If there’s one thing that’s scaring me, even more than the war, it’s my generation’s reaction to it.
This piece is going to be a long one because, in order to explain the current situation, several things and factors must be considered. On the morning of the outbreak of the war, Politico published an article in which Germany has been described as the main father of the disaster unfolding in Ukraine.
Berlin was blamed for maintaining too soft relations towards Moscow, especially after the war in Georgia and the start of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014. Meanwhile, business between the two countries had continued smoothly, with the highest point of it reached with the construction of the Nord Stream (a pipeline carrying gas from Russia directly to Germany), which was followed by the construction of the second arm, Nord Stream 2.
These pipelines were described as economic projects, by the German government. Despite the fact that it was pointed out that more than economic, such a pipeline would have geopolitical implications and could represent a rather dangerous dependence on Russia. So you’d think the Germans would have known and understood it, and used the economic narrative as an excuse. Also, how can you not understand how dangerous it is, if the same person who sells you gas, in the meantime poisons his political opponents. Opponents that you then run to bring to your territory, to save them. How can you pretend that the same person is not going to do something bigger than poisoning political opponents? Instead, in their naivety, the Germans really believed in the economic project narrative.
This naivety is the same one visible in the German population. Here another article comes to help me. It is written by a German millennial, which points out that the German generation, but I would add the European one, has no idea of what geopolitical method, strategy and, I would add, war are. Understandable that the Germans have come to the point of avoiding any military intervention and consider diplomacy as the only tool to be used in these cases. Behind them, they have two wars fought on the wrong side and the guilt of having caused a huge tragedy. They have analyzed their past, understood their mistakes, and every year they remember and discuss the mistakes they made. This is something no other country has ever done. At least, not at the scale Germans have done and keep doing. However, this has led them to believe that after the unification of their country (in 1990), history was really over. Not realizing that events such as 9/11, financial crisis, eurozone crisis and pandemic, just to name a few, are also events that represent a continuation of history.
So, I never expected to see a paradigm shift in Germany’s foreign and military policy in such a short time. Weapons shipments and defence budget increases, to summarize. In short, it seems that Germany has realized that the situation has changed and that it needs to take its due responsibility, considering the importance and role it has, both within the EU and globally. The problem, however, comes now. How to convince a population, like the German one, that the sending of weapons is necessary and that from now on more money will be spent on armaments?
One night, in a television program, the professor of international relations, Carlo Masala, pointed out that now they have to work on the mentality of the people. To reconnect with the article of the German millennial, to put back into motion a muscle, that of strategic thinking, which has atrophied.
That’s it, the mentality of the German people, but also, and more importantly, of my generation across Europe. This is one of the important points that the war in Ukraine is bringing out. The feeling is that my generation has been asleep during these years. And you can’t blame them for that. It’s nobody’s fault if you’re born and raised on a continent where war and crises are a thing of the past. Where you are used to having the highest standard of living in the world. Where you can allow yourself luxuries such as rights, health insurance, working vacations, elections and freedom of expression. The feeling, however, is that of all these privileges, we have not made good use of them, and we are sitting on our laurels. During election campaigns, for example, foreign policy issues are almost never addressed. As the experts say, when the weather is good, no one thinks it might start raining. A generation, mine, born and raised in a bubble. That allowed them to never experience war in their own backyard. Wars, however, have gone on outside the gardens of the EU.
I was very pleased to see that you have already forgotten about the wars in the former Yugoslavia. I keep hearing and reading that the war in Ukraine would be the biggest and most dangerous conflict in Europe since World War II.
Was it faked in the Balkans?
Did people die for fun?
Have you ever heard about Srebrenica and Racak?
Probably not, as ignorant as you are, you believe that the Balkan region is still a dangerous place.
Many of you have now awakened from hibernation. Complaining about sending weapons and pointing out that dialogue should be the only option. Good, but since you’ve already forgotten, that’s exactly what you did in Bosnia. Three years of war, Sarajevo besieged for an infinite number of days, and Europe was talking. Concentration camps were being found, in Europe people were talking. People kept dying, Europe kept talking. Then things like Srebrenica end up happening. Only when the slaughter was over and people died for real did you realize that something had happened, and you started creating pseudo careers for yourselves as pundits, journalists and writers about the former Yugoslavia. Without knowing the language and having lived through the events, you pretended to tell your compatriots what had happened during those wars. Most of you now remember with posts on Instagram and flags on Facebook some tragic events. Many thanks for that, it’s so kind of you, but people have died. Like for real. Because it might sound new to you, but your social media life is not real, and you are using it just to show a perfect, and therefore the fake, version of you. Your commemorating posts and your picture profile with a flag, do not have any effect in the real life.
But if your short memory amazed me, what didn’t amaze me at all was how you reacted to the outbreak of war. Surprised to see tanks crushing cars, people leaving their country and others dying.
What did you expect war to be?
Yet, from 2000 to yesterday, there have been a couple of wars around the world. I bet/hope, you saw some images. But, by reading your reactions, it seems you’re seeing war pictures for the first time in your life. Blessed are you who have not experienced war directly and who do not have relatives who have experienced it directly, but to be surprised by what you see on TV, means having a somewhat distorted idea of reality.
But in the end, it’s not so surprising either, because the hardest “experience” you have had in your life is, on average, an Erasmus. Which, already calling it an experience, is laughable. An EU joke that sells to its children to make them believe that leaving their country and studying abroad for a certain period of time will shape their character and allow them to get to know the world. An experience that consists of receiving economic support from your own state (where is the experience if you don’t have to rack your brains to earn money to live?) and is done on average to graduate faster, since they are given the opportunity to take easier exams and Erasmus students, most of the time, are treated as if they were disabled. In none of my master’s courses were they accepted, but immediately kicked out at the first class. The common reason used by professors, was “you do not have the skills to take these courses”. Go steal credits somewhere else.
Oh, don’t tell this to your friends who did Erasmus. Their character, forged by midweek parties and sex with peers of other nationalities, could be affected. There are also those who do it seriously, it must be said, and they are the ones who in some cases even stay in that country and build a life on their own, banging away at learning the language and finding a job in a foreign language. These are real experiences that allow you to start getting a feel for how the world works.
So, it may sound weird to you, but the fact that you are pacifists and do not want the use of weapons matters relatively little to the world outside the boundaries of your realities. When you get to a point like this, it becomes hard to talk and wave the peace flags. It’s quite impossible that individuals like this stop waging war because you ask them to. If you still have any doubts, review what happened in Bosnia.
But on average, you carry on these ideas to clear your conscience. Because you believe in positions like changing the flag of your profile picture. And depending on the country involved, you constantly strive to change them. You really believe to be somehow useful. Lucky you.
Or, in addition to flags and support on social media, there are states like Italy, which has so much personality to decide to suspend a university course on Dostoevsky. Firstly, Russian literature is not guilty of Putin’s decision. By suspending a course on Russian literature, you are indirectly blaming the population, who has nothing to do with Putin’s choice.
Moreover, if you do not read the literature of that country, then it is normal that you do not understand why someone you consider crazy, decides to invade another country. And not that in Dostoevsky’s books the attack on Ukraine is foreseen, but reading them allows you to understand Russian culture, population and history. If only to have a clearer idea of how that people live, in which ideals they believe and how they consider themselves. But Europeans are the ones who go to watch the World Cup in Russia and are surprised to find kind and welcoming human beings. They probably really expected the Russians to be bears.
Having grown up in a bubble and continuing to live in it is not your fault, because I am not asking you to pick up and go fight wars around the world. But the attitude you continue to take towards the outside is not allowing you to understand realities that may be geographically close or far from you. Because to be surprised by what Putin has done, it means that you have had your eyes closed until yesterday. Because if you grow up in a place where war and weapons are not part of everyday life, it doesn’t mean that all over the world it is the same. The next war is very likely to break out between China and Taiwan, just to warn you, so you get ready with your flag on Facebook or your filter on Instagram.
The big problem of the wonderful “European” people is their attitude towards what is outside their borders. A conceited attitude. You feel better, superior. As demonstrated by the different attitudes based on the colour of the skin of refugees. Right, very right, dutiful is the welcoming of Ukrainians. Conditioned without doubt by cultural affinities of the countries that are welcoming them. However, behaving like this with Syrians, Afghans and all the populations of North and Central Africa would not have been a bad thing. But you think that civilization exists only in your country, that outside of your backyard people are on average incapable, and you still do not understand why people leave their country to come and live in yours. You really believe that they do it to steal your jobs and things like that. You can’t even learn how to pronounce a foreign name, but you act like you’re the most capable in the world. Furthermore, you do Erasmus, but then, basically, your level of knowledge of foreign languages, even one as objectively easy as English, is embarrassing. In Third World countries, people speak better English than in Italy or France. I really hope it’s a genetic problem, yours.
There is a need, therefore, for a change in mentality. It is necessary for my generation to get used to the reality of war. Because like it or not, there will be more of them, and they can be increasingly deadly. It’s not pretty, but it’s reality. I, too, would like to live in a peaceful world, where people love each other and war doesn’t exist, but it’s not like that. The sooner you accept that, the better. And maybe, with a look at the future, countries and populations that are ready for war could be a way to avoid them, or at least avoid situations of no return like the one we have now. My generation needs to start discussing issues like these because, by dint of hiding among little flags and asterisks, we are forgetting how to discuss.
Terrified to feel patriotic or to love your country, to avoid being called nationalist or fascist. In Europe, you guys remember your origins only during sports competitions. Now, however, you all admire Zelensky. You are seeing it. There is nothing wrong with loving and fighting for your country. You could do it too. You don’t need to go around waging wars for no reason, just do the best for your countries and protect your interests once you cross the borders. Being proud of your origins is not a shame.
But you’re too busy not taking sides so as not to offend anyone. The ultimate depth of a discussion has become calling the other person a fascist or communist. Fine, nothing more. Judging a supposed external image, without the ability to try to go a little deeper. The discussions have reached a level of emptiness and lightness, that we could hang the contents with the thread of the mouse.
I find it absolutely necessary for our generation to start discussing these issues and to get people’s strategic and geopolitical muscle moving again. That discussions in schools, on TV shows and during elections, should make people understand the complexity of the world.
Because my generation has an overly simplistic idea of reality. That looks for answers in the easiest and most immediate solutions. A generation that the most it can do is 1+1=2. This operation has led to instill in people’s minds, after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea that Islam = terrorism. So all Muslims are bad and dangerous. The reality, fortunately, is much more complex than that. But if we don’t understand it, tomorrow we might end up calling the whole of Russia and its people absolute evil and blaming them for this. We have already made this mistake once, we can’t make it again.
To err is human, (but) to persist is diabolical.