12 March 2022

being afraid is not the problem, brooding is

Hope is not a form of guarantee, it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.

John Berger

Things I do, apart from work. I pin the leaflet from the local health offices about the free distribution of iodine tablets to households on our notice board in the hall. We used to have some in stock (because several French nuclear reactors are close enough and in really bad repair) but I cannot find them. I stalk the social media accounts and wikipedia pages of the sons and daughters of Russian oligarchs and especially the offspring of the five men we have been informed are Putin's siloviki, his inner circle. On google maps, I look up their villas in Italy and Turkey and France. I get lost in glossy media stories about their interior decoration and pool table settings, the instagram world where the sun always shines. 

I brood, I speculate. What if they don't like what their dads are plotting. What if the dads don't want to go along with what their boss is doing. What if their dads' friends figure out that things are not going to plan. (Plan meaning blitzkrieg/coup, speedy occupation, locals waving flower garlands etc.).

Of course I am afraid, isn't that one of Putin's political goals. But I tell myself that fear must not paralyse me, or at least not for long. Is it because of my parent's memories that I am afraid, the war generation so particularly sensitive, or my own memories of nuclear war threats throughout my childhood? Or is it the old image of the Russian as a semi-civilised monster that has been popularised over and over again for the last hundred and fifty years? I'm thinking of James Bond antagonists, of World War II legends.
That what we want to call civilisation is only a thin layer, everywhere. Man's inhumanity to man runs through us all. My country, my parents and grandparents passed on to me the burden of genocide, gas chambers, an unforgivable war. My continent is not peaceful. Several years ago, we cycled along the river Neckar in southern Germany, passing through picturesque Medieval towns and villages for a pleasant sunny week in early autumn. One of these pretty towns, Oberndorf, is home to three of the world's leading weapons manufacturers and exporters (grenade launchers, rapid-fire rifles and tank weapons). You would not guess it. There is a Holocaust memorial on the town outskirts next to the picnic tables and the adventure playground. 

Wars have been raging on every continent for as long as I have been alive, some are silent, others atrocious, devastating.  How long ago was this?


And yet, I need to move on, we need to move on. Peaceful minds must prevail. Maybe some gestures, some deeds are not totally helpless. Have hope!


Colette said...


am said...

I/We. In my heart, I know for sure that peaceful minds, not without fear, all over the world are going forward and are prevailing against all odds. Thank you, Sabine, for your clear voice and for the John Berger quote and the sober reminder of the damage the war in Vietnam did to the minds and hearts of young men who were taught war by damaged older men who were taught war from time out of mind.

Ms. Moon said...

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and make war no more...

Pixie said...

I didn't think Canada had any wars until I looked it up and there were lots, riots, rebellions and battles, mostly against Indigenous peoples and the War of 1812 against the Americans. The last one I did know about.

War kills people, not just their bodies but their souls and minds as well. My dad fought in WW11 and he left the part of himself that was vulnerable and kind and gentle, somewhere in Sicily or Italy. And then we were raises by this man and we were caught in the aftermath of war as well, as were my children, echoes of pain through the generations.

The same thing will happen to the children of Ukraine and it breaks my heart. I donate to the Red Cross but it's not enough. I've thought of volunteering as a nurse but I know I can't leave my daughter and Jack because they need me too.

Mostly I feel helpless.

ellen abbott said...

Human beings are dangerous brutal creatures notwithstanding our ability to be compassionate and caring. We have no natural predator, we are our own predator and perhaps that is why we engage in war all the time. There is something missing in humans that causes us to kill and the more gruesome the better sometimes. I remember living in fear of a nuclear holocaust growing up. I don't fear now because what's the point. How I feel will not prevent anything. Best to just make the best of living while we can. Call it hope.

NewRobin13 said...

I'm working on finding hope. So far it has been elusive. I'll keep trying.

37paddington said...

Sabine, this might be the poignant, the most powerful, the most true thing I have read on this moment in the history of our world. It is piercing and clear eyed yet also hopeful, a light in the darkness, how did you manage such a thing? I am grateful for it, for you.

Elizabeth said...

I don't have anything to say but wanted you to know that your words are deeply felt.