On Male Social Control

I came back from a week in Canada yesterday. I spent an exceptionally wonderful week with my teenager children there, we bonded in so many ways. Coming back, with no sleep for almost 36 hours yesterday evening, I was enthusiastically welcomed by my cat friend when he returned from his boarding place where he happily socialised with other cats. Most of the day today he is staying very close, and he can’t stop purring. Both experiences of bonding with loved beings, whether my children, or my animal friend, they create a deep feeling of gratitude. On those things, head over to my YouTube channel.

Is it now? Good for you!“, you might say. “But why are you starting this text this way?

May be because this is about tolerance, and peaceful attitude? Let’s see and let me get to work, writing this piece here.

I read an article in BBC this morning: “Sharon Stone says Basic Instinct role cost her custody of her son“. To remind on the 1992 movie “Basic Instinct” I am quoting Wikipedia: “Basic Instinct is a 1992 neo-noir[3] erotic thriller film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Joe Eszterhas. The film follows San Francisco police detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) as he investigates the brutal murder of a wealthy rock star. During the course of the investigation, Curran becomes entangled in a passionate and intense relationship with Catherine Tramell(Sharon Stone), the prime suspect and an enigmatic writer.”

I won’t get into details about why this movie created a controversial discussion, including an explicit scene with Sharon Stone lasting, perhaps, less than one second. Nothing though, compared to what a simple Google Search with explicit terms would come up with, with millions of hits.

Remember Michael Douglas? Of course you do. Including every movie he is playing a role in until today, including in Marvel’s “Antman”-series. Would you associate your memory related to Michael Douglas with “Basic Instinct” to the same extent as you would associate the name “Sharon Stone” with it? Just take a second for asking yourself this question. On my side, I associate Sharon Stone more with that movie than I do associate Michael Douglas.

The BBC-article refers to a court hearing in 2004. Sharon Stone was about to be divorced from her then-husband Ron Bronstein. The judge had to decide about custodial issues on their joint son. The judge, according to this article, asked the then four-year-old son “Do you know your mother makes sex movies?”. Sharon Stone was denied custodial rights related to Ron, who was adopted by the couple.

2004. One second of explicit content in a provocative movie, a piece of art by then and with hindsight from today’s perspective. Not a porn movie made for backroom views, or in secrecy on a laptop. No, an A-movie. I bought it on my Apple TV-account a while ago, may be around 2016. Sharon Stone got nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her role in that movie. And by the way, the crowd in that room, according to the BBC article, reacted in a condescending manner to her nomination.

The brief article ends with Sharon Stone referring to a recent movie depicting the life of Jeffrey Dahmer. An actor in that movie played the role of this cannibal of contemporary times. Stone asks whether anyone would believe this actor, who is playing an extremely challenging role, would be a cannibal in real life. Implicitely she is meaning that, obviously, the same was not true for how people look at Sharon Stone.

What has this to do with that I came back from Canada, again?

I had a blast there. And one evening, one of my two children (I stay very neutral because under no circumstances I am exposing my children to my public writing) showed off the capabilities of their newly acquired PlayStation 5. So, Dad, who is a LOT into computers, but not at all into computer games, took his time and was introduced into the amazing virtual realities of those games which were on that PS5.

It started with a Hogwarts’ type game in which sorcerers could fly around, walk around, and use their wands to smash and kill a horde of goblins, monsters, and whatever. Or just walking around in Hogwarts wizardry classrooms and smash the tables of other class mates.

From what I saw, it clearly was a lot of fun for my children. And I could relate to the fantastic graphics, the scenery, and other stuff. My children know that I don’t relate much to smashing things, or killing goblins. But ultimately, as parents, we have adopted a position where we try to go along with something which is inevitable in the life of millions, or billions, of children. You can’t stop the tide. But you can explain values.

Next up: Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA 5). I know GTA from its earliest versions on. I never liked it. A digital version of Los Angeles. In character, you play a gangster. You move around. Walk around. Drive around. Fly around. Stealing cars, smashing them. Living a gangsta life. You have every gun under the sun, and more. You kill. Indiscriminately. Shootouts of gangs against gangs, gangs against cops. Or you just walk up to a car, beat up the driver, take the car, and kill every pedestrian in your local neighborhood. Car finally done? No prob. Next car, continue.

Being the father I am, I was interested, appreciative, and also clear on saying that this type of violence is not my thing. “It’s a game, Dad.” “I know. But I don’t like it in a game, neither in real world. Interesting, though. Fascinating graphics, yes.

At one point we passed a virtual corner and my child explained that in that building there, there is some “explicit” stuff. My children are almost 15 years old, I should explain. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Do you mean there is a strip joint in GTA 5?“. Of course I knew beforehand that GTA5 also had these features. My child giggled. I said: “Show me! Let’s go in!“. My child refused. With blushed cheeks my child said: “Dad! Please! I can’t go into a place with hookers here with my Dad!!“.

I smiled and I replied “Of course not, that’s okay!” So we did not get into that virtual strip joint. My child happily continued of rob people from their cars, beating them up, and smashing pedestrians, with copious amounts of virtual blood over those crime scenes, in front of Dad.

I took a second for a serious parental discussion on that occasion: With both my children in the room, I said the following:

I do fully respect your feelings here. And I know it is a game. And you know I am a very open-minded and tolerant person. You can, if and whenever you want, talk about anything to me. And if you’re feeling funny, that’s okay, too. I so much understand, there were things which I would have had a lot of hesitation to talk about to my parents, too. And I do understand there is a common notion to name a sex worker a “hooker”. That’s normal, often too, instead of saying sex-worker, or prostitute. But it also, often, is abrasive, abusive, and mean. Because it puts that person into a position of shame. Which that person does not deserve. I live in a country where sex-work is legal. And I truly believe that it is a fundamental right for any person to choose any profession. If this is about transactional sex, it is as okay and respectable like any other job (like creating violent computer games), and I want you to know that any such person is not a person of bad reputation, or second class. I want you to be very respectful, that’s why I say sex-worker, and not hooker.

I almost left it there, because I only wanted to call for tolerance, compassion, open-mindedness. Of course I did not want to create curiosity for strip joints. Kids have that anyways, there is no way to “protect” them from that. But there are thousands of ways to help in making them aware that hypocrisy, male domination, bigotry, disrespectful behavior, xenophobia, resentment against LGBTQ+ identification and anything else has no place in a tolerant human society.

So I decided to end this with saying: “Some of my closest friends have personal histories including sex work. All of them are wonderful amazing people, and some are amazing parents. Many of those have scars on their souls. Perhaps less because of the choice of profession they made, for some time. Perhaps more because of all the incredibly stupid, and often very abusive and intolerant behavior of their clients. Because those clients, they use those services. And then, in total hypocrisy, they label the providers of those services second class. Please, never ever do that!

I left this talk there and continued to unhappily watch the virtual killings in GTA 5. Now, the connection between Sharon Stone and what I wrote about, perhaps is becoming more visible.

I remain entirely baffled about a hypocrisy and puritanism which is outlawing any explicit sexual scene in movies, and otherwise I continue to see Denzel Washington on an extended revenge tour through “The Equalizer”- sequel, or I am waiting excitedly to continue watching Keanu Reeves in “John Wick 4” shooting hundreds, mildy put, with every gun under the sun.

I could say it is schizophrenic. But it is not. It tells me a lot about instruments of social control, applied by a still dominating male class, ruling the female principle into submission.

Not my world, though. Tremendously proud of my closest friends. I love them very much.

Enforcing – Not the law – Enforcement gone criminal beyond imagination

Even after 45 years, I find it an ambitious and daunting task to write about policing. Because the issue at hand is not as easy and simple as it looks. It is not possible to do it out of context, meaning my own socialisation into a police organisation. My time inside policing and the larger unfolding of my work influenced my thinking, and my emotions.

Right now, my emotions go over board. I will say why, but before that I will say that I struggle with an enormous sadness, and I cope with anger and resentment. Anger and resentment are poison for me. I am what one could name a police officer who has seen more than a normal share of awfulness. In a situation in which I am operationally involved, I manage to stay calm. I describe this state of mind “going tactical”. But this is only a means to do what is expected from me, unbiased, professional, and allowing me to maintain safety and security for all involved. Especially victims.

But nothing in 45 years has led to that I get less upset, less sad, less tempted to give in into anger, than when I see blatant examples of violence and abuse by public officials, in their most atrocious forms.

So, what happened?

January 7, 2023, Tyre Nichols was stopped by police officers in Memphis, in the United States of America. Three days later, he died. He succumbed to wounds inflicted on him by police officers in a way which is even unimaginable when taking into account the circumstances of the deaths of Rodney King in Los Angeles, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and George Floyd in Minneapolis, and others, so many others.

It doesn’t matter that Tyre Nichols was a person of color. Neither it does that the police officers were all persons of color, too. It matters that they were police officers, public officials entrusted with the power to exert reasonable force, only if necessary, and only using appropriate levels of force. What makes this case standing out is that a combination of street cams and body cams worn by the officers themselves are documenting 26 minutes until medical assistance engaged, with Tyre Nichols brutally and for no reason at all being beaten to death, literally. Memphis police fired the officers involved, and others, including rescue services, were fired for gross negligence. The officers involved face murder charges.

You can see select reporting here, on NBC News, and here, on BBC News. You can see ONE FULL HOUR of bodycam and streetcam footage about these 26 minutes, for example, here, on NBC News.

I watched it. It broke my heart.

Today, January 31, 2023, the New York Times is releasing a story in the format of an “Opinion Video”. It is a video piece of the NYT, and it is titled “Authorities Used a Taser on Him 7 Times in 15 Minutes. Then He Died. Justice Never Came.

The NYT video starts with: “It’s one thing to imagine what happened. It’s another thing to see what happened. And it’s another thing to hear what happened.”

So, I watched it, too. I forced myself to the very end. It broke my heart, again. A friend of mine, passionate about the fight against violence by enforcement officers like I, refused to watch it to the end. It sickened her too much. Yet, if you can stomach it, I encourage you to watch the opinion video. It is outstanding in it’s making, and I won’t go into an account of it here.

It is the story of the death of Jerod Draper. Jerod was arrested in 2018, in southern Indiana. It does not matter that Jerod was a white male. The traffic stop, including his attempts to flee, and the subsequent arrest by the police, from what I can see in the video, and what is circumstantial in the reporting, seems to have been conducted correctly. Jerod, as it turned out, was intoxicated with methamphetamines. Turned out, he had OD’d, meaning, he took an overdose. Later examination would confirm that the was dying a slow overdose death for hours, and it is reasonable to believe that proper medical treatment would have saved his life.

The video includes the full documentation by a surveillance camera in the jail cell into which he was incarcerated. For reasons of his not injuring himself, he was put into a specific long-coated straight jacket, and he was tied to a specific chair for the maximum time permitted. He was violent to himself in a jail cell with no moving or destroyable parts. The massive intoxication made him banging his head against the cell walls, and much more.

I was beyond disbelief when seeing a group of several correction officers, some of which obviously also held roles of paramedic tasks, acting. Including tasering Jerod seven times in fifteen minutes, whilst his foot was stomped upon, and he was forced down by other staff. One expert consulted in this video puts it correctly: Jerod was tortured. He did, it would appear, not die from torture, or as a direct consequence of this atrocious behavior. He died because his methamphetamine overdose killed him, and he died because of absent medical emergency treatment.

Instead, he was tortured by staff that simply had one objective: Making sure he could not move, and would not be able to harm himself. I am struggling to apprehend thought processes which, in order to make him stopping to hurt himself, lead to pushing Jerod down, and applying a 50.000 Volt taser not in self-defense, but literally like a surgical instrument, on his limbs and his body. Seven.Times.In.Fifteen.Minutes.

I know I am talking about extreme cases. But it does not invalidate the argument which I am going to unfold.

In the BBC article on Tyre Nichols’s murder, Alexis Hoag-Fordjour, a professor at Brooklyn Law School and co-director of the Center for Criminal Justice is interviewed. She is quoted with the following: “Policing in this country is focused on control, subordination and violence – regardless of the race of the officer,” she said. “Society views black people as inherently dangerous and criminal… even if you have black people in the position of law enforcement, that doesn’t mean that proposition goes away.”

Now, I know I will write, am writing, “essays on policing”. No surprise in that police violence and abuse of power will feature in these essays. By far not from a U.S. perspective, my view on this is global. But it includes the sheer endless U.S. debate. If one adds the second article, where corrections officers are involved, the underlying rationale goes beyond policing.

Meaning, coming back to the title which I chose: I do see societies and cultures in which public officials are driven by an understanding of “enforcement” which, taken to its extreme, will not allow anything else than cowering down and hoping that gestures of subduing myself will hopefully lessen the chance of receiving more than a very unpleasant attitude of officers allowing no dissent. Go through U.S. immigration on airports, get into contact with cops, or face a private security officer anywhere in the United States.

It is this attitude, being part of what I call the “DNA” of policing, which increases the likelihood of instances of getting roughed up, or worse. Taken to its extreme, this is the attitude leading to the above horrible murder of Tyre Nichols, and actions of torture (yes, I agree with the expert in the video), which obviously raise severe questions of accountability in the case of Jerod Draper.

As long as we name it “law enforcement”, as long as I see police cars with light signals like “Stop – It’s The Law” (because, it doesn’t matter whether it is the law, it matters that I am able to explain why I am applying the law, and that I act proportionally). as long as we have this attitude in policing by police officers and police organisations (I personally refuse to talk about a “Police Force”), as long as enforcement is squarely at the heart of an understanding of policing, I feel we will continue to see no progress on police reform.

Police Reform is not starting with reforming the Police. It is starting with reforming the understanding of policing.

We don’t go it alone

Prelude: My French friend with whom I wanted to meet this morning, discussing work over coffee, got sick. Sending him a “Get Well”, and using the time alone with my coffee for a piece I wanted to “put out there”.

There have been many articles and comments in the media about an expectation towards Germany to “lead”. Same on the side of politics. Whether related to States bordering the Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation, or the discussions and reflections in the U.S. media, and elsewhere. Commentators were quick to point to a perceived, or alleged unwillingness or inability on the side of the German Chancellor to make a decisive move. In the most recent case, as we all remember, it is about supplying the Ukraine with German made main battle tanks. Before that, it was about medium sized battle tanks (like the “Marder”), or about armoured vehicles, or about defensive air systems. Of course, there also was the unfortunate communication at the beginning, helping the Ukraine by sending 5000 protective helmets. And yes, there is an embarrassing element in that. In the scheme of things I wanted to quickly write about, the last one is collateral damage, or an anectotal side story. However, even this unfortunate communication by the former Defense Minister of Germany had a positive impact: Waking up to a new reality is not an easy thing to do. Hawkish thinking will have a home-run. Those who cling to an effort thinking about peace as it was before things changed, they will become defensive. Ruptures will loom, and these can be exploited by malicious actors, inside a system (extremists and enemies of the constitutional foundation of a system), inside a framework of collaboration and cooperation, (of course I am talking about the EU and about NATO), and outside (like the Russian Federation, but not only).

Only history will tell us whether we handle things cautiously, or too cautiously. But the principle we follow is that we don’t go it alone.

I am not involved into policymaking and strategies how to handle the situation which includes a War of Aggression against the Ukraine. But I see this principle in every aspect of my own work, and in every aspect of German governance that I can reasonably make conclusions about, on basis of what I see in publicly available information. I believe this is more than anecdotal evidence for that this is a principle of German policy within the context of all things E.U, all things NATO, and all things U.N.

Where I can simply state that I know we do it this way is within the context of our support to an initiative of the six jurisdictions of the Western Balkans to come to grips with all aspects related to Small Arms and Light Weapons. I see this “DNA” reflected in everything, how we support ownership, how we support it in close collaboration with the Regional Cooperation Council RCC, together with France in a so-called Franco-German initiative which sits at the roots of this support since 2014 within the “Berlin Process”, and how we do it together with all relevant actors inside the European Union, namely the European Union External Action Service, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Neighborhood, and the European Commission’s Directorate General for Migration & Home Affairs. And on the other side of the equation, how we support our jointness by empowering implementing organisations, be them part of the United Nations family (UNDP and UNODC), be them part of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe OSCE, be them structures inside NATO.

The above complexity just in order to demonstrate how complex a process in which we don’t go it alone can be. There is, on all levels, a tremendous effort behind the principle of not going it alone. And much of it is almost invisible to the public, hungry for bad news. But without revealing internal stuff, it looks like we are getting assessments confirming the success sitting behind practically applying principles such as real assistance to others, and not to go it alone.

Allow me also to make a brief point on what some commentators refer to as some historic reasons for this German attitude. They talk about the German history of how we came out of our own darkest times, the most shameful parts of German history, the Holocaust. Which, after all, was the horror after the Nazis managed to wrestle control away from the previous system of governance. Nazi Germany was the product of an inside job destroying the Republic of Weimar, including a successful brazen attack on the Weimar Constitution. In my senior police education, I was once asked to write up the similarities and differences of the Weimar Constitution with the “German Grundgesetz”, the basic law we gave ourselves after Word War II, which we kept open through a preamble in which we promised to never give up on re-unification, and which we then carried over into the German constitution, our basic law, of today. Nutshell: The German basic law is founded on a DNA which can already be found in the Constitution of Weimar, including human and citizen’s rights. Part of the post-Holocaust effort in designing a new basic law was to enshrine provisions making it more difficult, or hopefully even impossible, to hollow it out from the inside.

In all this German “DNA” there is reflection of the responsibility that we promised to ourselves, to victims, and to the World at large, to never allow this happening again.

This is a vital part of our own constitutional immune system against the danger stemming from if power goes rogue. This is why we don’t go it alone.

And to see a practical detail about how serious we are in this, look at this German article in the German news “Tagesschau” from today: “Im Holocaust erlebten ukrainische Juden grenzenlose Grausamkeit” is the title of a piece from today. In German language, the German Tagesschau is reflecting on Babyn Jar, located in Kviev. Over the duration of the German Nazi occupation of the Ukraine, this place suffered from the killing of more than 100.000 Jews by the Nazi regime. It peaked with two days during which at least 33.771 human beings were killed by the German Nazis.

With responsibility, humility, and no hesitation the German news report about this during a time of war in the Ukraine, during a time which includes that Germany has, just two days ago, also agreed to enlarge our already large military assistance to the Ukraine by sending own main battle tanks, and allowing other Nations to send their own German-made Leopard-II-tanks, too.

My work over the past 23 years has brought me to places of mass murder, genocide, and any unthinkable crime against humanity. Not bragging here. But making the point that I witnessed so many efforts to come to terms with that own shameful legacy. Some did well. Visit the genocide memorial in Kigali, Rwanda, for example, like I did on two occasions. Some struggle. Listen to the different voices on the Srebenica genocide, for example. Some deny, and threaten consequences to anyone who begs to differ from the public line of unaccountability. Look at the situation with the Uyghurs in China, or the Armenian genocide early on during the last century.

Taking collective action in the interest of, and service of, peace does not leave any wiggle room for taking own full responsibility, and requires to not going it alone.

That’s what we do.

The picture was taken by myself in May 2019. I was visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp with beloved American, German, and Egyptian friends.

essays on policing – status update – initiation of work

In a few days I will celebrate my 65th birthday. I became a German police officer in the detective branch at the age of 18. Almost 44 years later, in January 2020, I was up for mandatory retirement. About half of these four decades I rose through the ranks of a national Police in Germany. The other half I spent abroad, in senior headquarter and field positions of the United Nations and the European Union. In these functions of UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and EU crisis management, policing always was a cornerstone of my work. In my current work as an adviser contracted by the German Federal Foreign Office, policing is an important element within a larger and holistic framework of support action, too.

So, 45 years of policing experience. Related to work in Germany, South-East and East Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Carribean. Living in many places in Germany, and in Belgrade, Brussels, New York, Pristina, Sarajevo.

In my article “Seeing Deeper” I reflected on my personal experience with the fundamental shifts, including within the international peace&security architecture, over those two decades of my contribution to it. Of course, the historical timelines which are preceding the colossal changes of these days, they go way back. Some of those I witnessed in a national capacity, some during my international time. Events like, for example, the fall of the Berlin wall, or 9/11, they are examples for moments that we associate with being triggers for fundamental shifts. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they are just the coordinates in space-time where the underlying energies pop up with explosive momentum. Much later, through an analysis of United Nations peacekeeping, I would revisit the bigger picture in which some of these key events played a role, where they had an impact on what I was involved in at that time, the role of policing in peace operations. I have written about some specific aspects related to what we call “international policing” here.

Over those more than 23 years within an international context of peace&security, I witnessed times when there was a lot of enthusiasm about what policing could contribute to supporting peace processes. Policing, done right, is a key component for supporting processes towards lasting peace, and reconciliation. Therefore, support to the establishment of capable policing, deeply anchored in values and international principles and standards, can be a key enabler for lasting peace, and so much more. Think, for example, gender equality, protection of the vulnerable, protection of minorities, ensuring democratic forms of governance, contributing to justice, and in its very core, promoting human rights.

Because of the many years of my own involvement, I witnessed success and failure. The reasons for it are highly complex. Some sit with grappling to understand and to properly implement policing assistance. Some reasons sit way beyond and made it challenging for all actors with military, police, or civilian tasks, to deliver on what they were expected to. On the policing side, where some of my core experience sits, it includes that we, the so-called international community, struggled with making these policing contributions relevant. Sometimes our collective proverbial mouth was not where our money was. Sometimes the political design of international assistance in or after a conflict or war struggled with applying coherence to expectations, objectives and their implementation, either narrowly speaking for what policing could bring to the table, or related to the respective peace operation at large. When we were successful, we had to see that good news stories rarely stick, they are unfortunately not as visible as their bad-news-siblings. At the same time we saw the political development leading to the erosion of the peace&security architecture into its current deplorable state of affairs. This made it more and more difficult for any form of collective international assistance to prove its positive impact.

We now live in a period where a discussion about policing may feel very counter-intuitive compared to the huge focus on military engagement. Just recently, I argued that in my personal opinion it is time to make a decision to provide the Ukraine with heavy battle tanks. That’s not policing. What I am concerned with is to contribute to a discussion in which we do not loose sight about which ingredients are vital for a peaceful society, and that we include lessons from the past into how we want to move forward in a world in which previous rules of engagement may increasingly become outdated.

“essays on policing” is offering a thematically focused window into my work. My writing about my experiences with policing is not motivated by “setting a record straight about a past long gone”. It is not about a sad look back into the “good old times”. It is not about giving advice with an attitude.

It is about incentivizing a quest in order to find contributions to contemporary challenges, and there is no other way than also to make reference to how we did, and failed, or succeeded, during previous challenges. We can learn only by looking into the past, without getting stuck in it.

I feel the best format for doing this is to choose the writing format of essays. This format allows me to find a balance between solid research and truthful facts, and the inevitable personal and subjective element which forms an essential for my contribution. To some extent it will be a walk on the memoir side of things, but thematically grouped. It won’t be a linear historical account of my work experiences. I will jump back and forth, weaving a narrative for how I came to look at specific things from a vantage point of own experiences, good and bad. It hopefully allows me to stay humble. As I said, it is less about advice and more about storytelling within an ongoing discourse in which we all struggle to find meaningful ways forward, keeping us all together.

“essays on policing” is part of a larger set of writing projects. I have ideas for “essays on peace&security”, for “essays on trauma&reconciliation”. In all of them, there is a deep professional and a deep personal element of experience. Looking at the statistics of this blog, some of the articles which create the most, and the most longstanding interest, are about policing. It feels natural, therefore, to start here.

My plan is that this set of essays is forming a book. As a book, I do not plan to publish it here. I do not even know whether I go for self-publishing, or whether I find a publisher. I am not motivated by profit, but I won’t do it for free either. This is going to be intense work, and a lot of time and effort will go into it.

I plan to regularly update you on the project, here on this blog. Once the structure and the outline of planned content is presented here, my thoughts about how I want to publish, and how you could purchase the book, in case you’re interested, will become clear.

I am inviting you to participate. Please do so by sending me a mail: stefanfeller@mac.com.

Proceeds will go into the future of my youngest children. It will be a tiny part of my efforts to make up for time lost, because of my work, and to make good on where I failed to be sufficiently available for them, for reasons which only include my work, but go far beyond. But that will deserve a closer look within “essays on trauma&reconciliation”.

I am working on a dedicated page on this site where you track progress, and where I will describe the content of essays. Meanwhile, my writing here will continue to go all over the place.

Dopamine Nation – About A Book – Or More?


Unlike some of the recent blog entries here, including the previous, this is about the world within. Or is it?

OMG, he is getting philosophical again.” I will do my best to limit it. But I need a conduit into why I want to write about a book which I read recently: Dopamine Nation (Dopamine nation: finding balance in the age of indulgence / Anna Lembke, M.D., 2021, ISBN 9781524746728 (hardcover) | ISBN 9781524746735 (ebook)).

Neurophysiology is part of science. Neuroscience is scientific research aiming to understand the inner workings of the brain. That includes the human brain, the most complex entity that we know about in the Universe. No superstition here: There may be, and I believe there are, more complex entities in the Universe, whatever the Universe is. But our knowledge about the Universe is extremely local, and extremely limited along the temporal dimension as well. In this corner of this Universe, and now, our own brain is the most complex composite physical entity that we know about. Its complexity pales everything else. I highly recommend, as I have done before, David Eagleman’s popular science book “The Brain“. I love it, my children loved it, and the TV series “The Brain” (PBS Documentary, 2015, available on Apple TV) with which David Eagleman stunningly transformed his book into a highly enjoyable visual companion to the book is still relevant, and thoroughly enlightening.

The brain is made from neurons and from other matter. The uniqueness of the human brain sits with that a stunning number of, give or take, 100 billion neurons are forming a highly complex neuronal network. Connected with sophisticated sensory input devices, having a plethora of means to communicate, and being able to steer the body and to contribute to regulate the inner functions of this larger entity we call “our body”, the combined result is much more than a walking and talking biological robot: Self-awareness and the emergence of a persona, in my case “Stefan Feller”, are amongst the results of these inner workings.

Describing it this way allows me to stay away from the philosophical, or spiritual, part. Whilst this part is extremely important to me personally, I can draw a line excluding the question whether this emerging persona is all there is. I will leave it with one thought by pointing to what some refer to as a “soul”, others may name it a “consciousness”, and as to which extent this is only specific for humans, or also true for other living beings, or even beyond, for everything there is. That’s where belief plays a role, inner perception and introspection kicks in, and a whole bunch of belief systems and dogmatic approaches may include deterministic, agnostic, spiritual, or religious explanations for “what there is”. I’m sorry to say, but fanatism starts in this realm, too. That’s part of my other blog entries.

Notwithstanding whether this “walking and talking biological robot” has only a persona, or is also a temporary seat for a soul, one fact is part of neuroscience: That physical processes govern this brain, and that chemical substances are key in not only how the brain works on a biological level, but also how this “resulting persona” is composed, how this persona is able to contribute to the complex equilibrium making this a healthy body, hosting a healthy mind, being part of a healthy “super structure”, meaning a community, a society, a culture, a nation (as the title of the book suggests).

What I want to say: The brain plays an important role by, so to speak, being the “home base” for my identity. Therefore,“Stefan Feller” and how this construct perceives, interprets, acts, reacts, thinks, or not, feels, and how, all that is highly dependent on chemistry. Dopamine is a chemical substance.

Neuroscience increasingly contributes to understanding how human beings perceive, regulate, act, react, are motivated, are functional, less functional, dysfunctional, are mentally sane, sometimes not, or less, and so much more. Neuroscience is able to contribute to important questions such as how to achieve happiness. On an individual level, and on a societal level.

And that is where I wanted to arrive, after so many times re-phrasing my writing, at the end of this introduction: The way how chemical substances produced by, and used by, the body and the brain, and how they are part of complex inner regulative systems ensuring stability, sanity, healthiness, and happiness, of body and mind, by extension they have a profound impact on the health and sanity of a society at large. Dopamine, and how we regulate the inner systems in our brain which are using Dopamine, affects not only the condition in which an individual, but also societies find themselves in.

That’s what Anna Lembke’s book is about. That’s why it has the title “Dopamine Nation”.

The Chemistry – And Neuroscience for Dummies

Dopamine is a chemical substance. In human beings, Dopamine is produced by the body itself, in the brain, and in the kidneys. The use of Dopamine for functions in living organisms is pretty widespread, it appears to be synthesized in plants and most animals.

Dopamine is also a member of a family of chemical substances which we call “hormones”. Which are, according to, for example, “MedLine Plus”, “your body’s chemical messengers“. As far as I want to take this explanation here, Dopamine appears to serve several of such uses in the body, but for the context of this book review only one is relevant: Dopamine is part of a family of substances called “neurotransmitters“. Dopamine is released by neurons in order to send signals to other neurons. From a chemical perspective, it is enough to appreciate that Dopamine is produced in specific areas of the brain, whilst the use of Dopamine by neurons in the brain is affecting many regions.

There are more than 100 substances which are currently identified as being neurotransmitters, the list appears to be open-ended. Neurotransmitters serve a vast array of functions which we increasingly understand, and as far as I would know, the ability of neurons to establish regulative systems in the brain without neurotransmitters is non-existent. Think about the brain without neurotransmitters: If I understand it correctly, you’re annihilated. Take away neurotransmitters, and not only a few functions break down. Simply put, the processes which also lead to the establishment of your persona, they are gone.

Including that which we describe as a free will, or as an illusion of free will. Whether we have one, or not, the jury is out and in this discussion philosophers, neurophysicists, even quantum-physicists, other scientists engage with people of faith, and even with people who have no idea what they are talking about. So, this is not more than a side-remark to make you smile, but also to think deeply about whether you have a “free will”, and what it means.

However, at minimum the workings of regulative systems in the brain which require neurotransmitters have a heavy impact on the ability of you to “freely” decide. If these regulative systems run off kilter, life as you know it changes. If the systems using Dopamine run haywire, your life becomes unmanageable.

Anna Lembke‘s book “Dopamine Nation” is dealing with regulative systems in the brain, or more specifically, with a subset of them. Broadly speaking, Lembke talks about the reward pathways in the brain. The brain, including these so-called reward pathways, is a product of millions of years of evolution, adding new layers, new parts, new features, to systems which we share with many other beings. All these, including what we sometimes call the “lizard brain”, contribute to the complex entity that we call “our brain”. More recently, in evolutionary terms, brain parts such as the frontal temporal lobe have been added. Added, not replaced something evolutionary older. Everything, including the “lizard parts” of the brain, contributes to what makes “us” the entities we are, how we perceive ourselves, how we are driven, consciously, or mostly without even knowing it. Ask specialists in the advertising industry about the latter. I should perhaps ask ChatGPT. But that’s for another blog entry.

But Anna Lembke’s book is not an academic piece relevant for students of neuroscience. She is covering vast territory of consequences that happen when the regulative balance within the reward pathways of the brain is triggered. There are parts of the book where she explains in layman’s language what happens when this system in the brain is allowed to work as it is supposed to work since millions of years.

Her focus, however, sits with what happens when it is put out of homoestasis for longer periods of time.

The Relevance

I am not lazy by saying that I won’t attempt to summarize the workings of this regulative process in the brain, and what happens when the delicate balance is lost.

On one hand, I want to encourage you to read the book, and/or other literature on these findings. On another note, though I feel very qualified in personally appreciating the consequences of the reward pathways entering a runaway process, I don’t feel qualified to summarize what already has been simplifed and summarized by Anna Lembke. But I will say that Annal Lembke and I share a deep-seated personal understanding, from different perspectives of professional qualification, about the consequences of the reward pathways not working any longer in a healthy way. In additon, we also share a personal experience about what happens then. So, I am not superstitious by elevating my own experience to the one of a distinguished scientific expert. Rather, as Anna Lembke describes her own experiences with addiction, I feel that I can safely say that I have my own experiences as well.

And in my own case, I am successfully adressing those since now ten years, by arresting the runaway process, and experiencing a lifestyle which is beyond my wildest dreams. Insofar, that my life has not only become more manageable, but that it also makes sense beyond what was the situation before: I was extremely successful in my work life, but my private life accumulated more and more damage, to myself, and to people I held, and hold, closest to my heart.

Anna Lembke’s book, beyond the neuroscientific explanation of how the parts of the brain which regulate reward, and pain, includes an impressive compilation of personal stories from her work as a therapist. Some of these you will find shocking. You should read all of them.

This is because Anna Lembke’s book does not start with explaining neuroscience, and then entering into the field of treatment of compulsive self-rewarding behavior which turns, over time, slowly and surely, the life of a human being and the lifes of persons around that person into one or another of the many forms of nightmare. If you happen to think about compulsive and addictive forms of self-abuse in a limited way, associating mainly alcohol or substance abuse with it, if you think that the plethora of possible behavioral forms of self-abuse are for the morally weak, you are in for a ride.

I hope this book would open your eyes, in that case.

But even there, the book does not end. Anna Lembke makes it abundantly clear that the consequences of runaway processes in the reward pathways of the human brain are going far beyond what we would want to see, and what we don’t want to see. In my view, she makes a very convincing argument for the pervasiveness of an attitude within our societies which she labels “the age of indulgence”. She clearly demonstrates the myriad forms by which we have gotten used to, and are exposed to, instant gratification. From where I sit, with my own experience, and with the heuristic and vast knowledge stemming from my own work on myself within a network of uncounted individuals who have found one of probably several ways how to re-establish a healthy form of living, allowing self-moderation, wholeness, and happiness, I can only testify for that what Anna Lembke is describing in those parts of her book is very relevant.

Yet, I am not done with praising this book:

Anna Lembke does not only explain that the dysfunctional processes within the reward pathways of the brain affect those who then have to experience a rock-bottom before being ready to acknowledge defeat, and being open to real recovery, and then healing. She goes beyond, by saying that this dysfunctionality has increasingly become the new normal. Like, any parent talking about the effects of Tic Toc on their children will immediately agree. Just mentioning this as one example. I don’t want to become too narrow in my focus here, the opportunities for constant, easy and immediate gratification go so far beyond any limited or exemplary explanation that I don’t feel qualified to eleborate here on it. Because, I even don’t know whether you have made it until here, or if you have given up already, thinking “What the hell is he now talking about?

What the hell I am talking about? I am talking about something which experts in the advertisement industry have understood since long. Something which those who design social media applications have brought to the next level. And using Artificial Intelligence for those computer algorhythms has brought the incorporation of neuroscientific understanding of how one can become addicted into perfection. May be you want to watch “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix. There you will hear it from those who admit that they have designed their products exactly this way.

And that, using and re-phrasing a catchphrase of one of my favorite Youtube personae, Sabine Hossenfelder, “That’s what Anna Lembke is talking about”.

Perhaps my little own personal disclosure has made it interesting for you to get until here. My blog is addressing topics of trauma and reconciliation for a reason which includes my own experiences with that. But if you have never thought about this topic, you may have a long way to go, both in appreciating the sheer width and depth of this societal problem, and especially because, as long as you are suffering from the consequences of this dysfunction yourself, you are literally unable to see it, in your own case.

Lastly, I join Anna Lembke in her thoughts about how the collective wisdom of the recovery community, especialy those known as Twelve Step Groups, could be beneficial way beyond recovery, as it is commonly understood. Again, from my own and very specific experience, I can testify that the number of people who are increasingly asking this question, is growing. I am meeting a lot of them on an almost daily basis.

Zoom is a blessing. I am still working on less long-winded sentences. Apologies, I wanted to be precise.

And love from Tigger and me. His reward pathways are a little out of control as well, I have been too permissive in giving him treats. But we are working on that…

Seeing Deeper

I am opening my blog editor for the first time in more than a month. A few days ago I returned to Belgrade after intense travel. It started with my participation in a series of work-related meetings and conferences in Budva, Montenegro, mid December. Whilst I spent my days with my colleagues in a Hotel Resort on issues supporting the efforts to control all aspects of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in the Western Balkans and South East Europe, I returned to my campervan for the night, where my cat was patiently waiting for me.

I took to the road then for spending time in Germany over the Christmas Season and the New Year’s celebrations. A long road trip along the Croatian coast line, getting into colder weather in Slovenia, snow in Austria and heavy snow in Bavaria. The epic winter scenery in Bavaria didn’t last more than a few days, accompanied by the usual chitchat on air waves, social media and in local bakeries on cold snaps and climate change. Christmas Day I traveled to Berlin, the weather had warmed up, typical grey dark winter weather in late December and early January in Germany. I spent time on work, time with loved ones and with friends, and with myself.

This weekend I returned to Belgrade, also capturing some impressions about two days of road travel through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and finally Serbia. 01 January 2023, Croatia entered the Schengen Zone and the Eurozone. For somebody traveling so often, the fact that my first and only border control happened on entering Serbia was a source of excitement. Some of those impressions are available on Youtube (@allovertheplacewithtiggie), I publish little videos on aspects of a lifestyle which I have taken up since now more than three years, including part-time living in a campervan and, since last year, additionally a caravan.

If I wanted, aside of the private side of things, to summarize events and developments I have been following between mid of December and mid of January, I would fail. The complexity of global developments and their related news has been pretty overwhelming.

Yesterday evening I met with a long-time friend for dinner. As always we were catching up on what happened since we saw each other the last time. The mere attempt to focus on a summary account on my side for the past half of a year since we had seen each other left me with a feeling of inferiority: I felt like failing in giving an accurate account of everything that had happened. At the same time I tried to deflate my ego: My ego was trying to get me to talk about everything that had happened through lenses framed by my own interpretation of “reality”, my role in it, and my wish to demonstrate that things I said were very relevant. I’m happy to report that I was able to refrain from that.

At the same time my friend was chatting away against a background of own heavy involvement in his area of work. He is ten years younger than I am, with a professional career still pointing upwards to more, and more responsible, positions. By contrast, my intellectual growth happens within a context of transformation into being somewhat a mentor and an independent consultant, a retired individual with a distinguished career in the past, and with, hopefully, useful previous experience and the ability to turn that experience into strategic advice which helps in contemporary situations. Which constantly forces me to renew my strategic and contextual knowledge because otherwise I would become one of those “dinosaurs” who don’t even realize when people around them shrug their shoulders and turn away, because nothing they hear feels appealing or relevant to them.

That is also why I enjoy meeting so many people of all ages, gender, nationality, cultural belonging, and more. In order to make my advice relevant, it needs to fit into what people think and feel today, and not what people like I thought and felt at the time when I was younger and pursuing an active career, inflating my ego.

All those circumstances which were forming the pillars of my own framework relevant for my work, they have changed. Literally every aspect which I could compare to those circumstances when I worked, as a national senior police officer, and then for twenty years as a United Nations peacekeeper and as a European Union crisis manager in alternating senior functions, they appear to be less visible, less relevant, and increasingly also becoming a subject of a loss of corporate memory. By having a long-term involvement in international aspects of peace&security, I do remember things which other people have forgotten, or which they will never be taught. So I remember that there always were developments which I could see which led to the current state of affairs. But the speed of development of the past three years since I retired, it sped up so much, including erosion, decay and implosion of operational, strategic and political pillars of an architecture which we worked so hard on for many decades. Many of my blog entries deal with aspects of it. Of course, I always also reflect on the underlying DNA of frameworks: The underpinning values.

Some discussions between my friend and me yesterday also dealt with the question whether we correctly assume that those values which form the DNA for our passionate and compassionate attitude also hold true for younger generations. We were doubtful, to some extent. I would add that we, the previous generations, have failed to live some, or many, of these values in a convincing collective way. Why does Greta Thunberg’s sharp words of criticism come to my mind, just as one but very visible example for those who rightfully blame us, the previous generations. And: Will future generations including those who criticise us, be able to act more responsibe? My political roots sit with the generation directly following the German “68er”. We were the wind of change of those days, some of us outside of the system, some of us inside the system. Some went from the outside to the inside. A considerable number of them also played a role in my work, or together with me. All of those are in retirement, at least. Some of them are gone from this life.

But, on the other hand: Who am I to claim that the erosion which I believe to see goes so deep? Since I am not embedded into the organisational framework of national or international institutions any longer, whether in policing, or United Nations peace operations, or European Union crisis management, which insider knowledge of recent years can I use for concluding that things got really bad, in my assessment?

So I sat here over the past days, thinking about what what comes up next in this blog. Or related to other plans on my writing, such as my plan to work on essays. There is so much to say, so much to write about. I felt like if I don’t find a focus for 2023, things remain blurry, without depth, just chatter. My friend and I left yesterday shortly after I had asked “What will be the defining things which we can see for 2023?”. My friend hesitated, and after some silence both of us agreed that we know little, except that likely things will become more difficult, more bellicose, more unstable.

Against this background I quietly sat over lunch today. I let my thoughts calm down and I started writing this title “Seeing Deeper”.

In December 2019, I was invited by the University of Osnabrueck, talking to students on the topic of communication both being used as a weapon, or as a means for political conciliation. Boris Pistorius, then being the Minister of Interior of the German State of Lower Saxony, was addressing the students before me on the same topic. Tomorrow he will be formally appointed as the new German Minister of Defense. I so much wish him luck for this challenging environment.

I came across this memory when contemplating about my friend’s and my discussions yesterday on what we can see, or not, or only partly, or speculate about, related to the information warfare aspects surrounding the larger context in which Russia is conducting a War of Aggression against the Ukraine.

The topic of the talk back in late 2019, communication as a means either to manipulate, to disrupt, to antagonize, or as a means to find common ground and common sense, it is as relevant as the discussion of values on which I embark so often. These days, at the beginning of 2023, whether I like it or not, any effort to keep things together happens in a radically changed environment in which we need to take sides without loosing the ability to find paths and avenues which, at the very least, do not play into the hand of the enemies of values defining the post World War II order.

Enemies? Yes, very much so. Not the Russian people. But for war mongerers under, and including, Vladimir Putin, the scope of their aggression and warfare goes way beyond the Ukraine. Institutions of the post WW II order, organisations such as NATO and the EU, and their constituent States, are being met with open hostility. To put it mildly. We may navigate in order to contain, to limit, physical warfare. We may attempt to avoid becoming party in a war. But efforts attempting to pull us in, or to destabilise, or to disrupt, to weaken, to discredit legitimacy of democracy, to cover any meaningful truth under thick layers of lies, manipulation, and psychological warfare, are countless.

In that, the world definitely has become a very rough place. The system is under attack way beyond the physical war in the Ukraine. Today’s world requires a decisive mindset: We can only work for peace by being clear about red lines. We will make mistakes, of course. We will misjudge, because no perfect judgement in a highly complex and volatile kinetic environment is possible. But we have no time for complacency. We have no time for blurriness. Sometimes we need peacekeepers. Sometimes, the sharp edge requires more than keeping peace. It sometimes means to fight for peace.

And that is why I end, as a peacekeeper in my very heart, with a clear statement: Get these Leopard II tanks into the Ukraine. Now.

And, again: The best of luck, Boris Pistorius. Hopefully you will be able to send the right message off the ramp directly after your taking up duties.

N.B.: On the featured image: The author, almost to the day 22 years ago, in a United Nation’s Police capacity, being introduced into the capabilities of a Leopard II tank, undisclosed location.

Following Up on Gaslighting – Why This Is So Dangerous – About Recent German Police Raids Related to Reichsbuerger

December 04, just four days ago, I wrote “The Reason For Storytelling: If You and I Don’t, Only Others Do – On Gaslighting Taken To a Global Level“. I referred to the outrageous remarks of the 45th President of the United States, with which he called for dissolving the Constitution of the United States. He continues to insist that widespread fraud and manipulation of the elections would have taken the Presidency away from him, claiming that the entire system of U.S. governance, the Democratic Party, and a cabale of secret networks is conspiring against “the people”. Until today he claims to be the rightful winner of the 2020 elections. On that basis he doubled down once more, and not for the last time, ever more eroding values and norms. The result just being a continuation of a discourse on the basis of outrage, and antagonisation. Like on so many occasions before, the world is waking up after such remarks with a new extreme, and because of that also a “new normal”. The next escalation, as always, is just around the corner.

The point of my concern continues to be that any strategy which is just explaining this as a M.O. of a sociopathic narcissistic individual is disregarding the wider picture: Of course a delusional persona with such disorders has no other means at hand. Such a person is simply not able to back down. If allowed, Nr. 45 will be like the Roman Emperor Nero. And I do remember having read that Nr. 45 studied Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. People wrote about that book on his bedside table. From there, I also remember Hitlers “Beer Hall Putsch” in November 1923. Jailed after this putsch attempt, Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf”. I can’t help but think of January 6, 2021, as a possible prelude to the worse.

I made my choice to consider a red line being crossed a long time ago: January 26, 2017 Nr 45, newly elected to Presidential office, sat in front of TV cameras and said “Torture works“. We know what happened since then, it was just the beginning.

The point is, as said above, that everytime a line is crossed, something unimaginable has become the new order. This reality then permeates into the lifes of many people, not only into the minds of sick extremists, racists, anti-semites, conspiracy theorists. Society at large undergoes a shift in perception. It is there where the responsibility of the many kicks in. Disregarding, denying, ridiculing, minimising, instead of forcefully rejecting, it is the real factor in how previous norms erode.

No doubt, strategic minds on the side of hateful extremists (who are globally networked) know that, and use these tactics to perfection. In the concrete example at hand, the recent cycle started with a dinner of Ye and Fuentes in Mar-El-Lago. Next thing we saw was Nr. 45 throwing smoke grenades of minimising, and pretendiung innocence. Next thing were even more awful public statements from Ye, and Fuentes, in Alex Jones’ show. After which Nr. 45 then moved to calling for the dissolution of the Constitution. Finally, what we saw after that, was another interview of Ye, calling on Jewish people to forgive Hitler. He did so in a conversation with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. If you google it, you also see what I said earlier: The number of hits in mainstream news where this was reported is huge. Another “new normal”. And this, let me be clear here, with a statement that, in Germany, would lead to prosecutors investigating a possible crime. To me, a sentence like this one is almost unspeakable. I am horrified, and I hope that Ye will pay a price for this. Unfortunately, I am not so optimistic. Instead, let me apologize to Jewish people, and assure we will undertake everything to not allow the real Holocaust being forgotten, minimised, denied, or justified.

The cool-minded analysis, meanwhile, needs to focus on the larger implications of norms being shifted. John Bolton is a former National Security Adviser to Nr. 45. I know him from his time as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Whilst I disagree with his rude Republican hawkishness which was painfully making life at the U.N. difficult during his Ambassadorship, I deeply credit his analytical skills. December 05, 2022, in an interview with NBC News, he called the former president’s declaration “an existential threat to the republic itself“. If you listen to the interview, everything counts, including what he only indicates: That, if Republican leadership does not denounce this behavior in full, consequences for democracy will be serious.

Why am I focusing on U.S. politics again?

Because, as I wrote in my earlier article, this gaslighting is working like a global set of echo-chambers. It reverberates, it transmits energy, it receives energy, and if the extremist movement manages to create something like “synergy in chaos”, it constitutes a global threat to democracy. May be the most severe we ever witnessed since World War II.

That is why I said: “So, one of my hypothetical thoughts is about whether there will be people on the far-right in Germany who think about how to establish a narrative that the German constitutional order is subject to removal from within, by justifying their resistance in saying that the government and the establishment is the enemy of what the Forefathers, the Founders of our Constitution, meant. This is not far-fetched, and it is the same logic.”

I drew a comparison to how post-WW II-Germany incorporated provisions into our German constitution in order to protect the Constitution from enemies within. In doing that, I referred to how the Nazis managed to overthrow the Constitution of Weimar, and I also linked a song “Kristallnaach”, performed by the German Rock Band “BAP” in the 1980s. “Kristallnaach” is a word in the dialect spoken in the German Region of Cologne. It refers to “Kristallnacht”. The BAP song itself compares xenophobia and fascism and violence which we observed in the 1980s with what happened throughout the real events of the “Reichskristallnacht Progrom” in November 1938. The song was visionary, and provocative in the 1980s, and entirely appropriate. Timeless. And moving me in 2016, when I thought about what was happening in the United States during that time.

If I look back onto those events from January 06, 2021, this was not so far-fetched. Looking onto those incendiary calls from Nr 45 a few days ago, for sure even less.

That was all on December 04, 2022, when I wrote that.

Of course, my thoughts about similar violent phantasies on the side of German far-right extremists are far from hypothetical, but at that moment I wanted to keep it in a thought-realm on far-right extremism, which is on the rise in Germany since a number of years. Like it is in other places in Europe, whether inside the European Union, whether in South-East Europe, or Eastern Europe. Or, in the United States. A number of my blog articles have referred to this awful global “ping-pong-game.” This rise of reactionary fascist xenophobic thinking, with a global attitude including to take rights away from women, and now going far beyond white supremacy by mainstreaming awful anti-semitism, it comes with many different facets. Recently, Indonesia decided on a law making extra-marital sex a crime. Just an example.

Well, a few days later, German and international news are filled with reporting about a huge raid by German authorities, under the lead of the “Generalbundesanwaltschaft”, in English the “German Federal Prosecution Office”.

Here are a few links to recent raids targeting suspected armed members of the far-right extremist Reichsbuerger-Bewegung: Tagesschau as of December 07 (GERMAN); German Federal Minister of the Interior in Tagesschau as of December 07 (GERMAN); Tagesschau on Reichsbuerger Background as of December 07 (GERMAN); Reporting on the German raid in BBC as of December 07 (ENGLISH); Reporting on the German raid in New York Times as of December 07 (ENGLISH).

The headline of The New York Times as of December 07 tells it all in one sentence: “Germany Arrests Dozens Suspected of Planning to Overthrow Government“.

What happened?

A German noble-man, together with a far-right female member of the German Parliament (also being a judge in Germany), soldiers and former soldiers, as far as I know also an individual with a history of being a police officer, overall as far as the public knows until today at least 25 persons are subject to an unprecedented investigation of German authorities. I’m not repeating the details here, since the article is already too long. But it looks not only like one of the largest raids in German history, involving more than 3000 police officers. It may look like the tip of an ice-berg. The Head of the Federal Intelligence Agency “Bundesverfassungsschutz” is quoted with estimating some 25.000 people radically poisoned by the “Reichsbuerger-Ideology”, with systematic efforts of at least at part of those to arm themselves, with plans of some of them for terrorist attacks, and plans for a larger putsch. At least some investigative links also point towards contacts with dubious Russian operatives.

An incredible story, and ongoing and likely widening. Being a police officer (retired) myself, I am, of course, proud of this vigilance. And certainly, more will be revealed.

Yet, this needs to be understood within the general context of where the shift of values brings us to, as I pointed out above. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is calling on more civic engagement preserving democratic values.

To quote him: Die Wehrhaftigkeit der Demokratie beweist sich auch darin, dass sich diejenigen, die anderer Meinung sind, die ein liberales, ein demokratisches, ein offenes Deutschland wollen, lauter äußern, als das gelegentlich der Fall ist.

In my translation: “The ability of democracy to protect itself is also a function of the extent with which those, who stand in for a liberal, democratic, and open Germany are speaking up with a louder voice than we see it, at times.”

That’s what I mean with the necessity to cultivate storytelling. And these are my humble small contributions.

The Reason For Storytelling: If You and I Don’t, Only Others Do – On Gaslighting Taken To a Global Level

Around 1 percent of U.S. veterans of World War II remain alive to tell their stories. It is estimated that by the end of this decade, fewer than 10,000 will be left. The vast majority of Americans today are unused to enduring hardship for foreign policy choices, let alone the loss of life and wealth that direct conflict with China or Russia would bring.”

In a Guest Essay in the New York Times, titled “World War III Begins With Forgetting”, Stephen Wertheim made this point. I can relate.

Like: The fewer people remember, and talk about, the Holocaust and the horrifying evil done to the world by the Nazis and Adolf Hitler, the more it becomes, at least, possible to mystify and to glorify it, and using the most ridiculous of all arguments. Like Kanye West, who now goes by the name Ye. “The Hill” is just bearer of one of countless reports about an interview which he, accompanied by Nick Fuentes, one of the most atrocious racists of recent times, managed to place in a show hosted by the likewise awful racist and xenophobist Alex Jones. Old stuff. Except that the use of social media bullhorns and supporting media is taking it to new levels. Because, whether it is ridiculous or not to praise the architect of the Holocaust wrongly as the guy who invented highways, or the microphone, it does not matter. I have heard arguments like that from my late father in law of my second marriage, more than thirty years ago. There were no Social Media by then. Today, the matter is to get a radical message out, upping the ante, on a path to mainstreaming a “truth” which is not only unsupported by any evidence, but also suppressing any historical truth about what happened. My stomach would turn upside down when I would even quote what Ye said. But wherever on whichever dubious platform, such as Alex Jones’, such outrageous comments are made, within hours the message is also spread through any mainstream media. One side of them glorifying it, the other side vilifying it. For those intents and purposes behind the message itself, both work out very well.

Before I get to the gaslighting argument, upping even this ante, two other examples for why storytelling is so necessary, and which danger sits with when witnesses of horrifying events pass away in numbers: The older the Mothers of Srebenica get, the less can be done against the minimising narrative related to the horror of the Srebrenica genocide. I met the Mothers often, and I truly admire their relentless sticking to telling their stories of a genocide. This is not a function of their healing when they repeat to tell their stories. It is a sacrifice, for the good of keeping a memory alive as a cautionary tale. One day I took my visiting father with me. They are so kind, they offered him coffee and spoke with him just because he was an interested human being. No other intent, no benefit for them. My father cried and cried. Until today, more than twenty years later, he talks about the deep impact of his visiting them.

The same holds true for the genocide in Rwanda, and in uncounted other situations. The more people grow up who have no direct memory of what happened in Germany, in Bosnia&Hercegovina, in Rwanda, in Cambodia, in Stalin’s Russia, during the brutal McCarthyism and under Jim Crow in the United States, or in the Armenian genocide, or else, the less the voices of those can be mitigated who minimise, refute, deny. If context is not there, nothing describes the extent of atrocious behavior against the Uighurs, the suffering of minorities in Myanmar, and I need to end with “and and and”, because the list is so long.

Storytelling is a social function which can not be replaced by the noise on Social Media. Quite to the contrary, storytelling is one of the needed antidotes against the devastating effect which unhinged Social Media has. Because even the function of Social Media is subject to a gaslighting narrative, putting an unrestrained version of Twitter, for example, into a manipulative context of an alleged support of free speech, whilst the ulterior motive only is to make profit, and to increase own control.

By the way, I believe that there is a reason for why Number 45, since his account got reinstated by Elon, has not used this account ever since: Not only that this would take away from his own bullhorn (Truth Social), he does not need to use his old Twitter account, and can chose smartly when that time would be there. Simply because the message that his account got reinstated is already enough for gaining even more “followers”. These “followers” likely rise in numbers directly on “Truth Social”, and on connected accounts including on Twitter, as a direct consequence of the reinstatement.

When I grew up, “Followers” was used as a term for people following a certain religious or spiritual belief system. I still object against the manipulative use of terms such as “Friend” or “Follower” on social media. That’s why, in this tiny world of “Durabile”, my blog, I don’t care about how few people “follow” my blog here. What I care about is that the day before yesterday this blog surpassed the threshold of 10.000 reads within those 120 posts since 2014. It just tells me that my storytelling is a tiny contribution to the overall need of telling stories.

Because there is no absolute truth, and no objective truth, as I pointed out here. Now, I am quoting myself from that blog post: QUOTE “Truth as a means of control. Number 45 did this on countless occasions, and more recently he is hard-pressed by people who are attempting to establish even more radical forms of white supremacy, xenophobia, racism, and anti-semitism. Read in The Rolling Stone: “How Trump Got Trolled by a Couple of Fascists“. UNQUOTE

I wrote this post December 01. Four days before writing this post. At that time, I found the analysis relevant which is reflected in the article in “The Rollingstone”. Meaning, that Ye, Fuentes and likeminded people were on a path pressing Nr 45 into even more radical messages.

What happened since? In a few statements including on Truth Social, Nr. 45 did what we saw on many occasions when there was an uproar: He minimised. Distracted. Sold ambigous messages. Allowed messages that he wasn’t aware. That he did not know Fuentes.

I have no personal doubt that all this is part of the MO. Because, as always, the next attack is even more extreme. Meanwhile, inasmuch as I love Jimmy Kimmel, he and other well-minded Late Night Comedy hosts find themselves in the trap that each of their shows ridiculing Nr 45 helps him.

Which is what I want to end with here, today: I just read a story in the British BBC: Under the headline “Trump’s call for ‘end’ of constitution condemned by Democrats“, BBC is reporting on a message from Number 45 on his platform “Truth Social”. According to this report, the White House condemned former President Trump after he called for the termination of the U.S. constitution. I quote from BBC: QUOTE In the post, Mr Trump referred to vague allegations of “massive & widespread fraud and deception” and asked whether he should be immediately returned to power. “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!” he said. UNQUOTE Setting parts of the text in bold letters is done by me, not by BBC.

I can’t wait watching Jimmy Kimmel ridiculing Nr 45, but I mourn those months when he and others managed to find comedy topics which would not contribute to antagonism, by condemning it. May be I’ll write Jimmy’s staff an email.

This is unprecedented in contemporary history as I remember it. Since 2016 there is a history of statements in this blog concluding that it is getting worse before it gets better. But a former President of the United States fighting an accuse, possibly an indictment, for inciting sedition by establishing a narrative that is ripping down the foundations of the U.S. Constitution, this is unheard of.

There is a clause in the German Constitution sometimes named the “Stauffenberg clause“: “Gegen Jeden, der es unternimmt, diese Ordnung zu beseitigen, haben alle Deutschen das Recht auf Widerstand”. Or, in my translation: “Against anyone who is undertaking to remove this constitutional order, all Germans have the right to resist.” It can be found in Article 20, I grew up with, it’s part of my DNA and part of my pride. It’s one of the defining differences between today’s German Constitution and it’s predecessor before the Nazis demolished it: The Weimar Constitution. It is meant as a pillar, albeit, perhaps symbolic, in efforts to robustly protect a constitution from enemies within. Sometimes during 2016 I referred to it in discussions with friends on the U.S. Constitution. Then, with tears in my eyes, I played the song “Kristallnaach”, by the famous German Rockband BAP.

So, one of my hypothetical thoughts is about whether there will be people on the far-right in Germany who think about how to establish a narrative that the German constitutional order is subject to removal from within, by justifying their resistance in saying that the government and the establishment is the enemy of what the Forefathers, the Founders of our Constitution, meant. This is not far-fetched, and it is the same logic.

We have come this far in an approach of extremists in removing the foundations of contemporary democracies, and the rule of law. A few years ago, I would not have believed that one day I would read a report such as the one here on BBC. This has become the new normal, one and a half years before the next battle on presidential elections will begin, in 2024. So, my question is: What’s next, if this has already become the new normal now.

Of course, this question includes where those on the Republican side are, and which legal, ethical, and moral, responsibility they assume, by openly or tacitly condoning such a development. That, on one hand, is part of domestic politics in the U.S. in which I am only an external bystander. But over here, in Europe, we fight the same fight. And we are affected by what is happening “over there”. And vice versa.

We are in this together, only. There is no space for claiming “that’s not my business”, or for complacency. Each day, we are waking up with new worse news than before.

So, why all this under the headline “Storytelling”?

One of my next blog entries will talk about one of my recent books reads, “Dopamine Nation”, by Dr. Anna Lembke. Full quote of the book in my next article. But here is the connection: Within a universe of contemporary addictive sources of Dopamine release through substance and behavioral abuse, one key problem sits with Social Media. I will also refer to the challenges one of my children has with the addictive suffering using Tic Toc.

I believe we can not use Social Media for the kind of storytelling I mean in this blog. For many reasons which I will try to explain there. But for starters, Social Media does not support peaceful fact-based storytelling implicitly through it’s algorhythms. I have own examples, including this blog, or my Youtube channel. I stay away from inciting or upsetting messages and their promotion, as a consequence, nowhere in the suggestion lists of these sites any of my writing or my videos will come up.

There is a need not only to regulate Social Media, but also to devise strategies how storytelling remains a vital democratic and humble function of our societies and cultures. Storytelling is inherently local, or topological. It is unsensational, and personal. Peaceful, mindful, truthful, honest, personal storytelling. No rambling, no yelling involved.

I hope that I adhere to my own standards, here.

On Sustainability – Origins of my artificial term Durabile

What is the meaning, and the value, of achieving sustainability, in a world which is constantly changing, because there is no way to stop change without freezing out of spacetime?

Is there a way into sustainable growth of something within the outside world of phenomena, such as a continuous eternal growth in wealth, a continuous uninterrupted reduction of poverty, a continuous and never-ending growth of nurturing wholesome values, such as those we consider to be “fundamental”?

And if we would accept that everything changes, sometimes to what we consider being “better”’ and sometimes towards what we would consider to be “worse”, what is the answer then to the question “Why am I investing into something which won’t last?”, “What’s the point of all of these efforts?

Inasmuch as you could say “Well, you’re losing yourself in philosophy again, don’t ya?”, I could also respond that I have heard such questions on countless occasions from likeminded people in the field of humanitarian work and work on peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and I have my own share of moments when I was full of despair and disappointment and struggled with soldiering on. The “March Riots” of 2004 in Kosovo come to my mind as a prominent personal example of such a situation I found myself in, together with thousands of us idealists, Kosovans, soldiers in KFOR, police officers in UNMIK, and all civilian staff in UNMIK and the larger international community.

But also recently, in a coffee chat, when a colleague and friend of mine went on the gloomy side, asking whether all the long-term strategic efforts we are putting into supporting a five-year-initiative have had a real impact. Or, when friends of mine and myself mourned the implosion in Afghanistan. And one year later, we still can’t believe we are witnessing a menacing and extremely dangerous land war of aggression waged against the Ukraine, with every human suffering and every loss of hard-fought values throughout many decades within.

Putting these questions forward, and answering them, is in my experience extremely dependent on the general personal mood one is in. I find myself seeing that my answers will depend on how I feel, at that moment. And because I know that, I have my toolset: Taking a break, zipping my mouth and, if possible, calming the crazy committee of voices in my head, stepping out of the picture and taking a larger vantage point.

So, asking these questions, and writing about what, for example, constitutes sustainability, is the opposite of an abstract philosophical approach. We use phrases like “sustainable solutions”, “domestic ownership”, and a thousand other buzzwords in uncounted strategic and political statements, documents, sessions of the UN Security Council or the EU Political and Security Committee, and annoyingly we throw it on each other in myriads of PowerPoint presentations.

So, it is appropriate and very practical to write about it. Like in my previous article, where I analysed the meaning of the word “truth”, it is also relevant for a word such as “sustainability “.

Sustainability sits at the heart of any strategic approach, and it is reflected in the name of my blog. When I founded this blog in 2014, I looked for an Internet Domain Name which would be unique, artificial, and reflective of the theme of my blog. I combined “durable” with “mobile”, forged these words into one: “durabile”. It is just one of the many miraculous manifestations of the Yin Yang – principle.

I love this artificial word until today. So, where is the Yin and the Yang in “Sustainability”?

On the most fundamental level, I would personally characterise sustainability as a relation between the dynamics of change, and relative temporary stability. Nothing, literally nothing in the world of composite phenomena is able to escape impermanence. It is our day-to-day denial of the fundamental law of impermanence, our clinging to the wish of living in unending happiness, which is limiting our appreciation that sustainability is like the suspensor component in every shock absorber in cars: The shock absorbers attached to wheels are composed of a spring and a suspensor, countering the radical wildness of the spring’s frequency, smoothening the bumpiness of the ride. The right pressure in the tires adds to that, as any overland camper or vanlifer traveling the back country can tell you.

When I had come this far in my writing on a rainy late fall morning, sitting in my favorite street cafeteria in Belgrade, December 01, 2022, I took a deep dive into my memories, and then subsequently deep into my digital archives. Writing about the “March Riots” of 2004, I remembered a morning after these horrible events when I managed for the first time to come up with a formulation of my thoughts on how to move on, and to move constructively forward. My later (and now ex-) wife and I had our first weekend with some sleep, and it was April 07, 2004, when I wrote the following text, which I found just now. Except for Lori, nobody has heard or read the words of this text until now, eighteen years later. And when I read it now, I also understand the sustainability behind the theme of my blog “Durabile”.

So, take your time, read this, and remember: A few days before I wrote “We Are Starting To Wake Up”, we were in one of the worst nightmares one can have been in, and for many of us it felt like the implosion of a lifetime of efforts in the service of peace and security. After reading it, use the following link to watch a video about a travel I undertook in Kosovo, and to Gracanica, just a few weeks ago. In this video I do not make specific reference to what I am writing about below. But you will understand what I am talking about, once you have read the text below.

And then, continue with the final part of this blog entry, please, if you’re still glued to this lengthy, but hopefully interesting, train of thoughts and emotions.

We are starting to wake up. After days and nights being one nightmare we are diving up to the surface. We are faced with a new reality and with new memories. Memories we have to integrate into our lives and into our previous memories, those which created our perception of the reality we would have believed to live in. A reality which happened to become so brutally changed for all of us.

The recalls of these days around mid of March 2004 are new. And radically different. Whatever perception of the reality each one of us had, no one of us would have expected that atrocities on such a large scale could have been able to happen. Day by day new aspects are showing up in our minds, situations that we have not been able to integrate into our memory. As so much has happened, thousand times more than anybody of us could just take in a regular and sequential order. The intensity of these events prevented that anyone of us could realise the full flegded scope of individual memories we have and the corporate memory we just are about to create right now. As we are discussing our individual memories amongst ourselves, the corporate memory is being created.

It is a fundamental human process, one of the strongest and the most unavoidable ones that memories are integrated into the already given. So this is starting to happen with these nightmare-memories as well.

On a normal day memories which are not different from previous ones will just be added. Another Sunday here or there, with the usual procedure of getting up, doing things, seeing relatives, having a meal, playing with the children, having a walk or whatever else, such memories just add.

A death of a relative or a friend, if we had to expect it, if it was obvious that it would happen, it leaves us saddened, full of tears and pain, mourning, but we realise that such things happen, and we integrate this memory. Life goes on, this is what we say and know.

A severe traffic accident, a sudden unexpected death for whatever reasons, it makes us speechless, we try to find explanations. We are saddened, we mourn, we cry, but we raise the question „Why?“. Step by step we integrate these memories as well, but it takes us more efforts and it takes longer. If the given reason for the unexpected is not obvious, we will look for further explanations. As we need explanations in order to integrate the unexplainable into our memories. We do not like open wounds in our memories, we always attempt to heal. If it is impossible to find explanations, we will create some sort of protection around this wound in our memories, as we have to continue to live with our memories, which are, as I said, the fundament of how we perceive the reality. And as I also said: „Life goes on“.

The wish to reestablish normalcy, to find back to a normal pattern and rhythm in our lives, it is overwhelming. No one can endure a traumatization for a longer period of time. When the shelling of Sarajewo would not end, the normal life reestablished itself under most terrific and life-threatening circumstances. If a nightmare interrupts reality for too long, the nightmare will become the daily routine. This fundamental human process which keeps us alive, it will enable to live a regular life under all circumstances. For the one who looks on it from an outer world perpective it might be unimaginable, but the insider knows: „I have to live a normal life even under these circumstances, otherwise I will die, otherwise my soul will die“.

This is not what happened here. The nightmare came to a halt after some days and I pray for that it will not reoccur again. And our daily normalization is already starting.

The internationals, as we call ourselves, are in our offices and attempt to reestablish the work. Frantically, exhausted, traumatized. Whenever having a break, we will talk amongst ourselves, recalling our individual memories and putting them into an explanatory context. As we talk mainly amongst ourselves, the explanations being found are isolated to the extend that they include only limited other views communicating with some local colleagues and friends. The collective memory becoming created is including the explanations created by this process.

Those of us, the Kosovo-Serbs from places which have been burned down to ruins and ashes we will talk amongst ourselves, having to create normalcy under the awful conditions of being displaced, with all homes left burned and destroyed. The individual and corporate memories will exclusively be comprised of how those of us explain what happened. The Kosovo-Serbs returning to their homes in enclaves where they had to be evacuated from, they perceive a new reality including high-level protection again. And they will start to establish some normalcy depending on individual and corporate memory being different from others of us. The explanations about what happened during this nightmare will be exclusively based on restricted, on isolated communication.

Let me have a look on those thousands of us, the Kosovo-Albanians who have been part of violent crowds without committing individual offences. As I do believe and all of us know that there is a difference between the fact that participation in a violent crowd can establish a crime in itself but that in addition to that individual crimes like arsoning, assault and brutal murders have happened. Let me look at first on those of us who participated in violent crowds without individual criminal offences. As these Kosovo-Albanians do create the majority of all participants. And as they come home with a specific recall of the nightmare, in all likelihood a triumphant one. These Kosovo-Albanians who stood in a violent crowd for example moving forward and backward between Caglavica and Pristina, held on distance from a defensive crowd of Kosovo-Serbs by international police officers, Kosovo Police Service officers and KFOR soldiers, they will have returned home to Pristina or elsewhere, living a life there not much different from that one before the nightmare. A return to normalcy is including talks to Kosovo-Albanian friends, no talks to Kosovo-Serbs or other minority members, not much talk to internationals. Reading newspapers in which the International Community is depicted as the real cause of what happened and where still „the others“ are painted as the living and existing evil. Putting this memory into such a context, explaining the nightmare by this. Life goes on on this side as well, perhaps not too much different. Some might regret and have a bad feeling, which they will try to cover and to hide rather quickly, explanations which are putting others into the position of being responsible are most welcome. Some more thoughtful will feel depressed, I would wish to see as many as possible feeling guilty and responsible from an overall perspective. But some weeks from now everything will be normal again.

Those of us, the international police officer and the KFOR soldier, after a couple of months they will go home. An interim normalcy here in Kosovo, some explanations, many of them blaming one group, as another group, minority members had to be protected. This is a reality no one can argue against without being absolutely irresponsible: during these days the minorities amongst us had to be protected against attacks, let us be clear about this. So this officer or soldier will have his picture, his memories and will go home with his explanations.

The Kosovo Police Service officer might be looked upon much different. If he or she is a Kosovo-Serb, he or she acted during those days protecting the own kin. If he or she is a Kosovo-Albanian, the own relatives or friends might have been part of the attacking crowd between Caglavica and Gracanica. And as all groups in Kosovo create their own reality with their own memories and explanations, the Kosovo Police Service as an organizational entity and part of the UNMIK-Police is subject to collective memory and accusations. Either having been not helpful for the Kosovo-Serbs or even participating in the violence or not been seen as a supportive element for the underlying extremism on the Kosovo-Albanian side. I am aware of terrible reports as well as of courageous actions. Establishing the truth will take time, time during which the establishment of the corporate memory and all kinds of explanations and accusations will not stop.

The Kosovo-Serb, who stood in the other crowd, he or she saw houses arsoned, going home to Caglavica or Gracanica, now again under protection by checkpoints. I have been here in 2000 and 2001, I am so familiar with these checkpoints. Checkpoints interrupt communication. When we were able to remove them in 2002, we could see an increased joint live of the ethnic communities. One would see Kosovo-Albanians in restaurants in Lapje Selo, one could speak Serbian in the streets of Pristina. Is the latter possible after the YU-flats had to be evacuated and the Kosovo-Serbs there have been displaced? Is it wanted in a situation where speeches in the Assembly from which I have transcripts earlier this year speak about English as the „second“ language in the school-system in Kosovo? So this Kosovo-Serb will establish normalcy in his or her individual context, the explanations are driven by exclusively this perception.

Many things are being said currently in the public, as all of us attempt to find explanations. We will read about accusations against the international community, but it is being raised by some of us who are not part of this international community. Others will talk about circles of extremists organising this nightmare. But it is public knowledge and not a secret of the Police Commissioner that organised extremists can not act without the underlying readyness of the many to allow this and to participate. Opposed to unorganised mobs we have witnessed directed crowds. A crowd can not act without a leader, but a leader can also not direct without a crowd.

But all of us have one thing in common, we, the Kosovans and the so-called Internationals, all of us who experienced this nightmare, we want to reestablish normalcy as quick as possible. What we are faced with is the danger that we establish separate normalcies. And I have to say that this is one of the fundamental reasons for what happened. Extremists and terrorists and regular criminals can not act to this extent in an environment which does not allow this. The experience is a world-wide one, I can use many many examples.

In a situation where all of us wake up we desperately try to find explanations. And explanations which are deflecting from the own corporate and individual responsibility are most welcome from a psychological perspective. I have to say that those who should not be considered to be part of us, the organised criminals, the extremists and terrorists are the only ones who have the benefit of this separate establishment of reasons why this nightmare could occur.

As a Police Commissioner I am responsible for the security of all of us. And I have to say that the establishment of the Rule of Law, the vigorous prosecutions and conviction of individuals who committed crimes is one of the most powerful instruments in a democratic and peaceful society. But to what extent does this apply in an environment where arrests would be perceived contradictory to the separated explanations about what happened?

The Rule of Law applies to all who wish to have it established in order to prevent that anybody is above it. To what extent the many of us reckognize that all of us are part of the same society? Will the arrest of an individual having committed a crime during this nightmare being perceived the same way amongst all groups which are so separated from each other?

Kosovo is at the crossroads. There is a joint responsibility of the civil society. All of us are part of this civil society. If the reality is different from this, if separated civil societies do exist in Kosovo, there is no joint Rule of Law other than the externally imposed.

So, the civil society is asked to recognize an inseparable responsibility beyond ethnic and religious groups. This civil society are all of us, local and central kosovan politicians, all religious and spiritual leaders, intellectuals and the ordinary man or woman on the streets. As long as we perceive separated realities and why things happened, as long as we communicate along ethnic and religious borderlines, as long as we make a difference between us and the others, nothing will change.

Communication is the ground for reconciliation, the South-African model of reconciliation has been discussed here from time to time and I have had some personal opportunity to explore it more. This is not South-Africa, this is Kosovo, this is the Balkans. But this is a reality of different groups not talking. I would like to see discussions organized by the civil society or it´s political, spiritual and intellectual leaders with Kosovo-Albanians, Kosovo-Serbs and international and local police officers participating who have been part of the same violent situation.

I would like to see really joint perceptions of what happened. May be reconciliation is a dream far along the road. But without inter-society-dialogue even the preconditions for such a dream are missing. And without dialogue there is no joint. I am concerned, as dialogue is also a precondition for a joint recognition for one Rule of Law for everyone within a civil society.

When I came back to Kosovo on many occasions, I was still processing, and healing. I finally healed a few weeks ago, and that’s what that Youtube video is about.

At the same time, impermanence, but also growth, has accompanied me throughout my private life. Those events in March 2004 were the beginning of the end of Lori’s and my time in Kosovo, we knew that we had to hand over efforts, after some final stabilisation. We moved on, and we married, and we gave life to amazing twins a few years later. And we suffered, and we had pain, when things broke apart in 2013, finally. And we moved on, sustainably committed to what was always defining the foundation of our relationship, true love and friendship. We went through these transitions of impermanence, and were rewarded. I have to speak specifically for myself, as I tend to stay on my side of the street: I was rewarded. For sustainable commitment to truth, honesty, compassion, and love, I was rewarded with an uninhibited trust and friendship. I strive for giving that back. And both of us are rewarded with seeing our children growing, with values, with fallible human parents, who commit to sustainability.

So, here you have it, sustainability in the small and the large, because the video also makes clear that process, development, and also the all-pervasiveness of growth and decay, applies to everything. In that sense, the above text feels, to me, like a piece of evidence for that contributing to sustainable solutions does not only matter, but is the only way.

Sustainability built into concepts and efforts works best when I accept the larger validity of impermanence. I spoke of relative and absolute truths in my previous article. Buddhism tells me: Every composite phenomenon is impermanent. Physics does agree, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics is universal within that part of the spacetime continuum which we can observe and measure. In itself, this statement is an axiom, and in my belief system it is an absolute truth. Whether I like it, or not, it is defining our existence in this world of phenomena. Meaning, it doesn’t make a difference whether I like it, or not.

But I can use it to my advantage. Like, that a sustainable commitment to human values is useful for growth of prosperity and happiness of All. I don’t have to be spiritual even to see the advantage. Betterment for All is the sustainable solution for bettering the fate of the individual. Every dictator and selfish autocrat and selfish billionaire dies the same way like I will die. But, as Pema Chödrön says: How we live is how we die (How We Live Is How We Die, 2022 Shambala Publications).

Sustainable commitment to peace and security is my personal means to achieve the happiness which prepares me for every transition in this life, and beyond. In that, I am Durabile.

Truth Wars

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

“truth – the quality of being true”

“the truth – the real facts about a situationevent, or person

“truth – statement or principle that is generally considered to be true

“truthfulness – the quality of being honest and not containing or telling any lies

From Wikipedia:

Truth is the property of being in accord with fact or reality

I guess I could go on and use definitions or descriptors from many other sources, and still there would be a sort of ambiguity reflected in the term “truth” that can’t be dissolved. Words such as “quality“, “real“, “facts“, “generally considered“, “being honest“, “lies“, they are a far cry away from an axiomatic meaning which would establish something like “an absolute truth” which can not be disputed by anyone, or any argument.

Looking at the above, truth is a relative term, and it requires consent between those who state that a thing, an event, a statement, a concept “is true”.

So, truth is not only a label, but also a relationship between conscious entities, such as human beings (but not only!) through consent, or agreement, or unfortunately also by unchallenged imposition, or through joint perception. For any non-colorblind person, “red” is “red” and “blue” is “blue”, despite the fact that I cannot prove that what I see as “blue” is seen the very same way by another person agreeing with me on labeling the color of a thing as being “blue”. There are people who, just for example, perceive colors and sounds VERY differently from the majority of humans: Chromesthesia or sound-to-color synesthesia is a type of synesthesia in which sound involuntarily evokes an experience of color, shape, and movement.” Those who have experience with substances such as LSD, or Psylocybin, will report about sound or especially music creating patterns and extremely detailed textures and colors, once one closes the eyes. It helps in understanding the relative truth of conventional perception, and the limitations coming from if I just assume that another person is assuming the same things being “true”.

If it is true for me that this color is “red”, it requires a consent with you to agree on labeling a perception the same way. In order to understand you, I need a certain degree of joint experiences, and languages being used in a similar or same way.

Is there something which is beyond a requirement to consent in order to be considered being “true”? Aren’t the facts from science undisputable? Isn’t mathematics something which is founded on axioms? So, looking up “Axiom” reveals the definition that “an axiompostulate, or assumption is a statement that is taken to be true, to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments.

Here we are again, using the term “true“, or “taken as true“, meaning that we have to consent on accepting some statement as being “true”. If I believe in a flat earth, my fellow flat-earthers and I will claim that it is true, and will not deviate, whichever scientific facts which I consider being true I throw at them.

I remember a science lesson at my high-school, probably around 1974. The teacher had invited two members of Jehova’s Witnesses into our class. We were invited to discuss their belief that the World has been created by their Creator roughly 6000 years ago (plus the almost fifty years between that discussion and today…). My friend Peter and I, who loved loved science, used every fact we knew about in our reasoning that, according to our knowledge, the Earth was roughly 4.5 billion years old, in a universe we nowadays believe has been evolved from a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. There was literally no way that we could penetrate their arguments and make them agreeing on some form of truth which would have established a consent between us and them. Neither could they convince us related to their version of Genesis, just mentioning.

So, as an intermediate thought: What does it mean if people in our current state of antagonisation say “Truth Matters”? What is the meaning behind a brand label created by Number 45, “Truth Social”?

It means nothing else than that consent on an unspecified number of qualities, beliefs, policies, worldviews, or else, is called upon. And at least “Truth Social” would be an example for a dogma such as “As long as you consent to my view, you are in line with my truth, and if you are not, I may even call you an Enemy of the State.” Truth as a means of control. Number 45 did this on countless occasions, and more recently he is hard-pressed by people who are attempting to establish even more radical forms of white supremacy, xenophobia, racism, and anti-semitism. Read in The Rolling Stone: “How Trump Got Trolled by a Couple of Fascists“.

So, when we talk about “Truth Matters”, is it about imposing my truth upon you, or finding a mutual platform of consent, through listening, empathising, understanding, agreeing, compromising, finding common denominators?

Before coming back to my last question, here another source of my personal belief system:

In the Buddhist teachings, there are Two Truths. …”there’s an idea that everything has two levels of truth, relative and absolute: how we experience life when we’re immersed in it, and how we experience it from a distance when we can get a vaster perspective” (Pema Chödrön – How We Live Is How We Die, 2022 Shambala Publications, Page 51).

Essentially, in my interpretation (sic! need of consent again…): Absolute truth is a concept from the spiritual realm, including, but not limited to, religious faith. Please note that in my view Buddhism is not a religion, but a spiritual source of wisdom. I don’t believe in a personalised God concept. But I am firmly rooted in a spiritual connection with Everything.

If you, the reader, would agree with me, then we would conclude that the world of phenomena has only relative truths, based on perceptions which are mutually held. The absolute is the realm of the spiritual world. However, if people claim they have understood the Absolute (Or claim God spoke to them), and they allow it to permeate into the world of phenomena, dogma is born: My truth is absolute. My God will protect my soldiers, and not your soldiers. My God says that women need to be veiled. My God allows me to fight a Holy War. Radical Muslim dogmatists have done that, radical Buddhist fundamentalists have done that, radical Hindu fundamentalists have done that, Christianity has its share of radical violent dogmatism and suppression and brutal violence, Judaism is not without such phenomena, no religion or spiritual belief framework is without shameful stains resulting from imposing an absolute truth on my fellow women and men, human beings of any sexual and gender identification, followers of a belief, and especially also children.

Where does this lead me to, here?

What I see is the widespread use of catchphrases such as “Truth Matters” with a reduced understanding as if there would be “one truth”, and that others fall victim to “untruthfulness”. That those who manipulate with lies do establish the opposite to truth. I don’t see it like that. I see it as the attempt of replacing “your truth” with “my truth”. I see it as an attempt to control the narrative, and through it, others.

That is why I continue to note that still, increasingly, and on a global level, we see antagonisation thriving, and collaboration and listening in an effort to understand the position of others diminishing.

When the Biden Administration took office, there was a refreshing silence for some time on Number 45. Nothing today is reminding of those few months. Everywhere I look, listen, watch, read, I see Trumps, Ye’s, Elons, Victors, Matteos, Björns, Vladimirs, and their copycats. And everywhere, the radicalisation leads to that the next copycat is more radical than the one before.

That’s why I choose “Truth Wars” as the title. Truth Wars do not require consent by argument, in such a violent scenario it matters that I succeed, by imposition and manipulation, not by accepting another person’s reality as equally relevant to mine.

What I see is that after a perceived “lull”, the Truth Wars have become even more radical. Racism, xenophobia, hate against transgender people, hate of and supremacy over women, anti-semitism, anti-muslim sentiments, they come closer to be part of the mainstream. As a part of a larger pattern of xenophobia, in the Western World the white hateful male lower middle-class and impoverished lower-class underdogs fall victim to pied pipers, some of them extremely privileged and dishonest.

What I also see is that we deploy force against force, loudness against loudness, control against the attempt to control. Literally every such concept is pouring gasoline on the firepit.

In my line of professional work, I support the consent between the six jurisdictions forming the Western Balkans, on the belief that fewer weapons, explosives, and ammunition, and more control over all licit aspects of them, and the fight against illicit aspects of using weapons, their ammunition, and explosives, is good for peace and security in these societies. As a consequence of this consent on a jointly held truth, these six jurisdictions (we name them jurisdictions, since Kosovo is not un-disputed amongst all of them and amongst others in relation to statehood, different to Albania, Bosnia &Hercegovina, Montenegro, North-Macedonia, and Serbia), these six jurisdictions communicate, collaborate, and cooperate highly joint in implementing policy and operations. They do this despite the fact that some of them have disputes on a political level, and that cultural, ethnical, and faith diversity creates this amazing and wonderful mix which has also seen violence, oppression, war and genocide when some considered their truth more supreme than the truth of others.

I am using this as a practical example for the opposite of what I have labeled “Truth Wars”. This is one of countless examples were people sit together and listen, and learn from each other, willing to do things jointly, whilst acknowledging that they do not agree on everything, for the sake of a higher objective, and advantages for all, instead of only for oneself.

Yet, the fundamental consent (sic: truth) on how to control Small Arms and Light Weapons could not be more different from, for example, the United States, where there is a widely held belief by many (don’t know whether they constitute a majority, and doubt it), that only the Second Amendment ensures the protection of the First Amendment. The accepted truth, and the consequences of it (exponentially more violence and unprecedented levels of mass shootings) are radically different, and this permeates literally into everything, including how for example policing concepts are being developed and implemented: It is not only about the need of police to protect themselves against an ubiquity of weapons; If citizens reject policing as something they want to give up their own weapons for, community oriented policing is VERY different in understanding, concept, and implementation.

If truth matters, it includes to accept that there are many different subjective truths. This allows for their coexistence, their learning from each other, their development, and ideally the growth of something that is more joint. So, very different to what we seem to nurture, or to fight, right now.