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Against Normalization of War

"Nothing seems true any more. States arrogate the right to murder. People are held on prisoner islands without trials. International law was disused or shut down so it could be disregarded with impunity. The opinion of the world on all continents and the genuine interest of the younger generation is ignored. In the great land of freedom, the freedom of individuals is exchanged for supposed security.."
Against Normalization of War

By editors of Zeit-Fragen

[This article originally published in: Zeit-Fragen Nr.48-48, December 22, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/ARCHIV/ZF_112b/T01.HTM.]

The third Christmas after September 11, the days that should emphasize charity, peace and reconciliation are approaching. In contrast, the ugly everyday reality is marked by wars, power struggles and suffering.

Nothing seems true any more. States arrogate the right to murder. People are held on prisoner islands without trials. International law was shut down or disused so it could be disregarded with impunity. The opinion of the world on all continents and the genuine interest of the younger generation are coldly ignored. In the great land of freedom, the freedom of individuals is exchanged for surveillance and security presumably for preventing terror. Wasn't every hegemon in history worried about internal peace to freely wage its wars at the edges?

The human rights of the UN Charter and the relief of the Geneva Accords of the International Red Cross are all pushed aside. The stronger does what he wants and says the bombs are the gateway to democracy, the remedy of good against evil.

When new stereotypes and new enemies are created, one must sit up and take notice. This can be a good pretext for instigating the clash of cultures instead of promoting the hospitality of cultures and being living examples of hospitality. The feelings of the world can be monopolized in this way. Otherwise people wouldn't have been so subservient to the national interests of the powerful. Thanks to the new enemy, parliaments also swallowed the gigantic indebtedness programs. The war economy for the well being of the armaments industry could be introduced more simply. Misused patriotic feelings stubbornly block systematic thinking and weighing the consequences of one's conduct. All this could be learned from history.

This is Christmas 2003. One must resist not becoming dull and apathetic. Carpet-bombing occurs here and bomb attacks of guerillas there. Allies are bought. The stubborn in the axis of evil are won down or murdered in secret operations. The world has become more inhuman. The dehumanized are killed. Only the suffering and pain of the victims remain. The international law that bridles the power of the powerful to offer protection and security to the weaker commanded in the public interest was annulled. The obligation of the law seems bombed away.

What can one do to not become habituated to war or distort interpersonal existence with inner withdrawal? Many of us ask this question. This war period will certainly end. How it will end is open. These governments will also make their exits. There is an afterwards. There was always an afterwards. Then reflection begins and people listen. Preparing for this time is the task and possibility of those condemned to watch. Even during the Second World War, people prepared for the time afterwards, sifted the cultural, human and philosophical substance that was important to save and prepared the seed to sow when the war was over.

This is our challenge - even if it is now winter for humanity.

The articles of this issue (Zeit-Fragen) equip us for this challenge. Prominent voices like the voice of the pope in his message of peace, a representative of the evangelical church or Kofi Annan appeal in a similar direction against an apparent habituation, resignation or paralysis of many people. The experience that politicians with their decisions ignore the will of the population and spin-doctors with their propaganda trivialize war has left deep marks. In personal conversations, one learns that many people disapprove of what is happening. Still the feelings of powerlessness paralyze. Concrete perspectives on action are missing. More and more people in the rich industrial states feel the effects of globalization and are - rightly -worried about the economic and social future. They realize that areas of social, economic and political life hardly offer security and orientation.

This outward situation hits societies that are internally alarmed. Ideological, economic and cultural struggle in Europe and America have left their traces along with the erosion of religious value systems. This does not stop at the feelings of people and particularly concerns the middle generation, the generation that holds the majority of leadership positions in the economy and society of the western hemisphere today.

The young generation shows great sensitiveness. Young persons express sound, well-grounded reactions to the war policy. The ideological blindness and delusion of the 20th century gives way more and more to openness for honest concerns and practical solutions. Still the younger generation cannot bring about any change through its own strength.

The pope titled this year's peace message "Education for Peace". In many places of the world, there are islands of humanity where wise, compassionate and engaged adults, parents, teachers and ministers prepare young persons for another life than life with violence and war, egoism and elbowroom. Reflecting from these islands and exchanging across languages, countries and cultures gives courage.

The wheel does not need to be invented again. The "Declaration of Sevilla" from 1986 shows that sustainable knowledge has long existed. No violent human nature exists. Therefore a co-existence in peace is possible. The pope proclaims today: peace is possible and therefore commanded. Reality weakens or enfeebles human feeling. War violates the dignity of all humanity and alarms every person. War is the negation of human nature and all human life. This has effects in all areas of human community. Honest and long-term efforts at peace are vital. New trust must be nurtured where souls are wounded. Sympathy and humanliness must be promoted and strengthened. This should begin where a person becomes a person, in our families, kindergartens and schools. How can values be communicated that are necessary to do justice to the dignity of persons?

The wheel also does not need to be reinvented here. There are many valuable initiatives from anthropology, psychology and pedagogy. Their foundations are love for and delight in the child, joy in his steps in the world, his curiosity, his developing individual personality, his understanding and devotion to others. Relations that create trust and plant sympathy are essential for communicating values. Children and youths should be oriented in these values. The honest word of adults should be important. Thus the basis can be laid for the consciousness of the social dimension of human life, for law, justice and human dignity.

Education for peace must not be limited to the education of rising generations. Whoever relates to another person experiences that something advancing humanity, a social sense, lives in every person. Adults are models for children, youths and other adults. Whoever leads the way and demonstrates virtues like justice, wisdom, courage and prudence in his or her life is infectious on others. A first personal step is a very good idea where expecting the first steps of others is useless.

Again and again people have hoped to find models in leading figures from politics, economy and society. No one can still rely on these figures today. Unfortunately authority and consciousness of responsibility often differ enormously.

Wholesome independence and interdependence cannot mean commenting on other people. In a time when people are set against one another, young against old, neighbor against neighbor, worker against employer, woman against man, citizen against politician, people against people and cultures against cultures, there are warning voices like the General secretary of the United Nations that point to human rights binding all people. Feeling and emphasizing this bond between people and cultures is a great step. The will to fulfilled life is part of human nature. Acknowledging the right to life of all people is the cornerstone of peace. Building bridges between people, in families, kindergartens, school classes, between neighbors, people and cultures can begin on a small scale. The capacity for peace can be strengthened. This message counters violence and war: Peace is possible and commanded as long as it is possible.

A Practical Concordance - The Present World Situation is Very Serious

By Hisao Kuriki

[Hisao Kuriki is a professor of international law at Nanzan University, Tokyo, Japan.]

The Iraq war in my opinion is unjust. Firstly, Iraq did not attack any state. Secondly, Iraq was no real hearth of dangers (Iraq did not control any weapons of mass destruction). Thirdly, the sovereignty of every state can be restricted but sovereignty may not be taken away from any state. Fourthly, the removal of the dictator is the internal cause of the people of every state even if this can be aided by foreign powers.

From this standpoint, the present world situation is very serious. The deeper cause for this situation lies in the absolutist-monistic mentality that makes judgments about justice and stigmatizes dissenters as unjust.

To improve the present unfortunate situation of the world, abandoning this absolutist-monistic mentality (first every state and ultimately every person), acknowledging pluralism in the subjects of culture and religion and striving as dissenters or different believers to live harmoniously with one another are imperative. A practical concordance between different orientations could promote that harmonic life.

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