In the past couple of weeks, we’ve all looked on horrified as the world descends into chaos once again. The scenes from Ukraine are scary and heart-breaking in equal measure. The unprovoked nature of the attack only adds to our sense of indignation.
What’s happening is definitely an escalation, and indeed re-ignition of post-cold war tensions. Certainly, we haven’t seen the likes of this in scale and intention for quite some time. I know, yes, that wars and conflicts happen all the time. Tragically, that’s true. But there’s something about this conflict that’s producing a visceral reaction in the west.
There’s good reason for that. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is resonating loudly precisely because it’s happening on our European doorstep. We’re more agitated when things like this happen close to home. That this is an uncomfortable realisation doesn’t make it any less true.
We haven’t experienced fully-fledged war as western Europeans for decades. In fact, all post-war generations in western Europe, notwithstanding the regular bouts of insanity in other parts of the globe, have lived their entire lives in unfettered peace, harmony and relative affluence. Yes, this war is having precisely the effect it is because it’s waged a little too close to home. That’s the brutal reality.
It raises fundamental questions. As a species, how do we do better? At this stage of our evolution, why is war, conflict and mayhem still our basic reflexes and recourses? Why, in 2022, are we still not better than this? Russia-Ukraine undoubtedly reflects tensions in the geo-politics of the region that were simmering for a while.
Putin may claim to be antagonised by the expansion of NATO, but the current conflict suggests much more. Russia-Ukraine speaks of the utter disintegration of diplomacy and cooperative government in the post-cold war era. Relations break down, on a global level, when sincere and productive dialogue stops. When politics and its systems fail, tensions, distrust and, inevitably, wars, fill the void. That’s the permanent cycle of human existence, I’m afraid.
Of course, there’s a better way and its incumbent on those with influence to help find it. We must always strive for solutions. War starts quickly, but it also ends quickly. That’s where hope lies. It’s not too late for Russia to pull back from the brink and end this insanity and unjustified aggression. Enough suffering and misery is inflicted already. This maddening, futile war must be brought to an immediate end.
For those of us that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, there was a lot of chatter about what World War 3 looks like. The idea of nuclear oblivion was never too far away, as crazy as that sounds. We’re a long way from that scenario, of course, but it’s nonetheless depressing to know how little we’ve learned in the ensuing years. Above all else, Russia-Ukraine shows how complacent we’ve become to those ideas. What a sobering thought.
P.S. You know, you’re never too old to learn. Every time you think you have it sussed, life bites you and shows there’s still much to discover. Every now and then, though, breakthroughs happen.
Always watch closely how individuals treat other people. It’s extremely important to observe that. Why? Because that’s precisely how they’ll treat you! No ifs, ands, buts or maybes about it.
This may seem like an obvious thing to note, yet it’s amazing how often, as humans, we ignore this truth. But it’s one that life teaches us over and over again. If others are treated badly, it’s only a matter of time before the same treatment is meted out to us. The only way to avoid it is to be aware. To observe. Here endeth the lesson.