A different approach to upsetting news – Take away their demolition power – The glass is half full, not half empty

This morning, a German news story popped up. The report informs about the plans of Hungary‘s right-wing political party „Fidesz“ to institutionalize further discrimination against members of the LGBTQI-community. Prime Minister Victor Orban of Hungary, a Member State of the European Union, has tabled a law prohibiting educational programs, and any program advertising topics related to people and communities identifying anything other than heterosexual. Homophobia enshrined into law, if successful. Chances are, it may be.

According to the „Tagesschau“-report behind the link https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/europa/ungarn-fidesz-homosexualitaet-101.html, educational programs at school that inform and sensibilisize for the rights and needs of minority groups identifying other than heterosexual shall be prohibited. Behind the acronym LGBTQI stand all who identify as lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, queer, and intersexual. One of my beloved children would, as a consequence, be ostracized if being educated in Hungary. I dare say I am proud of the exceptionally human educational system of the country where they are being educated. They grow up in a country where they are encouraged to freely identify as whoever they feel they are.

Not in Hungary, or elsewhere where xenophobia and chauvinism continue to take alarming roots, in the middle of the European Union. Let me be clear: We have this everywhere, including in Germany. But a draft law planning to prohibit books, films, and other „content“, aiming at children and juveniles with the intent to prohibit depicting any form of sexuality deviating from heterosexuality, that is entirely another level of erosion of values based on democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human and individual values. I hope that there will be a strong reaction from Brussels. But the mere fact that such an attempt is made is deeply alarming.

As often, this report falls into the category of news which deeply upset me, make me sad, angry, resentful. There are many bits and pieces of such news in my draft folder. They relate to what happens with Muslim minorities in Myanmar, ethnic and religious minority groups in China, including reports about Chinese authorities forcefully subjecting members of that minority group to training Artificial Intelligence software to identify emotions on their faces, with even Microsoft ringing the alarm bells of Orwell‘s „1984“ taken to the the power of 2. My draft folder includes reports about widespread sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape, on a broad basis, perpetrators being Afghan Police commanders, victims being female Afghan police officers.

I could go on and on. Of course, the world is chock full with news like these. And these stories need to be told, as this is one vital precondition to act. „AAA“ stands for Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. All three terms are equally relevant.

But from personal experience I know what these stories do: Some people get numb. Some people get cynical. Some people get into a constant spiral of being upset. On the other side of the aisle, these stories positively feed the xenophobia and hate and intolerance of those who have already been caught in the webs of those pied pipers who appear to be a staple of contemporary times.

I name them pied pipers. They thrive off antagonisation. Many of them for ideological reasons. Some of them, including Nr 45 in the U.S., taking this method to the ultimate extreme: They don‘t care about content at all, they only care for the principle of always raising the stakes of antagonisation. This I will try to analyse in a future blog entry, because this method is both simple and complex, and there are people around who have copied this from Nr. 45. Mechanically it is simple: Just respond to anything with radical antagonisation. Psychologically, it is complex: Systematic gaslighting is including that one gaslights oneself. I have written about it here.

But what to do when everything is aimed at making you angry, because this in itself is the aim of the exercise? Does it mean one either becomes a „useful idiot“, as Lenin put it, by angrily responding (and thus doing exactly what the other side intended), or shutting up and thus becoming a member of the group of „silent lambs“? Does it lead to ever more resignation and the feeling of helplessness, harboring deep-seated resentment?

I believe there could be another path: Every story told about the cold heartless business of eroding hard-fought-for values should be accompanied by a story of hope, a profoundly positive story.

So I try this here.

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Two days ago, I came back to Serbia after a stay in Germany and another stay in Bosnia & Herzegovina. I was timing my arrival, because my second Covid-19-vaccination was due this weekend.

Here is my story about how I got vaccinated in Serbia:

As a consequence of policy decisions, Serbia had secured considerable amounts of vaccines early on, whether Sinopharm, Sputnik, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, whatever. In difference to neighboring States in the region, and also in difference to, for example Germany, they had a large supply early on. Serbia‘s fast vaccination campaign got noticed internationally.

At the same time when own citizens began to receive their first shots (and not after), the Serbian government started to provide vaccines to the international diplomatic community in Serbia, but they wouldn’t stop there: A week or so after they had opened the possibility to get vaccinated to diplomatic missions, my landlord called me and said she had just watched the announcement on TV that the government was offering vaccines to anyone, including foreigners, as long as one had a foreign ID card and a Serbian phone number.

Mid March, on a Saturday morning, I traveled to the largest vaccination site on the Belgrade Fair compound. I approached a security guard, politely asking whether the information that I could get a shot as a foreigner with no residence in Serbia, would be correct. The guard went in, and came out a minute later with a young staffer, who introduced himself as „Ivan“. In the most friendly manner I have come across, Ivan took me through all registration, helped me arrive at the cubicle with a sign „AstraZeneca“ on it, and fifteen minutes after arriving at the fair I got my first vaccine shot. Ivan accompanied me to the rest area, we had a blast of small talk, and brought me back to the exit of the fair. We parted not without having exchanged contact details before. Since then, Ivan and I exchanged a few mails and planned on having a coffee at the latest when my second shot would be due, after 12 weeks.

Of course, this extraordinary experience made me so grateful. And this gratitude for a most personal experience of kindness also remained throughout the following weeks, when Serbia got credited for this unbuerocratic handling, when many people from neighboring countries of the Western Balkans, and even „vaccine tourists“ form EU countries, arrived at the Belgrade Fair. The public discussion included comments that this also could be seen as a smart public relations move by the Government. All reasonable, but the personal kindness was not an exception and went way beyond what could be named „professional courtesy“, and I heard of it many times.

Now, 11 weeks later I was in Sarajevo, preparing to come back to Belgrade, anticipating an eMail notifying me about my second appointment. With precision, I got this mail, and a text message on my phone. But before that, I received a mail from Ivan.

Ivan had noted the second vaccination date. He offered to help me again. Which I found more than kind, it was „super considerate“. So, two days ago, I met Ivan again. At the Belgrade Fair. And like the first time, I was met with most friendly staff all over the vaccination site, taking me through the second round of vaccination. After which, Ivan and I had planned to have a coffee.

On the way to the coffee place, Ivan greeted a friend, Marco. Friendly and outgoing like Ivan, I got into a conversation with Marco. This led to literally two hours of intense and wonderful time over several coffees, with both Ivan and Marco. Because, as it turned out, Marco had a story to tell which I also wanted to hear in its entirety.

Both Ivan and Marco are youth workers, engaged in supporting meaningful activities for young people. Ivan in Belgrade, Marco as part of a regional non-governmental organization operating in all six jurisdictions of the Western Balkans. As an NGO, I learned, they had gotten international recognition for their work on helping young people all over the Western Balkans, including in reconciling with the divisions which form part of the legacy of conflict and war.

I need to keep it short here, because this blog entry is already one of the longer ones. The work of this NGO will be subject to future blog entries anyway, as soon as I have learned more. But I already know that young people here are fighters for the future of the values that we sometimes feel others are eroding. The point which I want to make here: By chance, and simply because I was curious and open-minded, I learned about what young people here in this region of the world do in order to overcome pre-occupations, divisive nationalist language, and hate. They promote tolerance. They operate truly regional, stay out of politics, and emphasize their pride of being truly multi-ethnic.

They are the present, and the future here, so their stories need to be told. These others, including some pied pipers, those who try to control the news cycle, they may be part of the past, and not knowing it, yet. Telling positive stories, sometimes small, sometimes large, always wonderful, that may help.

Ivan, Marco, and I, we plan a dinner next week. I am going to ask them what they do in terms of LGBTQI rights, and their promotion. I am sure we are going to have another blast of a good conversation.

Which helps me a lot when I see bad news, next time.

The Easiest Way to Solve Global Warming

I recently added fiction to my writing toolset. Today, I am adding sarcasm, and that is the only comment to the below:

“I was informed by the director of NASA that they have found that the moon’s orbit is changing slightly, and so is the Earth’s orbit around the sun. And we know there’s been significant solar flare activity. And so is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit or the Earth’s orbit around the sun? Obviously, they would have profound effects on our climate.”

Congressman Louie Gohmert (Republican from Texas) in a hearing 09 June 2021 by the United States Congress House Natural Resources Committee, on which he occupies a seat.

https://gizmodo.com/congressman-asks-forest-service-to-change-the-course-of-1847065268

Initiative zur Unterstützung der Aufnahme afghanischer Ortskräfte

Hier ein paar Links, wo dieser Aufruf seit heute (14.05.2021) auch veroeffentlicht ist:

http://nachtwei.de/index.php?module=articles&func=display&aid=1694

https://michaeldaxner.com

https://thruttig.wordpress.com

https://www.spiegel.de/ausland/bundeswehr-abzug-aus-afghanistan-bringt-unsere-afghanischen-helfer-in-sicherheit-a-a8256379-63e7-448a-9ae7-3af08e5f4faf


Abzug der Bundeswehr aus Afghanistan: Afghanische Ortskräfte in Sicherheit bringen!

Der Abzug der deutschen Truppen aus Afghanistan hat begonnen und soll voraussichtlich Anfang Juli 2021 beendet sein. Das Bundesverteidigungsministerium hat erklärt, dass es in der Abzugsphase zu einer größeren Gefährdung der Soldatinnen und Soldaten kommen könne. Medien zitierten unter Berufung auf einen vertraulichen Bericht des Auswärtigen Amtes und des Bundesverteidigungsministeriums, dass die Bundesregierung eine weitere erhebliche Verschlechterung der Sicherheitslage nach dem Abzug erwarte. Während die Truppe unter verstärkten Sicherheitsvorkehrungen längst bei den Vorbereitungen zur Rückkehr ist, wachsen die Befürchtungen der afghanischen Ortskräfte, die oft viele Jahre für die Bundeswehr, die deutsche Polizeiausbildungsmission, die staatlichen Zwecke der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit u.a. tätig waren – als Dolmetscherinnen und Dolmetscher, Wachleute und Hilfskräfte. Sie fürchten um ihre Sicherheit und ihr Leben – wie auch um das ihrer Familienangehörigen.

Wir fordern eine unbürokratische und schnelle Aufnahme der Betroffenen in Deutschland parallel zum Abzug!

Die Taliban haben immer wieder deutlich gemacht, dass sie diese Ortskräfte als Kollaborateure des Westens begreifen, die sie als Unterstützer eines militärischen Besatzungsregimes zur Verantwortung ziehen wollen. Über Anschläge auf und  Morde an Ortskräften wird seit Jahren berichtet, u.a. aus britischen, deutschen und US-amerikanischen Quellen. Letztere berichten von etwa 300 getöteten US-Ortskräften. Viele Ortskräfte haben versucht, sich Bedrohungen durch Umzug in andere Regionen Afghanistans zu entziehen, was aber nur selten eine dauerhafte Lösung und das Ende der Gefährdung ist.

Bundesverteidigungsministerin Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer hat Mitte April von einer tiefen Verpflichtung der Bundesrepublik gesprochen, die afghanischen Ortskräfte jetzt nicht schutzlos zurückzulassen. Zu befürchten ist aber: Genau das geschieht. Wer die effektive Aufnahme wirklich will, der kann in den verbleibenden Wochen nur eine unbürokratische Prozedur für all die Ortskräfte und ihre Angehörigen umsetzen, die für deutsche Stellen gearbeitet haben: Öffentliche Bekanntgabe des Aufnahmeprogramms, Registrierung, Vorbereitung der Ausreise, die möglichst geschehen muss, solange die Bundeswehr noch im Lande ist, ggf. Durchführung von Charterflügen.

Der Verweis auf das bisherige Aufnahmeprogramm für afghanische Ortskräfte mit Abgabe einer individuellen Gefährdungsanzeige bei Vorgesetzten, in der nachgewiesen werden muss, dass für Bedrohungen durch die Taliban die Tätigkeit für deutsche Stellen entscheidend ist, ist angesichts der neuen Sicherheitslage nicht mehr zielführend. Das bisherige Verfahren ist viel zu zeitintensiv, insbesondere seit die Kapazitäten des deutschen Kontingentes im Lande mit dem beginnenden Abzug Woche für Woche schwinden.

Seit 2013 wurden nach Zahlen des Verteidigungsministeriums knapp 800 Ortskräfte(plus Familienangehörige) in Deutschland aufgenommen, fast alle jedoch innerhalb eines kurzen Zeitraums, nachdem das Programm diese Chance eröffnet hatte. Zwischen 2014 und 2021 sind dann gerade einmal 15 zusätzliche Aufnahmen hinzugekommen – trotz einer in diesem Zeitraum immer weiter sich verschlechternden Sicherheitslage.

Zügige Aufnahme statt untauglicher Vorschläge

Das Bundesinnenministerium verweist wenige Wochen vor dem Truppenabzug die Ortskräfte auf das alte Prüfungsverfahren mit seinem bürokratischen Aufwand, was in der Kürze der Zeit nicht praktikabel ist. So steht zu befürchten, dass es kein effektives Aufnahmeprogramm, sondern lediglich ein Pseudo-Prüfungsprogramm geben wird.  Der ehemalige Wehrbeauftragte des Bundestages Reinhold Robbe hat schon vor Jahren den Umgang mit den Ortskräften als „beschämend“ und „unwürdig“ bezeichnet(vgl. bundeswehr-journal v. 17.10.2014). Diese Diagnose gilt bis heute. Wer seinen Dienst als Ortskraft vor mehr als zwei Jahren beendet hat, der soll von der Aufnahme in Deutschland ausgeschlossen bleiben.  Im Ernstfall werden sich die Verfolger bei den Taliban wohl kaum an dieser Frist orientieren. Und noch nicht einmal die zuletzt beschäftigten ca. 500 Ortskräfte, die nicht pro forma bereits wegen dieser Ausschlussregelung aus dem Programm  herausfallen, sollten sich darauf verlassen, dass aus der Ankündigung der Bundesverteidigungsministerin und guter Absicht praktische Hilfe wird.

Ein Büro für afghanische Ortskräfte in Kabul und evtl. an einem anderen Ort, so das BMI, soll eingerichtet werden, wo dann(Wann?) das umständliche Prüfungsverfahren zur Aufnahme stattfinden soll  –  als ob man sich nicht in einem Land befände, in dem längst ein Großteil der Regionen nicht mehr von der Regierung kontrolliert wird, Reisen riskant sind und selbst die deutsche Botschaft nur noch eingeschränkt operieren kann.  Zu befürchten ist, dass ein solches Büro für die Taliban ein vorrangiges Anschlagsziel werden könnte, insbesondere wenn sich die Sicherheitslage weiter verschärft.

Waren die Ortskräfte  in den Jahren 2014/15, als der größte Teil derer nach Deutschland kamen, die eine Aufnahmezusage erhalten hatten, eine Gruppe, die unter den Geflüchteten hierzulande oft übersehen wurden, so haben sich in den Jahren danach Solidaritäts- und Unterstützungsstrukturen herausgebildet, nicht zuletzt auch ein Patenschaftsnetzwerk der Bundeswehr. Denn auch dort vertraten viele die Auffassung, dass denen, die die Einsatzrisiken mit deutschen Soldatinnen und Soldaten geteilt hatten und ohne die insbesondere die Verständigung in Afghanistan kaum möglich gewesen wäre, in bedrängter Situation geholfen werden müsse. Und für deren Integration wollte man sich einsetzen.

Anlässlich der Vorstellung eines Buches der Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung im Dezember 2019, in dem die Rolle der afghanischen Ortskräfte dargestellt und gewürdigt wurde, brachte es einer der Mitautoren des Buches und langjähriger Bundestagsabgeordneter auf den Punkt:“(…)die Schlüsselrolle der afghanischen Ortskräfte: Ohne sie wäre der Einsatz unmöglich und von vorneherein aussichtslos gewesen. Mit ihrem Dienst für deutsche Einsatzkräfte meinten viele, ihrem Land am besten dienen zu können. Sie nahmen dafür hohe Belastungen und Risiken in Kauf. Dafür gebührt ihnen von deutscher Politik und Gesellschaft Aufmerksamkeit, Dank, Anerkennung nicht nur verbal(…) sondern auch praktisch. Wo Ortskräfte von sozialen und existenziellen Einsatzfolgen betroffen sind, an Leib und Leben, oft zusammen mit ihren Familien, da steht die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (…) in einer selbstverständlichen Fürsorgepflicht. Das ist ein Gebot der Verlässlichkeit, der Glaubwürdigkeit und auch der politischen Klugheit.“

Ähnlich sehen es auch US-Militärs:  Ex-US-General David Petraeus hat sich zusammen mit der Nichtregierungsorganisation No One Left Behind  Ende April in einem Brief an US-Außenminister Antony Blinken dafür eingesetzt, alle notwendigen Ressourcen aufzubieten, um die afghanischen Ortskräfte aus Afghanistan herauszuholen, bevor die letzten US-Truppen das Land verlassen.

Zwar haben einige andere Truppenstellerstaaten, die z.T. schon vor langer Zeit aus Afghanistan abgezogen sind, ihre Fürsorgepflicht für die Ortskräfte ebenso verstanden und  einigen „ihrer“ Ortskräfte  Aufnahme gewährt.  Demgegenüber waren andere Staaten zögerlich und stehen nun ebenfalls, wie die Bundesrepublik, vor der Situation, von Absichtserklärungen, die nicht eingelöst wurden, zu wirksamen Verfahren zu kommen. Jetzt, wo der vorzeitige und bedingungslose  Abzug der US-Armee wie des deutschen Kontingentes die Risiken dramatisch erhöht hat, wäre ein anständiges und großzügiges Verhalten der Bundesregierung mehr denn je nötig. Wie sollten sonst diejenigen, die Unterstützer*innen in gefährlicher Situation zurücklassen, künftig erwarten können, als verlässliche Partner in allen Bereichen der internationalen zivilen und militärischen Zusammenarbeit angesehen zu werden?

Angesichts der akuten Bedrohung bisheriger Ortskräfte an Leib und Leben und bezugnehmend auf die Wertegebundenheit deutscher Krisenengagements(s. Leitlinien „Krisen verhindern“ der Bundesregierung 2017) erheben wir eindringlich die folgenden Forderungen:

Zügige und unbürokratische Aufnahme afghanischer Ortskräfte und ihrer Familienangehörigen parallel zum laufenden Abzug des deutschen Kontingentes.

Öffentliche Verbreitung von Informationen über ein zu diesem Zweck vereinfachtes Verfahren für (ehemalige) Ortskräfte in Afghanistan.

Verzicht auf Prüfungsprozeduren, die in der Praxis weitgehend unmöglich oder für die Antragsteller*innen unzumutbar sind.

Verzicht auf Ausschlusskriterien, die der Realität nicht gerecht werden, wie die Beschränkung auf Personen, die in den letzten zwei Jahren als Ortskräfte tätig waren.

Erstunterzeichner:innen Stand: 13. Mai 2021, 18.00 Uhr

  • Pfr. Albrecht Bähr, Sprecher der Geschäftsführung der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Diakonie in Rheinland-Pfalz
  • Prof. Dr. Ingeborg Baldauf, Afghanistan-Forscherin an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Dr. Hans-Peter Bartels, MdB 1998-2015, Wehrbeauftragter 2015-20
  • bee4change e.V., Hamburg
  • Hannah Birkenkötter, Mitglied des Bundesvorstandes der Deutschen Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen
  • Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bonacker, Zentrum für Konfliktforschung, Philipps-Universität Marburg
  • Eberhard Brecht, MdB und Mitglied des Präsidiums der Deutschen Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen
  • Dr. Doris Buddenberg, Leiterin des UNODC-Büros Afghanistan 2004-06
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Daxner, Berater des afghanischen Hochschulministers 2003-2006, Leiter des Afghanistan-Projekts im SFB 700 FU Berlin bis 2018
  • Hans-Jörg Deleré, Neustadt-Pelzerhaken, DIPL.Bau-Ing. Straßenbau, als Sohn eines deutschen Beraters des afgh. Ministeriums für Öffentl. Arbeiten in Kabul aufgewachsen (1951-57) und 2006-09 im Auftrag der GIZ und des AA in Afghanistan tätig
  • Bernhard Drescher, Oberstleutnant a.D., Bundesvorsitzender Bund Deutscher EinsatzVeteranen e.V.
  • Detlef Dzembritzki, MdB i.R., Vorsitzender der Deutschen Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen
  • Stefan Feller, Senior Adviser Auswärtiges Amt zur Kleinwaffenkontrolle, Leiter Polizeiabteilung im Rat der EU 2008-12, Leitender Polizeiberater des Generalsekretärs der Vereinten Nationen 2013-17
  • Botschafter a.D. Dr. Karl Fischer, Stabschef United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan 2001-04
  • Marga Flader, für Afghanistan-Schulen e.V.
  • Freundeskreis Afghanistan e.V., der seit 1982 Selbsthilfeinitiativen im Land fördert
  • Alexander Gunther Friedrich, UN Executive Secretary (rtd)  
  • Thomas Gebauer, Mitglied im Kuratorium der stiftung medico international
  • Rainer L. Glatz, Generalleutnant a.D., Befehlshaber des Einsatzführungskommandos der Bundeswehr 2009-13
  • Kristóf Gosztonyi, Forscher und Berater internat. Organisationen in Afghanistan, z.Zt. Univ. Osnabrück
  • Angelika Graf MdB a.D., Ehrenvorsitzende der SPD-Arbeitsgemeinschaft 60 plus, Vorsitzende des Vereins “Gesicht zeigen – Rosenheimer Bündnis gegen rechts” und Ombudsperson der Hilfsorganisation HELP
  • Antje Grawe, UNAMA 2006, 2008-10 und 2018/19
  • Marcus Grotian, Vorsitzender Patenschaftsnetzwerk Afghanische Ortskräfte
  • Heike Hänsel, MdB und Mitglied des Präsidiums der Deutschen Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen
  • Matthias Heimer, Militärgeneraldekan, Leiter des Evangelischen Kirchenamtes für die Bundeswehr
  • Generalleutnant a.D. Norbert van Heyst, 3. Kommandeur der International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul von 10.02. – 11.08.2003
  • Dr. Haschmat Hossaini, Literatur- und Sprachwissenschaftler (Iranistik), Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Hüfner, Präsident a.D., Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission
  • Dr. Margret Johannsen, Senior Research Fellow am Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Hamburg (IFSH)
  • Jürgen Kanne, 2. Vorsitzender Afghanic e.V.
  • Hans Peter von Kirchbach, General a.D. und ehem. Generalinspekteur der Bundeswehr
  • Dr. Anne Koch, Forschungsgruppe Globale Fragen, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin
  • Susanne Koelbl, Journalistin „Der Spiegel“, Initiatorin des Poetry Project mit afghanischen Flüchtlingen
  • Tom Koenigs, MdB i.R., UN-Sondergesandter für Afghanistan 2006-07
  • Karin Kortmann, Vize-Präsidentin des Zentralkomitees der Deutschen Katholiken (ZDK)
  • Gerald Knaus, Gründungsvorsitzender European Stability Initiative (ESI), Wien/Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. rer.pol. Dr. h. c. theol. Klaus Leisinger
  • Dr. Kerstin Leitner, Beigeordnete Generaldirektorin, WHO, Genf
  • Dr. Thomas Loy, Oriental Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prag
  • Klaus Ludwig, Bundespolizeibeamter a.D., langjährige Erfahrung am Flughafen Ffm; seit 2016 ehrenamtliches Engagement in der Betreuung afgh. Flüchtlinge
  • Eckhard Maurer, Kriminalhauptkommissar i.R., Garbsen, leitete 10 Jahre lang khyberchild e.V. mit Projekten in Afghanistan
  • Bernd Mesovic, Mitarbeiter von PRO ASYL a.D.
  • Kerstin Müller, MdB 1994-2013, Staatsministerin im Auswärtigen Amt 2002-05
  • Botschafter a.D. Bernd Mützelburg, Leiter Abteilung Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik im Bundeskanzleramt 2002-05, Sonderbeauftragter des Auswärtigen Amtes für Afghanistan und Pakistan 2009-10
  • Winfried Nachtwei, MdB 1994-2009
  • Nanette Nadolski, Marketing- und Kommunikationsberaterin u. Afghanistan-Netzwerk bei matteo e.V., Weichs
  • Prof. Dr. Sönke Neitzel, Universität Potsdam
  • Dr. Hannah Neumann, MdEP
  • Prof. Dr. Christine Nölle-Karimi, Wien, Stellvertretende Direktorin, Institut für Iranistik, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften
  • Karin Nordmeyer, Präsidiumsmitglied der Deutschen Gesellschaft für die Vereinten Nationen
  • Dr. med. Thomas Nowotny, Arzt, Stephanskirchen, Initiator http://www.change.org\nodeportation
  • Johannes Pflug, MdB i.R., stellv. Sprecher für Außenpolitik der SPD-Bundestagsfraktion sowie Vorsitzender der SPD Task Force Afghanistan/Pakistan 2009-13
  • Maximilian Pichl, Wissenschaftl. Mitarbeiter am Fachbereich Rechtswissenschaft Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
  • Ruprecht Polenz, MdB 1994-2013, Vors. des Auswärtigen Ausschusses 2005-13
  • Nadia Qani, Inhaberin des kultursensiblen Pflegedienstes in Frankfurt/Main und Autorin
  • General a.D. Egon Ramms, Oberbefehlshaber Allied Joint Force Command der NATO in Brunssum 2007-10
  • Generalleutnant a.D. Friedrich Riechmann, erster Befehlshaber des Einsatzführungskommandos der Bundeswehr 2001-04
  • Reinhold Robbe, MdB 1994-2005, Wehrbeauftragter des Deutschen Bundestages 2005-10
  • Thomas Ruttig, Afghanistan-Analyst, UNSMA/UNAMA 2000-03, Stellv. des EU-Sondergesandten für Afghanistan 2003/04
  • Dr. Lutz Rzehak, Privatdozent, Zentralasien-Seminar der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • Narwan Sayed, Hamburg
  • Klaus-Hermann Scharf, Vorsitzender Fachbereich Zivile Beschäftigte im Bundesvorstand des Deutschen BundeswehrVerbandes
  • Niklas Schenck, Autor und Filmemacher
  • Prof. Dr. Conrad Schetter, Professor für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Universität Bonn, und Direktor des Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC)
  • General a.D. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, 14. Generalinspekteur der Bundeswehr 2002-09
  • Wolfgang Schomburg, ehemaliger Richter am Bundesgerichtshof und den UN-Tribunalen für das frühere Jugoslawien und Ruanda
  • Georg Schramm, Kabarettist (ZDF-Sendung „Neues aus der Anstalt“)
  • Ulrike Schultz, Journalistin, Mitarbeiterin der Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung Islamabad und Kabul 2001-09
  • Dr. Hans-Ulrich Seidt, Deutscher Botschafter in Afghanistan 2006-08
  • Dr. Anja Seiffert, Bundeswehr-Forscherin, Leiterin für die sozialwissenschaftliche Begleitung des Afghanistaneinsatzes seit 2009
  • Kava Spartak, Berlin
  • Dr. Rainald Steck, Deutscher Botschafter in Afghanistan, 2004-06
  • Andrea Thies, European Police Mission in Afghanistan, 2008-15
  • Uwe Trittmann, Studienleiter Evangelische Akademie Villigst / Berlin (Villigster Afghanistan-Tagung)
  • Verband afghanischer Organisation in Deutschland e.V., Berlin
  • Dr. Kira Vinke, Sprecherin des Beirats Zivile Krisenprävention und Friedensförderung der Bundesregierung
  • Dieter Wehe, Inspekteur der Polizei NRW (2002-15) a.D., Vorsitzender der Bund-Länder Arbeitsgruppe Internationale Polizeimissionen (AG IPM) 2002 -20
  • Thomas Wiegold, Journalist, Berlin
  • Dr. Almut Wieland-Karimi, Leiterin des Landesbüros Afghanistan der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung 2002-05Kathrin Willemsen, Unterstützer:innen-Initiative Oranienburg
  • Ronja von Wurmb-Seibel, Autorin und Filmemacherin
  • Oberstleutnant Andre Wüstner, Bundesvorsitzender des Deutschen BundeswehrVerbandes
  • YAAR e.V., Berlin
  • ZAN e.V., Frankfurt am Main
  • Massieh Zare, Bremen
  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Zöpel, MdB a.D., Staatsminister im Auswärtigen Amt, 1999-2002

Dystopian – Or reality?

A few days ago, I wrote this dystopian piece of fiction: “Checkpoint Hellweg #17“. It is based on the question “What would happen if even more lethal mutations of the Covid-19 virus would develop and spread like a wildfire?”. One could argue that we don’t need even more disturbing negative stories, but I wrote it against the background that, all too often, only those see how the virus is rampaging through our societies who have a direct personal experience. Like I said, nurses for example.

We cope with a huge amount of conspiracy theories, distortion of reality by anti-vaxxers, and more, mixed with a may be growing body of people who are just fed up, who crave normality, who express their feelings of being upset by confinements coming from lockdown measures, mixed also with people who rightfully express concern about protecting human and citizen’s rights. We have the full spectrum of people mindfully expressing their opinion, unfortunately at the same time being abused by people with malicious intent to establish a narrative of police states controlling their citizens.

We need to remind ourselves that we only see what we want to see. So, here a few disturbing pictures about what we sometimes don’t like to see. The reality is disturbing, cruel, and dystopian, compared with what we experienced 16 months ago.

BBC published pictures today. They are NOT for the faint of hearts. They describe today’s reality in New Delhi, India. “India coronavirus: Round-the-clock mass cremations“. This is what happens if you have spikes like the above graph, taken from the COVID-19 dashboard of the Johns Hopkins University, today. Whether you, according to the cultural context of your society, do public mass cremations, or you are using refrigerator vans, it doesn’t matter. This virus is lethal beyond anything that rips through our societies on a seasonal level.

I have a friend who lives and works in Karachi, Pakistan. Already being under a yearlong lockdown, this friend tried to get vaccinated in Dubai, with no success. This friend is now considering to take a long journey to the U.S., to get the jab at home. This friend is frightened to death about neighboring India, and the already catastrophic situation in Pakistan.

Still, like I, and many of us who do international work, we are privileged, and we remain grateful, on a daily basis. Because we are surrounded by billions of people with no escape route. The many of us who stay “local” and live in privileged countries of the West, I would like to join those who remind us about how lucky we are. And we should take no pride from it, or wrong feeling of being superior:


I am the first one to admit how much the situation sucks, seemingly without end. I am the first one to admit how my entire life has been affected, whether my ability to see my loved ones, taking care of helping my children, or my mental state, which more often than not can be nicely described as “challenging”.

But I am also joining all those who call for reason, and responsible action. We will get through this. If we stay in it together. Only then. On a local, national, regional, and global level.

We need to share what we have. The pandemic is just like the proverbial gasoline poured over an already burning fire called “Global Warming”, which is so much an understatement term of the year.

Checkpoint Hellweg #17

INTRO: I am not thinking I am a good fiction author. So, this being my first piece of fiction may even be my last one… Or not, I don’t know. But I wrote this little story after I had begun to think about what would happen if way more lethal strains of the Covid-19 virus would occur. I tried to keep the story local, simple, and without a cautionary tale or any intent to make a statement. I just felt that, currently, and in case we are successful in protecting ourselves and our economies, we may increasingly remember these times depending on what we personally experienced. And many, especially amongst those who deny the existence of the virus, or who refuse vaccination, or who decry the current erosion of principles of data-protection, individual rights, and proportionality of measures, or who make a case against over-regulation by the State, they may not have witnessed what others have. Nurses traumatized by what they see in hospitals. Or people living in areas which are heavily infected. There is incredibly much suffering going on already right now. But still, people may be able to close their eyes, or to bury their heads in the sand, like the proverbial ostrich.

This little story is an overstatement. In keeping it local, I also managed not to think about the gargantuan complexity of what would happen to the world and economical order. What would it mean for peace and security? I don’t know anything else than that these news would constitute a string of nightmares.

So I thought about what it would mean in a local context, not too far in the future. In keeping it simple, I hope I have also not made too many mistakes in anticipating it. There is so much in this. May be it is tons of material for other fiction stories. Who knows. But I would want to use this story in supporting that we stay vigilant, and that we do this, voluntarily, right now. Too much is at stake.



Albert is waiting in a long queue of cars, slowly moving forward to Checkpoint “Hellweg #17”. On his way home he had to exit highway A44 at Dortmund Airport, approaching the Eastern outskirts of the city of Dortmund. Leaving the fenced highway with its camera systems and drones behind, he routinely checks all preparations keeping him out of trouble before reaching the floodlighted checkpoint area. Close to midnight, the bright illumination of the exit area ahead is announced by warning signs: “You are entering the city of Dortmund. Check entry requirements NOW. Non-compliance may constitute a criminal offense.” The drill has become his second skin. Ticking off boxes on his Covid-App: The car’s air-filter set on rapid-desinfection, done. Heavy duty face-mask, done. Electronic immigration file sent, done. Virus-test-results uploaded, done. His app requests permission to deduct the checkpoint fee from his bank account. Done.

Pre-check. The Covid-app on his phone sending a flickering signal, Albert acknowledges. The screen lighting up with the face of a checkpoint-officer. “Face” being an overstatement. Some eyes behind a heavy-duty mask with autonomous air supply, the mask carrying the insignia of the local Police. “Please state the reason of entry”, the officer’s voice is blaring from the cell-phone. Albert responds “I am returning home from work with permission.” Routinely he responds with a “negative” to questions whether he has been in contact with any person after entering the highway. Yes, he had one stop-over at a rest area after entering the highway. No, he is alone in his car.

Slowly moving forward, Albert remembers how easy it was to use these traffic arteries, just a few years ago. A44 – A1 – A2 eastbound, a few hours to Berlin. A little further, Poland. Spending the evening in Duesseldorf, enjoying a walk at the Rhine? Just a few highways, a bit more than 60 minutes, having a beer at the shores of the river. Westbound, passing through the connected cities of the “Ruhr Area”, heading to Aachen, crossing a border with just a few signs, he would be in The Netherlands, or Belgium. Northbound heading towards Hamburg, no problem. Beyond, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, all open territory for travel. Southbound, endless connections to Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France. None of this was possible any longer. In 2023, the highways now were a fortified main part of the Federal transportation system without which no economic connection and delivery of supplies and goods was possible. Individual travel had been reduced to the bare minimum, and most of that required work permissions. The highways themselves had become one gigantic electronic surveillance system.

So were the railways, and so was the development in air traffic. Individual traffic was almost impossible, except for work related or any official reason, with permission, surveillance, and a lot of fees. Economics stayed regional, international, global. Life was local, except for the Internet. It was organized around the local medical capacity to deal with emergency pandemic cases.

When the pandemic ripped through societies for the second year in 2021, infection cases in countries such as Brazil and India went through the roof and the situation turned into gigantic breeding spaces for new mutations of the Covid-19 virus. Vaccination efforts were part of a protracted whack-a-mole game dealing with ever more infection waves. When the first indications popped up mid 2022 that there might be new strains of highly infectuous variants with a much higher lethality rate than seen ever before, against which current vaccines did not protect, it was already too late. These new strains showed up everywhere, and the casualties exploded as fast as the panic and the speculation about how lethal the new forms were. Noone could tell for sure, but conservative data would indicate more than 10 % fatality, perhaps even more. No age groups were exempt. The medical system collapsed first, and in a horrific way.

It was pure survival of the fittest. People like Albert did not even pay attention to violence, wars, and the suffering of people in countries far away. People went into survival mode within a few days when they realised that neighbors and family around them got sick, were hospitalised, and were dying in troves. Albert would never forget the sight of cooling containers in front of hospitals even in small towns for the dead. They were still there. When this happened in New York in spring 2020, he did not notice. Now he had to.

The emergency measures amounted to a lockdown against which all previous versions felt like holidays. Existential fear gripped everyone. Policing the lockdown, and containing the aggressive forms of self-protection, greed, and panic leading to violence amongst neighbors, and against the more wealthy, chaos and ransacking shops for supplies, it overwhelmed security agencies within days and weeks. A national emergency led to the deployment of the military in support of the police.

Albert reached the checkpoint. Checking the data contained in his iPhone app was a contactless procedure including a test for data-integrity. Meanwhile the officer at the checkpoint did his verification work by asking “Please state the reason for your travel.” Dutifully, Albert explained his work as an IT-specialist coming back from a week-long stint in an Amazon warehouse. The IT-system there had been subjected to a malware attack and he had to contain, to protect data integrity, and to investigate the attack vectors. In this rapidly changing economy, warehouses were on their way to replace anything resembling shopping malls or shops, whether in Inner Cities or in small neighborhoods. So, their protection had primacy.

Leaving the floodlights behind, Albert embarks on a journey on smaller roads. He had left the highway system early because of congestions ahead, which forces him to pass several neighborhoods and the Inner City of Dortmund before reaching his neighborhood in the north-easterns stretches of Dortmund. Passing areas with empty shopping malls, local neighborhoods, and a decrepit Inner City, his journey takes him through three more local police checkpoints before reaching home.

When the new mutations hit, one of the first casualties was the free system of travel, known as “Schengen System”, which had led to the abolishment of border checkpoints in the core of the European Union. State borders were re-erected within days, and by 2023 they had become fortified permanent control points. Likewise, Germany’s green border was subject to heavy and still progressing fortification. Once there was a border fence separating East and West of Germany from North to South. The system fell during the re-unification in 1989. Now, Germany, like it’s neighbors, built fences all over. All economic strength focused on mobilising resources for transformation, and in this first phase, the Federal State secured highways, railway tracks, and airports. Private traffic was subject to lockdowns.

Within months, the pandemic forced the big cities in Germany to take unprecedented steps: Cities shut down their borders in order to prevent traffic, and the virus, to pass through. Slowly, Germany reached a modern form of a medieval system of fortified cities. Counties followed suit. Main roads were now riddled with checkpoints, and small roads were cut off with fences or other forms of disruption. Yet, the casualties rose and rose.

Home. Two months into the catastrophic development, his two brothers had been killed by the virus within a matter of three weeks. In hindsight, Albert still had no idea why he had survived this. Their parents had died both in 2021 already, but now, his two brothers had left two families behind. Two widows, five children. For them, the situation quickly turned into a survival nightmare. In order to avoid seeing them homeless, all of them, Albert, Ines with her two kids, and Anna with three kids had banded together. By sheer luck they had found a house to rent which was large enough to provide eight persons with a cramped space for living, educating and raising children, and home office work. Together, they formed a group of traumatized people supporting each other in their survival, and protecting themselves and their children. From a virus, and from an increasingly dangerous world outside their home.

Another casualty was data protection. Buerocracy could not catch up. Lockdown rules had to be policed and required enormous resources already in public spaces. But policing the privacy of homes proved impossible, and people in their private spaces were responsible for what amounted to a chaotic accumulation of micro-spreader events. Shortly thereafter, many realised that they needed self-protection inside their homes. From the virus ripping through their microcosm. From intruders robbing them of supplies which they had stached. From homeless people begging and scouting out the property. From invisible enemies, and non-existing enemies made up from pure fear. Countries like China had an advantage in developing electronic systems ensuring compliance within the privacy of homes. Surveillance systems and apps with no data-protection thresholds spread like wildfire into societies like Germany, almost with the same speed like the virus had done.

Approaching home, Albert triggered “Arrival Home” on his iPhone app. It notified all family members, and it notfied the local police station. All family members acknowledged with a “Trust” button, the iPhone app ensuring verification checks about Albert’s identity, and conformity with virus protection measures. Each family member acknowledged his medical clearance, in return Albert acknowledged the medical clearance of all members of the household. The police station got all necessary notifications. Ines and Anna, as privileged adult family members, also received notification about each and any human contact Albert had during his travel. Recently, Ines teenage daughter Viola had run through a tantrum when she requested to get the same information from Albert like adults do. As so often, the little houselhold survived a nervous breakdown. Finally, the apps confirmed that all members had been compliant with social distancing rules in their respective areas of operation. This triggered the house alarm system to notify Albert he was clear for return.

Albert decided to fuel up the car before arrival. Entering the cashier area of the fuel station, his iPhone sounded alarm: Two persons were in the shop, he was strongly advised to pay electronically and not to enter the shop area. Albert confirmed, so to avoid any revocation of his permission to proceed home.


Home. The alarm clock beeping louder and louder. Albert waking up. The clock says “25 April 2021, 06:00h.” Albert gets up, sitting down, immediately jotting down what he remembers from this nightmare. A shower, a coffee, a Sunday morning walk through the forest nearby. Robert-Koch-Institute 7-days-incidence still high, but currently stable. “Another day”, Albert is thinking, deciding to begin his Sunday morning with gratitude.

Futuretelling

The New York Times editorial board recently wrote about the latest report published by the collective of American intelligence agencies: “Global Trends 2040”. Since a while, such a report is being issued every four years, at the beginning of the term of a new U.S. administration. It aims to assess and to anticipate where the world will be headed over the next two decades. Released April 15, 2021 by the National Intelligence Council, quoting from the OpEd, the report “finds that the pandemic has proved to be “the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II,” with medical, political and security implications that will reverberate for years. That’s not sturm und drang. It’s the prologue to a far darker picture of what lies ahead.”

The report can be downloaded here, and it is a very interesting read. As the authors themselves make clear, “scenarios are not intended to be predictions but to widen the aperture as to the possibilities, exploring various combinations of how the structural forces, emerging dynamics, and key uncertainties could play out“. Noone can foretell, at least until now, the future by analysing the key dynamics of the past and the current situation. But even without the five scenarios which the report is drawing up, already the five general themes identified by the report are a valuable narrative and assessment themselves, not least because the report synthesizes intelligence methodology and information with a wide range of global consultations outside the intelligence community, inter alia including societal stakeholders and civil society.

148 pages can not be summarized correctly here. Neither I want to do this. Rather, I would like to create interest in reading it oneself, by reflecting a little bit, including through own thoughts, on the themes of the report.

Five themes are identified: (1) Global Challenges, (2) Fragmentation, (3) Disequilibrium, (4) Contestation, and (5) Adaption.


Global challenges include climate change, disease, financial crises, and technology disruptions. The report states that they are likely to manifest more frequently and intensely in almost every region and country. Their impact on states and societies will create stress, or even catastrophic shock. The report assesses the current pandemic as “the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II, with health, economic, political, and security implications that will ripple for years to come.

This assessment resonates a lot with what some, or increasingly many, of us begin to realize: The pandemic was not a temporary event which would cripple us for a few months until summer 2020. It is ongoing, and I belong to those who feel that it will not be gone for a longer period of time, despite all containment efforts, including lockdowns, and vaccinations. Moreover, I feel we might be in a transitory phase where “defiance meets acceptance”, where things have become a norm which we would not have believed to witness a few years ago. Last weekend, I walked over an empty promenade along the shores of the river Rhine. Provisional signs regulated that, between Friday 1 pm and Sunday 7 pm, as well as between 10am and 7pm on public holidays, this strip could only be used wearing a facemask. Boy, those who got self-righteous when seeing people without facemasks, how many of them would have raised their eyebrows when seeing Asian tourists wearing facemasks on airports, just a few years ago?

This example of weird and perhaps over-regulating buerocracy just being used as a picture for my feeling that we transition into a new normal, where the fabric of societies is becoming altered beyond a temporary timeline. The depth of any analysis needs to go deeper, but some of those changes which appear to be there to stay, they become slowly visible.

It is also true that over the past year or so, the pandemic discussion with all its horrific extremes, including through simply denying it, playing it down, glossing it over, inciting polarisation and anger, it all deflected from the big threat underneath: The threat through climate change. Nothing made this less urgent, we just stopped paying attention.

Fragmentation flows from these global challenges almost logically. Whilst each of these challenges is transnational, even global, the report also pays attention to a new “smallness”, as I would coin it. Psychologically even understandable: Overwhelming threats will lead to a reflex raising the shield, or “turtling up”. In my view, such a defensive reflex will also be increasingly accompanied by selfishness. Every self-protection is a selfish but necessary act, simply because it is about protecting myself. However, with many things perceived as being at threat, including medical and economic well-being, this may lead to an unwillingness to share, outside a limited and accepted circle. But we may also see that such a fragmentation, somehow, works, because it may not affect global trade or global communication. The Internet grew during the pandemic, and so did the transportation of goods. There are winners in the economy, Amazon being just one of those, and most visible for us when we pick up our jeans, underwear, or groceries on our own doorsteps.

Disequilibrium is the third theme of the report, flowing again from the previous, fragmentation. It may be less visible for many, especially during selfish times, but it carries enormous destructive potential. The report focusses on its effects in a widening gap between what societies, communities, and individuals expect from governance and services, and what they can deliver. Thus, the report addresses the credibility challenges which became apparent already before the crisis. Legitimacy of democratic governance, and credibility of elected officials in such a system, this is not something new since the beginning of last year. Neither is the profound inability of systems of international order providing peace, security, and other important issues enshrined in the sixteen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. The pandemic may just have been the rocket fuel which incensed the already existing slow-burning wildfire. Like I said in my previous blog entry: Feels like a perfect storm.

Contestation is the fourth theme. We see it already. Wealthy societies pump their reserves into handling the crisis, and into the race of getting out on the other side in the best position for competing, on economical and power levels. But the report also identifies disruptive potential of contestation inside societies. In my view, these will just increase the intent of societies and states to stay competitive. In this regard then, wealthy societies will stand a much better chance. Poor societies will be left to their own devices of internal contestation. Conflict, violence, exodus, displacement, migration will have an effect on those more developed societies which, given all the above, might even lock themselves down even more. Lockdowns keeping others out. For me an interesting question: How will tourism develop? The more we can pay, the more likely we will spend our holidays in protected resorts? May be in wealthy societies we will see the “One Percenters” enjoy themselves in even more luxurious seclusion, those who always have been local and rural might not feel a difference at all, and the forces tearing things apart will be felt by the many in between?

Adaption being the final theme, I have the most diffiulties to identify with the anticipation, because it is so difficult to see where adaption will lead us to, locally, regionally, and globally. Of course, we will adapt. We already have begun. However:


My blog is about peace, security, trauma, and reconciliation. Somehow, all my entries here revolve around this set of topics. So, whilst I encourage to also read the scenarios in depth which form large parts of the main body of the report, I wanted to offer some thoughts just related to this introductory part of the report itself. Thoughts related to my focus.

The challenges for values, such as human and individual rights, democracy, the rule of law, they have only been growing over the past many years. The Covid-19-pandemic is pouring gasoline on this fire, and some of the developments become more visible for more people. The influencing factors which may lead to even more erosion during a time of new adaption, they are captured well in the five themes raised in the report. Not necessarily expressis verbis, but one can see it. Much will also receive more detail in the main body of the report, but in these introductory sections, these challenges are incorporated in a larger context, but are not made standing out for those who may only read executive summaries.

But taken together, global challenges, fragmentation, disequilibrium and contestation do pose significant risks to how we help an international system in its adaption and, at the same time, transfer as much of these values into it, these values which have meant so much for many of us for many decades. In a competitive world driven by economic and power contest on the one hand and more fragmentation on the other hand, maintaining these values is one of the big challenges. We can only maintain values “at home” if we also contribute to their promotion abroad. With a different phrase, Kemal Atatuerk said the same, or the European Union in their strategy documents from 2003. It stays true, however, and even more so today. Otherwise, gaps will be filled by others, and ultimately the usefulness of these values will also be questioned in any disequilibrium at home. Selfishness will lead to greed if others are more successful, with or without values like the above. Ultimately, forces which contest these values will grow.

So, in preparing for a new world order, it continues to be absolutely vital for us “at home”, wherever that is, and whatever it means, if we continue to share.

That is where we need visionary leaders, willing to take risks by maintaining that we need to share, even if the storm of anger from those who feel disenfranchised blows straight into their faces. We will see much more erosion, we have not reached rock-bottom yet.

Manipulation feeding off from emotional pain – A perfect storm

I am waking up after a sufficiently long sleep. I had felt exhaustion yesterday evening and fell asleep early. Keeping my eyes closed, and ignoring my cat making it clear he wants me to get up, to feed him, and to let him out of the campervan for his morning patrol, I am focusing for a few minutes on dreaming up positive pictures of this new day.

I am getting up, making my first coffee, feeding my cat, and not the other way round. Looking at the blue sky presiding over a cold April morning, I am not seeing the beauty of the lake, but struggle with what is going on in my head. I try to turn around the worry and the burden which is created by thinking about very simple things I have to do. Very simple things have become stressful when thinking about that I have to do them. I always knew this feeling, but it has become a prevalent stressor one year into the pandemic. Which gets me into the past, mourning everything my head is telling me that I have lost it. Worrying about the upcoming little things in my future again, I am loosing, once more, my ability to enjoy the present. Enjoying solitude, or suffering from loneliness? I have the choice, and more often than not, I fail to manage moving on a more enjoyable path for the day. Or I manage at the beginning, and fail all of a sudden throughout the day due to a small event, or just when daylight is waning.

I am attempting to disrupt my morning routine, which usually includes reading global news first. I have learned that reading these, mostly bad, news first thing over a coffee just fuels my being upset, being worried, feeling helpless and angry.

Instead, I am focusing on a voicemail which I received from a friend. My friend apologises for not having reacted earlier on previous mails from me. She explains the crippling inertia and depression which she is running through in this pandemic situation. I know her from before. She used to be so vibrant. Everything she describes about her struggle for today and the next days, I can perfectly relate to. I experience the same.

I could go on with stories of so many of my friends and family struggling with the same experience. With the ordeal of my ex-wife who single-parents our children 6.500 km from me, in a country equally affected by never-ending shutdowns, almost erratic closing of schools, and strict lockdown rules. I could describe in detail our worries about the depressive effects which the lockdown has on our teenage children, and our worrying about it, and how we wonderfully cooperate in coping with it. I could write about my single-parenting friend with three young children here in Berlin. I guess I would just describe individual stories which we all experience in countless variations right now.

We feel trapped, we feel helpless. We feel angry, and we suffer from our energy being sucked out of our lifes. We feel despair, because everything feels like a burden, simple tasks become more and more difficult. We daydream, we need rest after some work way earlier than we used to. A mental task, some office work, the need for a break comes after an hour, or sometimes after a few minutes. My friend in Berlin got help from a wonderful friend for a few days, taking care of her children. The time she had on her own, it felt like heaven. When the kids came back, the positive energy of this break lasted a few hours, only. Do people without small children really appreciate the effects of a protracted absence of Kitas, kindergardens, and schools being open?

I am attempting to describe the effects of depression, however, there are way more qualified writers than I am. But what I see is both an endemic increase of depression and, at the same time, a drastic increase of numbers of people who do not even realise that what they suffer from is a sustained series of depression attacks. This collective increase is a consequence of the protracted measures which we have imposed on ourselves in order to stay healthy and safe during a pandemic hitting us on an unprecendented scale.

But here is what I know about depression: At its core, it is a deep-seated and profound form of emotional pain. I also know that, like other unpleasant emotions, this pain easily separates itself from the triggering events and develops a life of its own, if experienced for too long. The trigger may vanish at some point, but the negative emotion stays. This is how anxieties develop, or phobias. Enough triggering events, and they are meant to stay even after the situation has long disappeared. It is the same with depression attacks. Because the point I want to make in this blog is a very different one, I stay away from explaining the neurophysiological reasons for this.

So, firstly, I state that increasing numbers of people in our societies are currently suffering from lasting emotional pain. Which creates a strong longing to make it disappear. May be through painkillers of various types, including meds, including drugs, including alcohol. But whether we sedate, or not, the pain stays, and it is a very deep pain. What happens if I have a headache and it doesn’t vanish after taking Ibuprofene? I feel helpless, I feel angry, I may double down on the painkiller, but I also try to understand why I have this pain. If the Doctor can not explain the pain, and make it go away, I may begin to distrust the Doctor.


We are facing anger, helplessness, feelings of being trapped, profound absence of a past which appears to be gone, on a societal scale. There is no discussion these days which I have which will not focus on Covid, or at least at some point invariably touch the issue. More often than not, this leads to an angry ramble.

We feel trapped because we are. Not only the unending cold weather is keeping us in our houses. We are strongly advised to stay in. We are advised to do home office. We face the protracted shutdown of any place where we used to mingle, whether the coffee shop, whether the shopping mall, whether any recreational place. We are living in areas where we face curfews, or we are being prevented from going to places just for touristic or any other recreational reasons. When I compare Berlin with Belgrade, just as an example, life is very different in Berlin. Much more shut down, like in other places in Europe. And yet, even in more permissive places, we all feel the effects of being prevented from engaging in what our brains need: Human contact, not over Zoom, but real contact.

We all know this, I am just stating it here to make my argument. We all feel that we began fighting this pandemic by hoping, and being told, that this will be over soon. But until now, it never was getting anywhere close to being over. I remember times last November when we faced yet another lockdown, hoping to re-open in January. And we did not, or only temporarily and in a very limited manner, re-open. We face a seemingless never-ending oscillation between hope and despair.

I suspect this is an issue seriously re-wiring our brains, to an extent unknown to many of us. Like, will I ever feel comfortable again when people come close to me in a crowded situation, whether on the bus, or in a crowded pedestrians zone? I crave proximity, and I fear it at the same time. I fear being surrounded by an invisible enemy. Again, I am making this argument for a purpose, not digging into the emerging scientific findings about how it affects us in all our societies. I have, for example, written on the impact of the pandemic and how we handle it, on domestic violence and on violence against women. What I want to express here is that fear, and anger, and helplessness, and the wish to make this going away, they have taken a deep root.

So, if there is an invisible enemy which I can not fight, I will feel threatened by anything happening close to me, getting me out of my comfort zone. My neighbor can make me angry, a tourist can, a foreigner can. Here is a strong vector fueling nationalism, through the fear created by anything alien to me.


At the same time, in our attempts to find a way through this, I feel from my conversations with a great many friends that we are establishing a narrative which justifies our own subtle non-compliance. Like many, I feel the temptation to not comply, in the security of my own private space. Where, as I said, the protracted cold weather plays a role because we are forced to stay in our houses. Where we all try to find ways to balance physical health with mental health. Mental health requires contact to other human beings. As we begin to rationalize this, I suspect that we may begin to move away from super-spreader-events to a mass of hidden mini-spreader-events.

My friend in the U.S. said, a few months ago, that in a situation where there is a choice only to either prioritize physical health or mental health, this friend will choose mental health, simply for survival purposes, thus meaning meeting people. We all want that. The conundrum sits with that it is not only about our own mental health, but about the physical health of other people, at the same time. If I prioritize my own health, I have to mitigate the many connections to vulnerable people which connect the people who I meet, with others. Mini-spreader-events carry the same viral potential, therefore, as super-spreader-events do, but they stay invisible. We have no guidance on how to mitigate, nor tool to assist, we are sitting with our own devices having to navigate through this huge responsibility. We are being told not to meet with more than a limited number of people in the “safety” of our homes, but how do we do this? The number of friends of mine who recently mention that they are going on a date, or, let me suspect, several dates, who knows the numbers? What about the absolute necessity of teenagers to hug each other?


So far, my argument expresses my suspicion that, the longer the fight against the pandemic lasts, the more we are being driven into “underground defiance”. If that is true, then the virus is being spread despite all public containment attempts. In a totalitarian regime, this may lead to even intruding into private space for controlling compliance. In democratic societies, it may simply lead to that all measures remain ineffective.

Here, the vaccination dilemma comes into play: The longer the vaccination campaign is being slowed down by insufficient supplies, resistance, doubts, administrative problems, and else, the longer the virus will thrive and prosper, unseen, at a too large scale. And the longer this happens, the more likely new mutations, and our inability to catch up with updated vaccines. We seem to be at a critical juncture of a whack-a-mole game, where we may get exhausted at an unknown point in the future.

If then, like today, some countries appear to be more successful with vaccination campaigns than others, and if, like we can see, these countries begin to release restrictions, the emotional impact on those who still live under lockdowns, will add exponentially to anger and helplessness. They will feel greed, and the wish to keep things for themselves, too. Another vector leading into nationalism.


Finally, in order to present my argument, a last story, from yesterday:

Another friend consulted me, by attaching a video to his mail. A video spreading through social media, one of uncounted similar types floating around. A well-dressed very attractive female presenter, propped up against a professional studio background, exhaling all visible criteria aiming at making her appearance credible and professional, spread a gargantuan conspiracy theory. That the virus does not exist. That the vaccines are evil. That all this is proven. That it is all about a global cabale of people subjugating their populations. The usual allegations, in this case against Bill Gates, were part of the blend.

The professionalism made me sick and angry. Because the flawless design of this presentation requires a deeper intellectual effort in order to pierce through the fog of manipulative rhethoric. Which is something which many people will not invest into. It took me two efforts in order to find a way demonstrating to my friend why these are incredibly well-crafted lies.

My friend almost apologised, because I had begun to ramble myself. He explained that this video was sent to his aunt who is hospitalised. He told me that in his circle of friends he hears entirely confusing advice about vaccinations, including hearing from a medical doctor in his circle that one should avoid the vaccination at all costs. He just told me another story about how deeply confused all of us are. In asking me he was trying to find guidance within a field which left him scared.

So it depends on who is giving you advise in such a situation. And I believe that more often than not the advise being given is half-baked, or uninformed, or even coming from people with a desire to manipulate.

This morning, I read a German news article about the German intelligence organisations watching extreme right-wing political movements and also noting new forms of extremism coming up. New forms of extremism connected to protests against Corona-measures. The key sentence in this news piece: The intent of some in this movement, and in right-wing political parties, to sow doubt in the confidence into the free democratic order which forms the value-base of our constitution.

That is my argument: That the helplessness, anger, fear, and facing the protracted, seemingly never-ending, nature of the crisis, is being used for increasing the base of those who just doubt the value-base which we have nurtured for more than seventy years. Automatically, by increasing the base of people willing to listen to the pied piper (Der Rattenfaenger von Hameln, for my German friends), one increases the number of people willing to vote for the pied piper.

For me, this sounds like a perfect storm.

To Serve and To Protect

Yesterday my friend shared a story from the Washington Post with me. Under the headline “Kentucky Senate votes to criminalize insulting police in way that could cause ‘violent response’“, the digital edition of the newspaper reported on March 12 on a bill which passed the State Senate.

I quote from the article:

The bill, passed two days before the anniversary of the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor, would make it a misdemeanor to taunt or challenge an officer with words or gestures “that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.” Conviction would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $250.

State Sen. Danny Carroll (R), who sponsored the bill, said it would enable officers to arrest someone inflaming them before the encounter turns violent. The provision is meant to apply to comments that are “obviously designed to elicit a response from the officer — something to push them to making a mistake, pushing them to violence,” he said, although courts would have the final say in interpreting the rule.

“You don’t have a right to accost a police officer,” Carroll said.”


Apart from the mindblowing detail of the bill itself (I looked up the link above), think about it: In Kentucky it will constitute a crime if I use words or gestures towards a police officer which, in the interpretation of this or another officer, could be deemed provocative, to the extent that my words or gesture may lead to a “tendency for a violent response” by that police offficer.

As my friend wrote: “It implies cops have no self-control and are inherently violent. If I was a cop, I would be livid.”

It turns any people-centered policing understanding upside down. Don’t touch that cop. Don’t even look into his or her face. Keep your head down. Keep your hands down. Respond politely with “Yes Sir”. Do what you’re told, it is the law. Anything else may lead to that the copmachine is turning violent. Or that the cop now can arrest you beforehand, in order to avoid becoming violent.

This is escalative “enforcement of the law”-attitude at its worst. It leads to that “enforcement” is nothing else than exerting control. No need for consensus, no need for explanation, no need for communication. Why communicate, why listen, why explain? It is enough to arrest anybody standing in the way of law enforcement officers.

Don’t call this policing, please. You may call it controlling. Policing is based on consent, and applying force is the last resort.

Schulfunk – Waffenschmugglern auf der Spur – Tracking weapons traffickers

Schulfunk – An almost forgotten German expression from my childhood: Starting as a radio broadcasting service 70 years ago, meant to contribute to re-educating post-war Germany, Schulfunk developed into effective knowledge transfer, supplementing school education. Contemporary follow-on programs still exist, but the ancient label “Schulfunk” may get forgotten at some point. Today, it is about public broadcasters serving on their obligation to contribute to fact-based educational programs.

In a more sarcastic sense, I labeled any True Crime movie, or fictional reporting about crime, and movies about detectives solving crime cases, “Schulfunk”. Starting my professional career as a detective police officer myself, I was never too much interested in spending my evenings watching True Crime stories, or detective fiction. I found these stories too much detached from reality. Believe it or not, I preferred, and prefer until today, Science Fiction and Fantasy movies. Everyone has a weirdo side, right?

So, starting off a little bit on the funny side this morning, the screenshot below is about a piece of investigative journalism which was broadcasted by the German news channel “ZDF” March 24, 2021. Until March 24, 2023, you can watch this piece using the following link: https://www.zdf.de/dokumentation/zdfzoom/zdfzoom-waffenschmugglern-auf-der-spur-100.html

It pretty much is about my current line of work. It is in German language, but my small complaint sits with another issue, not the language.

Part of why I sarcastically labeled crime stories “Schulfunk”, distancing myself a little bit, has to do with the drama which appears to be a necessary part of broadcasting. Whether TV, movies on the big screen, or Youtube, nothing goes without music, and nothing goes without some sensational takes with which the subject matter at hand is presented in a way causing interest on the side of people looking for something to watch.

I get it, it is part of the human nature. I used it myself, when I was designing media campaigns for my colleagues and friends in Bosnia & Herzegovina during my time as Head of the European Union Police Mission. Just on a personal note, I find the dramatic music in this piece about weapons trafficking from the Western Balkans a little bit too heavy for my personal taste.

But after getting that out the way, I just wanted to reference this piece of journalism in my blog. And I wanted to do this without too much commenting, explaining, or describing my part in the work of my government, together with colleagues from France, and the European Union, in supporting the implementation of a strategic initiative which the six jurisdictions of the Western Balkans have agreed upon themselves. (We talk about jurisdictions, instead of States, in order to include Kosovo under the United Nations Resolution 1244 within a politically sensitive context).


If you want to understand what the Roadmap for a sustainable solution to the illegal possession, misuse and trafficking of SALW and their ammunition in the Western Balkans by 2024, is about, I would invite you to begin with browsing the website of SEESAC (https://www.seesac.org). SEESAC is the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons. It holds an instrumental role in supporting the implementation of this Roadmap, which was jointly developed by the Western Balkans Authorities, under the auspices of Germany and France, in coordination with the European Union, and with SEESAC’s technical assistance.

The Roadmap is the most comprehensive arms control exercise in the region, covering all key aspects from securing the stockpiles of weapons and ammunition to mainstreaming gender in SALW control and countering firearms trafficking. It represents a firm commitment to addressing the threats posed by the misuse and illicit possession of weapons in the Western Balkans and Europe at large and is a result of strong cooperation on SALW control in the region which SEESAC has fostered since 2002.


I especially like the final stretches of the reportage. After some good investigative work attempting to make connections between trafficking of weapons, ammunition and explosives through crime and organised criminal groups on the one side and some disturbing indications about some of these weapons and explosives ending up increasingly in the hands of right-wing extremists in Germany, the documentary ends with explaining the Roadmap which I referenced above. Bojana Balon, the Head of SEESAC, is being interviewed. And some impressive pictures deal with what we prefer to do with these weapons: Seizing them, and destroying them.

So, in the best tradition of the gun with the knot in its barrel which you find on the compound of United Nations Headquarters, here a few pictures. No need to reference any copyright, I took all these pictures myself.