It is a sad time when the world awakens to the news of a war starting. I feel it is a defeat of the entire humanity each time war is seen as the only possible solution. It makes me doubt we have even achieved any of the civilization we are so proud of. How can man erase everything with such a thing as war? It is something no other creature can imagine to do to its own kind.
I, therefore, wonder back to that word: civilization. What is civilization? I think civilization is a mix of culture, respect, trust and knowledge.
I won’t get into the political and power game behind the war in Ukraine and in any other war around the world. This is not the place to do so and I am definitely not the person to do it. Though I do want to say something concerning the when and how respect and trust come to an end in the everyday life, among the common people.
You can see it everywhere happening all the time. When ISIS strikes a terrorist attack and all Muslims are considered dangerous; when Covid started spreading throughout the world and suddenly all Chinese people were looked at with suspicion; now Putin decides to attack Ukraine and all Russians are blamed. It is easy to generalize when you don’t know the people, or the culture they come from. From generalization to fear, the step is short, and the natural son of fear is hate. You walk in a neighborhood that has a high percentage of Muslims and suddenly you don’t feel safe; if a Chinese sits next to you on the bus, you are uncomfortable and cling to your mask; if your class mate is Russian, suddenly you don’t feel like being so close of a friend with him anymore.
These things happen. All the time. This is what politicians and war-makers rely on to have consent. They feed on bias, on prejudice and the hate that grows from them. This is how they make people approve their political choices, even war.
How can we fight this? How can we get control over our own ideas, our own feelings, our own decisions? The best answer ever is education. Getting a strong education allows us to have the instruments for questioning what we are told and for looking for more information. This allows us to listen to different points of view, in order to see the bigger possible picture and build our own opinion. Bias free.
Even more, we can decide to travel, or, even better, to try living in another country for a while. Meeting people from other cultures, understanding different mentalities, opening our minds to internationality. When this happens, we stop seeing the world as divided into groups of people: different in religion, nationality, skin color or else. You finally understand that, though someone might be Russian, this doesn’t mean he or she approves of the war. And if you dig deeper, you might even realize that many Russians have Ukrainian relatives. Because borders are not walls, they can change, and they can be crossed.
So if many Russians disapprove of the war, and equally many Muslims disapprove terrorist attacks, and being Chinese doesn’t make you automatically responsible for Covid, what does this mean? It means that we are all just men and women. Some of us share the same language, or the same religion, or the same culture. But, most important, at the end of the day, we all belong to the same species: mankind.
Evil can be anywhere. But I believe that in the world there are far more good people than bad. I am also convinced that I have developed this idea because I had the chance of living in different countries, and I have friends from all over the places, belonging to different religions and cultures. Also my education won’t allow me to fall under the easy fear of considering a whole population dangerous because a virus started spreading from one of their cities.
It is up to us to decide which kind of person we want to be. Judging others too quickly is also part of this decision. Education is the best instrument we have for not falling into the web of prejudices, responsabile for awakening the worst in mankind.