Oldspeak: “We have become, in the United States, and increasingly all over the world, a society with only two classes: Those who own, and those who owe.” –Thom Hartmann When one generally thinks of world wars, the most easily identifiable examples that come to mind are World War I, World War II, and “The Cold War”. These wars were characterized by physical violence perpetrated by various nations armies engaging in armed combat. The World War being currently waged is also characterized by physical violence perpetrated by nations armies in armed combat, via more numerous small wars and regional wars. But what’s different about this war, is nations are gradually seceding their sovereignty to the transnational corporate network via various “trade agreements”, treaties, privatization and “austerity” measures. Also different, vitally important, less apparent, vastly increased & near completely globalized is structural violence.
“Johan Galtung originally framed the term “structural violence” to mean any constraint on human potential caused by economic and political structures (1969). Unequal accesses to resources, to political power, to education, to health care, or to legal standing, are forms of structural violence.
It refers to a form of violence based on the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social institution “kills people” by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are just some examples of structural violence. Life spans are reduced when people are socially dominated, politically oppressed, or economically exploited. Structural violence and direct violence are highly interdependent. Structural violence inevitably produces conflict and often direct violence, including family violence, racial violence, hate crimes, terrorism, genocide, and war.
Structural violence, however, is almost always invisible, embedded in ubiquitous social structures, normalized by stable institutions and regular experience. Structural violence occurs whenever people are disadvantaged by political, legal, economic, or cultural traditions. But structural violence produces suffering and death as often as direct violence does, though damage is slower, more subtle, more common, and more difficult to repair. Structural violence is problematic in and of itself, but it is also dangerous because frequently leads to direct violence. The chronically oppressed are often, for logical the world is easily traced to structured inequalities.
Galtung’s general definition of violence forms the foundation of his typology of violence. He identifies three ‘types’ of violence — direct, structural and cultural. These concepts clarify ‘violence’ by broadening its definition, and creating categories that help us to study violence more systematically and deeply. The basic distinction between direct and structural violence is that direct violence involves an identifiable actor causing intentional harm, while structural violence does not structural violence is an indirect and, arguably, unintentional violence. In reference to structural violence, Galtung states that ‘violence is built into structures and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances’. Structural violence is both an accompanier to and underlying cause of direct violence. Structural violence is found in most, if not all, structures in society — social, political and economic. It is not an accident, but rather the outcome of human action which generates these systems in the first instance. Structural violence is present as exploitation, poverty, misery, denial of basic needs and marginalisation all are types of inequality. In other words, inequality can be seen as structural violence.” –Dr.N.V.S.SURYANARAYANA
Structural violence is pervasive in all aspects our civilization at present. Oligarchy, Plutocracy, Polyarchy, Inverted Totalitarian Kleptocracy, all these systems around which we’ve organized our civilizations are built on structural violence. Global capitalism cannot exist without it. While wars of the past were called world wars, they were really only large regional conflicts. It’s sort of how Americans declare themselves “World Champions” in sports having only played teams in America. The whole world is not involved, just as the whole world was not at war. This current war, though it may not seem like it, is the only true World War. Casualties are global and cross untold species of life. The entire biosphere is under assault. Its weapons are far more devastating than bullets and bombs. Chemicals, Patents, Bribery, Corruption, Money, Laws, Knowledge Sequestration, Money, Politics, Influence peddling, Growth, Development are the weapons of choice in this war. With these weapons, the Transnational Corporate Network has extracted untold trillions from the earth and most of her inhabitants, destroying life, air, land and sea all along the way. Eradication of structural violence requires fundamental change in our civilizations. Gandhi’s “Constructive Programme” would be a great template on which to build. Society civilization based on truth and non-violence. Cooperational governance instead of corporate governance. Giving selflessly instead of gratuitous greed. Unity instead of competition. Actualization instead of illusion… What a wonderful world that would be. The change must begin within us.
By Thom Hartmann @ Alter Net:
History is littered with the corpses of those who thought they could conquer the world, or at least the “known” or “important” world, through force of arms. Many come immediately to mind: Alexander the Great; Caesar; Hitler; the Celts, Ottomans, and Catholics; various European, Asian, and American empires from the 17th Century Dutch to the 18th Century French, to the 19th Century British and the 20th Century Soviets and Americans. Others, like the Aztecs, are less well known to westerners, Europeans, and Asians, but no less ambitious.
All used some variation on war, the force of military power, to accomplish their goal. All won, over the short-term, and then collapsed over the long term (making the relatively safe assumption that the American Empire is in the process of collapse right now).
So, who’s next?
While the rising economies of the world, like the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, all have the potential, particularly the Chinese, all also are pretty focused on regionalism. But there is one group that has declared war on us – all of us, all over the world – and already won some significant victories. And that’s the creditor class, what economist Henry George called the “rentiers,” and we generally today refer to as “the billionaires.”
The top story on the Sunday, January 6 2013 online edition of the Financial Times,  was headlined, “Banks win more flexible Basel rules” by Brooke Masters. The lead paragraph noted that “International banks received a new year fillip” or gift, when the new regulations out of the Basel bank regulators meeting “announced that the first ever global liquidity standards would be less onerous than expected and not be fully enforced until 2019, four years later than expected.” Perhaps the single most relevant sentence in the article started: “The results are largely good news for bank profits…”
We have become, in the United States, and increasingly all over the world, a society with only two classes: Those who own, and those who owe.
The owners (or “Takers”) own vast wealth, and loan it out at interest to everybody from students to governments. They’re continually receiving that interest back in ways that are either tax-free or taxed at very low levels. (Here in the US we call it “capital gains,” “Interest,” “dividends,” and “carried interest.” While a working person will pay as much as 39% in federal income taxes, the federal income tax to the Mitt Romneys, Paris Hiltons, and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world is now capped at 20%. As Leona Helmsley famously said, “Only little people pay taxes.”)
The owe-ers – the indebted – find themselves trapped on a lifelong treadmill paying interest and fees to the Takers. The owe-ers are also mostly the workers, the people who make things (from manufactured goods to hamburgers), and so are rightly called the “Makers.”
For a brief period of American history, the rapaciousness and greed of the Takers was kept in check by the Makers – mostly through the actions of their unions and elected officials like FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Glass-Steagal prevented banksters from gambling with your savings account or pension. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act and its heirs prevented the big fish from swallowing all the medium-sized and smaller fish, so cities and malls were filled with locally-owned businesses. Social and economic mobility were higher in the United States than in most other countries of the world.
But with the election of Ronald Reagan, the Takers – whose favorite way of taking is through putting the Makers into debt – won a huge victory. They killed or weakened democratic institutions, like unions and politicians not dependent on them. They moved the Middle Class from prosperity into, first, credit card debt, then into second-mortgage debt, and finally into student loan debt. And then, in the final Coup de grâce, they made the formerly democratic governments of Western Europe and the United States indebted to them.
They knew from the beginning it was war. But a softer and more silent form of war than the world was used to. Not since the ascendency of the British East India Company in the 1700s had the world seen an economic, rather than sovereign, force so dominate the world.
And now they’re in the final stages of their war. Having taken most all the resources of the West’s Middle Classes and thrown them and their children into debt bondage, they’ve moved onto taking over entire nations.
This is what Republicans mean when they talk about “making government smaller” here in the United States, or “the austerity agenda” in Europe, Canada, and Australia. It’s all the same thing – transfer even more wealth and political power from those in debt (be they individuals, cities, states, or nations) to those who made the loans. From the middle-class Makers to the billionaire Takers.
And God forbid a politician should stand up to the Takers. From Republicans refusing to raise taxes on billionaires, to international banking institutions leading the charge, via their captive governments, on “renegade” states  like Bolivia.
Longer work weeks in France. Indexing the Inheritance Tax to inflation in the United States, but not the minimum wage. Cutting Greeks off their national health-care system after a year of unemployment. Slashing government support to schools, police, and health-care in Canada. Banks committing crimes and getting slap-on-the-wrist fines. Fossil Fuel corporations, the world’s most profitable, not only getting taxpayer subsidies but never, ever paying for the cancers, pollution, and global warming they cause. The list goes on and on.
It’s war. Rob, plunder, and pillage. Take what little is left from those with a little, and give it all to those who have a lot. Turn the Makers into slaves, while the Takers get an Inheritance Tax cut so their great-grandchildren can live the lives of the landed gentry.
When Ronald Reagan came into office, America was one of the most socially- and economically- mobile nations in the developed world. Today it is among the least.
Democracy is being replaced by plutocracy. Modern oligarchs are richer than the kings of old. And, still not content, they’re amping up the war with a coming July 4th attempt to amend the US Constitution so the wealthy need never again fear tax increases. It’s being led by the Goldwater Institute  with its “Compact For America.”
Look out. We’re moving from trench warfare to aerial bombardment. And when they’re done, Western Democracies will look far more like Italy in the 1930s…