The Costs of Violence, the Benefits of Peace: Building Cultures and Structures of Peace in a World of Fear and Violence
Professor Kevin Clements
Lincoln Efford Memorial Lecture
(Thursday 20 November, WEA Christchurch)
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā hau e wha. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. It gives me very great pleasure to be back here in Christchurch and to see so many old friends again. I feel as if I have come back to a much loved home. I have to say, however, that I am saddened by the fact that there are so many people who continue to be traumatised by the earthquake. I was talking with Kate Dewes and Rob Green today. If their story is exemplary then there are so many tales of woe afflicting the city still. So I want to express my solidarity with all of you as you struggle to overcome that terrible calamity and repair all the damage. I also want to thank Margie and John from the WEA for inviting me here. Coming back into this room is a bit nostalgic for me as we offered many courses to the WEA when I was a member of the Canterbury University Sociology Department. So it’s nice to be back here and to see that the room and the WEA are both still standing unscathed by the earthquake.
I felt deeply humbled, just now, when I heard Brent’s biography of Lincoln. In 54 years Lincoln Efford managed to cram in more than I feel I have managed to cram in to my 68. So I feel as though I am standing in the shoes of someone who made a major, contribution to the life of this town and to the egalitarian sentiments of New Zealand. Lincoln had multiple identities as a rationalist, a socialist, a pacifist and a humanist.Each one of those identities are reflected in the values that lie at the heart of my talk. We need rationalists to make sure we have cool heads when we are understanding the calamitous world that we live in. We need pacifists to remind us that peace is the only option for the 21st century. There is no room for violence in a shrinking world.If policy makers are keen on proposing war and coercive diplomacy to challenging dilemmas it is vital that they are challenged by others who are committed to non violent alternatives. It’s absolutely critical, also, that we adhere to that socialist tradition because one of the things that we have discovered in our peace and conflict studies, as is demonstrated in sociology 101, is that just and equal societies are more harmonious than unjust and unequal ones. Despite the fact that economists keep telling us that the inequalities of the 80s and 90s ushered in by Roger Douglas and his henchmen have stabilized and are not getting worse. I still yearn for the egalitarianism of the 1950s and 1960s which I grew up with. At this time we had free college education for everybody, free university for everybody and free healthcare as well. Finally it’s really important that we adhere to Lincoln’s humanist tradition as well because the promotion of a common humanity is the best basis for a stable and peaceful world in the 21st century.
I want to begin by taking us back 100 years ago to the beginning of the First World War. This was the first example of industrial scale slaughter the world had ever seen. As you know, Kaiser Wilhelm said to the German troops that went off on the first trains that left Berlin, ‘You’ll be back before the leaves of autumn have fallen.” Prime Minister Asquith said something similar to the British troops that went off to Europe. “You’ll be back before Christmas.” Most of those men and women who went off in the first few days of August never came back. 11 million troops were killed. I can remember seeing some of the First World war casualties in 1950s New Zealand. My education began when my father said of some of his parishioners that “ They had been gassed, you know, in the First World War.” On any criteria the First World War was one of appalling slaughter.
How do we begin the business of understanding the cost of that war in terms of human and physical destruction, lost industrial and agricultural production and the depth and scale of the barbarity that took place? Twentieth century violence is continuing with even more ferocity into the twenty-first century . One of my colleagues and mentors, Ken Boulding, didn’t live to see the 21st century but he hoped that the 21st century would be a century of maturity, when the world would finally grow up and it would get through the late adolescence of the 20th century and finally emerge in mature adulthood . The statistics don’t give us much grounds for hope. Conservative estimates put the total numbers of people killed in Syria in the last 3 years at 161,000 people. These are the ones we know about. 607,000 people were killed directly in Iraq. But over a million people were killed indirectly in Iraq as a result of the war and that number is rising. 2,160 Palestinians and 64 Israelis were killed in Gaza just 2 months ago. 1.5 million people have been killed in the Congo over the past 10 years and South Sudan is on the edge of a civil war that will be devastating in it’s consequences. So we haven’t learned from that First World War. The war to end all wars did not result in the ending of war, and organized or spontaneous violence remain major challenges to us as human beings and as good global citizens.
This is a photograph from just two months ago. How do you calculate the cost, the traumatic effect of losing your child as this family did in Gaza? It was a turkey shoot. We have a Palestinian student at the Centre whose sister lives in Gaza. Our students was up all night for two months agonizing about her sister and her family. Whatever the provocation might have been, from the Hamas side, the Israeli attacks were disproportionate and a reign of terror. The Palestinian people were terrified and traumatised. How do we begin to cost and calculate the impact of that particular trauma on Palestinian children? What is the constant state of war between Israel and Palestine doing to these children? If the Israeli bombing was aimed at engendering positive relationships between Israeli’s and Palestinians it had exactly the opposite effect. Violence begets violence and the psychological impacts of such violence is long lasting and negative. There’s something incalculable about all this suffering. How do we cost emotional and physical injury, suffering and grief? You know about all this in Christchurch at the moment. How do you cost the short, medium and long term consequences of natural and man made disasters? Many of the invisible consequences of disaster don’t figure in the insurance calculations. What’s the long term social psychological and economic impact of an earthquake? What’s the long term social psychological , economic and political impacts of war and violent conflict? How do we cost the systematic trans generational transfer of traumatic memories? How do we cost the loss of innocence? How do we cost emptiness, sorrow and desolation and how do we explain this violence?
I’ve got two lines of thought here. One is to focus on what I call the political economy of emotions, which is never captured in most cost/ benefit analysis. But it is important to try and place some monetary value on this though as the psychological and emotional costs of violence persist through time, they impede peaceful and just possibilities and they make it difficult for people to get on with their work and the business of living.
A week ago I was in China. The Chinese are grappling with the fact that Prime Minister Abe of Japan is trying to revise Sino Japan and Japan –Korea war history at the moment. He is, for example, trying to revisit and minimize the numbers killed and raped in Nanking during the war. He has hired some Japanese historians who claim the Nanking massacre didn’t happen and others who say that its importance has been magnified for propaganda purposes. Some of Abe’s supporters claim that only 110,000 people were raped and killed, as opposed to the 360,000 the Chinese estimate the number to be. Prime Minister Abe also wants to revisit and reinterpret the Japanese medical experimentation that took place as well. All of these Japanese efforts to reinterpret and revise history, however, send shock waves throughout China and Japan. Whenever the Japanese Government seeks to gloss over or reinterpret Japanese war history they reactivate the traumatic memories of millions of Chinese and Koreans. The Chinese that I spoke to produced for me what they call maps of humiliation. I’ve never seen a map of humiliation before. In this instance it is a Chinese map which shows the ways in which parts of their country were torn apart and expropriated during the old colonial period and during the Second World War.These maps are a cartographic reproduction of traumatic memory and history.The maps of humiliation are what is driving a lot of Chinese foreign policy at the moment.
I’ve been doing a dialogue recently with President Daisaku Ikeda . He is a Buddhist philosopher who said “Peace is a competition between despair and hope, between disempowerment and committed persistence. To the degree that powerlessness takes root in people’s consciousness, there is a greater tendency to resort to force. Powerlessness breeds violence”. (Photograph of ISIS beheading). Images like this and that poor guy who was killed just a couple of days ago, are carefully choreographed examples of brutality. You will notice that the person about to be beheaded is wearing orange, which is what the Americans at Guantanomo Bay dress their prisoners in. This is tit for tat revenge. The whole point of terrorist politics is to precipitate an enemy over-reaction, which will justify and widen the political and military struggle. When we see those photographs of beheadings, we have to ask ourselves, what is the revenge that is being wrought and by whom and what are the circumstances under which this happens? Imagine if you were a Gazan family and you experienced the kind of bombing that took place two months ago, wouldn’t you have a desire for revenge? This is exactly what’s happening here. Instead of trying to figure out whether there are any nonviolent options that might be applied to those committed to barbaric violence, the West in its infinite wisdom says let’s bomb them, let’s bomb Isis, let’s bomb those evil people. Photograph of US bomber. The West justifies a violent response to ISIS by demonizing and dehumanizing the opposition President Obama, for example, says that “Isis is a cancer that has to be eliminated”. That’s not very different from Rwandan Hutu’s saying that the Tutsi were cockroaches that need to be destroyed. So when you see division and polarization occurring and then demonization and enmification you know that the dynamics are conducive to vicious violence.When these things happen we’re no longer adhering to any humanist , socialist or pacifist principle, or any of the things that Lincoln Efford stood for. We bomb them. Ikeda said, “The real struggle of the 21st century will not be between civilizations, nor between religions. It will be between violence and nonviolence. It will be between barbarity and civilization in the truest sense of the word.” So violence is our problem. Direct violence of the sort that is afflicting the Middle East at the moment as well as the indirect violence of poverty, marginalisation and exclusion. As Gandhi says, “Poverty is the worst form of violence” ( see photo of Philippine slum). These children in the Philippines slum are not very much different from those who have just experienced the direct violence of Gaza. One of the responses to what we might think of as social precarity, economic vulnerability or acts of violence is the assertion of xenophobic nationalism. This is often a standard response to a perceived loss of national power, influence and prestige and feelings of social and economic vulnerability. It’s frightening to be in Japan at the moment, I have to say. I’m a Japanophile but the reality is that Japan at the moment is headed by a Prime Minister who is in thrall to ultra-right nationalists and members of highly criminalized elements in the Yakuza and elite echelons of Japanese society, His new motto is Japan First. In China Xi JinPing’s motto is China’s Dream. China’s Dream and Japan First are on a collision course in North East Asia at the moment. So that’s all by way of preamble!
I want to focus now on some work I’ve been doing with the Institute for Economics and Peace on the costs of violence. The work that these statistics are based on are arrived at from some very sophticated econometric analysis. I want to highlight some of material costs of trying to prevent and contain violence and war because the costs are astronomical. (See slide on the Costs of Violence) The Institute of Economics and Peace have demonstrated that the economic impact of violence in 2013 was US$9.8 trillion or 11.3% of Gross World Product. “Violence containment is defined as any economic activity that is related to the consequences of prevention of violence where the violence is directed against people or property.” What I’m trying to do here , therefore , is not only give you an ethical and humanistic rationale for peace, but also a material one. If we could reduce the costs of violence we would liberate the resources necessary for building sustainable peace The global cost of violence amounts to US1350 per person. That amount has gone up. Compared to the cost in 2012, it represents an increase of direct costs of US$179 billion or a 3.8 percent rise in violence containment costs globally last year and it’s expanding this year. The increase alone equated to 0.4 percent of global GDP and that’s equivalent to two times the total GDP of all of Africa. These are astronomical amounts of money that are being spent on violence containment. Violence containment also includes things like the extra security we are experiencing at the airports. Just to show you how we broke it down, military expenditure is at the top, followed by homicides especially in relation to Central America. Internal security, the costs that people pay for their own security and national security; violent crime, incarceration, losses from conflict, fear and terrorism, and all the UN peacekeeping etc, This was estimated $ US 4.908 trillion. Adding a peace multiplier the amount rose to 9.8 trillion. The Global Peace Index, ranks 174 countries and where they stand in terms of levels of peacefulness. What we are discovering in this index is that country location on the index is directly determined by levels of internal peacefulness. So the more we invest in ensuring that our societies are harmonious, collaborative, cooperative, and equal , the more likely it is that we are going to be able to claim a peaceful place in the world Global Peace Index.
In terms of the ten most peaceful countries – Iceland, Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Czech Republic, Sweden – there’s a certain similarity amongst them. Many of them are homogeneous, most of them are relatively small, but all of them are rather egalitarian. So there’s a strong commitment to building community, equality, and justice en route to peacefulness. Conversely, the ten most unpeaceful countries– Russian, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria are grossly unequal, none of them have any real commitment to justice and peacefulness. They have highly disparate and heterogeneous populations and there are high levels of horizontal and vertical inequality. Most of them have been profoundly affected by colonial legacies. Another indicator of an unpeaceful dynamic are weapons imports and exports. These are beginning to take off again. There is a lot of regional arms racing around the world. Terrorist activity is on the increase; there were 18000 extra deaths this year from terrorism, which brings the total to something like 52,000 deaths globally from terrorism. But those deaths, I have to say, are located in five countries. They are not going to affect New Zealand all that much. If you take Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq out of the equation then these numbers of terrorist incidents drop. Very dramatically. Levels of organized conflict are increasing as are perceptions of criminality . The only area where there has been some improvement is in relation to nuclear and heavy weapons, and armed service personnel but that’s mainly in Western Europe where countries are cutting back on the military because they can’t balance their budgets. If you look at the Weapons Import Change I want to focus on this a bit because it highlights something about the direction of violence in the world. If you are positioning yourself in Europe, between 2008 and 2014,what’s happening is that the instruments of violence are moving south and east. So Russia and Eurasia have increased their weapons imports by 136%, South Asia by 92%, South America by 63%, Sub-Saharan Africa by 43%, Central America and the Caribbean by 36%, Middle East and North Africa by 21%. Asia Pacific is 11% now and growing but the figures for 2014 show that it’s highly probable that the Asia Pacific arms race will jump to something like 14% this year. Most of this military expenditure is being driven by aircraft transfers which will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the global sources of violence .. If you look at the 10 countries with the biggest expenditures on violence the United States continues to lead the pack. The most powerful nation in the world accounts for 1.6 trillion dollars military and security expenditure. As Madeleine Albright noted, recently, the Pentagon spend the entire annual cost of the United Nation’s budget in one day’s expenditure! US defence expenditure is seven times greater than nine other countries combined. It’s followed by China, so China is expanding its military. And then Russia, India, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, UK, Japan and Saudi Arabia. These countries are spending this much on violence either because they feel insecure and vulnerable or because they have big power desires to be able to engage in coercive diplomacy when and as it seems appropriate to do so.
In any event, there is no evidence whatsoever that any of this military expenditure adds to either national, regional or global security. On the contrary there is plenty of evidence that this sort of expenditure generates the security dilemmas that these nations claim they are trying to avoid. I ran these figures on the Cost of Violence Containment as a percentage of total Health Care to give some sense of national spending priorities. In this calculation, Japan actually does quite well. It only spends 17% of what it spends on self-defence and violence containment as opposed to what it spends on health care. If you go up to the UK you can probably say that the balances are about right. But then the US spends 61% more on violence containment than it does on health care, China 114% more, Russia 191% more than it spends on health care, Mexico 231% and Saudi Arabia tops the pops. It spends 390% more on military expenditure than it does on health. Saudi Arabian military expenditure is probably the least effective in the world. They have plenty of high tech state of the art military equipment but lack solid military organization and have little of no fighting capacity. This expenditure is largely symbolic. The Saudi’s spend on state of the art military technology because they can not because they have ever used it in war. In any case these figures give you some sense of the national priorities of the biggest spenders on violence.
So what would happen if we could make the world more peaceful and politicians were persuaded to spend less on the military and more on health, education and welfare.? The Global Monetary Value of Peace. If you could assume that the world were 25% less violent, the total additional redirected economic activity last year would equal 2.45 trillion dollars. This would fund all of the millennium development goals of 60 billion US, all of the EUs climate change programme of 48 billion euros, it would fund the entire cost of the United Nations of 5,152 billion and it would repay Greece, Portugal and Ireland’s debt of 700 billion and leave a trillion dollars remaining. So there’s an economic argument for peace. The lost opportunity costs are astronomical, literally astronomical. These are trillions; I can’t even get my head around a trillion. These are trillions of dollars. If you just reduce the cost of violence or our fear of violence then these are the kind of resources that you could liberate. The challenge is, as always, to make sure that these resources go into promoting social good, building communities and making sure health ,welfare and educational institutions are the beneficiaries. You don’t want to save those funds and have them go back into military research and development.
So the challenge is, how do we, the people’s of the world, get our political leaders to realize that violence has costs in both material and human emotional terms, and that lowering the cost of violence would liberate funds huge funds for positive peace. What’s interesting, hearing Brent talking about Lincoln, is that nothing much has changed since the Second World War. How do we generate a vision of the world where positive peace, social justice and inclusion guides our social, economic and political agendas and why are we going in the opposite direction? Why, for example, are we dismantling our Housing Corporation when there’s such a profound need for housing in New Zealand? Why aren’t we spending more on health care in order to make sure that the Dunedin Hospital Board, for example, can repair the hospital so that surgeons don’t have to operate in leaky operating theatres? Why are we not directing more resources to those very basic things? Not that New Zealand has spent all that much on defence, although I’m sure that John Key would like us to spend a little more. So how do we do this?
There are a number of challenges that we have to face. How do we avoid extremism at home and abroad? How do we boost political accountability everywhere and how do we build robust regional and multilateral institutions that are capable of generating positive sustainable development and stable peace? How do we avoid the extremes. The first way is by practicing national hospitality instead of national fear. Nationalism is reasserting itself all over the world right now. In Western Europe there are all sorts of xenophobic nationalist parties who believe that all of their national problems are caused by outsiders, e.g Polish immigrants to the UK, Sudanese or Somalian refugees in Sweden, Moroccans in France..
How do we escape what some think of as creeping incremental Fascism? If you look at what Prime Minister Abe’s doing in Japan, it’s very challenging stuff. He is wanting to build on the Zaibatsu, the main corporations to reinstate military research and development as the major focus for kick-starting the Japanese economy. He’s quietly rebuilding the military. Three days after reinterpreting the Japanese constitution, he went to Australia and signed a deal with Abbott to build all of Australia’s new submarines fleet. So once he’s built those submarines, what is he going to do with the yards that are now capable of making submarines? And then he’s negotiating deals with General Electric. On top of that, he’s developed a national security agency and secrecy laws, which prohibit whistle blowing on any item that the Japanese government considers to be of national security importance. This is creeping fascism. There is no need to be alarmist about this, It doesn’t mean that we are going to have jackboots in Japan but it is incremental creeping corporatist fascism. How do we ensure that militarism doesn’t reassert itself? Even in China which you could argue is just modernizing its military, there’s a very profound desire to win what they call the informationalization challenge of modern warfare. Chinese peacekeeping troops now in the Sudan are wearing all kinds of goggles and sensor equipment.This technology enables military leaders in Peking to know exactly what the soldiers are doing on the ground in real time. War is becoming extremely automated; it’s becoming extremely frightening. So how do we avoid militarism? How do we avoid totalitarianism and dominatory cultures? These are the challenges. Where we see institutions emerging which highlight hierarchy and power and privilege, then we need to challenge those as part of our building peace.
How do we ensure that our leaders have high levels of political accountability in relation to issues of war, peace and justice? I was away when John Key made his wishy-washy statement on ISIS but I gather he more or less said, we are with the coalition and we will send military advisors to Iraq. If the advisors get killed would we send replacements? What is the point of sending a small number of good New Zealand military advisors to advise such a corrupt and ineffectual military? How do we in New Zealand seek a logical rationale for such deployment and how do we ensure high levels of accountability for these decisions when they go wrong as this one inevitably will.?
Finally, how do we build and sustain international institutions capable of building peace and maintaining peace? How do we revive interest in the United Nations? Good news, Helen Clark is campaigning for Secretary General . If she is successful she would be a good person to revive a deeper sense of active internationalism. In order to do any of these things there is a need for a value change. The first thing is that we need to have a robust sense of our own identity and self-esteem. You build peace from positions of tranquility and contentment with your own identity or more accurately multiple identities. How do we do that in this global world? How do we ensure a robust sense of self while celebrating a common humanity? Second, how do we develop empathetic consciousness? It doesn’t take a big feat of empathy to realize that the Chinese are responding to Japan from a deep sense of woundedness as a result of the Second World War. This has to be addressed if there is to be any positive relationship between both countries. But we also have to develop some empathetic consciousness with those that might wish to harm us as well. It’s hard to be empathetic with the thuggish behavior of the representatives of the Islamic State, but even here, how do we take the time to understand those that are not willing to understand others? How do we tolerate the intolerant? Third we need to reactivate a commitment to social justice and equity because at the heart of peace building anywhere there is a commitment to fairness and a commitment to justice. This flows from a radical respect for difference and diversity but it must be accompanied by a strong commitment to ensuring that no one is excluded from the benefits of the economy or polity. Wherever there is exclusion and marginalization there is unpeacefulness. So we will only generate peaceful conditions with an active concern for equality, and a commitment to sustainable development and respect for the environment?
I’m wonderfully surprised to see this room full of people to hear a talk on peace. How can we activate and empower ourselves so that peace becomes an active item on the national agenda again? Its not OK to rest on our anti-nuclear laurels as we quietly rebuild a military alliance with the USA. How do we ensure that we are really operating out of relationships of love and attention to others? Taking the time to really understand what others need and working where we can to satisfy those needs for recognition, security and welfare. How do we do this courageously and hopefully? These are the big challenges I think that lie at the heart of building a culture of peace to replace the culture of violence.
And in all of this it seems to me we have to overcome the politics of fear. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, Frank Furedi in ‘The Politics of Fear’ says, “the right have forgotten the past they wish to conserve and the left have forgotten the future they wish to realize”. And when you’re caught in that position, you’re caught in an infantilizing paralyzing present where your politicians act like Mummy and Daddy and say we’ve got fears for you even if you are feeling confident and hopeful. So how do we make sure that our politicians don’t keep on pampering to our fear and focus on our strengths and resilience instead? Fear is the worst possible motivation for a just and peaceful and tranquil society.
In an interdependent world we can no longer afford to have what I call narrow circles of compassion. This means that we must extend our boundaries of compassion. We can’t just rest on our laurels . We must make sure that we are good international citizens, that we use our seat on the United Nations Security Council to do something positive, something innovative and something that will bring credit to a small state in the South West Pacific. And we need to care for others, whether they wish to harm us or not. We need to accord them dignity and build our security in compassionate relationships, both at the interpersonal and transnational levels. John Paul Lederach has this notion of living in webs of interdependence with those who might wish to harm us. If you think about Christchurch, what is your actual orientation to Black Power gangs? How much connection do you have with them, or would you rather they didn’t exist How do we take account of all of the people in networks of relationships, including those who might wish to harm us? I was shocked hearing people saying the only way to deal with ISIS brutality was to to kill them. If we kill the barbarous, we are being equally barbarous. So how do we develop relationships with those who might wish to harm us or kill us that might have some transformative capacity and potential?
Instead of basing our decisions on pessimistic scenarios, I think we need to replace those with optimism and trust and seek our security cooperatively rather than nationalistically. So I said at the beginning peace and nonviolence are imperatives; they are not optional extras. If we are to avoid the military carnage of the 20th century, we’ve got no alternative but to reiterate the central importance of peace and nonviolence as prerequisites for sustainable, resilient and equitable development. We have to oppose domination wherever we see it at all levels – micro, macro, meso and meta levels. This is because one of the other things that we are discovering is that in addition to injustice, that sense of being in powerless hierarchies generates all kinds of frustrations and aggression, whether it’s a masculinist hierarchy or a religious hierarchy – whatever it might be, wherever we see hierarchies which are exclusive and which are marginalizing, they need to be opposed. Those are critical to a more just and peaceful world. So we need courage to take to first step towards removing violence. We need courage for a new beginning and there’s a wonderful poem by John O’Donahue who I love a lot. He says: In out of the way places of the heart Where your thoughts never think to wander This beginning has been quietly forming Waiting until you were ready to emerge. For a long time it has watched your desire Feeling the emptiness grow inside you Noticing how you willed yourself on Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. It watched you play with the seduction of safety And the grey promises that sameness whispered Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent Wondered would you always live like this. Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream A path of plenitude opening before you. Though your destination is not clear You can trust the promise of this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is one with your life’s desire. Awaken your spirit to adventure Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk Soon you will be home in a new rhythm For your soul senses the world that awaits you. That’s the challenge that all of face as we try to roll back the military world, the violent world, the world of barbarity, the world of brutality, the world of poverty. We need to open ourselves to new beginnings and to turn these challenges into opportunities for all of us, so the kind of vision that guided Lincoln Efford in his short life, might guide us in our longer ones. Thank you very much.