Presentation in 600th Anniversary of the Kalmar Unionen,
23.05.1997 in “Kalmar - Capital of the North 1397”
VIOLENCE IS AN ENEMY WITH MANY FACES
- HOW TO DEFUSE THIS ENEMY? New Challenges to the Peace Movement towards 21. Century.
Around the Baltic Sea we have now quite another world than what it used to be for decades. The profound transformations which have taken place in Europe are particularly spectacular in this area. Here we experienced very concretely the contradictions of the former situation, and now we see the positive and negative trends in the new situation.
Now it appears as if the two opposing power blocks had also positive influences on each other, as long as they were ideological competitors. Both blocks were very concerned about their image and made strenuous efforts in order to show their best faces to each other and the rest of the world. This “beauty contest” kept the ugliest elements of both systems mutually in discipline - or hidden.
All countries in transition Now there is no balancing factor any more. The wild market forces no longer need to worry about their image and credibility. It is believed that they have the monopoly of the only workable system in the universe.
In the Nordic countries the values of democracy, solidarity, equality and justice are gradually eroded, albeit having been the corner stones of the whole Nordic welfare society. They have given way to deconstruction of the welfare system in the name of economic integration and competitiveness in foreign trade.
In the Baltic states and Russia the unabated market drive has replaced the socialist system and so far there are very few mechanisms to control its drawbacks.
These transformations are part of the economic globalization in the world. It implies intimidation of the political systems and transition of power to faceless economic structures all over. European economic integration is the process of implementing this transition at the European level, and not an effort to control it, as it is often claimed.
The issue at stake is power in the global economy. Which one of three rich blocks will be ruling, the NAFTA of North America, the EU in Europe or the APEC in South East Asia?
Now the issue is the economic war between these three power blocks and at the same time a world war by all rich industrial countries together against the rest of the world. In fact it is war against the poor, weak and disabled in all societies and against living nature.
The institutions of the UN system have warned of the consequences of the economic policies of multilateral banks, transnational companies and industrial states, but the warnings have not been heard. The globalization process proceeds towards more liberalization and free movement of capital and goods. The neo-liberal economic structures are gaining strength.
No arms race but market race Now there is no “arms race” but a “market race” instead, the rule of free competition in everything, not only in business. Instead of a balance of terror we have the terror of the markets, which forces everybody to compete with everybody. The so-called accountability by results is applied to everything, even in fields where it absolutely cannot fit, like hospitals, nurseries, schools and universities. Thus it is not too rough to speak about the “terror of money”.
It is obvious that in those circumstances the rich, strong and well-equipped will always win, become richer and stronger, and the small, weak and poor will become poorer and more exploited. The disparities between people and nations are growing, and structural violence is increasing.
The rules of competition and the glory of the winners are propagated with all means. All competitive sports serve this purpose by making heroes of those who are ready to win at any price - without any other merits whatsoever. They are glorified as heroes, although competition and winning always implies leaving somebody else behind, pressing another one down, manifesting the disgrace of the other. Competition is the square opposite to cooperation, solidarity, helpfulness, support and love.
In the mass media everyone who succeeds in making a lot of money, constructing magnificent edifices of any kind or performing anything “terrific”, will be celebrated and made famous, irrespective of his morals, conduct, or the purpose of the edifice!
Violence increasing The automatic result of uncontrolled market capitalism is the growth of structural violence, disparities, inequality and injustice in life and societies. It initiates disruptive behaviour by those who cannot win, who are condemned to fail, lose, and live in
uncertainty. Deterioration of culture and erosion of social structures will very likely start breeding violence, criminality and despair.
This is exactly what we have seen happening when poor countries are exposed to international trade competition and structural adjustment measures of the World Bank to the detriment of their people. This is part of the background in the situations of Somalia and Rwanda, recently in Congo, and there are others at the edge of catastrophe. The impact of globalization, policies of rich countries and global enterprises wreaks the worst damage in the most vulnerable countries and societies.
The arms race was threatening and frightening, keeping us all in fear. The market race, the pressure for competition and striving for competitiveness are comprehensively destructive, less frightening but very intrusive. They can easily make us slaves of the market, totally dependent on the one hand on labour markets and on the other hand on commodity market, helpless and powerless pawns in our own lives.
Violence has many faces and we should not shut our eyes to the grim and gloomy realities around us.
Violence against women - an issue of Peace Violence against women is a universal phenomenon, which has been with us since the beginning of times. It has ranged from the public and collective practice of raping women in wars to the private, intimate practice of violence within the family, including rape in the bed room. Yet it has been most efficiently silenced, excluded from all scientific and historical records.
The feminist peace movement has made connections between various forms of violence already from its beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In those years women’s peace movements articulated, in many ways and many situations, that they see little difference between one form of violence and another. They perceived a direct link between violence in the family, on the streets, rape and militarism, all of which stem from the same origin, the patriarchal culture, where competition and violence is built into the structure and nature of it.
In early 1980s feminist peace researchers like Betty Reardon, Elise Boulding, Robin Burns, Birgit Brock-Utne, Ellen Elster, Cynthia Enloe, Celina Garcia, Dorota Gierycz, Eva Nordland and many others made an impact on the women’s peace movement and peace research and brought new perspectives into discussion.
It was due to these women’s work that the new ideas found their way also into intergovernmental resolutions. The Forward-Looking Strategies for Advancement of Women, adopted unanimously in the third United Nations World Conference on Women in Nairobi 1985, is the very first UN document in which all UN member governments recognize the links between the use of violence at personal and international levels.
“The question of women and peace and the meaning of peace for women cannot be separated from the broader question of relationships between women and men in all spheres of life and family.” (Paragraph 257)
“Violence against women exists in various forms in everyday life in all societies. Women are beaten, mutilated, burned, sexually abused and raped. Such violence is a majorobstacle to the achievement of peace and other objectives of the (UN) decade (for Women).” (Paragraph 258, UN/FLS, 1985)
These paragraphs expand the perspective of peace to cover the whole of society and culture, not only relationships between states or conflicting parties within societies. This approach implies also that work for the elimination of violence against women is an important part of work for peace in general.
The attention given to violence against women has been expanding in the UN system ever since. By far the most important act so far is the adoption of theDeclaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in December 1993. The definition of what is meant by "violence against women" in this Declaration is very important and clarifying:
“Violence against women' means any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life."
This declaration transgresses right from the outset the threshold between ‘public’ and ‘private’, which until lately has been - and still is in many countries - the limit of the mandate of public laws.
Rape as a war crime
In 1992 the extreme atrocities in the former Yugoslavia brought rape also on to the agenda of the UN Security Council for the first time in UN history.
The Security Council was "appalled by reports of the massive, organized and systematic detention and rape of women, in particular Muslim women, in Bosnia and Herzegovina", and strongly condemned “these acts of unspeakable brutality".
In spring 1993 the Security Council also decided "to establish an international tribunal for prosecuting persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia". The mandate of this tribunal includes also the "massive, organized and systematic detention and rape of women".
These resolutions by the General Assembly and the Security Council are immensely important steps on the way to making violence against women officially visible. In fact
the Security Council has with this resolution also recognized rape as a war crime for the first time in history.
Still, these important UN resolutions are problematic in their approach. They name the victims, "women", but do not say who are the ones committing the violence against women and why.
Therefore big questions arise along with this progress in the elimination of violence against women: Will it ever be possible really to eliminate violence against women as long as male culture as such continues to be that violent as it is? As long as men among themselves consider beating each other an act of manliness, and consider aggressivity an admirable characteristic in the eyes of their fellow men? As long as war is still legitimized violence in the patriarchy?
Social pathology of male culture? However, in Nordic countries even these kinds of questions no longer remain only rhetorical ones, or to be taken as nasty remarks against men. They are already tackled seriously by men themselves.
The work dealing with violence among men, both conscientization and research, has taken place in Nordic countries already for some time, in Norway for around 20 years, in Sweden somewhat later and in Finland even later.
In January 1997 the Swedish Ministry of Labour held in Stockholm a conference on the theme “Är våld manligt?” (Is violence manly?), as one event to implement a new approach to the issue. There they were mainly men who discussed the subject. And the answer to the question was mostly “Yes”, but a yes with a serious and questioning tone, not blaming and reproaching.
From women’s point of view it is a decisive step forward when it is realized that the issue of violence against women is not “a women’s issue”. It is first and foremost an issue of men, male culture - but in fact it is an issue of our culture as a whole. Why does our culture bring up men in such a way, that they exert and commit so much violence against each other and against women, that they so often try to solve problems with violence, personally and politically?
The most profound, courageous and eye opening presentation in that Stockholm conference was made by Per Are Lökke, a child and youth psychologist from Norway. He saw violence as a symptom both of the power structures towards women, children and other men and of a self-subjugation system penetrating all male culture. This power/powerlessness (makt/avmakt) structure he calls a social pathology of masculinity.
Lökke described how our culture escapes the fact that violence is masculine i.e. that it relates with gender and concerns all men. One of the basic characteristics of this male pathology is the inability of men to meet, to face woman as a living person in reality. Our culture trains boys to be bold and responsible in working and public life but not in close human relationships. They are given physical training in football and games but they don’t learn to stand on their own feet in their own emotional life.
Male vulnerability stems from two sources: ordinary men feel threatened both by men and women. Woman unveils him, makes him naked, small and dependent. Exactly this vulnerability he wishes to compensate at any cost. Other men can erect higher monuments than he and make him feel weak, impotent and worthless, which he wants to compensate at all possible costs, too.
These same men invest everything in their life in order to erect their projects, monuments for themselves and to reach impossible male ideals. There is always the same dream behind, to build for oneself a monument in the endless competition against other men, thus to make oneself immortal.
Lökke elaborated the problematic behind male violence very sharply. He finds the absence of fathers in the life of boys and their inability to create close and functional relations with their sons as the primary reasons for disturbances and problems in the personal development of boys. There is not such a father tradition in our culture and therefore men are like small kids in their emotional life, because there has not been any father figure to teach them the ABC of emotional life.
The recipe of Lökke to change this is a fundamental transformation of male culture, to change the education of boys from the beginning. But before that men have to change fundamentally their own lives, to make a cultural revolution in their behaviour as fathers. Thus the cultural revolution has to begin as much with fathers as with sons.
Along with these new trends in men research a movement among men is emerging on the same lines in Norway, Sweden and Finland. This movement and research among men is extremely important. It is the first serious attempt to look into the very roots of violence in our culture. It is the very first sign for a long time that something really new is sprouting within patriarchy.
Lökke also warns, however, of a risk implicit in focusing on violence as the most problematic feature of male culture, because then one might lose the fact that this is only one of many symptoms of the serious problematics of masculinity. His view of the matter is that we are fairly helpless in our efforts to eliminate the basic factors and causes of violence in our culture if we don’t succeed in getting men/fathers back to their sons and to live hand-in-hand with them.
In any case, these new developments give much hope. If men would be supported and trained to compensate their vulnerability with personal growth and emotional maturation instead of violence and ridiculous monuments, it would make life much easier and happier for all of us, men and women together! The change among men has to be done by themselves, it cannot be done by women from outside - as much as many of us may have tried.
New Avenues for the Peace Movement? We are now beginning to understand that peace is not only an issue of international violence and use of force and cruelties in political conflicts. Weapons and military systems are just symptoms and tools for violence, but certainly not a cause of it.
We have learned that violence is an issue of patriarchal culture as a whole at personal as well as at international and structural levels. It is basically an issue of how boys and men are brought up in this culture - and also how we women are brought up to be faithful daughters and servants of the patriarchy.
These developments give much new hope for the peace movement, they are important lessons to us. The peace movement also needs to see more clearly, go into the roots of violence, develop comprehensive vision and act in parallel at many levels. We as peace activists, need
- still to act in our traditional ways, revealing and acting against the manifest symptoms of militarism, armaments and physical violence in international and political conflicts, and doing that from the bases of deeper and more profound analyses. But that is only a part of the strategy, since it hits only the tip of the iceberg.
- at the same time to be active in alleviating structural violence and against incitement to economic war, to increasing competition between the power blocks, enterprises and people, which only leads to increasing rule of the strong and the rich, and to growing disparities and injustice.
- to encourage and support all efforts to make thorough analyses and bold conclusions about the causes of violence in our culture, the ways and means by which patriarchal culture subjects boys and men to a discipline, which does not let them grow mentally and emotionally and become balanced and self-confident persons - the kind of persons who do not need to manifest their masculinity with force, power and building ridiculous monuments for themselves.
- to utilize the new findings and insights in this field and develop methods of pedagogy and civic education for bringing up new men - new women, too - and a new culture, the culture of peace, where use of force and violence is considered to be primitive, uncivilized and shameful behavior.
As women and feminist peace activists we have much at stake, we can say that we have “a vested interest” in this new approach. Therefore we should do all that we can - diplomatically and discreetly - to support and speed up the research, awareness-raising and education to bring up new boys, men and fathers - and thus new kinds of loving and well-balanced companions and partners for ourselves.
Our own home work as women is to make ourselves aware of the values and characteristics of a woman’s role in patriarchy and liberate ourselves from that. Many of us may need to reassess and revise her male ideal, the image of “the wonderful man” in her own mind. And we should refuse in our own lives to be the dutiful and “beautiful” daughters of the patriarchy, who admire and desire military and other heroes and accept the role of the conspicuous consumer in the dominating market hegemony.
These kind of new insights and research into our patriarchal culture and conscientization among men and women are decisive steps towards peace. All this gives a lot of inspiration and new hope, though there is a long journey ahead. But even the longest journey begins with the first step and proceeds step by step. Let us build up and broaden the road for that journey!
References: Lökke, Per Are: Om kön, våld och faders frånvaro (About gender, violence and absence of the fathers), a lecture in the Conference “Är våld manligt?”, Stockholm 15. January 1997.
United Nations; The Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women. The UN Department of Public Information, 1985, New York.
United Nations; Efforts to eradicate violence against women within the family and society. E/CN.6/1988.6
United Nations; Violence against Women in the Family. UN Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs, New York, 1989 (ST/CSDHA/2) Sales No. E.89.IV.5.
United Nations; Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration. Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China 4-15 September 1995. Department of Public Information, United Nations, New York 1996. (Particularly Chapter Four: Strategic Objectives and Actions: D. Violence against women; E. Women and armed conflict; L. The girl-child.)