Sunday, July 28, 2013


Johan Galtung’s view from Europe: Applications of Ahimsa-Nonviolence in Daily Life

Applications of Ahimsa-Nonviolence in Daily Life

29 July 2013

by Johan Galtung, 29 Jul 2013 – TRANSCEND Media Service

The TRANSCEND-Peace Development Environment Network started with geopolitical macro and mega conflicts; many well known and dramatic.  But conflicts in daily life, at school, in couples-family, at work may be even more dramatic; at the micro level within the persons involved, between them, in the context, and at the meso level of social groups.

Macro and mega, between states and regions, nations and civilizations, may also matter, like micro personal and meso social conflicts matter for macro and mega conflicts within and between negotiators-mediators.  Any act of violence, like bullying at school, quarrels in the family or at work may actually not express hostility toward the victim but be directed toward the “system”.  A feeling of being trapped in general may be expressed as violence at school, in a couple-family, at work.

But higher levels generally prefer a lower level focus; not on them and the level they represent, but at the bully or the quarrelsome person.  Psychologists may be mobilized to handle “the difficult person” when seen more deeply what is at stake is a highly problematic system.

For a nonviolent handling we have to have all levels in mind, and that is the essence of our SABONA project, TRANSCEND in daily life.  The word means in Zulu: “I see you”, I take you in, all of you, all levels!

I present here a table with three columns for the three types of “daily life”, and ten levels for theory and practice. Lack of adequate analysis leads to single-level reductionism and interventions at the wrong, usually meaning lower, levels.

For therapy sensitivity to intra-column multi-level conflicts is indispensable, not only focusing on perpetrator or victim and their narratives, but also on relations, contexts, structures and cultures in which they are embedded.  Sensitivity to inter-column transfers of conflict energy is also needed, as frustrations in one may easily come out as aggression in the other.

1 Micro, within Bully Perpetrator Trouble-maker
2 Micro,within Bullee Victim Competitor
3 Micro, between Bully-Bullee Relation Competition
4 Meso, context Bully-Bullee Perpetrator-Victim Troublemaker-competitor
5 Meso, setting Class-teacher Marriage-Family Section
6 Meso, super School-rector Kin Compan
7 Macro, meta-setting School-system ministry Marriage-Family system Economic system
8 Macro, society, structure vertical horizontal patriarchy parentarchy vs parity vertical vs horizonta
9 Macro, society, culture individual-ist vs collectivist individual-ist vs collectivist individual-ist vs collectivist
10 Mega civilizations Modern vs traditional Modern vs traditional Modern vs traditional

Difficult?  Yes, but knowledge helps.  Thus, sitting down with perpetrator and victim, one at a time, asking questions beyond their relations to each other, may already be half the therapy.

Incidentally, it also takes some of the brunt of the verbal or physical violence: there as more to it than just the two of us.  A worker-manager relation may have gone very sour; it helps to ask both what could be done with workplace organization.  Maybe a change from company toward cooperative may help?  Thus, there are structures that are problematic regardless of the concrete persons who enact the various roles.

And vice versa: there are persons who are problematic regardless of the structure in which they are embedded.  We may have to search in micro and meso contexts like the Freudian focus on the childhood.  Not forgetting the Jungian focus on the role of civilizations–.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He is author of over 150 books on peace and related issues, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

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