While climate change is relentlessly progressing, threatening life on earth, world leaders continue to meet while planning for a future where this immense menace to human existence remains a minor item on the agenda.
The war in Ukraine continues unabated; young men are sacrificed on battlefields, towns laid waste by aerial attacks, the threat of nuclear disasters is looming. People within an often formerly friendly inclined Europe are now wondering if Vladimir Putin has gone insane. The war in Ukraine is generally called “Putin’s war” and in April 2021 Putin signed a legislation providing him the right to run for two more consecutive terms, thus he could stay in power till 2036.
The World changes, though prejudices and misconceptions remain. In 1996, political scientist Samuel Huntington published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
, in which he predicted that people’s cultural and religious identities would become the primary source of conflict in a Post–Cold War World
. Huntington’s allegations have been contradicted by a number of critics, among them American Palestinian professor Edward Said, who lamented their extreme cultural determinism, which omitted the dynamic interdependency and interaction of cultures. Said’s own Orientalism
depicted a generalised “Western view” of Arab cultures as “static and undeveloped”, while European culture was considered to be “developed, rational, flexible, and superior.” Literature and movies have depicted Arabs as exotic men riding camels and horses through the desert, and their women as dangerously seductive objects of male desire. Eventually, the exotic men turned in to being terrorists, and/or depraved oil-rich magnates, while Muslim women were presented as veiled, enigmatic, and oppressed.
Putin’s regime recently suspended Russia’s participation in a nuclear arms agreement with Washington. After the decision Putin declared that the move was a retaliation for the US’s, France’s and Britain’s “targeting” of Russia with nuclear weapons. He was forced to take action to “preserve our country, ensure security and strategic stability”:
When the Pope Emeritus
Benedict XIV/Ratzinger died on the last day of 2022 it did not cause much of a stir in the global newsfeed. Maybe a sign that religion has ceased to play a decisive role in modern society Nevertheless, religious hierarchies are still highly influential, not least for the world’s 1, 4 billion baptized Catholics, and a pope’s policies have a bearing not only on morals, but also on political and economic issues. By contrast, there are more Muslims in the world, 1.9 billion, though adherents are not so centrally controlled and supervised as Catholics and hierarchies do not have a comparable influence on global affairs.
During November, soldiers of the March 23 Movement
(M23) have been approaching Goma in the eastern territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC), close to the Rwandan border. About 180.000 people are now leaving Goma, a city with a million inhabitants. Many stakeholders are involved in the conflict and there is an apparent danger that the overall carnage that affected the Congolese eastern border areas fifteen years ago will resume. At the same time, war is ranging in Ukraine, which name likely comes from the old Slavic term for borderland
Like most armed conflicts the Ukrainian war intends to establish hegemony over a certain area, in rivalry with other usurpers. Russian propaganda pinpoints the US and EU as Russia’s main adversaries, while Ukraine is portrayed as a pawn in these nations’ international yearnings. Such a scenario is not new.
In his treatise On War
, the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831) stated that war is “merely a continuation of policy with other means”. With his experience from the Napoleonic Wars
von Clausewitz knew that totalitarian regimes could end up conducting huge and ruthless military campaigns. Furthermore, he assumed that to win a war it is necessary to mobilize and indoctrinate the inhabitants of an entire nation. Such an endeavour is called total war
, a term that actually can be applied to Putin’s war in Ukraine.
After President Putin had given a speech, garnered with accusations and myths, a mega-show at the Red Square
celebrated the re-entry of four Ukrainian regions to the bosom of Mother Russia
. This while a mass mobilization was preparing to throw hundreds of thousands of young men into the hell of war. Why are people trusting, supporting and even admiring a political leader like Putin? One of many reasons might be his stance as Supreme Leader, a Strongman
After general elections on the 12th September, Sweden is on the threshold of a new era. The Sweden Democrats
(SD) won almost 21 percent of the votes and thus became the largest in a bloc of right-wing parties that now have a collective majority in the parliament. A nation that for a long time prided itself of being a beacon of tolerance and openness will now experience a historical transformation. The Sweden Democrats
was once founded by Nazi sympathisers and for decades shunned by mainstream politicians. However, SD has now tipped the political scale in a country previously known for its stable and predictable politics, and some of the party’s former foes are now willing to co-rule with them.
Can a pitiless, offensive war waged against a sovereign state be justified? In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal “No!”. Ukraine has the right to defend itself against Russia’s reckless and extremely destructive invasion and EU’s support to a neighbouring country attacked by a superior enemy is definitely correct. However, several Latin American intellectuals and leaders are willing to accept Putin’s narrative, instead of Zelensky’s, namely that the war in Ukraine is actually a war between Russia and USA, which by stalling Russia’s and China’s ambitions intends to maintain its supremacy as a superpower, while using Ukraine as a pawn in its power game.
When I was a child, a friend asked me: “How would you describe a tree to someone who has never seen one?” I looked at the trees surrounding us and realised it was impossible, considering their versatility, beauty and utter strangeness. Since that time, I have often wondered about trees, as well as I have been worried by the indiscriminate destruction of trees and forests.
Many of us assume that an identification with a certain gender, race, nation or even age makes us particularly knowledgeable. When it comes to age, it is in most cultures of the world assumed that age and experience favour wisdom. I am not entirely sure about that, though I am convinced that as we grow older we tend to overestimate our own knowledge and importance. An arrogance that might burden and even marginalize the youth.
During the beginning of the pandemic, people wanted to learn more about COVID-19. Enclosed in their homes they watched with fear and fascination how the pandemic swept over the world, while comparing numbers of affected people and the death-toll in different countries. Watching COVID’s rampage became a kind of horror show. However, already after a few months with death-tolls rising and isolation not being over anytime soon, psychological fatigue set in. Judging from media coverage it now appears as if the pandemic finally is over, which is far from being the case.
Warfare and misinformation are intimately connected. The 29th of May was globally observed as The Day of Communication
and due to the ongoing war in Ukraine it was difficult to avoid thinking of affiliated propaganda campaigns, carried out by warring factions and far from indifferent bystanders.
An entirely unnecessary and all too tangible nightmare continues to scourge Ukraine. Without doubt, one catastrophe after another still awaits. Much of Ukraine’s harvest, of paramount importance to global food supply, is at risk of being lost due to Vladimir Putin’s and the Russian army’s belligerent actions. Last year, Ukraine harvested a record of 106 million tonnes of grain – 25, or even 50 percent of this amount is currently feared to be lost during this year while most experts add that “this is an optimistic forecast.”
I recently visited Abu Dhabi and my impressions became intermingled with worries about the war in Ukraine. I also happened to read Livy’s The Early History of Rome
, written around the beginning of CE, coming across these lines:
Georg Hegel once stated: ”What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.” Nevertheless, self-taught historian Vladimir Putin has learned to interpret history in his own manner. During COVID he went down in Kremlin’s archives and after studying old maps and treaties he wrote a lengthy essay On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians
, while declaring that ”the formation of an ethnically pure Ukrainian state is an aggression directed against Russia.”
While living and working in Paris I joined the Cercle Suédois
, a social club founded in 1891, at a time when Sweden and Norway were unified in one kingdom. By that time, Alfred Nobel was a frequent guest and in one corner I sometimes ended up standing in front of the writing desk where he in November 1895 had written his famous testament, stipulating that 94 percent of his total assets (equivalent to 120 million USD in today’s money value) was to be allocated to the establishment of five prizes. These prizes would every year be awarded to deserving individuals, who ”irrespective of their nationality” had contributed to ”the progress of humanity and preservation of peace in the world.”
In several countries around the globe, telling the truth is according to its rulers and other influential, generally wealthy, persons a serious crime that might be punished by muzzling the truth-tellers, slandering and humiliating them, and threatening their families and friends. If that does not make them shut up and repent they might be tortured, imprisoned and even killed.
A brutal drama is unfolding in Ethiopia and it is difficult to find straightforward accounts of what is happening there. However, this does not prevent people from taking a unilateral stand for either of the factions involved in the disaster.