Peace illiteracy

And why I am switching balances from the most noble and important – but momentarily meaningless – job to something more rewarding…

February 1, 2019

Just yesterday, I posted this extremely important and modest appeal – the Basel Appeal – on our foundation’s homepage, The Transnational, here.

It was disseminated to social media, among others, my FB profile, TFF’s and my public figure page. Facebook has secured that it is only seen by a few hundred and of these about 20 have liked and 2 shared. And of these, only 17 has accessed the appeal on The Transnational.

I’m sure less than 5 people read it from beginning to end. And not a single comment under it.

IT IS ABOUT THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT NUCLEAR WEAPONS ISSUE FOR EUROPE. BREAKING THIS TREATY – AND THE U.S. DID JUST THAT THIS AFTERNOON – WE ARE ALL CLOSER TO A NEW ARMS RACE, COLD-COLD WAR AND NUCLEAR WAR.

The United States today announced that it withdraws from the INF Treaty, one of the most important treaties ever made. Of course, issuing ultimatums and blaming its own withdrawal on Russia which is deeply unfair. However, Russia is not innocent since it too insists on remaining a nuclear weapons power.

Millions of citizens in Europe, including myself, and a vibrant peace movement, opinion-shapers, media and intellectuals fought for this treaty in the 1980s. We won.

Today we lost.

The peace discourse has been disappeared

The peace discourse has disappeared completely, has been disappeared by politics and media, by what I call the MIMAC – the Military-Industrial Media Academic Complex.

With today’s outrageously low peace interest and high peace ignorance among citizens and social media users, democracy is coming to an end and the world – if not all of it, at least the West – shall only move to hell, faster rather than slower.

European citizens have come to behave like sheep to the slaughterhouse, as the “useful idiots” of that MIMAC.

Don’t conveniently point your fingers at the militarists, warmongers and nuclear terrorists. Read your Gandhi: They are there and they pursue their geno- or omnicidal plans because citizens accept them!

And because most people – oh no, not you reading this – are more interested in food, fitness, identity, consumption, entertainment, sport and feeling hurt in shrinking comfort zones – i.e. in themselves and not in society or humanity.

And that’s when compassion and humanity is finally lost – a central feature in the decline of Western culture.

Reading longer articles, let alone books, about war and peace is – out. The long argument, connecting the dots, building your views of knowledge – and thereby being capable of looking through fake and detect what is omitted is all – out.

As Chris Hedges has aptly said, we are now living in the post-literate society. I’d say, knowledge is nothing, marketing and make-believe is everything.

No decent society can develop and thrive without knowledge and a vibrantly alert, educated public – and those that have those qualities will win in the longer run.

The biggest danger is not evil, its passivity

There is a reason that I have the quotation below on my Facebook page – it is the truest you can say about our global situation – together with Gandhi’s characterization of Western democracy as ‘diluted fascism’ and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s precise statement of our predicament – that we are dying because we have stopped talking about important things.

Timing and human commitment – you can only do so much

As a single individual, even a small group, you cannot stand up at any and every time of history and try turn the tide. Timing is of the essence – and these times is for war, not peace.

Peace is out of our times.

I’m not even going to try. I do what I do mainly to be able to watch myself in the mirror and make a reasonably honest evaluation every morning: I do what I think must be done and that I must do and I do it as well as I can.

That’s what the good doctor should also be able to say even when the patient didn’t listen to the diagnosis/treatment or simply dies.

I’ve always believed that working independently for peace – the reduction of all kinds of violence in our world – was a noble job, indeed the most important of all. Of course, it’s unpaid in our militarist culture, but very rewarding in other ways. I still believe that.

But a decision like the one today about nuclear weapons in Europe also makes me feel that at this point it is fair to say that the world’s most important job is also close to meaningless – marginalised and tabooed.

It makes no difference whether I work 2 hours, 6 hours or – as I have done for decades – 12 hours a day for a more peaceful world. History has its path and, yes true, we can change its course but only when there is a “critical mass”, when the timing is right.

It isn’t today.

That critical mass perhaps exists – most people are normal and thus hate wars and love peace. But it is not a mass that has come together – come together to act to stop the madness of this moment of global history. The mass isn’t critical, it is self-centred, disillusioned or conveniently passive.

I’ve been working for the UN Charter norm that peace shall be achieved through peaceful means – stated in Article 1 – since at least 1975 when I published my first academic article in the peace and conflict flagship journal at the time, Journal of Peace Research.

In other words, I can look back upon a kind of rather consistent and productive 45 years in the service of peace – well, indeed quite a lot more years if counting some 10-12 hours a day or 75 hours a week.

How to remain happy? Do the same thing in a different way

So, since I want to remain a happy man, I am going to switch balances.

It seems that people think that my ‘other life’ as art photographer has revealed some talents that I myself did not know that I may have – although I have lived with contemporary art literally since I was born.

Here’s the background: I’ve been invited by the European Cultural Centre (ECC) to exhibit i 2019 in the context of the Venice Art Biennale. It is undoubtedly the world’s most important contemporary art event anywhere and it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance I have been given.

Why should I not grab it when its prospects are so much more promising and fascinating than working against the political, destructive Zeitgeist of militarism, de-intellectualization and superficiality?

The exhibition is called “Personal Structures Open Borders” and my project is art political, intercultural – a photo-based, multi-media installation of 10+ square meters. Quite a self-imposed challenge!

I am going to devote myself to make the best out of that unique opportunity, throw my still undiminished energies in on that marvellous project which, fortunately, is a cooperative effort of TFF and Oberg PhotoGraphics.

My project is called SPAR – Silk Peace Art Road. Its theme reaches from China to Aleppo and Venice, the New Silk Road or Belt and Road Initiative – the world’s largest and most constructive project that is deliberately drowned in the constantly negative reporting of China, Iran, Russia etc.

And I feel that that is another way, more joyful, to promote a better future world than the more politically narrow, destructive nuclear and other militarist discourse that I have given priority till today.

And, indeed, it has a larger peace-promoting potential – exhibitions in the Palazzo Mora and Palazzo Bembo that ECC owns attract more than 500 000 visitors from all over the world during the 6 months the exhibition is on – May 11 to November 24, 2019. Welcome!

You may read more about SPAR here, follow its creation here and see my general art photography on my homepage here. And there is my Instagram account too where elements and photos are posted.


6 Comments »

  1. Tillykke med din store chance og dit forståelige valg. Kender jeg dig ret, vil dine fotos også glimtvis vidne om både krig og fred.

    En lille korrektion: første gang du nævner ECC har du skrevet EEC, og min hjerne hev EU frem!!

  2. jeg kan ikke ligefrem sige jeg er uenig i din analyse af tidsånden, på den anden side har jeg håb om en fredelig fremtid, faktisk er jeg slet ikke i tvivl i en fjern fremtid vil historikerne tale om krigenes epoke og opstille eksotiske teorier for at forklare hvorfor der gik så lang tid inden den globale fred endelig blev virkelighed,
    jeg lover at menneskeheden vil udvikle sig og vokse fra de åbenlyse idiotier verden er fuld af idag ikke bare militarismen, men også grådigheden og den skade denne medfører på vores levende planet,
    men jeg kan desværre ikke garantere at vi ikke skal gennemleve de grusomste tider i menneskehedens historie undervejs, både klimakollaps og den totale krig er måske en del af vejen,
    faktisk siger mange religioner noget om dette, med “de sidste tider” “armageddon” og sikkert en masse andre profetier, men de taler også om en tid efter dette, og lover evigt liv, dette kan vel betyde at mennesket trods al sin dårskab kommer ud i den anden ende som et fornuftsvæsen som ikke længere begår fatale fejl.
    et afgørende skridt i retning af fornuft er hvis al grådighed med et trylleslag blev kureret hos alle jordens mennesker, og imens vi venter kan vi jo selv forsøge at kurere egen grådighed det kan ikke skade.

  3. Kære Jan.
    Det er bestemt ikke svært at forstå din nedslåethed over tingenes gang – navnlig ikke med tanke på den amerikanske opsigelse af INF traktaten.
    Der synes at være ubegrænsede ressourcer til rådighed for krig og krigsforberedelser – og stort set ingen for selv den simpleste eftertanke. Det ville være vidunderligt, hvis vi var i stand til at indse, at det er OS SELV, vi udplyndrer, OS SELV, der betaler for våbnene og OS SELV, der lukker øjnene for den indsigt.
    Jeg skal ikke grave hullet endnu dybere (det går næsten af sig selv); men med jævne mellemrum må også jeg ryste vantro på hovedet af den tilsyneladende ubøjelige vilje til dumhed hos os mennesker. Det er NÆSTEN sjovt.
    Godt, at du vælger – ikke at lade hænderne synke – men at lede dit engagement og dine kræfter ind i dit SPAR-projekt!

    De aller-bedste hilsener herfra

    Vagn

  4. Yes, I understand you. My thoughts are the same : since 50 years I have been working for Peace, but now I´m tired. In these times, there is no interest in Peace. In Germany, more than 70 % of the citizens say that they want Peace, but less than 1 % really do something against war. The rest is silent. Perhaps we, the Peace-Workers, have not yet found the best way to reach them with our ideas…. I have decided to go another way, a new path to Peace, which is more suitable for me und my family and my Soul . Peace art, thats what I`ll concentrate on in the next time. I prepare a Peace Exhibition in our town Wünsdorf, in a former Military complex, that is visited by a few thousand tourists every year. I think that is perhaps the better way to reach People, and the better way for me. And your way, Jan, is wonderful and surely the better way for you ! Love from Christa

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