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Letter from the Editor

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister  

Dear Reader

As I am writing this, the world is once again holding its breath. Wherever Christian doctrine is present and a European background still preserved, Mardi Gras organisations celebrate the ancient rites of "Carnevale", as the Italians say. Yet at the same time fear and/or defiance are the predominant factors permeating the atmosphere worldwide, especially reflected in the media, delivering proof yet again that mankind is indeed in need of aid to solve its problems peacefully.

Ingmar Bergmann's favorite characterEveryone is talking about it, but no one seems to be communicating, certainly no one that should as a decision maker with some clout. Threats and speculation are the order of the day. Dominance over goods and services are stronger motivators of who should have control over what than an analytical voice of reason. Too much propaganda has been dumped on us to easily and clearly see what the real story is, who to believe or what.

No matter how we add our voices to those that cast the deciding votes, we should never err in the direction of death but life. That Germany and France object is not really a noble deed; in fact it is self-preservation. If there really should be weapons of mass destruction European countries would be easy targets and first in the line of any aggressive actions out of the Middle East.

The tragedy is really that realities between Occident and Orient are vastly different, which makes understanding on both sides of the ideologies very difficult.

"Freedom is still more than ever the light and soul of the Occident," says Thomas Mann.

Perhaps he is right. It appears that especially the USA has held on to the beacon of this concept, pointing out that in the Orient oppression, dictatorships and the lack of personal freedoms are still the norm in a great many different forms of government in oriental regions.

The question is really not only if war should be waged, but also what happens afterwards, even if it should have the immediate desired end.

Boerne puts it this way: "Were the wishes and strength of a people’s majority are ripe for freedom, there is no need for conspiracy; where they are not, conspiracy will not succeed. For even if it succeeds in toppling the old tyranny, a new one will replace it."

The world under US leadership is trying to determine if the people of Iraq want to be free of their leader and is conspiring to change the regime. If this should come to pass then we will reasonably soon know if the entire clamour was worth the effort and lives and machinery and worries.

But perhaps it is better not to even consider any outcome of any war. It means that we are considering the possibility of war seriously. Emmanuel Kant knew that even a victorious war is a national catastrophe and changes nothing. Change can come only out of better religious and ethical education, he wrote.

And perhaps we should think with one of Goethe’s contributions on this subject, as true now as it was when he originally wrote it: "Never do we hear more talk of freedom than when one party wants to subjugate the other with nothing else the issue than that power, influence, and property pass from one hand to another. Freedom is the whispered password of stealthy conspirators, the clamorous battle cry of avowed revolutionaries, indeed, the slogan of despotism itself, as it leads its subjugated masses forward against the foe promising surcease from oppression for ever."

But who is whispering? None of the parties are quiet about there intentions.

Jaspers reminds us of the following: "The concern of all for freedom is necessary, for it is the most precious good. It does not fall into your lap by itself nor is it maintained automatically. It can only be preserved where people are aware of it and feel responsible for it. For freedom is always on the defensive and therefore in danger. Where the danger is no longer felt, freedom is almost lost."

Perhaps that is why the Americans feel so strongly about their convictions. They had not anticipated that their homeland would become a target itself. With renewed vigour they are determined to restore the idea of freedom on their soil and elsewhere.

Boerne states that a just man demands freedom not just for himself but for all; the unjust man only for himself.

If we are to think like Friedrich Schiller then we will think that you can let a man have his freedom, but you cannot give it to him! Acting on that notion would make war a no solution, which it really never is. Goethe says it is a disease, that "our modern wars make many unhappy while they last and none happy when they are over."

Schnitzler points out that wars are not fought for an idea, "neither a national nor a religious one", that those are used as pretence, carried ahead as a banner of the souls….., "making world history a conspiracy of diplomats against common sense." He also felt that the military could do without an actual war, that they would be perfectly happy just doing manoeuvres. It’s "only the diplomats who need war urgently", he points out.

It does not matter where we look, from a humanitarian, environmental and ecological and economical standpoint the case for war is weak. We also are admitting our inability to understand what is at stake, what leads to it, how to handle problems, how to communicate.

As long as mankind can remember back, every nation going to war has counted on god, the same god by any name, to bless their particular purpose/side. The arrogance of this alone should be enough to point out the insanity of war, any war.

I could go on endlessly quoting from a lot of great minds of the past, but one thing is certain and modern philosopher and humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard put it in a way we are in need of being reminded of: "Happiness and strength endure only in the absence of hate. To hate alone is the road to disaster. To love is the road to strength. To love in spite of all is the secret of greatness. And may very well be the secret of this universe."

That is not to say that order and decency cannot be put in when a need arises, as long as it is done without hate, without the obsession retaliations smack of. Revenge is not a sane notion and will only lead to more retaliation, creating an endless cycle of horror. Reason should be the tool of governments, nothing else.

Jaspers put it this way: "He who believes a threatening war to be a certainty contributes to its coming. He who believes peace to be a certainty becomes unconcerned and, without wanting it, helps to drift toward war. Only he who sees the danger and does not for a moment forget it can act responsibly to banish the danger."

The world has drifted toward this danger. We must hope and pray that reason will persist.

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister


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