anything at all?

  28. “What does this mean? I mean, WTF does it really mean? Anything at all?”

    Translation: “In a Democracy the masses, including every manner of intellectually inferior group, decides the ultimate socialtal values/laws/norms, whereas in obviously superior Collectivistic Totalitarian systems, the ruling class determine right and wrong, and dispenses it downward to the poor underclasses.”

    – There are no substitive differences between Totalitarian systems, save some of the details of the devices they use to grab and maintain power. Thus Marxist Socialism, and Facist Socialism, are two faces of the same coin. That they are in direct compitition, is the reason the Cult leaders, a Stalin, or a Mao, or a Hitler, will hate the other, and inculcate those passions in the followers.

    – In periods when they are not in direct compitition, they will support each other and cheerlead. Something like you see going on today with the soft Marxist American Left, carrying the water for the IslamoFacists. They can do that because for the moment with the demise of the Soviet block, and steady Democratization of China, the Marxist cult is essentially powerless, so they will do and say anything that attacks the system of Totalitarianism’s common enemy, Democracy. In their imperious thinking Totalitarian despots actually admire the means each uses to achieve the ultimate goal of enslaving the masses. However they do not hesitate to deploy the plans and means for dispatching any and all opposition, particularly fellow totalitarians, who will be the first lined up and shot on revolution day.

    – Really very simple once you wade through all the double speak.

    – These systems are all the same, just elaborate lexicinal fairy tale constructs on the part of the intelligensia, trying to find some “angle” to attack what they see as weaknesses in the Western armor and shake up stable societies, because in a stable system nobody is ever going to willingly hand the whip to a nerd.

    TW: selfish archaisms ….of the worst kind…

  29. Also not new is the attempt to enforce such a paradigm of relativism (which, ironically, is the precursor not to universal “tolerance” but to power-driven totalitarianism) by insisting that those dominant cultures who value “values” or who embrace universals, surrender them in favor of the “new reality” in which the universals of “the Other” are to be (again, ironically) validated as a matter of course.

    [emphasis added]

    Compared to the practice of Marxism (Leninism) with its rigid moral standards, this assault upon Western liberty is new in its advocacy of enforced relativism as the instrument of radicalization of the masses. Even as classical morality had to be discarded to embrace any Marxist thought as viable in its beginnings, Marxism for the masses masked its inner evil and contradictions by declaring itself to be superior to all moralities that had come before Marxism. It imposed a new morality upon its victims, a morality with myriad discrete requirements for achievement of the great goal of the workers’ anarchic paradise. The use of moral relativism this openly as a rationale for peace, to make moral incertitude the means through which to radicalize the masses, is a new twist.

    Either it will work and prepare the masses for totalitarianism, as Jeff states, or it signals another step in the descent of Marxism into irrelevancy. Contemporary Marxism cannot cope with the demands of muscular Islamism, which offers adherents focused purpose imposed from an external authority (the Koran and the hoped-for caliphate). Marxism today, tarnished with failure, has no fiery utopians ready to engage internationalism with the vigor necessary to defeat Islamism. Therefore, Marxist adherents must collude with Islamism as a means of survival until a dialectical imperative emerges from the inevitable conflicts that Islam will generate from within itself; the priests of dialectic materialism will then manipulate events to move us toward Marxian salvation. At least I think that is the hope.

  30. I just saw #4. Monica Hesse single-handedly lowers the average IQ at the Washington Post a good ten points.

    I bet she doesn’t have many friends there.

  31. A Marxist is someone who throws a bunch of toddlers into a tiger’s cage, then when arrested, protests by saying “But it was such a beautiful animal!”

    A Socialist is someone who observes the above massacre, and figures that if maybe you throw the children in one at a time, or maybe one in each of the big cat’s cages, THIS time it will work out okay.

    IT NEVER WORKS! STOP THROWING THE DAMNED CHILDREN TO THE WILD ANIMALS, YOU FUCKTARDS!!!

  32. Yes,It never ceases to amaze me that!

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