War, Power, Power Plays – Power Balance – The Cruelty of Politics

game of chess with fire in background
Image courtesy pixabay.com – Free license

Politics is about tactics too, the official definition in the Oxford dictionary states, as one meaning:
The activities of governments concerning the political relations between states.
Politics can be wise and be based on sound values – or they are cruel and serve a few with no values at all, except their bank account(s).

Others use politics as a means to heal wounds of vanity, retrieved some time during their lifetime. Like, dreadful example, though one of many, really, Adolf Hitler, ‘Reichskanzler’ (Chancellor of the 3rd Reich) during the Nazi dictatorship in Germany.

Famously applied at the Vienna Academy of Arts and rejected he spent the rest of his life redeeming a fragile self-confidence or rather image.

To this day dictators often are about this more than anything else: Many take the wealth in the wake of power as a means to an end – and bathe in any kind of public recognition and the approval of one part (usually the rich and extremely rich) of the respective society.

These patterns are recurring, and usually do so cruelly – as per latest example, in regard to Putin in his way to power – and the Ukraine.

The Ukraine is part of the power plays between nations and actually the former Soviet Union and its remnants – as well as a personality the likes of Putin who took over this vast country of Russia bit by bit in more than two decades.

His own motives may be hidden in biographical privacy yet – but they seem rather apparent when watching recordings of his public and private appearances: Extreme understatement standing out as the apparently simple guy, the almost nice, familiar neighbour who wears his business suit anywhere, even in parades among numerous highly decorated militia…

Yet, when seen driving big motor-cars and enjoying the fact that he is a ‘force to be reckoned with’, the purported modesty and neighbourly demeanour are revealed as so much window dressing.

In the long run educating people to the values that have proven to be vital to any civil, democratic society, namely the Human Rights Declaration, are the only real weapon we have against such populism and cruel repression.

In the short run, being aware of the balance of power and respect it early on might be the safe route around war.

Adam Smith in World Politics? – Diplomacy Beyond Popular Images

image of a world map and a compass
Diplomacy needs among other things these very basic skills: The ability to look beyond images, propaganda and popular opinion.

Politics of peace need them too.

The Western world in my eyes is blinded in their view of the world, politics and negotiations by something almost amounting to idealism:

It‘s about money, in any shape or form, we are about it – and everyone else is too.

This is perhaps the most tragic misconception that will endanger peace in all parts of the world again and again:

Indeed certain factions of the Christian religions in the backwater of the rise of civil society around the 13th / 14th centuries claimed, in principle:

Wealth is the sign of God‘s pleasure.

Ever since an ever larger part of the world – especially rooted in the beginnings of the US society with the first actual settlers on the Mayflower representing that idea – are exactly of that frame of mind:
Be wealthy and God is with you.

Most Eastern societies from Africa, over Russia all through Asia in one way or another – in principle that is – value the community and the dignity of the individual even more.

Dignity!

I have spent most of my adult life around all manner of extremely peaceful, knowledgeable and kind people from the Near, Middle and Far East.
I have studied Persian poems and literature and have met other people from around the globe.
I have had the privilege to call books my friends in childhood and adolescence and still do. I studied languages and culture at a prestigious university and earned my M.A. degree there.

The most tragic misunderstanding between the Western world – leaning towards Adam Smith‘s ideas of economy – and the Eastern world – leaning towards trade among dignified, respected and proud tradespeople is that:

Dignity

The European literature of certain times and people as well as later stereotypes about life in the Eastern world – or the ways and means of trade and politics – is practically steeped in this painful repetitive almost ridiculous contempt:
If you know about their ‚purse‘, you know about their interests. Anyone with a contempt for money is stupid.

This is not the real driving force of mankind: Indeed, wealth was always craved, if people had gone hungry or even starved; but dignity and respect in combination with extreme poverty can be thought of in the East – not so in the West.

In the Western world, respect and the consequential dignity of a person – or a nation – are closely related, if not tightly interwoven with their monetary means.

In most parts of the Eastern world this is not the case. Dignity is a fundamental possibility that can be envisioned easily with little or no money.

Among nations dignity is crucial. Treat them with respect, dignity and regard, let them safe face.

And remember this fine part of the Christian bible that actually was originally written in that Eastern culture:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Matthew, 25:40)


Author’s Note (April 2022):

In view of the latest developments I’d like to enlarge on this, make it clearer yet. The question after motives and real reasons is not always easy to answer. But if we are really interested in successful negotiations we need to do that. Not always is the answer to ‘cui bono’? : ‘money only’ as stated above.
Usually the attributes associated with money, or more money are actually much more important:
Respect, attention and power in certain circles.
Bluntly put: If it was about taking the Ukraine, they would have taken it long ago.

The question “cui bono” needs to be researched and answered in all directions of cause or effect or impact. Basic human motivators.

The Russian Bear – War: ‘Strength’ or Weakness?

drawing of a schematic bear on green background

Russia and Ukraine – hopes have been shattered today. War has been started. I still believe that negotiation is the only long-term solution to keep the peace.

At the same time to understand motives can help. Looking at it from here in the middle of Europe the actual situation President Putin finds himself in is indeed that of a trapped bear in many ways:

  • He started his own journey down the road of dictatorship a long time ago: The first change of laws to enable his repeated candidacy and elections for him as president was the first sign that power indeed corrupts.
  • Internal affairs are at an all time low: More and more opposition has to be met with more and more arrests and violence, even political murder, also going on for some time now. A political leader who feels strong enough would not use such measures, indeed would not need them.
    • ‘Bullies’ always were like that – and will stay that way if we let them be: They feel weak and in consequence they do everything to appear strong – or what they take for strength.
  • The situation as regards NATO from a Russian point of view is less straightforward:
    The balance of power between the ‘superpowers’ always was a rather pointed one – not to say fragile –  since WW II and stayed that way after the Cold War had ended. As long as the  more verbal than actually written agreements on the limits of NATO expansion were observed there was some manner of peace.

Imagine yourself living in your house or flat attending to your own business – and suddenly a tall apparently friendly guy knocks at your door and when you open – you see him standing there with a ‘big ol’ smile’ on his face – carrying a machine gun…
Wouldn’t you become nervous, in spite of appearances?
I get the impression that for some time now Russia may have felt like that person in the flat, seeing all those friendly people – with weapons … right in front of their place…

Make Peace Not War – Korea, Vietnam, Irak – Ukraine?

Vietnam woman swatting beside coal fire
Image courtesy unsplash.com – Free license (Woman in Vietnam)

The recent US American history since WW II is fraught with wars and interventions practically all over the world. I have posted about their last but one president almost too often in some ways; not naming names can be important.

President Joe Biden is a representative of sanity and goodwill in the Oval Office and millions of people there and elsewhere are grateful, altogether.

Mr Putin may have just lost his way temporarily… or is seriously lost to the good cause.
Yet, even he knows what war means, one part being a dreadfully bitter truth about it: In the short run weapon arsenals and storage spaces will be cleared by it – to make room for new ones…

But one thing is true too:

Soldiers, armies, naval forces – they are not nameless masses – they are people!

Each and every one of them is the son to a mother and father, perhaps a brother or nephew, maybe uncle – and father himself some day; these days also often daughters and nieces, aunts and sisters, in many parts of the wold; beloved, cherished – and remembered for their smiles, their laughs, jokes, games and even arguments or fights.

Wars kill people!

Wars ‘create‘ enemies.
The Russian arts and crafts are sometimes just wonderful, think of Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, or in music, Tchaikovsky, to name only a very few.
There are things that are quite special about the US culture:
Although a very young culture yet, they have artists, writers, painters, poets, musicians: Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Emily Wharton, George Gershwin, to also name just a very few; and a huge movie industry; their laws even allow major, high-budget movies be made that criticize their system and culture.

This is my own trailer version of the movie „Good Morning Vietnam“ that makes the bold move to show both sides of the story of a war and telling it from the only real perspective there is: the human one, the story of people, smart, kind, good or bad.

‘Social’ Media, ‘Shitstorms’ or: Types of Public Recognition…

image of skewed social media icons on a smartphone surface
I think I can thank my lucky stars that I never was part myself of the so-called
‘social networks’, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Their really ‘unsocial’ character is proven daily. I watched a documentary on a prestigious TV channel the other day and the amount of dirt used to discredit journalists or political opponents makes me shudder.

I know for a fact too, that younger and inexperienced people may suffer serious damage and pain from such hunts. That is tragic.

As a blogger and part-time writer I safely can say: If there was any shitstorm raised from some corner of those nets against me – it would be a sign only that I had hit a weak spot of such a politician:

Trump in the US, Salvini in Italy and Bolsonaro in Brazil come to mind. Each of them just interested to manipulate those that are too simple-minded to be able to know the truth.

Facts can be checked, there is no interpretation possible of facts.

That kind of recognition by reactionary representatives of an actual silent minority of too rich and too selfish groups in society would actually make me proud.

Afghanistan – Tragic Past and Present

Map of Asia showing Afghanistan and a dove of peace
Afghanistan’s recent past and actual present are fraught with death and destruction, inequality, and crime against girls and women, alas. But there is more to the whole than just that.

There are several reasons that I today treat this subject in some depth here, instead of posting somewhere else online:

    • Afghanistan not only through the past two decades was a platform for international power games.
    • Since at least the 18th century British interests made it the region considered the ‘gateway to India’.
    • Its geographic coordinates as well have made it a starting point and turnstile for almost any of the global powers of the last 200-300 years: Russia, England, France and the US.
    • For over 40 years, ever since I can remember starting to watch news and understanding them, Afghanistan has seen civil war, fostered by all those powers, sometimes at the same time, sometimes in turns, to make sure they kept influence and – power.
    • Natural resources around it as well are part of the overall interests and ‘games’ being played.

To try and live in Afghanistan is a challenge at least, and these days probably much more a daring enterprise for anyone concerned about a civil life
(Link above: World Happiness Report 2019, UN).

The influences and interests I mentioned are emulated by internal groups and traditional tribe systems that force farmers in some regions to a crop of drugs instead of livestock and agricultural harvest.

International politics have created – literally and figuratively – burned earth in many parts of this globe, be that in South America, Africa or Asia.

Almost none of the countries has been a stage of so much cruelty and death over such a long time, as Afghanistan has been.

Imperialistic politics over the centuries have a lot to answer for.

Making peace is a sometimes challenging task, not to say awe-inspiring. But it is worth it, any time and every time.

Note: As a German born and bred I have been raised to high education and a ‘social and political conscience’. Spreading knowledge and wisdom about such matters is my way of fulfilling this sense of responsibility. Recent German history of the past 100 years is fraught with some dreadful events. This sense of responsibility stems from there.

Exemplary links to start from for more in-depth information:

 

Picture of a dove of peace with olive branch in beak

The Mistaken Rumour About Victims

unique-characters-wooden-background-inclusion-concept

They tell you these days that certain types of people are predestined to be victims… Apparently explaining something… Victimized as the geeky kid, the odd one in the group…

But look closely, because: How large is the group, really?

How many make a lot of noise and ‘chase’, and how many don’t say anything, at all?

You will find the numbers at odds, too:
The majority – or rather the ‘loud’ ones – often are only those that fit into the ‘official picture’ that is prominent at a point in time.

During the 1960s and 1970s in Europe a new generation had raised an idea and made part of popular culture, what now has become part of marketing:

Dare to think different.

The previous generations had – often just by not caring – allowed millions of people be killed in two world wars that were actually ‘good’ for a few only, the rich, the wealthy – and the conglomerates.

Later, as I mentioned, until well into the 1980s, being careful, considerate and kind was actually ‘en vogue’.

These days it seems, it is ‘en vogue’ again, to be rich and famous…This in turn seems to call for a certain type of thinking, behaviour and mindset. As homogenous as possible. Any deviations from the ‘typecast’ creating irritation. Being different apparently allowing the apparent ‘majority’ to blame, chase or make victims of those that seem not to ‘fit’ what is called ‘mainstream’…

But, and here comes the ‘but’: Is it really?

Are all those people who do no agree with these ideas but keep quiet, perhaps the ‘silent majority’?

If that is true, we should rethink the currently prominent idea of the ‘victim type’, the ‘natural target’, as it is cruelly put sometimes, because that concept is the ‘devil an’ all’:

It blames the victims for being victims!

It aquits the real culprits from all responsibility: “I couldn’t help doing it, they are that type…”

It is important to have rules in a community to prevent harm, or even crime done!
In that respect we need to observe such rules, each and everyone.

Other than that, the call for conformity to an ‘ideal’ of behaviour or appearance can create mindless and even heartless human beings who live ‘exclusively’, instead of ‘inclusively’.

Perhaps people teasing and torturing others are the culprits, after all?

Neo-Nazis, Politics, Media – and Responsibility!

Again, someone has gone and done it: Hanau, Germany, 19.02.2020: a crazed man kills 9 people who seemed ‘foreign’ and then his mother and himself.
And now, wailing and crying and gnashing of teeth can be heard everywhere, online…

It is important to loudly and clearly state: such deeds are criminal!

But at the same time all the politicians that now stand pompously or even truly sorrowful in front of cameras in Germany, have to ask themselves, as well as the media broadcasting these images and speeches:
why so late?
Why did the discussion go on publicly for years on end without any foresight of possible consequences?

Is it even the bible, book of lots of wisdom, if nothing else, where it says:
“Sow wind and you will reap storm”?

The problems visible now and for almost two decades now are European, and home made:

  • A public discussion for years on all available ‘channels’ of information, newspapers, TV shows, news, fora and talk shows, which spills over into the so-called ‘social media’.
  • This discussion started by a politician in the south of Germany who in the fall of 2016 called the refugees a ‘problem’ for the first time, this time around – and then gleefully taken on by the abovementioned channels, because:
  • News are goods to be sold as well!
  • The discussion continued endlessly, for more than 4 years! Again, on all public channels, trying to ‘find ways out of the crisis’, when there really was none!
  • On and and on droned the specialists and scientists and activists and journalists and political consultants and … everyone who hoped to make something out of this:
  • Over and over and over: ‘a problem, an issue, a crisis’.
  • Then the right wing politicians and other charlatans and up-starts and power-thirsty elements: they are just as bad as any of those that go and do the shooting as such!
  • Because without properly thinking twice, thinking it through, taking care of possible consequences, they take up the yarn and go on spinning it to make a good sound rope – to ultimately ‘hang’ people by?
  • For centuries, sensations, drama, is what draws crowds. For some reason or another.

Learn from history! Learn, learn, learn…!

Some of the lessons are hilariously easy if you care:

  • Condemning the ‘other’ is easy!
  • Send fear into humans with less insight by making them aware of imagined ‘strangeness’ is easy.
  • People, like the AfD in Germany these days – or people like Trump and his party and followers, ‘feed’ on the fact:
  • In ancient Rome the ‘recipe’ worked the same way: make it public – and the crowd, the sheep will go ‘baaahhh’.

So, do not condemn!
Do not call anything a problem, especially about other human beings, if it is not!
And, last but not at all least, also look for that most striking similarity:
the hungry masses, that feel abandoned by the few wealthy who abuse them for the sake of more power and more money:
they are the first to strike out at someone apparently weaker – because to have someone below oneself in the social strata provides some kind of pride to those that have lost even that.

But do not repeat those phrases! Do not pretend to listen to them for the sake of making them feel heard! And then abuse them again…

That was one of the most foolish – and damnable in its consequences – of tendencies a couple of years ago, in Germany, among others. That’s how the AfD got started.

That’s how political parties similar to it can gain power and ultimately throw us into the abyss of another world war, if we and you do not look out.

Because as the smart ones among my readers will know: those abusing wealth and power are not out for the good of the masses, even if they pretend to do so.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Regardless of gender, creed and colour!

Trump, Contracts, World Peace and the Principle of Cover-Up

History can teach us: what’s happening at the moment in US foreign affairs is really an ignominious yet often used method to cover up what goes wrong ‘at home’.

From ancient kings in the past to Hitler during the Third Reich this procedure has been apparently easy to use and quickly leads to the desired effects. On the surface hatred and abuse are called out, even screamed sometimes, from the speaker’s desk, and Hitler and Trump show uncanny similarities in their rhetoric.

But the underlying schemes and patterns are even more important to realize in order to get a grip on the recent US foreign policies, with apparently no consideration for anything but the immediate, even if pretended, hatred…?

It is quite clear that the Trump government hasn’t so far even come close to the promises made to its voters. The book recently published by an author as prominent and well-known, not to say famous, as Bob Woodward makes the situation even more poignant.

The incompetence and almost insane quality of the present government stand out like a boil. The promised thousands of jobs cannot be found, which for most people are the main reason for voting for one candidate or another, in many parts of the country.

What remains to be done, is what Trump is preparing now: he cancels armament contracts, partly long-standing ones that were made to protect the world from complete destruction, by mad and greedy dictators or any heads of government, kings or otherwise.

That way he paves the way for what is this procedure, this easy to use and fast working ‘medicine’ for all that need to make their people devotees and believers in their cause again: cover up your problems in home affairs by focusing on foreign ones.
Tell them that dreadful enemies are everywhere and therefore arms are necessities of the first order.
Start arming the country with lots and lots of tanks, guns and other even more destructive weapons, not to say ‘weapons of mass-destruction’ (term may ring a bell….), and the following goals will be reached:

  • Get a lot of government money into a dormant industry sector, producing those weapons on a large scale.
  • Create thousands of new jobs and a content population, who may one day soon then even swallow the more bitter medicine that war has to follow, again.

This way, no one will care to look twice at what was there before: high numbers of unemployed and disgruntled people. People with apparently no future who even now use the weapons already in the streets – while others are clamouring for stricter gun laws, potentially reducing profits of that industry sector even more.

Let’s not be fooled!
Let’s be aware – and say ‘No’ – to war – and to rearmament!

Human Rights, Extremists and Rudyard Kipling – Can the ‘Twain’ Ever Meet?

Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘The Ballad of East and West’ put it in his famous phrase: ‘East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.’
His idea was that the differences were too great to ever be fully reconcilable. The term reconcilable in turn stems from ‘reconciliation’, something two or more parties at war would do…

These modern times see the discussion going on just as forcefully, opinionated and to some extent just as wrongly prejudiced as Kipling was. He also was the poet laureate who coined the phrase of the ‘white man’s burden’. It’s another way of saying that ‘the West’ actually has an obligation and a duty to go elsewhere into the world and teach ‘them’ there what life should be like and how to think and feel.

The prejudice this idea is based on of course means: here (in Europe, the West, US) ‘we’ know all about it, are always right and could not accept another point of view because the truth is to be found here.

The ‘devil’ in such ideas lies in two things:

  • That there exists one real truth only.
  • That there are whole countries or regions filled with tribes or people who have to be taught what is right. In former times: to be religiously converted in a ‘mission’.

This is actually the same principle ‘the other side’ employs when influencing simpler minds into attacking and killing people, or go to war.
The propaganda for centuries has been the same:
Find an image in the ‘other’ that is harmful, problematic or even dangerous, paste it up, make it look shiny and ‘red’, present ‘the enemy’ in the most gruesome colours and then take up the weapons and march.

A very simple and core argument today is in judging Islamic terrorists by the fact that allegedly ‘they’ have the fierceness written into their religion, namely the Koran contains suras that explicitly ask its followers to go to war or kill. Although this is true – here comes the interesting and even more simple fact:
Terrorism sanctioned by the government is called just – war.

More importantly, if we take the human rights act and lay it beside the allegedly worthy, because peaceful bible, that is taken as proof that the West is worthier still, we may be astonished: the bible has many parts in it that are just as fierce, ‘bloody’ and dangerous to simple minds than any possible counterpart in the Koran. I just like to bring up the ‘eye for an eye’ phrase as an example.

If you want to understand and truthfully judge, how people think and live in a majority of a culture, you do not just take up their religious book and make an equation.

You start to understand this:

  • Living, breathing and caring people are all around the world. They very often have very similar dreams about a peaceful life that contain love and reasonable wealth.
  • The propaganda is the same – in basic fact – around the world, in words as well as in deeds. Using simple concepts and even simpler wording to ‘drive people crazy’ – and into torture or killing.
  • Putting your own view of the world ‘up there’ as the only truth that has value and should be adhered to, namely be self-righteous, is the starting point of any narrow-mindedness and ultimately may lead to war just as easily.

If we want to really change the world, let’s start at our own door: open it to let different point-of-views in and thus different kinds of people from around the globe and try and understand, that many things can be differentiated and sometimes difficult – but they are certain to be exciting and fruitful, not to say beneficial too. Because variety is what makes life colourful!