When the trains rolled to the front in late July, early August 1914, many wagons were labelled. Along with a lot of warmongering, it also read: “We’ll be home for Christmas.”
In the end, it was more than four years of war, more than 15 million dead soldiers and civilians, and a radically changed Europe and a different world. And barely 20 years later, a second world war with even much greater destruction, more than 60 million dead and a new era in history.
“Once you unleash war, literally anything can happen.” This statement by the renowned Australian publicist John Pilger (cf. article on page 4) is very thought-provoking – and leads us to ask: Who unleashed the war in Ukraine that everyone has been talking about since 24 February – but which started much earlier? When, how, and for what purpose was it unleashed? There are already some good answers to these two questions. In many articles, this newspaper has also tried to answer these questions. But there are also other questions. Questions pointing to the future. The most important of these is: How and when will this war end, and with what consequences? And following on from that: do we citizens have a chance to contribute to this end?
The flood of information and above all the flood of opinion and propaganda on the war is enormous. As a citizen with heart and mind, one hopes for one thing above all else every day: for silver linings of peace on the horizon. And, indeed, there are always indications that the hope of an imminent end to the war could be justified. Only to be disappointed again the next day by new reports. Thus, on the one hand, we can also hear in our Western media that the displeasure about the disastrous effects of our own sanctions on the world economy and our own countries is growing from day to day, and voices are also being heard that resolutely deny the possibility of a military “solution” and plead for a negotiated solution – as soon as possible. At the same time, slogans of perseverance until “final victory” can be heard, and again and again the propaganda formula of the evilness of Russia and especially of the country’s President. It should be left open here whether this rollercoaster of emotions is created deliberately – for example, to discourage people from making their own commitment to peace.
It is realistic to assume that a comprehensive war machine – including everything that goes with it – has been set in motion on both sides of the front and that not only Russia and Ukraine but many states of the world are confronting each other on this front. The talk of a “world war” is not absurd. It is obvious that it is not about good versus evil, freedom and democracy versus dictatorship and tyranny. It is equally unrealistic for citizens to take on to end this war in a big way tomorrow.
But this realisation does not mean discouragement. The courageous person asks two questions: What does and what does not contribute to peace? And then also: What can I do? What do I want to do?
What does not contribute to peace is: Falling for war propaganda. Falling for images of the enemy. Participating in the sharp division into good and evil. To beat the drums of war. Arrogance and denial of reality...
And what does contribute to peace? The classical cardinal virtues are timelessly valid: Courage, prudence, justice, and temperance. Modesty and no big words. Building bridges between people and between nations. Understanding and making things understandable. Searching for the truth. To be enlightened and to enlighten oneself. Educating the future generation to be more peaceable. Being fellow human beings in the here and now. Acknowledging and reflecting on one’s own strengths and weaknesses... And again and again pondering the questions: What does and what does not contribute to peace?
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