Europe was for me, a young, curious and open-minded woman, always more than just home. Europe was for me as well the – pretty decently practiced – idea of cooperation, democracy and, most of all, peace. I found my idealistic hopes and dreams realized in the European Union and passionately begun to organize all my free time around the improvement and promotion of its practices and values.
Unfortunately, our world is a tough place for optimists with open eyes and the ability to think and reflect critically. I claim for myself that I want to be part of an energetic group of youth who actually change the world, but staying motivated requires a lot of patience and persistence. I am still young, but when I was yet even younger I only saw the good in anything. Obviously, I realized that the world is not only bright and beautiful, but I was deeply convinced that the good can be reached.
The older I grew, the more I got involved in politics, the more I learnt about the world and about people – the more I was disappointed, frustrated and suspicious whether my peaceful hopes might ever become reality.
The world is a dangerous place. Not only because of wars, catastrophes and other damage done by human beings and the earth itself, but because of how easily our thoughts can be influenced by anything. We live with a big pressure on each of us what to do, how to dress, what to say – and what rather not to say. It varies from nation to nation, from culture to culture and also from person to person, but it is always upon us. One of these pressures, in my opinion a common stupidity, is the rejection of “dreams”. Idealistic thinkers are considered to be somehow naïve and senseless. It is obvious how this influences the youth, but how is this connected to peace?
For me who I grew up with open borders in a well-educated politicized family and with parents who gave me both wings to discover the world and a safe nest to return to, Europe – and the EU in particular – was an example of success. Lately, my hopes are being dashed.
While I am writing this I am on my way to live a couple of months in Asia and the newspapers on the plane from all over the world cover the same topics: the Ukraine crisis, the ISIS terror group, refugees from Syria – the question of how far we are away from a 3rd World War. Only one makes an exception: it titles with the leak of private celebrity pics.
Are these the two options? Learning that the world is a dangerous place full of hatred and unnecessary trials of strength at the expense of civilians and accepting the fear of soon destruction on the one hand? Or not to care about anything but Hollywood gossip and yellow press triviality on the other hand?
I booked my flights to Asia, Taiwan to be accurate, one week before the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Ukrainian territory. Suddenly it was uncertain whether the Russian airspace might be closed off for European Airlines as response to European sanctions. Lucky me, I thought, flying via Dubai. At the same moment I was wondering where to fly there? Israel? Syria? Iraq? July was not a good month for travellers.
We live nowadays in a globalized world thanks to many efforts taken in the past, thanks to people who were willing to go into peaceful dialogue, to find compromises and mutual solutions, also thanks to people who fought by any means and let it just be through self-education against totalitarianism, against injustice and against war. But once countries come closer together it automatically means that conflicts will not anymore be fought over neighbour’s borders only. Crises are just as globalized as the whole world.
When I was younger I learnt that the only way to prevent war is exchange and mutual knowledge, friends so they said, will not fight each other. Wise words remain true. The only problem is that it is not the friends who fight each other, but a minority of power holders who are worried to lose the authority they have gained over years through legal or illegal practices in a certain territory.
So where are we now? We live in a world full of potential, of various individuals, of people who seek to live their simple life in dignity. The actual problem we have is, and this is what makes me doubt the sanity of our world, that power is not distributed equally. And the very unfortunate thing is that the people in power do not well-represent their people. Not because of political beliefs, but – simply spoken – because of the desire to rule individually and because of their stupidity.
I feel the amount of people in power who are blind to the actual life and who are single fighters in a very egocentric way is unreasonably high. Well, you could argue, taking the diverse group of people who actually do gain power, they must somehow be a cross-section from society. I tell you they are not.
I believe, politics as working sector are not a nice field to be in. But, in regard to any international matter and so as well in regard to peace, politics are one essential room for decision-making.
Now I do not speak about dictatorships and systems where it is impossible to gain power through vote, but I refer to systems where democratic structures technically provide the possibility for every individual to be elected for a responsible position. It is no picnic to climb the ladder up and rise through the ranks, to somewhere high enough to actually have influence. On that way there are several people to compete with, to fight against and sometimes perhaps not even a single person to become friendly with. People with a deep understanding of justice, of fairness, of values in general might just opt out at some point, worried to betray their ideals if they stop at nothing.
So here we have the dilemma: On the one hand we have an active, politicized, war-weary youth equipped with idealism and fight spirit and on the other hand we have the reality. These two do not go well together, if they would be consequently combined one of both would suffer terribly and the past and present proves that it is rather the youth (or let’s say their progressive ideas) who lose.
But the important thing, and this I figured over the last years when meeting young people from everywhere, is not to stop. It might already be difficult to come up with concepts of a better future and it is even more complicated to follow ideals, but I believe it must be even worse to realize at one’s end that nothing of all the great ideas from long time ago came to happen and one did not even try.
I am in this plane with people from all over the world and I am not so much worried of coming back to a new war in Europe next spring, but I am very afraid of constantly hardening borders. Peace is not only the absence of war, peace must always include individual freedom and this freedom begins for me with easily crossable borders. I realize that the world is divided into sections again, only that “the West” moved further Eastern. It is difficult to find solutions for world peace and it is difficult to gain good influence. But it is each ours task to make sure that our borders remain permeable to people of all kinds since this is in my opinion an inevitable factor for true peace. What we need to reach our goals, or at least some pieces, is patience. Rome was not build in a day neither.
We also need persistence. Staying hopeful, motivated and involved might be tough at times, but constant dropping wears the stone. And last but not least we need to work together, hand in hand, we need to make good use of our peer group full with powerful individuals.
And since a closely connected world society still is the key for peace we as young people can, simply though our own mobility and the support for others who need help to move, realize our hopes and on the long run realize our ideals.
written for IUVENTA youth magazin, Bosnia&Herzegovina