Welcome and preface

An online book in-the-making

Welcome to my worldmoires – a word I have invented for the occasion. It means writing about my life in the perspective of global affairs and trends that have influenced my work and myself since I was born in the middle of the preceding century.

I explain the idea and the – perhaps enigmatic – title a bit more in the Introduction (see the righthand column).

And the occasion? I’m approaching the 50th anniversary of my work as a peace, conflict and future researcher. The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF, that my wife Christina and I have established turned 35 on January 1, 2021. And I launched this writing project on January 13, 2021, marking my 70th birthday.

What is it about?

Some aspects of where I came from and how I got to be who I am, but not my private life. I will tell how I was influenced not by influencers but by people – teachers in particular – and by global developments and how I came to stand where I stand on a series of them, including the West’s conspicuous decline and coming fall.

There will be quite a lot about my work as conflict analyst, mediator, commentator and visiting professor with observations from countries such as Yugoslavia – my third country with Denmark where I was born and Sweden where I live – Georgia, Japan, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Burundi, Iraq, Iran, Syria and China.

The role of learning, research and the media – and how I have related to them – will be rolled out. As will my thinking about time, work, freedom and money.

Then there will be more free-floating essays on how I perceive some of the existential issues of our time – be it nuclear weapons, the role of violence in our culture and thinking, and the question mostly put in popular terms like “are we [sic] too stupid to survive”?

But no doom and gloom. There is more than enough of that.

I will focus on what I – with my particular vantage point, profession(s) and experience – think can become a better future for us all after the fall of the US Empire and the West has become one among equals.

I see a much better world as a possibility but I cannot estimate its probability.

What I know for sure is that we must think creatively and talk unconventionally about that better future and that it won’t come about unless we – the people – come together and also work for it.

Finally, since I’ve lived all my life with contemporary art and am an art photographer, expect quite a few excursions into that landscape. Because:

“Face Recognition” 2019

“I take photographs, make and share art and documentary photography and combine it with peace research, hoping to help bring about a better future for all. It’s the arts more than anything that keeps us human. And I believe in global cooperation, sharing and positive energy.”

This is a public writing project, an online book in-the-making. I invite you to follow it as it comes to life over the next months and, perhaps, years. I shall write it not in one go but while maintaining my peace and art photography activities at an almost normal pace.

Just click on “Follow” to your top right, and you’ll get an e-mail whenever a new chapter has been added, or an existing one has been thoroughly revised. I would like to involve my early readers; more about that further down.

Writing a book is a dynamic and ever-changing process. We have plans also to see how far we are from them. So as they say, the planned content will be subject to alteration.

Why an online book?

Since websites appeared in 1991 and blogging followed suit in 1993, I have been fascinated by their technology, their aesthetics, their constant improvements, their increasing potentials for communication and by their capacity to build community worldwide.

Fortunately, the near-monopoly mainstream media have had most of my life on shaping worldviews, facts and opinions is gone.

Compared with a book, a blog like this has numerous advantages. It is free and not determined by a publisher’s market and profit considerations. It will live for as long as the platform that hosts it is paid an annual fee. It’s freely accessible to anyone anywhere on earth. It can be converted to PDFs, and interested readers can post them or links to this book anywhere (see how in “About”).

While writing, I can place images and links and make it more lively, well-documented and educational. Links also provide more depth and explanations that I can leave out here. And they help me refer to my own writings in a way that is easy for you, the reader, to find; just think of how difficult it is to type in a web address from a book page. Further, thanks to the search engine, tags and categories – you can quickly find anything while any book index has its limitations.

I celebrate such modern technologies that help us have richer experiences and connect the world better than ever before.

That said, I grew up with books and know their immense value.

I ploughed through hundreds of books during my studies and for my PhD and wrote it – some chapters changed 3-4 times – and other books and articles on a typewriter, using scissors and kilometres of tape and Tipp-Ex after which it was all delivered to a publisher who would get it typeset. Those were the days!

Up until 2015, I had built a library of some 6000 books at which point I gave away 4800 to the Hardanger Academy for Peace, Development and Environment in Jondal, Norway. so I am familiar with all the joys of books and the advantages they may have over blogs.

One more thing I find fascinating is the lack of linearity. A book has numbered pages, and the idea is that the author must have a plan, a progression, that the reader is supposed to follow – one subject leading to the next. This may make it appear as highly “isomorphic” with writing memories – following life’s progression. But I think that my life is rather more circular – more like variations on some themes – which I hope that my readers will not interpret as proof that I have gone into a second childhood.

Finally, I can invite you to follow the creation of these worldmoires which wouldn’t have been possible if it had been a book printed on paper.

Style – I do it my way

Short messages and images dominate our times. Over time, I have witnessed, with sadness, how the longer argument – the more analytical text – has lost prominence. However, I believe that many things in our complex world require – and deserve – an elaborate analysis for before we can understand them properly.

People have sometimes told me that my articles are long – implying that more people would read them if they were shorter and perhaps also more concise. I respect that, but that is not my style. Some painters do pointillism, others like Gerhard Richter, use meter-long spatulas when applying their colours to the canvas.

I do write in a somewhat wordy style. I don’t see the point in making a text as short as possible – as I don’t see the point in making a painting as small as possible or a piece of music as short as possible. But what you will experience is that this book is fairly easy to read because there are now tools that help you increase readability and I use them.

As an academic, I have chosen to also work with public education and interact with thousands of non-academic people across cultures. I’ve always cherished this quote attributed – rightly or wrongly – to Albert Einstein that “if you can’t explain it simply you don’t understand it well enough.”

If you feel there is something that I don’t explain well enough, the blog format’s flexibility makes it very easy for you to jump to some other part and dive in. Just approach it as a delicious smörgåsbord.

Welcome to interact

Obviously, a personal publication like this cannot be a collective effort. But I shall listen carefully to anybody who takes a serious interest in this project, reads and sends me comments (you may comment under each chapter or send me a longer text under “About” above).

There may be aspects of, say, an international conflict or questions someone finds important but I have left out. There could be formulations and arguments which are not as clear as they should be. Or there may be friends and colleagues with whom I have worked over the years who may want to add valuable information that I have left out or they may raise other questions about my story.

I shall be really-really grateful for all good-willed inputs on my way down Writing Road.

🔶

“Capitol Hill – January 7, 2021”
The storming of Capitol Hill in Washington forced me to take a break from working on these worldmoires. While following the events, I created this photographics collage based on Jasper Johns’ “Flag” from 1958. I have not found a way to cut myself off from the larger world. And now I don’t even try.

13 thoughts on “Welcome and preface

  1. In our age of social media, it appears divisions have become well defined. Politicians use divisions. Unless one can free the people from the endless political propaganda. There can never be discussion of issues the people face.

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    • Dear Zivadin – many thanks. I hope you are well under the difficult Belgradian circumstances. And that you will enjoy what I write about Yugoslavia…

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      • Dear Jan,
        Most of the time nowadays I spend in the countryside. Today I returned to Belgrade to participate in some activities marking 22 years since the beginning of NATO aggression on Yugoslavia (March 24rth), to remember thousands of killed people, children including. I thank you for your decades long valuable contribution in spreading the truth about roots and consequences of this historic mistake and for your solidarity with victims. We miss you. Wish you further success in your peace-inspiring endavours.
        Best,
        Zivadin

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      • Dear Zivadin
        Your comment here indeed touches my heart. I went down during the bombings because I thought that that was the very least I could do in response to all your people have taught me – also way beyond politics. It is amazing to still be in touch with many of them – like yourself. It’s made my life so much richer. I’ll be in Belgrade as soon as I can and circumstances permit, missing you too – as well as others, including common friends. And who knows, one day we may meet in China where I know you are so much engaged. My best to you and your family! – Jan

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  2. Ein persischer Dichter, Anwari Soheili, schrieb einmal – “Hast du einer Welt Besitz gewonnen, sei nicht voll Freude darüber, es ist nichts – und hast du einer Welt Besitz verloren, sei nicht voll Trauer darüber, es ist nichts. Vorüber gehen die Wonnen, gehen die Schmerzen. Geh an der Welt vorüber, es ist nichts.” — Ich hatte es mir damals, vor bald vierzig Jahren aufgeschrieben, und immer wieder muss ich daran denken. Ich halte dieses Gedicht mittlerweile für nicht zielführend. Sein und haben, haben und sein. “Geh an der Welt vorüber…” das geht für mich nicht. – Ich bin ein Teil dieser Welt, wie die Welt ein Teil von mir ist. Die Welt ist! Ich bin! Was wir mit unseren Hirnen daraus machen, ist eine andere Sache. – Und ja, ich fürchte mich vor dem Destruktiven, aber ich bekämpfe es solange ich kann und so ich kann, allen Schwierigkeiten zum Trotz. – Jan, gut geschrieben! Jag håller med dig.

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  3. Many congratulations for this new exciting venture and a continuous online book! I believe that as we move forward this new way of writing is much more exciting and readily available to everyone. The problem with a book is that when it is published it is put in a box and not capable of change and amendment unless one reprints it. However, with this new way of writing it is always possible to add new information, to edit mistakes, and above all to make it interactive and available to all at all times. I, for one, am very much looking forward to keeping up with your new venture and benefit as always from your fresh, inventive, progressive and enlightening ideas.

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  4. Dear Dr Oberg, I have had much emotion reading many chapters of your blog, and after having reproduced the essay SGI Pres. Daisaku Ikeda wrote about his dialogues with you and your wife. 10 people in Sweden have clicked on those articles (I retyped the version I found in a book WONDERFUL ENCOUNTERS published in Malaysia in 2003, two years apparently before another version appeared published in California, USA, in a compilation of essays ONE by ONE. (I am happy I found the first version, as it seems several paragraphs more complete thant he USA one… In any case, I welcome any comments you may have of how I have shared Dr Ikeda’s essay about yourself. And of course, I am at your disposition if you find something which you wish me to omit or modify somehow. – If you’ve seen my blog, you may find that our subjects of interest are very close. Even though I live in Paris, France, I was born in Washington, DC, and the mother’s side of the family had careers in the US Pentagon. My becomming an SGI Buddhist in 1974, therefore, has everything to do with my wanting to transform my, and my family’s karma/destiny, and become a family which will going forward, contribute to a world which is JUST and at PEACE… with all my heart, and all the respect in the world I have for you, I wish you and your wife continuing success and good health. PPS Myself and my north African Kabyle husband have an intercultural association, where we explore how to promote Humanistic Education through Music and the Arts. If you have any interest in this, our official site is the following : http://www.musiqueuniverselle.org PPPS I have shared about 5 articles from or about you on Facebook in the last 24 hours. I find what you say, for example, about the Ukraine crisis and NATO and the USA incredibly, profoundly pertinent and important !!!

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    • Dear Michèle de Gastyne
      Thank you sooooo very much. I am delighted that you done all this work to highlight Christina’s and my dialogue with Ikeda-Sensei. I was not aware of the Malaysia edition of that book, how interesting they are not identical. I have, of course, visited your own fine – beautiful and very attractive – blog – what a wealth of interesting stuff. And so important that you spread it in this manner. Can’t be spread enough!
      Your aims, based on your background as you tell me, are very very noble. I was touched by the description of your life’s path, and how you have finally brought to reality the global cultural dimension you somehow have held inside for so long. And that is where it all ends: Peace, justice, human rights, etc. for all, not just for some. In my view, there are of course many elements and levels in humanity’s life but the global approach to it is the one that carries the future – by definition. National(ism) is outdated and so is the navel-gazing identity and “me”oriented perspective although it flourishes these days where we are facing global troubles and changes and escapism understandably becomes very attractive. But there is only one way to not only survive but to thrive and that is as one humanity, unity in diversity and not in uniformity.
      You have chosen culture in your way – jazz being one I can see from your homepage. I have chosen to develop as an art photographer along with my peace research and education work – you may have a look here – https://obergphotographics.com
      Finally, we obviously also share a love of Japan – I was a visiting professor 5 times there, a good 2 years all in all. Marvedllous and enlightening but Japan has been in crisis since about 1990 and China is roaring ahead. That is why my photographic and my academic work is now mainly – not only – focussing on China. (Had amn installation at the Venice Biennale in 2019 to be touring, I hope, this year in China).
      Thanks by all my heart for your fine work and for sharing with me who you are and how you think. Great joy and so much synergy and positive energy, dear Michèle.
      Best
      JAN

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  5. Dear Sir, Dear Jan… I sent you a message by email, using another Gmail, after I saw your incredibly powerful and very, very generous response, because I wanted to think carefully how to express myself publically.. I wonder if you realized it was from me ?? (Among other things, I spoke about our MUAC JazzDay event on 30 April)…. In any case, I am writing here already, because every day that passes the situation in Europe and the world becomes more dire. So I will at least attempt a preliminary reaction here : A resounding YES ! about the synergy ! We at MUAC are profoundly encouraged by your high praise regarding our blog, which unfortunately does not attract many of my American friends …(WordPress as you know let’s us see how many of our readers come from which countries). I will keep working on how I share on Social Media, as I am not the best in this area. But northern Europe seems to be a different story so I still hope the MUAC site and the blog can contribute to enlarging the network of people, connected through their conviction that indeed, Authentic, Genuine Dialogue is the only way to move forward as humanity. – You justly said the growing treds toward the opposite mentality are terrifyingly strong these days. Indeed, ‘self-protection’ doesn’t protect anyone in our nuclear/COVID world! – This makes me think of the UBUNTU concept Nelson Mandela liked to evoke. The translation I like the most is : “I am, because We are”…. Praying (and working) for Peace, from Paris.. With all my respect, Michele PS Perhaps one more thing about ‘Dialogue’ : Since 2019, as MUAC’s president I attend 3 peace forums per year, including Global Forum Normandy for Peace, in Caen, the Social Forum in Geneva hosted by the UN organs on human rights, and the Paris Peace Forum(PPF). In 2022’s PPF, I met several people who have inspired me regarding our MUAC theme on Authentic Dialogue for 2023, including a woman from Tunisia, one of several who received the 2015 Nobel Peace prize for her work in the Jasmine Revolution’s moving the country toward democratic institutions. She, and several other passionate speakers in a round table, such Mme Qasas from Palestine from “Principles for Peace”, spoke concretely on the process of dialogue, the “road maps” they used, and the principles they agreed on (such as non-interference from outside powers) as they worked together with ALL actors including the Islamists, to CO-Create solutions (my choice of words here). I do hope Mme BOUCHAMAOUI will respond to our MUAC letter of invitation, and answer our interview-type questions which we hope to use in our April JazzDay event on Dialogue. (even if it is in writing). In the meantime, I truly, TRULY intend to learn more about how you and your wife have been going about your work using dialogue for peace. (Which I do understand is not a naive approach, but fully takes into account things such as “Structural Violence” which M. GANDHI spoke of. . I am infinitely inspired by what you have said and written about NATO for years already. I am quite sure the late, great Mikhail. Gorbachev would be totally in agreement with your suggestions to use NATO for constructive and even humanitarian things, and not for killing. As yourself, he was such a great man for peace who could have let a WWIII explode, but he would not have it…

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