EN – Why celebrate the beginning of a war, a friend of mine asked with mild criticism, one would expect that the end of war offers more reasons for joy? The remark was easy to counter by stating that it’s not so much a celebration, but rather a commemoration in honour of all casualties of WW1. Still, the question stuck. What exactly are we acting out today?
Although many of us have direct links to WW1 through their family history, the majority has no immediate connection with the war and its sufferings. We can identify, but the victims of that war were no part of our personal lives. This is not a personal or collective mourning process. So why all this energy, this will to participate in the commemorations? I cannot read it very clearly, I have to admit, and I hope someone somewhere is carrying out an interesting sociological research project on this topic. So rather than explaining, I would like to express what I hope the Centenary might achieve.
I’d wish that our capability to identify with the WW1 victims broadens up to a capacity to identify with all war victims of our own time. The list is painfully long, you can pick your choice: Ukraine, Syria, Lybia, Irak, Central African Republic, Israel, Palestine, …and have the hostilities in Afghanistan ended now? Don’t think so.
I’d wish that, while I consider this emotional identification an important thing, we don’t get stuck in it. Wooing the misery in the world is too easy, really. I’d wish more and more people move beyond this, and start exploring. Why do wars break out? (Nowadays you can read excellent books on this topic). Can humanity live without them? What are the conditions to preserve peace? Are we prepared to create them? Is war ever acceptible, and if yes, under which conditions? And how to apply all this to the world we live in today – what could be our next move to more peace?
That’s my personal wish on this 4th of August, 2014 – the day, 100 years ago, a war started that was supposed to end all wars.