Violence = Disease

Violence: a global public health problem

In 2003, the World Health Organization, in its Scientific and technical publication No. 588, World report on violence and health, addressed the issue of violence as “a global public health problem”1 .

There are numerous reports, opinions and studies confirming that violence at various levels has negative consequences for society and human development. It is time to call a spade a spade. Just as in the past slavery, punishment or the death penalty were normalised in society and society eventually decided to put an end to these atrocities, today we can and must take a step forward and describe violence as a disease that also produces habits and customs that dehumanise people and generate behaviour that can cause serious problems for other people.

Today we have the data to consider that violence is a sufficiently serious problem to urge all the powers, society as a whole and all the inhabitants of the planet, that in the different spheres: between the hegemonic powers, at the level of governments, regions, companies and organisations, at the level of collectives, families and individuals, it is much more beneficial for everyone to adopt a collaborative dynamic of non-confrontation, abandoning ideologies that propose clashes and the elimination of those who are different. The position that we live in a jungle where the strongest survive does not work and leads to extermination. It is more beneficial to replace it with a dynamic of dialogue, exchange, reciprocity and assistance, in order to reach a consensual solution which, even if it does not take into account all the aspirations of the parties, helps to avoid confrontation, the path before violence.

It has been amply demonstrated that confrontation impoverishes in human terms those who are involved in this dynamic, and also impoverishes the populations that suffer from it, by wasting resources that would be very useful to redistribute in order to achieve a more encouraging future than the one offered by permanent confrontation.

The international situation is becoming even more extreme and polarised, to unprecedented limits that we thought we had overcome, and fears of involution are returning in ways that we could never have imagined before.

Some go so far as to speak of the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe in which, as Einstein predicted, “we do not know what the third world war will be like, but the fourth will be with sticks and stones” – a way of saying that civilisation would disappear.

Something is not in tune with the general feeling of the people.

In the 1990s we saw the collapse of a system, the U.S.S.R., but in that situation, there was no loss of life.

Today, however, we see how we are being led into a drift towards an escalating conflict of unintended consequences. The question arises: Is this what the vast majority of the world’s people want?

After the World March for Peace and Nonviolence, after visiting more than a hundred countries, we have seen that the vast majority of the world’s people want to live in peace, to be able to develop their lives to the best of their ability, to have their jobs, adequate health and education, their homes, to raise their children and families, and to live a life of dignity. There are others who want to go further, seeking meaning or inspiration in life, but never by violence. These are the aspirations of most people on this planet. But we are heading in a direction of increasing conflict, where rights are being curtailed and gains, we thought we had made are being rolled back.

So, what can we do?

In one situation, at the 1st World March, where we were received by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, I took the opportunity to ask him: “You are one of the most influential people on the planet, what can you do in this situation for the betterment of humanity? But if you, the organisations and the civil population put pressure on your governments… then things will change and the future will open up”. In other words, it is in our hands, but we have to demonstrate. It will be in the form of actions, mobilisations, different activities or something else. Let everyone do what they can, but let them demonstrate and hopefully in a sustained way. The press should take care to give a voice to the voiceless, but it no longer does… Moreover, we can no longer distinguish the true from the false, the distorted from the truthful, but what is certain is that we are manipulated in the way we receive information.

Manipulation of information It is said that in war it is the story that counts, which is why the truth of what has happened is increasingly being cut off and the actions of journalists are becoming more and more restricted. In a confrontation, the first slogan is to dehumanise the opponent.

This disinformation is happening in the war between Russia and Ukraine and is being accepted by many of the world’s governments. Hundreds of Palestinian journalists have been killed, according to the International Criminal Court, in the conflict that is escalating into genocide between Palestinians and Israelis.

At a time when we have the fastest and cheapest communications in history, it would seem that we are the furthest away from information.

But we are not. That is what they want us to believe. They want to confuse us in this dynamic of discrediting and mixing everything up.

When we see a leader make a statement on television, we can see more and more clearly what his intentions are, what he is not saying, but what are the real interests behind it, his real motivations. Often, we do not know them, but yes, we can distinguish between those who speak the truth and those who do not.

Of course, there are people who are so overwhelmed with so few advantages that they accept the first thing that is presented to them without much questioning, but deep down, when they look at their children and loved ones… they realise that this is what really matters to them and what opens up the future for them.

Many media play into the hands of violence because they work in its service.

When we see a news item on television, for example a demonstration with thousands of participants with a non-violent attitude, but where there is a small violent group burning a car or a container for example, the images are those of the violent people carrying out the action. And although they are in the minority, the news often emphasises this action by repeating the images.

In synthesis, they briefly talk about the meaning of the demonstration, but above all, the images that remain are: the conflict and the violence that took place, with the flames, the destruction, etc. This is what the news focuses on.

Recently, for the first time, a former president of a great country, one of the leading democracies, has been condemned for corruption, for embezzlement, for trying to change what has happened, for attacking the judiciary and for not being afraid of breaking the institutions in order to escape from the disaster that he himself promoted. What is the use of institutions and participatory mechanisms if everything collapses and falls apart because of a lie? Not everything in the human construct is valid. For some naive people, the value is to be the strongest, to be able to do the most barbaric things, to harm or eliminate the other… But this is not the way civilisation progresses, this is not the way humanity develops.

The future of humanity will open up to the extent that we develop non-violent action and eradicate violence from our societies. Violence not only harms and limits people, it also slows down their progress and ultimately retards their development. In the case of nonviolent journalism, we develop this in the following contribution to the book published by Pressenza.

The priority of non-violent conflict resolution 4 It is clear that the proposed journalistic approach seeks out, makes visible and highlights those processes that aim to resolve conflicts in a non-violent way, in every area of life in our societies. We see it as a priority task to identify and open up space for proposals for dialogue, mediation, rapprochement and negotiation in any geography. How can journalism help to identify, prioritise and strengthen non-violent solutions?

Galtung (1989) offers some suggestions:

  • Identify the interests at stake and, based on these, identify possible solutions.
  • Establish clear lines of responsibility and encourage recognition of mistakes and cooperation to correct them.
  • Provide elements for analysing the causes and consequences of the conflict and/or its resolution.
  • Emphasise the perception of conflict as a problem, not as something desirable, and identify the factors that make it a problem.
  • Warning, anticipation and prevention of conflict situations that can deteriorate and even lead to war.
  • Focus on the suffering of all people, women, the elderly, children, and give a voice to those who have none.
  • Name those who do harm.
  • Spotlight people who are contributing to peace.
  • Make peace initiatives visible, focusing on structures and actions that promote a non-violent society.
  • Based on Galtung’s suggestions, journalists from different continents have developed proposals known as peace journalism or conflict-sensitive journalism, which seek to do justice to the complex contexts in which clashes and wars arise: “to offer creative ideas for conflict resolution or development, peace-building and peacekeeping, to free it from the lies, the attempts to cover up truths by all sides, and to expose the excesses committed by and for the suffering of people on all sides”. (

There is a central idea that runs through non-violent conflict resolution: there are always human beings at the heart of any conflict. This is something we must never forget in our journalistic practice.

History shows us that Europeans fought their two most recent major wars, which ended up escalating globally. Europe bled to death with nearly 100 million dead and tens of millions disabled and injured in these confrontations. It is obvious to any normal, non-sick person that dialogue and negotiation are better than confrontation. We can apply this to the countless wars that have slowed human progress throughout history.

Today we can say things loud and clear that were not said before, partly because of different times and different values. Many of the leaders who led their peoples into great catastrophes were sick, paranoid, psychopathic, etc. One of the many books on this subject is “Aquellos enfermos que nos gobernaron” by Pierre Accoce and Pierre Rentchnick, published in Spanish by Plaza Janés in 1977, a translation of the original French edition published in 1976.

This is all the more applicable to the current situation. It will be a milestone for humanity when we can identify the “sick” people of this moment and point to them as the ones who have led us to catastrophes, death, suffering and human regression. As long as we learn among ourselves to resolve conflicts through dialogue and without violence.

We are moving towards this situation If we are moving decisively towards this situation, it is not an easy path, but it is an exciting one. And more and more people are joining us in the non-violent direction that is bringing us closer to this new world.

There are many indicators of this. On a global scale, fewer people are starving today than last year, fewer women are dying in childbirth each year, there are fewer deaths from certain infections, diseases are almost eradicated, there is more schooling today and less illiteracy, the struggle for recognition of women’s rights is advancing in many countries. Progress in connecting people on a global scale is spectacular. Democracies, yes, they need to be perfected, but they are the best social system for reaching agreements between millions of people, etc. …. It is true that there is much to be done and that we want to move faster. But we continue to do so, despite moments when it seems that there are certain slowdowns, even delays. In general, we can say that we are making progress every year, improving the quality of life and the situation of the people.

Those who are the largest countries, those who decide at the global level, those who have managed to bring together the largest number of people and territories on the planet. We can see that everything is moving towards globalisation, except for the forces that are trying to go backwards with the nationalism and regionalism of the past. Obviously, taking into account the particularities of the country, the region and the individual.

Let us take this step, we are very close to it. But… there is no other way out.

The path of violence is not valid for human beings today. Violence, confrontation, will soon be classified as a disease, as some of those who went before us did in the United Nations. What we need is for this to be accepted by society.

We will continue…

1 UN Report 588 2 Einstein on WW4

3 World March for Peace and Nonviolence

4 Nonviolent Journalism page 80

5 Those sick people who ruled us