Is it 2015 or is it 1935? When I moved to Berlin seventeen years ago, I was 25 years old and I couldn’t understand why older Germans were still talking about World War II. It felt as if it had happened such a long time ago—as if World War II was FAR away, and that it would NEVER happen again, and that talking about it was SO boring. The year was 1999. Now at age 42, I find myself growing worried about the youth of Europe, and I think in a comical way: “I sound like a German grandfather.” Meanwhile, a third and fourth generation of people who have never known war at their doorstep is coming to prominence in Western and Northern Europe.
Everything recurs in cycles. My feeling is that we are currently treading a dangerous part of one such cycle: The ignorant part. And nobody talks about it, because it is old-fashioned. So I am trying to do something experimental, I am attempting a brave step—I want to talk about war preparations… weird, no? I would never have even thought about doing this, let’s say, seven years ago.
Now, let’s look at things in perspective. Today, those of you who were born in the year 1980 are 35 years old. You can feel how long that is. Now, let’s go back another 35 years, from the year 1980, counting backwards… 1980, 1979, 1978, 1977… etc. After venturing 35 years backwards in time, we find ourselves in 1945. The time that passed between the end of World War II, 1945, and your birth in 1980 is as long as the time you have been alive.
Is that a long time? No. Is that a surprise? Probably yes, to many, I guess many haven’t thought about it. The great wars of Western Europe were here YESTERDAY, and they reside not in some foggy, grainy, black and white “far away past,” no matter how they might come across in archival film footage. These wars are still very much alive, and they remain active components in our current lives. Still, we act as if it will never happen again (or: as if it had never happened in the first place, is perhaps a better way to put it). That is dangerous.
I am not talking about building walls, or creating an Icelandic army. I am not pro-war, and I am not pro-army. We have to take a stand, be aware and act to curtail the growing likelihood of war. Rather than staying silent and waiting for other nations and other people to determine our fate, we must discern how we may contribute? WAKE UP!
We blame the USA and Western society at large for bad warfare. We want them to abandon weaponry, even as we have spent decades living under their helm and protection. We all want to be kind, and we think that we can have peace WITHOUT preparing for it. That mode of thought is dangerous. And ignorance is bliss, until shit hits the fan.
Maybe my viewpoint is affected by 17 years in Berlin. The crazy old people in Germany have desperately tried to warn their nation’s youth. After all, old people are just young people in older bodies—they are like us, they are 30-year-olds in 80-year-old bodies, they are “one of us.” My German friends’ mothers and fathers were raised in the Hitler Youth, or their mothers and fathers were. Does that tell you something? They were brainwashed at an early age. Many of my friends have grandparents who were Nazis, or victims of war. Can you imagine if your grandmothers and grandfathers had experienced that—how that might influence your life? Through their experiences, the war would still be active. Traumas pass on from generation to generation. Thought patterns, social behaviours, etc., are inherited.
We live in 2015, but when I observe all the happy people dressed up in H&M, clutching their iPhones as they exit the Berlin U-Bahn, they look exactly like the relaxed, happy people you see in black and white photographs from pre-war Berlin, 1935. Those people were full of hope, they could never have imagined what that the coming years would bring…
I get an eerie feeling, realizing this in an intuitive way. Some bells are ringing. For sure.
Let’s hope that nothing bad will happen on our doorstep, and let’s hope that war will come to an end in the world. I will close this short message with a sentence that dates back to the 4th or 5th century AD: “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” This is a Latin adage that simply translates to: “If you want peace, prepare for war.”