How do you stop a bully?
By being stronger than him.
My Dad, born 1937, was of the conviction that people like Nazis only understood one language, the language of power. I believe that this can be generalized to any power which seeks to employ violence to further their ambitions - because they're convinced that they are indeed superior than the defendants.
I think that right after World War 2 there were many people in Europe who were convinced that democratic institutions, and tying together nations into checks & balances, diplomacy were the way forward to avoid such immense bloodshed as the one that took place from 1938 to 45. The EU was formed. The NATO was formed. The UN was formed. Looking from my place in time here, it looks like the political elite, by extension of the highest sovereign in a democratic nation, the populace, was willing to seek better ways to deal with conflicts.
And it worked!
The world connected, the economies connected, many, many people got wealthy and rich. The world economy, innovation, it all knew only one direction...↗️
I was able to study in England, met people from all kinds of countries, we learned together and had fun together. In short, life was good.
This was made possible by living in a pluralistic system. By living by the simple assumption that no matter from which backgrounds we come, we could speak to each other and help each other and move things together, within the constraints of the rule of law, of course, to find our luck.
We forgot what the key to success is
Lately, the feeling I got, though, is that we have forgotten what the key to success is. It is the sharing of values that transcend our activities, values that allow a majority of people to have a share in the growth of a community, a nation. This sharing of values is achieved through democracy.
For me, democracy is the natural extension of our ancestral roots as well as the natural extension of the fundamental principle of diversity in evolution. Because a single idea, a monoculture if you will, can be strong in some situation, but perish in another. Embracing diversity is embracing resilience, it really is that simple.
Also, I think fundamentally, only a democracy is capable to respect basic human rights. It certainly doesn't come automatically, but in a country whose power is derived from fear and oppression, respecting human rights is practically unattainable.
Placing money over values
Unfortunately, in the frenzy of globalization, we forgot a little detail - much of the world isn't democratic. We made business with countries that would routinely violate very basic values. Human rights, slavery, oppression. Countries like Germany, who only a few decades ago had learned what happens when you let a small group of fanatics use and abuse the power of a nation through fear and oppression would do business with what were essentially notorious and corrupt abusers of power. And of course, the people doing business were just meeting other people - in an exchange of goods. And sure, you could not inflict your democratic values to all other nations. After all, the belief, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union was, that our system was superior anyway, and the world would automatically come to terms with it and adopt it.
Alas, this approach has failed.
Democracy is not a sure-fire success
Democracy is hard. It requires you to listen to people whose viewpoints might go diamterically opposite to yours. I think we all agree that if you believe in democracy you must draw a hard line towards any groups that actively oppose democracy itself. Self-defence is and will always be the highest value for everyone. But even so, finding solutions within the context of assuming that a compromise is the correct way to do it, requires learning, and training. These skills are part of us, but they need to be honed and need nurturing to see that they do work.
Here, in this area, we have failed miserably lately. Partly thinking that our democracy is secure, partly becoming very comfortable in our wealth, we are now in a situation were our core values have been gradually slipping away.
The discourse in Germany around people unwilling to vaccinate has been abysmal - instead of this being about the crazy situation in which our health service workers had been put in, it became some weird clash of, I don't know, frantic ideology war, in which a perfectly diverse and inhomogeneous group, the unvaccinated, were lumped together into a single group and treated accordingly. By definition of democracy, this was mostly undemocratic. Remember, democracy is hard. It requires you to identify different interests, understand their needs, and seek solutions with those who are willing to participate in a democratic process, thereby strengthening bonds and expanding your horizon. We seen to have trouble doing this lately.
Now guess who is happily pouring gasoline into the fire we have caused by letting the core strength of democracy become a weakness through lack of education and lack of communicating to our diverse ethnicities that coexist here in Germany what the core values of this country after WW2 were at some point.
Yes, the very same person who caused this avalanche of words.
Too much power drives every man mad
Validimir Putin has been in power since 1999. As such, he is a dictator, whatever shallow institutions may be around him. They constitute a collection of yea-sayers and lickspittles. 23 years of this, just imagine how corrupt and distorted your mind must be. Putin probably genuinely believes that he is the only one who can fix all the shortcomings of his great nation. He has a deep dislike of democratic powers and thinks the system is inferior. His attack on Ukraine, beyond being an atrocity is an attack on the core values that once existed and in some ways may still exist, in western nations. I cannot interpret it any other way, considering that he has been working for years on sawing distrust and malice through social media in the populace of democratic nations.