donderdag, maart 31, 2022

Freedom is not free

Kyiv nog in volle glorie

Photo: Kyiv in good times

On 24-02-2022 a dark cloud of disaster fell over Ukraine, and outside Ukraine life became dark too.

The answer is military rearmament. This is reminiscent of the name Initiatives of Change (IofC) had until 2001, namely Moral Re-Armament. In 1938, when  the threat of war in Europe was in the air, it replaced the name the Oxford Group, as the movement was known until then. The call for a moral and spiritual rearmament fell into fertile soil. Perhaps war could be prevented, if we ourselves change, was the idea. When we arm us against the enemies in ourselves, like selfish materialism and moral apathy. When we take time for reflection and examine our lives in the light of moral standards, like honesty, purity, unselfishness and love. In my book Reaching for a New World* I dedicate the second chapter to the actions that arose from this call.

Now again there is a need for military rearmament. And now again one can see the need for a moral and spiritual equivalent. IofC’s present slogan is Building trust across the worlds divides, but one can only build trust on solid moral foundations. After the end of the Soviet Union the program Foundations for Freedom was launched. The idea was that people from those countries in Western Europe, who knew freedom, could help people who had been under Soviet rule understand that freedom and democracy need solid moral foundations. Looking back I wonder if it wasn’t too much a one-way traffic? Maybe we who are used to live in freedom, have not realized enough that freedom needs maintenance. This reminds me of a song I heard when as a young woman I got acquainted with Moral Re-Armament: Freedom isn't free, you got to pay a price, you got to sacrifice for your liberty.

It is shameful that Putin could get a grip on the free countries in the West, where market and money are the leading principles. Especially because of that. Henceforth he got away with bombing and ruining Grozny and Aleppo, invading Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine. And now cowardly repeating what he did in Chechnya and Syria in the cities of Ukraine.

The present situation leads to a lot of soul-searching. As far as the Netherlands is concerned: we are a trading nation. Where ever money can be made, you will find Dutch. A national newspaper quoted the British journalist Edward Lucas, who in 2014 warned against Putin with his book The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West. He was not taken seriously and says now looking back: ‘The coming years (maybe decades) we will have time to contemplate on how the combination of naivety, complacency, arrogance, ignorance and greed has brought us this catastrophe.’ A journalist who worked a lot in Eastern European countries comments on the fact that now in the Netherlands companies, banks, accountancy bureau’s etc. let ethics prevail and try to get out of the grip of Putin. It would have helped Ukraine so much more if they had done this earlier, he writes.

At the beginning of the Olympic games in China Putin and Xi had a top meeting to align their foreign policy. What I read about it is not reassuring. They agreed to work together for a ‘new world order’, have a ‘common vision about international security’ and see a ‘new power distribution’. To get an idea of what they mean by this, we only need to look at their deeds. It means silencing whole populations. It means ruling based on lies, fear, terror. It means that brave people who contradict are poisoned or imprisoned. Their ‘new world order’ will be an absolute and ruthless dictatorship. And in their insatiable greed for power they will not stop at their own border. However, when people have a choice they choose with their feet, and go to countries where there is freedom and democracy. Putin is not afraid of NATO, he is afraid of brave people, he is afraid of freedom and democracy.

The novel Ninety Eighty Four by George Orwell (1949) comes to mind, when I read that in Russia using the words war and invasion in connection with Ukraine can now lead to a 15 year imprisonment. In his dystopian novel Orwell decribes a totalitarian regime where only one way of thinking and of speaking is allowed. His word for this is newspeak. This dystopia has become reality. Putin uses newspeak and imposes it on his citizens. It is worrying when language loses its innocence. When for example concepts like democracy and human rights are given another, for dictators more acceptable, meaning. The speech confusion that will be the result, means that coming to any agreement or treaty is impossible. For that a level playing field is needed.

I realize that all of the above does not help Ukraine in this hour of great need. We need to give as much immediate aid as we can. Not only for the reception of the refugees, but also help for the hundreds of thousands of people hiding in air raid shelters, for the brave fighters, who tirelessly battle on knowing that the alternative is living under the terror of Putin. They are in the frontline of the battle. They need to be protected and supported in their fight for freedom.

At the same time it is of vital importance that we who still live in peace and freedom think about our part in what went wrong and why. The crucial question is whether we will be resolute enough to change course.

Hennie de Pous-de Jonge

See: Reaching for a New World