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.

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.

Distinguish The Signal From The Noise – Also feat.: The Long Term Impact of the Pandemic, and of Conflict and War

Setting the stage: From a conversation with my son

Yesterday afternoon I chatted with my son on FaceTime. He lives in Toronto and is fourteen years old. For him it was morning, and I was amazed seeing him preparing his own breakfast potatoes with an omelette. It looked so good on my phone screen that I could smell and taste it, I wished I would have been there. He promised to make me such a breakfast when I’m in Toronto in a few weeks time.

At one point, the casual conversation about what’s up veered into the parental part: “How’s School Coming On?” – “Good good”. – “Any details to share?” – “No, not really, it’s just good.” – “Do you like your new school?[The kids have entered high school education this summer] – “It’s okay, but have you ever heard somebody saying that school is a place you really enjoy?” – “I understand, fair enough. Wasn’t much different for me, when I was your age. But, just curious: Do you like what they teach you in physics? And what is it they teach you?” – “It’s okay, but I would love you to make more of your tiny explanatory pieces on physics, I always enjoy them.”

Guess what? I was flattered, felt these little pieces of work of mine make sense. I felt motivated to make more of them. Perhaps I will share some of this stuff on my Youtube channel “All Over The Place“. That’s the fun place in my writing and creating. Over here, at durabile.me, it’s more about the serious stuff I like to write about.

What everyone knows, including from own experience, and too often forgets: The importance of education for a society

Yes, school, as I told my son, is also something I remember in a similar way. Necessary, but not a place of daily rejoice, like, getting up and thinking “Yay, I can’t wait until being in class!“. Meeting my class mates always was a mixture of joy and anxiety, I was sort of like Charlie Brown, isolated in many ways, struggling to find friends and appreciation. Meeting my teachers, more often than not, was a mixed bag as well. The subject issues at school, mathematics, physics, chemistry, language, history, geography, some of the stuff I loved, some of the stuff I really struggled with. I could not shrug it off, like Calvin in the comic series “Calvin&Hobbes” does. I often strolled home with my head low between my shoulders, like Charlie Brown in the comic series “Peanuts”.

But it was necessary to learn, and I knew that. Necessary at the very least. Pleasant, preferably. Which is, certainly, part of the art of pedagogy: How to teach knowledge? Being effective in establishing knowledge also needs to mitigate unpleasant experiences. Not everyone of us has a Spartan mentality, like “what does not kill me makes me tougher”. The saying “School prepares for life”, often used and even more often abused, at it’s core it is, of course, true. What I learn at school, it becomes a defining part of everything thereafter. What I don’t learn defines my life in every aspect as well. And this is especially holding true for general skills which I acquire through education. I don’t have to be able to explain Richard Feynman’s quantum mathematics. But a general level of knowledge, combined with education in a general sense, it is setting the stage for anything to follow.

Enter Covid: Millions of children, and millions of their parents and caregivers were all of a sudden reminded of the educational role of schools, through their sudden absence as physical places to go. Places to gather. To socialise. To learn social skills. To be taught knowledge, and to become educated.

The continuing impact of Covid goes way beyond cases of long-Covid

October 24, 2022, the New York Times published an article “Math Scores Fell in Nearly Every State, and Reading Dipped on National Exam“. Here I am quoting the article’s beginning:

U.S. students in most states and across almost all demographic groups have experienced troubling setbacks in both math and reading, according to an authoritative national exam released on Monday, offering the most definitive indictment yet of the pandemic’s impact on millions of schoolchildren. In math, the results were especially devastating, representing the steepest declines ever recorded on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card, which tests a broad sampling of fourth and eighth graders and dates to the early 1990s.

So, here we are with scientific results demonstrating the devastating combined impact of the pandemic and of how we needed to protect ourselves, collectively: In order to reduce casualties, and to reduce suffering by attempting to keep the medical system operational, we took tolls. Mental tolls, physical tolls, emotional tolls, cognitive behavioural tolls, and educational tolls.

Heavy tolls, like that on average, the number of fourth graders and eighth graders being proficient in math and reading took an exceptionally deep plunge towards an abyss. And what is indicative in the U.S. system, from my personal experience it’s true also in Canada, and from what I hear and witnessed in Europe, I have no indication it would be different here. I am sure that there is not a single country which found a mitigation strategy through a form of protracted exclusive home-schooling similarly effective in knowledge transfer as classroom-teaching is.

It is also correct to conclude that what holds true for math and reading is also holding true for general levels of education, social skills, and a general toolset which allows to traverse our contemporary world knowingly: By having a proficient knowledge about our own environment, we go beyond a collective capacity to be economically competitive: Knowledge allows us to make informed decisions, opposed to either making uniformed decisions, or being the proverbial sheep in the herd of individuals being manipulated by those who do, for own and for controlling reasons.

I also happen to think that there is the educational equivalent to what we observe in relation to the distribution of wealth in our societies: Like ever fewer people are getting more wealthy, and ever more people fall into low-income and also poverty, with a shrinking middle-class, the same certainly is true for the distribution of knowledge. If good jobs require a CV with reference to an Ivy-League-College-Education, if creating what drives our economic progress is in the hands of ever fewer people who understand the underlying science, or engineering, it will inevitably also contribute to the growing size of parts of a society which do not hold many economic resources.

But the damage goes further:

Proficient knowledge establishes a general capacity to distinguish the signal from the noise

The less I know in a general understanding about how the world is functionining, the more I am vulnerable for “Scharlatanerie”, and for all the messy speculative stuff from people who believe to know, do actually not know, and create noise, inaccurate information, wrong information, and deliberate misinformation. The last one for a variety of reasons, including attempting to control, but also because sensational stuff simply sells. It always did, in magazines. It increasingly does, on the digital media platforms of this Brave New World.

I’ll use an example, on my topics of scientific interest: I need a basic knowledge about how the James Webb Space Telescope JWST works, in order to filter out those sensational channels where people attract viewers by suggesting JWST has found proof for alien existence. I need a sound knowledge to stay with those channels informing me about most recent discussions in Quantum Mechanics, just to grasp the profound impact of why the 2022 Nobel Price has been awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger. My mind “explodes” (or implodes) when I try to understand the rationale which can be found on the Nobel Prize Website. But my general knowledge allows me to appreciate why the entire physics community is abuzz of profound discoveries to come which may, again, make previous knowledge obsolete. Previous knowledge which already has successfully made my mind imploding, just saying.

This is anything but an esoteric discussion. It is, in my view, one of the most crucial and often unappreciated topics in relation to how we protect values in our societies: Through education. At the same time, the relevance goes much beyond the impact of the Covid-19-pandemic.

In literally every conflict- or post-conflict-environment I have been working in, the devastating impact of conflict, violence, hatred, and demolition of infrastructure on the educational system has been larger than life. Where educational capacities remained crippled, or absent, the respective society remained unable to recover as much as everyone hoped. Which, in turn, led to many effects which created the next round of frustration, such as through migrating away, accepting corruption and crime, and a general path towards becoming more prone to the rule of the powerful, instead of the rule of law.

Concluding this one with a view on the war of aggression by Russia raging in the Ukraine: We see systematic attacks on critical infrastructure in the Ukraine, and that includes the shelling of schools and kindergardens. It has a terrible invisible effect: Deploying strategic blows against a society and country by sowing fear includes to make it difficult to uphold a daily life allowing to transmit knowledge to children, very similar to the effects of the pandemic.

There has been a press conference the other day with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Olaf Scholz, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, arguing for a “Marschall Plan” for the restoration of civilian capacities in the Ukraine. It is really important news. The longer a society is incapacitated, whether through a pandemic, or conflict, the less the value of general education can be upheld in any country. In turn, fragility becomes systemic.

Some Thoughts on “Never Forget”

The idea to this post goes back to late summer 2021. Since then, the text sat in my “drafts folder”. Now, one year later, with unprecedented developments happening in East Europe, it is time to pick it up again, to rewrite it according to what has happened since the Russian war of aggression began to rage through the Ukraine, and to finalise it.

September 09, 2021, I came across an article in Balkan Insight, titled “In the Balkans, Let Us Remember to Forget“. The somewhat contradicting title caught my attention. I was enjoying a late summer espresso in a Belgrade street cafe, looking back at living and traveling for more than a decade in the Western Balkans. I love being here, the Western Balkans are somewhat home to me, and I have made it a habit to always connect to the local neighborhoods and to listen to local friends. Like that day in September 2021, in Belgrade’s Innercity, when I had a conversation with a youth activist. Of course, the conversation touched on the question as to which extent people identifying with different nationalities do co-exist. Do they feel like belonging to something they share in common, other than an ever more distant past of an entity called Yugoslavia? How do they establish a joint identity, based on commonly shared memories? The assessment of my friend was somewhat sober: Young generations carry the same feeling of belonging to entities based on “ethnic” narratives. We spoke about how to learn to effectively talk to each other by listening. But the memories of those who talk to each other, including in young generations, they are very different from one place to another.


I spend a lot of time as a digital nomad. The great thing is that I happen to listen to new people everyday, meeting people from all walks of life. Academic discussions are rare, and when I explain what I do, I always struggle with making it as simple as possible.

When I travel to Kopacki Rit, a stunning nature reserve in East Croatia, I sometimes pass through the city of Vucovar, which has a wartime past of unspeakable atrocities. During 87 days of siege in 1991, the city was shelled into rubble by the Yugoslav People’s Army JNA. To quote Wikipedia: “The damage to Vukovar during the siege has been called the worst in Europe since World War II, drawing comparisons with Stalingrad.”

Today, you will see mostly new and non-descript buildings not telling anything about that time long gone. Believe me, under the surface the memories and tensions are still there. Also, I am not so sure any longer that the damage to Vukovar stands out the way it did when the Wikipedia article was written: The damage to cities, towns and villages in the Ukraine is increasing day by day.


If you happen to come to Mostar in Bosnia&Hercegovina as a tourist, you will marvel at the beauty of a historic town with the famously destroyed bridge nicely rebuilt. Not much will give away tension, and segregation. But people on one side of the bridge are identifying as Croats, on the other side as Bosniaks. Live there, and you will soon become aware of the segregation running underneath.


More visible is this segregation, of course, in Mitrovica in Kosovo, the northern part inhabited by Kosovo-Serbs, the southern parts by Kosovo-Albanians. I can not count how often I have been on the West Bridge between 2000 and 2004, with tensions and, at times, violence, flying high.


When, in 2008, I asked a friend in Bosnia&Hercegovina, whether we were still driving in East-Sarajevo or would already be close to central Sarajevo, he responded “No, we are still on our side”. My friend identifies as a Croat, and he was referring to a specific area through which the front-line of Bosnian defence moved forward and backward throughout Sarajevo’s siege by the JNA. He said this more than twenty years later, realized what he had just said, looked surprised, and apologised for his Freudian error. At the same time, our Nanny, who identifies as a Bosniak, would be scared when we were taking our children and her for a walk up at Trebevic, an area from where Serb snipers were killing Sarajevan citizens during the siege.


When, early after the beginning of Russia’s war against the Ukraine, in February and March 2022, I would talk to friends in Serbia, notably here in Belgrade, I would always hear them also talking about their memories of the NATO bombing campaign in 1999. Like with everyone else, including related to those examples I have used above, on Croatia, Bosnia&Hercegovina, and Kosovo, collective memories of the wartime past are still very present here in Serbia. The historical connotation in which those memories happen, they are different from place to place, and so is the narrative related to what happened, or whether it happened at all, why it happened, whether some of these events constitute acts of genocide, or whether things which happened were justified, and just.

But here is the thing which I note these days: There is a collective memory of the trauma which happens when civilian populations suffer, whether through a siege, of through a bombing campaign, or anything else. The memory of trauma and fear, the memory of injury and death, it persists, notwithstanding historical reasons, established narratives, or narratives attempting to falsify history. Whilst the article in Balkan Insight in 2021 is arguing the necessity also to forget, in order to support reconciliation, this is not yet the situation here: These memories are very present.

Over the last days, when I am having coffees with Serbian friends and when I bring up the situation in the Ukraine, their voices go very low. I will hear great sympathy for the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and I see expressions of pain on my friend’s faces. I will hear very clear voices telling me that indiscriminate shelling of the civilian population, that rape, murder, torture of Ukrainian’s by the Russian Army are upsetting my Serbian friends very much, that there is no justification for it, at all. There is a clear distancing from those acts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, other severe crimes. And it appears those feelings go deep. I always will hear references to the fear which my friends remember from their own trauma. Whether the bombing campaign here in Belgrade, whether the siege of Sarajevo. And I guess it is similar elsewhere.


This is where I close the loop between finishing this blog article which I have sitting in my draft folder since one year, and what is in my draft folder since a few days:

First, a select collection of links which I have been compiling:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62922674

https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/europa/isjum-ukraine-graeber-leichen-folter-101.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62931224

https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/europa/selenskyj-ukraine-massengrab-103.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62945155

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-63181475

I could go on an on, but I guess it is enough. From Bucha to Izium, one atrocity is piling on another war crime. To this, the indiscriminate bombing, rocketing, shelling over the past days, justified by the Russian President as revenge for the attack on the Crimean Bridge, it adds. I don’t want to throw even more links into the hodgepodge above, but it is especially this revenge action of the past days which clearly increases the feeling of people here of being upset.

When this war is over, Russia will be remembered for this. The long-term image of how we look at the Russian people will be severely damaged for a generation, or more. What this murderous Russian regime and the atrocities committed by the Russian army is doing pales anything we have seen on the European continent since the Yugoslav wars. The impact on the World order is so huge because one of the constituting powers defining the post WW2 order, dealing with the unimaginable atrocities committed by Germany, and others (notably including Russia), now tramples down the very foundations of what we collectively hoped to set up in the name of humanity.

Though genocide is genocide, and holding every nation accountable for systematic violations of the laws regulating armed conflict is a necessity of applying justice to violations of international laws, it has always been psychologically different to see these crimes being committed by nations far away, or so-called minor powers.

Yet, here we have a former superpower committing atrocities, whether in Chechnya, or in Syria, or through delegation to mercenaries in places like Africa or the Middle East. But the fact that this now is also happening in the very heart of Europe, with systemic occurrence and being part of a brutal plan of intimidation and oppression, it will haunt the individual Russian and the Russian society for decades to come. I was a child in post-war Germany and I have many individual memories about people from other nations neighbouring Germany hissing at me. As a little child, I wouldn’t understand. As a little child from Russia, they will not understand. Any process of reconciliation will last decades. And the responsibility for this, including criminal liability, lies with Russian leadership, including the person holding the office of President of the Russian Federation.

Yes, it is, in some ways, important to be able to forget, in order to forgive. But some things shall never be forgotten, otherwise the term “Never Again” becomes not only violated in so many cases, but becomes simply irrelevant. Whether it is the Holocaust, or the genocides of Srebrenica, Rwanda, or so many other places, or the crimes against humanity committed by Russia in the Ukraine, they shall never be forgotten.

Predictability in Complex Environments – Cognitive Bias Codex

April 20, 2021 I wrote a blog post “Futuretelling” on occasion of media informing about the report “Global Trends 2040”, a product of the collective of American intelligence agencies, issued then on occasion of a new Presidential administration (the Biden administration) taking the helm. I’d like to revisit the issue, almost one and a half years later.


“Global Trends 2040” revolves around five core assessments:

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

Fragmentation flows from the predicted transnational or global challenges. Overwhelming threats will lead to a reflex breaking apart, or threatening, globalisation.

Disequilibrium was the third theme of the report. The report focusses on its effects in a widening gap between what societies, communities, and individuals expect from governance and services, and what they can deliver. Doubts in the benefits of democratic governance, the profound inability of systems of international order to provide peace, security, and other important challenges to the sixteen Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations create a perfect storm.

Contestation was the fourth theme. Wealthy societies pump their reserves into handling the crisis, and into the race of getting out on the other side in the best position for competing, on economical and power levels. Conflict, violence, exodus, displacement, migration will have an effect on more developed societies. In a way, this amplifies fragmentation and antagonisation.

Adaption being the final theme, it means that profound changes will ultimately end in a new equilibrium. The question is how such a new system state may look like. Or, how much of our current one is left, and what will be the new reality.

To me, the core statement of “Global Trends 2040” is that we are passing through a phase of profound global system change, or paradigm change.


That was spring 2021. “Global Trends 2040” was written during the Covid-19 pandemic, so it was somewhat easy for the authors to qualify an existing pandemic as “the most significant, singular global disruption since World War II“. Then, summer 2021 brought the catastrophic events around the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taleban, and a crushing defeat of the West’s ambitions for Afghanistan over two decades. Spring 2022 saw the beginning of a war of aggression by the Russian Federation against the Ukraine. Motivation and publicly voiced rationale by the Russian President went, from the outset on, far beyond his claims related to the Ukraine, and related to overthrow the Ukrainian government. From the West’s perspective it is an attack against the West, it’s systems and it’s values. The Russian President describes this as a threat against Russia, claiming to act in self-defense. Of course, I have a clear position here joining those who state this is a brazen and aggressive move attempting to overthrow an existing order, and violating fundamental principles enshrined in international treaties. But on various occasions since then I have also acknowledged that it depends on where people live, and which cultural and historical ties they have grown up with, whether they join this assessment, or blame the West. This is a war on multiple levels, including information warfare, a war of systems against each other, a war of economies, a war of dogma how to prevail, and to govern. The physical battlefields are local or regional, information warfare happens in cyberspace, and the conflict is ultimately global.

So I wonder how the events of 2021 and 2022 would have been reflected in the wording of the report issued in spring 2021, if these events would already have been on the books of history by the time of writing. If already the pandemic posed the greatest disruption since WWII, it has only gotten worse since then.

With lightning speed, the World is continuing to change. Nobody would have anticipated, even in early spring 2021, that the situation went so haywire in summer 2021 in Afghanistan. And after that, if someone would have asked “What’s next?”, I doubt many people would have anticipated the developments in the Ukraine bringing us closer to World War III. May be, many years in the future, historians will assess that we already were in WW III. Because, even the forms and shapes of warfare have changed. Some of it started in 2001, when we began to see consequences of asymmetric warfare. And at that time, people would have found it unimaginabe that we would see conventional armies battling each other, on European soil, 21 years later.

What else do we know about battlefields of such larger warfare? I could go on about Asia and the ever increasing tension between China and Taiwan, just recently blowing up again on occasion of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, bringing likelihood of yet another massive conflict into the equation. I could refer to how we all, internationally, after 9/11/2001 made critical assessments related to terrorist attacks against nuclear power plants. Now we are finding ourselves in a situation where Russian military forces conduct their attacks using the biggest nuclear powerplant in mainland Europe as a shield. Of course, following the same logic as outlined above, two sides accuse each other of being responsible for it. From a perspective of the threat being real, and grave, even this mutual accusation, being part of information warfare, adds to how scary the situation has become.

The Doomsday Clock has, once again, moved closer to 12, with the UN Secretary General telling us August 07, 2022, that the risk of nuclear confrontation is back after decades.

I could refer to the many developments in Africa, and since I am not a paid professional analyst with own staffing resources, my list of critical developments in the World would be highly selective, and certainly biased. Of course, it would include a whole chapter on instability in the Western Balkans, where I spend much of my time.

So, what can be said about “What’s next?” now, mid summer 2022?


The almost natural reflex is about looking around and to assess specific situations, specific countries or regions, and to attempt making predictions about how things may remain stable, or not. But more often than not, previous developments have taught us that destabilisation, system change, conflict and war occur almost to the surprise of professional analysts, and intelligence systems. The short term developments may be subject to correct analysis, like intelligence organisations unequivocally warned about Russia being serious about invading the Ukraine, once there was enough evidential data. But that was a short-term prediction, being put out into the public domain only from end of 2021 onwards, also in order to convince those who still, until February 23, 2022, doubted that Russia would follow-through on building up her military power alongside the borders of the Ukraine. Did we have enough data to predict this already, say in April 2021, at the time when “Global Trends 2040” was issued? From what I know through publicly avalable information, I would doubt it. So, this is not about “I told you so”.

The same will be the case related to anything up in the future, any new conflict development, where we then, again, will ask ourselves with hindsight whether we would have been able to predict it. In a highly complex and unstable environment, the fault-lines of where conflict arises next, and which physical or virtual dimension it takes, are difficult to predict medium-term, and impossible to predict long-term.

However, this makes the highly abstract level of “Global Trends 2040”, which I summarised above so profoundly valuable. Because, whilst we cannot be sure about “What’s next?”, we can be reasonably certain about that we have not reached rock-bottom. “Global Trends 2040” predicts a fundamental paradigm change and a war of systems, not a state of “rock bottom” from where things might recover to an old or only slightly changed equilibrium.


One of my favorite Youtube channels is called “Veritasium”. The channel is run by Derek Muller. Veritasium is covering a broad range of subjects, based on scientific evidence. According to its own website, “Veritasium is a channel of science and engineering videos featuring experiments, expert interviews, cool demos, and discussions with the public about everything science.” You will find a vlog as of August 2, 2022 there, called “The 4 things it takes to be an expert“. This piece is amazing:

In attempting to answer the question which experts have real expertise, the vlog includes a long list of references related to scientific evidence for its statements. The four things that make somebody a real expert, in ANY field of expertise, are based on long and ardous training, the vlog talks of a rule of thumb of 10.000 hours. In order to become an expert, one has to go through many repeated attempts with feedback. At one point of the video, Veritasium refers to a sample of 284 people who make their living on offering analysis or commenting on complex issues related to politcal and economic trends. These people were followed and questioned over two decades. The results, in a nutshell, are sobering. Any so-called expert with only education, but without extended feedback loops, was doing terribly. These “experts” were not significantly better in their predictions than non-specialists.

Watch the vlog. But what is the issue here? At least, that we have to be very careful in attempting to make predictions. And secondly, that we need to have a healthy and limited expectation in relation to what pundits will tell us. In my own self-assessment, I would certainly qualify for the 10.000 hour rule in relation to my own field of expertise (peace & security). But it would not make me believe that I would be able to find anything more than short-term answers to the question “What’s next?”.

Something which is called “cognitive bias” adds to the problem. This is what is behind the picture attached to this blog, and you can find the picture in wikipedia’s list of 188 cognitive biases, grouped into categories and rendered by John Manoogian III. In essence, according to the website teachthought, “a cognitive bias is an inherent thinking ‘blind spot’ that reduces thinking accuracy and results inaccurate–and often irrational–conclusions.” The graphical summary is listing 180 (!!) of them.

With having said that on our limitations to predict the future reliably, I will finally come back again to “Global Trends 2040”. What I, in sum, subscribe to, is the general statement about a time of system change which “Global Trends 2040” has, in my view correctly, deducted from available assessed information, which we call intelligence.

After President Nr 45 of the United States of America took power, I would find it comparatively easy to anticipate the scenarios that were possible to happen, and my worst case scenarios were pretty much along the lines of what we witnessed, until including January 06, 2021, and what we see coming up as a continuing threat for democracy in the United States, until today.

But compared with the complexity of fragility which we experience, this prediction was a piece of cake, since it was largely based on a psychological analysis of a person with multiple personality disorders, adding perhaps some deeper understanding about American society because I was embedded there for five years and listened and learned a lot.

Asking the question “What’s next” related to what we experience since then, I only know it will get worse, but I don’t know how, meaning “What’s next”. This is not a Doomsday attitude. Rather, it is a personal statement about the gravity of the situation we are finding ourselves in, these days.

Uvalde – A Practical Proposal: Stop the monetization of social media channels glorifying Small Arms and Light Weapons

Picture taken by the author, 2016

Living in the United States between 2013 and 2018, I have had an inside view into the discussion that never seems to get anywhere: How to end the unending series of mass shootings which especially haunt this country. Like so many others, I am sick and tired. I am mad with the arms lobby, I do not understand how any politician arguing the rights of the Second Amendment being more important than any meaningful gun control law in light of the suffering of relatives, especially parents and caregivers, can even sleep, knowing that their sick and crazy protection of the gun lobby is making them morally complicit, as the next mass shooting will not occur in a decade, or next year, but within weeks.

At the time of this writing, parents, caregivers, husbands, wives, relatives, friends in Uvalde, Texas join a group of uncounted individuals who do not get relief from unspeakable pain, suffering losses that no parent and loved one should ever have to live with. Being a parent myself, my heart is broken and my thoughts are reaching out to those who feel utterly destroyed, hopeless, powerless, left with no meaning in their life any more.

Please watch this BBC video.

Gun violence in the United States takes more victims than traffic does. With brutal ignorance, the argument is repeated, over and over again, by these enablers of the NRA, that gun control does not curb this violence, that only armed security at schools does. There is no grain of evidence for such outrageous claims, against all comparative scientific evaluation of the effect of gun control legislation in jurisdictions all over the world. I am not even bothering with referencing such results here, they are ubiquitous for everyone who is really interested in getting the picture.

I invite you, for example, to watch the statement of Jimmy Kimmel, on occasion of the Uvalde school mass killing. I don’t have to add anything.

Meanwhile, German news report about contacts which the perpetrator had, in the weeks running up to the crime, with a fifteen year old girl in Germany. Including that the perpetrator clearly announced his intentions, and not only over the last minutes, but long before.

Which brought me to the role of Social Media, again. And here is a practical suggestion:

Demonetize any social media channel glorifying Small Arms and Light Weapons.


Since 2019, my work is connected to the efforts of the German Federal Foreign Office to support activities of States and international organizations to set up strategic, long-term, and meaningful gun control. We support this in six jurisdictions in the Western Balkans, we support it in the Carribean, we support it in West Africa, we look for ways how to engage in East Europe, and in Central Asia. The center of gravity of my work revolves around supporting the six jurisdictions of the Western Balkans in their effort to implement a regional strategic roadmap addressing all aspects of gun and ammunition control in a holistic way. Please, if you’re interested, read about the Western Balkans SALW Control Roadmap here. I am connected to similar activities in other regions of the world.

So I believe I know what I am talking about.


Advising on all technical, strategic, and often political aspects of this support work, I need to stay informed about latest developments, types of weapons and ammunition, converted weapons, 3D-printed weapons, and so much more.

That’s how Youtube began to invade my watchlist with weapons channels of the craziest forms.

I won’t even promote them here by mentioning names. They are pervasive, ubiquitous, the makers of these channels live and hail from the United States, Germany, Austria, just to name but a few.

Privately I am watching other things. I am subscribing to a few channels of vanlifers, who struggle to keep up a watching community of a few thousand, sometimes more. But none of them reaches the hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers and views which weapons’ channels easily get. And I do know, from extensive watching, how absolutely centered these channels are around monetization, how makers tip-toe around some rules which would lead to a de-monetization of a vlog entry.

Here are two suggestions:

  1. Those of us who watch these channels: Unsubscribe, and make yourself heard about the reasons why you are doing this, in the comments’ sections. Subscribing to these channels is allowing the makers of these channels to generate a part of their revenue. Stop watching this stuff.
  2. To social media: It is time to take sides, and not to wait for a sickening and tiring new round of discussions on regulating the Internet. You don’t have to take the channels offline. Just demonetize any channel which can not clearly live up to justified reasons, such as scientific, policy, news&reporting, or else. Don’t hide behind the argument that the line is difficult to draw. The number of channels with people firing weapons under the craziest of all circumstances just for the purpose of glorifying weapons, and attract people watching it, it is outrageous. Take a stand. Don’t put your business model front and center. Act with compassion and support those who are eaten alive by grief, for the rest of their lives.

Justice Being Served

In my writing on the general theme of my blog – Peace & Security, Trauma & Reconciliation – I often attempt to create a conduit from the impact of personal trauma towards the effects which it has on the scale of communities, or societies. You can find some comprehensive thoughts on this in my articles on (1) the impact of trauma on individuals, (2) the trauma of children in conflict and war, and (3) the impact of trauma on communities and societies ravaged by conflict and war.

On occasion of a few other articles I have also mentioned that this is not only academic writing, but that my own processing of personal trauma is entangled with this process. It is a source of personal experience, a source of strong personal motivation, but also a source of profoundly subjective views. Objective viewpoints, entirely separating the observer from the observed, they are impossible, not only in quantum mechanics. From quantum physics we know that in literally no aspect of examining and explaining the world the observer can be separated from the observed. In human sciences we know this, of course, too. The knowledge about this fact is forcing me to always step back and critically examine my own attempts to come up with the best shot at how I try to make sense of this world.

One morning end of January 2022 I woke up after a good nights sleep. I managed to keep my busy thoughts silent during the first minutes, enjoying my morning routine of making the first coffee, feeding my cat, and beginning my day with a little mindfulness exercise. It worked pretty well, I began my day in calmness.

After which I went into my morning routine of reading the news, over my second coffee. This story showed up on my screen: “DR Congo court sentences 51 in trial over 2017 murder of UN experts“, from the French news agency France24. A few minutes later, my balanced approach towards the day, a Sunday morning, was over. I had to sit down and to understand why I was feeling complex emotions, and a strong nausea in my stomach. Over the years I have learned to better understand these signs of a traumatic reaction. In such a situation I try to sit still and to embrace this reaction in a gentle way, instead of mentally running away from it.

There are reasons why I reacted so strongly. I am connected to this story. I was involved in attempts from United Nations Headquarters’ in New York to deal with this horrific murder. I had privileged sight on videos taken by some of the perpetrators, documenting the last minutes and seconds before and when these U.N. experts were killed. I was involved in efforts investigating this situation, and such involvement happened on so many other awful occasions before in my line of work: My more than two decades of international work include a huge amount of personal trauma I have happily piled up. I do know that this leads to a mechanism called re-enactment. I am re-enacting my own previous trauma. My work on this since many years has given me tools with which I can mitigate the effects.

I remember those days in 2017 with all diplomatic efforts on highest levels conveying the message that we, the international community of humanitarians, peacekeepers, diplomats, expected justice being served. I remember my boss of that time, a United Nations Undersecretary General, reporting to us after he returned from a field visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He had left the message with Congolese politicians that “this will not go away easily”, that it requires a sustained effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.

I also remember that I assessed the chances for justice being served under extraordinary circumstances as being slim. I contributed to our efforts assisting investigative authorities, sending own forensic experts working in my Division, helping Congolese investigators and prosecutors. Over time, hopes of seeing this crime being solved and perpetrators being sentenced, it faded. Until I saw this story, end of January 2022, give or take five years after the brutal murder act.

02 May 2022, I am working on a set of texts which I will partially or entirely publish here, depending on whether the statements in these texts have a connection to my general theme of this blog (see above). In this context, I am working on explaining why, in my experience, there is literally no memory of any situation I have been in which does not have links to the emotions I felt at the time of the event. One hypothesis I am following in this context is that these emotions can de-link from the events which caused them. As “emotional memories” with no connection to an event causing them, they “linger around”, come up when triggered, influencing my emotional and cognitive setup. This, I suspect, is especially true in situations when I am exposed to what we call “trauma”.

Which would explain the feeling of grave nausea when I read the article about Congolese authorities sentencing 51 individuals connected to that murder which I, like many other events in my professional career, can not forget.

My next blog article will include thoughts on the inseparability of emotions and perceptions, communication, and memory. It will be pretty methodical, I hope I can make that one an interesting read.

In this view, this draft article which I found unfinished when opening my WordPress editor, it is a teaser on more general observations to come.

But I’m ending here by stating that justice can be served, and like here, it may contribute to my healing. As a matter of fact, it does. I must continue to believe in this, and whilst I have no sight on how professional the investigation and application of the legal process by Congolese authorities has been, or whether there was negligence, faultiness, or willful instrumentalisation of legal due process, I must believe that justice is possible as a concept, and as a part of reality, and that hopefully the real perpetrators have been sentenced.

There are new atrocities happening in 2022. As happened all those years in between, whether in Myanmar, Afghanistan, now the Ukraine, in so many places in the Middle East and Africa, and elsewhere. I must continue to believe in the possibility of individual and collective justice, otherwise there are only new wounds, but no healing, and no scars.

“We Have a Lot of Evidence” – Pressure Growing on Frontex Chief from Pushbacks Investigation – DER SPIEGEL reporting on an OLAF Investigation

The English version of the online edition of the German newspaper DER SPIEGEL today issued a comprehensive article on an investigation of the European Union’s anti-corruption agency OLAF, related to decisions and behavior of four senior managers of the EU’s Border agency FRONTEX. It appears that strong evidence -partly revealed in the article including through disturbing pictures- exists about inaction of FRONTEX, even alleged efforts to cover up illegal push-back activities of national border/coast guards of a Member State of the EU, violating international and EU law, forcing migrants and asylum seekers back into a non EU country, depriving them from their right to claim asylum and to subject themselves to due and legal scrutiny whether it can be granted, or not.

The article is a very good read, in terms of quality, and it is a very disturbing article, within a longer row of similar reporting in international media since long. But now, with the Head of OLAF presenting the findings to lawmakers in Brussels, the findings appear to be complete, and action on the findings need to be considered. This, of course, is a thorough technical process, whilst being profoundly political at the same time.

I do believe this matter needs to be taken forward not only with all due diligence, as thorough and unbiased as possible, and as fast as possible. Most importantly, I believe this process requires utmost transparency and dedication to holding individuals and agencies, whether national or international, publicly accountable.

Why? Not only because this should be good practice in democracies and nations adhering to the rule of law anyway. But also because otherwise we may add to a bad taste: The push-backs are alleged to have happened at the EU’s southern/southeastern border to the mediterranian sea. Persons attempting to reach the EU from there come from many countries and conflict zones, whether in Africa or in Asia, including Afghanistan.

At the same time of this reporting, the EU and her Member States undertake a terrific effort, to be praised and applauded in the highest terms possible, to welcome, host, cater for, and assist refugees from the Ukraine. Public opinion across the board is overwhelmingly supporting these refugees from the Ukraine, who have gone through nightmares, in the middle of Europe.

I have, looking into the many comments on social media, also noticed that sometimes there is an expression of fear that we all too easily forget those uncounted individuals who seek help in so many conflict zones a bit farther away, such as in Afghanistan, or in African countries.

I believe we have a chance here to rise to the opportunity and value the fundamental rights of refugees notwithstanding their origin, avoiding adding fuel to a claimed impression, whether true or not, that we care more about some than about others. Putting the alleged FRONTEX actions under public scrutiny, not sparing any effort to demonstrate this in all openness, will in my view be beneficial to make a public stand demonstrating how high we hold the universality of affected fundamental human rights of refugees, and persons who try to relocate or migrate for other reasons than fear from suppression, harm, and death.

Pushing them back, whether it is about cases like this one, or cases of alleged push-backs including brutalisation of migrants attempting to cross land borders into the EU, this is something we shall have zero-tolerance for.

Anocracies – And Thoughts on International Efforts Related to Conflict Prevention

Anocracy or semi-democracy is, according to Wikipedia, a “form of government that is loosely defined as part democracy and part dictatorship, or as a “regime that mixes democratic with autocratic features.” Another definition classifies anocracy as “a regime that permits some means of participation through opposition group behavior but that has incomplete development of mechanisms to redress grievances.” The term “semi-democratic” is reserved for stable regimes that combine democratic and authoritarian elements. Scholars have also distinguished anocracies from autocracies and democracies in their capability to maintain authority, political dynamics, and policy agendas. Similarly, the regimes have democratic institutions that allow for nominal amounts of competition. Such regimes are particularly susceptible to outbreaks of armed conflict and unexpected or adverse changes in leadership.”


In my blog post “Under The Hood” I wrote that I had pre-ordered “How Civil Wars Start And How To Stop Them”, written by Barbara F. Walter (Crown, 2022, Ebook ISBN 9780593137796). After its publication date it got delivered (in my case as an Apple iBook). I am reading it now, and it is as good as it was assessed in that New York Times book recension. As it was said in that recension, Barbara F. Walter spends much of the first half of the book on a profound history of nearly every civil war haunting mankind in the past many decades before beginning to apply the results of academic research of political scientists on civil wars to the situation of the United States of America.

I am through the first half of the book, and inasmuch as I am now keenly reading her account of the more recent developments in the U.S., I am not intending to write on that subject matter. I have an opinion there, and I share the author’s risk assessment, but this public discourse is already ongoing in the U.S.: Look here and here.

I wanted to reflect on a few general observations that stem from the book’s solid comparative approach of recent situations which led to wide-spread violence, and the solid and vast description of the state of affairs of a number of contemporary nation states. After all, no country is exempted from the danger of plunging into wide-spread violence, just pretending “It can’t happen to us” is nothing less than dangerous denial and wishful thinking of the ostrich burying her head in the sand. In this, Barbara F. Walter’s book establishes itself in the same rational and academic realm as the books “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism” by Anne Applebaum and “Fascism: A Warning” by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.


My line of work has frequently put me into situations where we have wondered how one can measure the risk of a country or constituency descending into violent forms of conflict, including civil war. On several occasions I have been part of the international community’s peacekeeping efforts following the outbreak and the aftermath of civil war. Operationally and strategically I was part of such efforts in Kosovo under the United Nations’ mandate through Security Council Resolution 1244. Strategically I was part of such efforts in situations such as in Sudan, South Sudan, Mali, the Central African Republic, Somalia, and several more.

Then there is peacebuilding: How to make sure that a successful peacekeeping engagement finds its continuation through peacebuilding, and leads to a stable peaceful environment that will not relapse into conflict? That’s one of the elements of my current line of work, or why I was operationally working in Bosnia&Hercegovina, or strategically in headquarters of UN and EU on a large number of similar situations in greater Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the Carribean.

Finally, there is conflict prevention: I often sat in meetings with like-minded peacekeepers and peacebuilders where we dealt with conflict prevention. Meaning to extinguish the fire when it was starting small, or even better: To help keeping things stable long before they reach critical mass of instability, and to find ways helping a country, or a constituency, in efforts to resolve disputes peacefully, and to succeed in that. Here I will not give examples. There were a number of cases in which I participated and where we could help in de-confliction of interests, and peaceful resolving of grievances. Those cases did not lead to bad-news-stories, in the general public they went almost entirely unrecognized, and good-news-stories sometimes can not be told in order to keep the good news continuing.

Those stories also don’t sell. Even in the “normal” world of crime, crime prevention does not attract the same interest by readers as the gruesome murder story does. Prevention is the silent humble sister of the guys and gals in military and police fatigues. Repression, threat, coercion, and the use of force, all too often these stories outrun any peaceful piece of news. This is the achilles-heel of prevention, and exponentially more so since the advent of social-media, whose algorithms prefer stories, fake or true, that create viral attention: Stories that create anger will always knock out the stories of crime that never happened. Even cute-cats-stories outrun every story about a conflict which never happened because we all did the right things.


In all those discussions on how to prevent conflict better, we asked ourselves how to asses and to measure the risk of conflict with hard numbered indicators. I remember reading the book “The Responsibility To Protect” by Gareth Evans. Evans, one of the chief architects of a concept called R2P, which tragically failed, at one point mentions the many efforts of academia to come up with a measurable set of indicators. He stated that for many years there was inconclusive academic research on that. In his book he mentioned that only one hard statistical fact could be boiled down: That conflict is much more likely in a country where there was one -more recently- before.

For years, I accepted that. Barbara F. Walter’s book has profoundly changed this view. May be I did personally not notice, or may be it is more of a late-breaking recognition, but according to Walter political science has made tremendous progress and has developed a sophisticated set of predictors, or risk indicators, based on sound bodies of empirical data in at least three very large and internationally recognized data-sets. In order to keep this a relatively easy read, I won’t go into details. The book is very captivating and it is very comprehensible. I truly enjoy the way how hard science is transformed into popular language by Barbara F. Walter. There is no need to undergo a 101 course in political sciences, so instead of summarizing a detailed book, I recommend reading it yourself.


Walter’s book has drawn my attention to three factors that increase the potential for, and are the reasons for, civil wars. Academic research appears to have managed to put these three factors into a rock-hard framework of statistical measurability: (1) Transitions from one system of governance to another system of governance; (2) Factionalisation in societies; (3) The drastic effects of social media.


(1) Transitions from one system of governance to another system of governance

For me, one important contribution of Barbara F. Walter’s book sits with drawing attention to process, rather than a snapshot of a state of affairs in time. Any form of governance can be categorized, and put on a scale. A true representation of all common criteria for a democracy can put a State into a category of “best in class”. Another State can be a full representation of what we call an autocracy. That State would be on the opposite side of that scale. From the viewpoint of a true defender of democratic values, that would bring this State into the zone of “worst in class”. Of course, “the other side of the aisle” would disagree with that judgement, and there we are in a polarized discussion.

But the true focus of Barbara F. Walter is not on the snapshot where a State finds herself on such a scale. It is about the movement from one end to the other, in both directions, and it is about the speed of that process. A State can find herself on the path towards more autocratic forms of government, or on the path from autocratic governance towards democratic governance. Political science has established evidence for that the “middle zone” between one form of governance and another form of governance is the most dangerous and volatile area, and the faster the transitional process from democracy towards autocracy, or from autocracy to democracy, the more risk for wide-spread violence exists on a statistical level.

And this makes perfect sense. Here is my attempt to visualize it:

It means that the “door swings in both directions”: The risk of violence does not only exist in a situation where a country is slipping towards semi-autocratic or fully-autocratic forms of governance. The same risk exists in a situation where interested parties, supported by the international community for example, engage in promoting and establishing regime change towards democracy. Barbara F. Walter makes it clear that the risk for violence is highest when this process into either direction has placed the constituency in question into the middle zone, when transformational change is most unfinished, with the old being ripped down and the new not yet formed and rooted.

Secondly, science tells us that, again, the risk is quantifiably higher if the process of transformation is either too slow or too fast, for which there can be many reasons. From how I look at things from my own experience, it is scientific evidence for what happens when the international community pushes too fast, is compartmentalised in such efforts, displays not enough comprehensive depth in supporting transformational change, nor patience for a long-term coherent support approach based on vision and strategy. Which I often saw when international mandates and policy discussions were held unter terms such as “democratization”, or “state building”.


(2) Factionalisation in societies

The second aspect in Barbara F. Walter’s book is a comprehensive analysis of previous civil wars and the relation between constituencies moving into the “danger zone” of being an anocracy, and the existence of factions in these societies. Also here, the book is very comprehensive in giving a detailed account for a vast array of previous civil wars. In my reading this book, one aspect stood out: Any change of one system through which a state applies governance to citizens towards another set of governance rules inevitably leads to the demise of old elites and the struggle which is happening when new elites try to form, and old elites fight to participate in societal control, for their benefits. This is the second factor which makes the “danger zone” so volatile, and the book provides detailed analytical results to the question when, how, and why this leads to violence. I want to highlight one sentence:

“Remember, it’s not the desperately poor who start civil wars, but those who once had privilege and feel they are losing status they feel is rightfully theirs”.

Likewise I quote her account on a declassified CIA report from 2012: “Most insurgencies, the report notes, “pass through similar stages of development during their life cycle.” In the pre-insurgency phase, a group begins to identify a set of common grievances and build a collective identity around a gripping narrative—the story or myth that helps them rally supporters and justify their actions. They begin to recruit members, some of whom even travel abroad for training. They begin to stockpile arms and supplies.

I note that it is the last sentence which connects my current line of work with the larger picture.

Then Barbara F. Walter goes on to analyze the role of social media in contemporary conflicts:


(3) The drastic effects of social media

Social media acts like the proverbial gasoline poured on a fire. By now, many of us have begun to appreciate this very dark side of a technology which also has contributed so much to bringing us close together in a global world. The author’s account on how social media has been, and continues to be, systematically exploited by those who seek control, including by inciting violence, is nothing short of scathing criticism. Again, the book is unbiased by taking a very comprehensive view on situations of recent violence, and contemporary situations in countries all around the globe, within something which appears to be a rising global pattern of instability, emerging and brooding conflict. She refers to solid data that would allow to conclude that there is a clear connection between the exponential rise of volatile situations and war on one hand, and the the abuse of social media for that purpose on the other hand. It is here where the role of social media and its systematic and professional exploitation by reckless individuals and groups is pervasive. Whereas encouraging factionalism on religious, ethnic, racial, or any grounds has been the key defining modus operandi of individuals manipulating populations into fear and hate of the other, and the acceptance that “Dear Leader” may be the lesser evil, contemporary situations are characterised by a systematic manipulation of many, through some, using social media. The book demonstrates this in Myanmar, in countries in Europe including Eastern and Central Europe, and elsewhere, before even beginning to analyse what happened in the U.S. in recent years.

Our societies struggle with the question of how to apply accountability and regulative frameworks to this new phenomenon. Because, new it is: The effects of how social media can be used for manipulation, inciting hatred, and fueling violence, they may be just ten years old. But they are extremely transformative. And again, we see different approaches in relation to how to control social media in China or Russia, say compared to how open societies handle this challenge. But what we also see: Aspiring autocrats virtuously use social media to gain control. After that, these individuals will undertake everything to control the instrument they have used.

Because, they know better than anyone else how it can be used to their advantage, and against them.


This got long again. I leave it without conclusions, simply because there are so many. This is true for a paradigm change on how we consider engaging in conflict prevention in a world filled with old instruments of international order which require overhaul, or may be outdated if we don’t succeed in transforming them into effective tools. This is also true for how we accept our being affected by what we call “social media”. Personally, I feel this question may belong to the most important ones in our lifetime, in all aspects of our lives.