Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Kongo…. These, and many more, are the battlefields of our time. Here in Germany war seems to be far away. The country prospers, unemployment is low, education is free and people live a luxuriously unconcerned life. The migration crisis brought the sight of war to Germany: You can read the faces carefully and see signs of fights, of suffrage and of despair, they are survivors. Another very important reminder of war are the older generations here, which are slowly disappearing: Most of the elderly people have grown up under the Nazi regime, have fought under them or suffered from their brutal „ethic cleanings“. I think, we should not ignore war any more - it is right in the middle of society and is a constant danger, specially since the conflict and war are scratching on the borders of Europe.
100 years after the end of the first World War, Europe experiences a long period of peace. The European Union was even celebrated with the Nobel Peace Price, an honor for the achievement of 60 years of peace within the union. And if you look at the history of these countries, which were coined by hatred ( e.g. the long lasting enemies France and Germany) and whose people survived two wars and growing up with national propaganda, it does seem like a miracle. Still, I was a bit disappointed by the choice, since it kind of denies all the war surrounding Europe and even armed conflicts within Europe. In my opinion, this is the best example of eurocentrism, which is a worldview that considered Europe as the center of the world.
Since history is one of my passions and I have the chance now to live in Germany, which has a very rich but partly horrifying past, I tried to engage young people of my organization in historical discussion. With limited success.. From my perception, the young generation in Germany is a bit unaware and lazy about politics, they take a lot for granted which was actually the hard achievements of their ancestors. I know from my home country and the neighboring states, that peace is not an easy accomplishment. And even more, we have to look at peace with more differentiation: The end of war doesn't necessarily mean peace. Peace is the mayor task after fights, but as well as democracy, it is no cure for everything. Western concepts are in theory often nice, but harder to implement in reality and not fitting to every context.
And this is an important point to realize: There is no absolute truth, there is no ultimate theory or the only narration. History is a claidoscope of personal memories and official documents, and their equally true. With a western, „purely scientific“ approach, we will miss so many stories and testimonials of humans. We have to consider oral sources, individual memoirs and letters as well as art and literature as part of the overall history, and research them carefully. If we do not, we will just hear one single story, a version of history which was created by people with interests and which only reproduces our unequal global system.
But despite all the alarming news and the overall lethargy of people, I gained hope again: I was very lucky to have visited the „War or Peace“-Festival in Berlin, which dealt with the questions above, the questions I asked myself if I look at contemporary politics and their roots in history. Young people from all over the world gathered to discuss global history, and instead of defending our truths, we completed our narratives with each other. And it is a complicated, unease process, which makes it obvious, that there is no good guy or bad guy, there is no innocent and guilty nor right and wrong. At some points, we have to accept that we disagree, but we should never forget, that we are not our pasts, we are the present and creators of the future.
Interesting references to rethink history:
History Festival Berlin: https://www.warorpeace1818.org
Chorus Performance „Grundgesetzt“: https://gorki.de/de/marta-gornicka-ueber-grundgesetz
Very interesting theatre play and movie about the war on the Falkland Islands: https://www.berlinale.de/de/archiv/jahresarchive/2018/02_programm_2018/02_Filmdatenblatt_2018_201812106.html
Best source for information on German history and politics: http://www.bpb.de
The First World War through Arab perspective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZQxGsSPOvc (more parts of the documentary available, also in English)