# 322: War and Action


Emcke, Carolin (2016). Von den Kriegen: Briefe an Freunde, 188.

Story behind the Passage

Well, the story behind the passage is more than obvious today. It is happening seven flight hours away from Germany. There, Afghanis are being killed by the Taliban. They are stopped from escaping. Women are beaten and kicked in the streets. Children are screaming. Guns are firing. Soldiers are shooting randomly to control the crowd. In short:

This is war.

There is no need to go into more details now. With every hour we wasted to take action, we put the lives of the people more in danger. Many of these lives will probably be lost. This is not some pessimism — this is evident. Many lives have already been lost — but we do not even know about it because we lost contact with them hours and partly days ago. The only small hope is to still get some people out of there somehow. Nobody knows how this will happen but one can still hope. That is the only thing that keeps people alive — hope. And yes, there are debates about who is to blame and who needs to step down from their offices. Well, o.k., fine. This might be inevitable in some cases but it is not going to change anything right now, right here.

Is it just my misdirected feeling that we used to have responsible politicians in the past who resigned from office because of comparatively less severe failures?

Even though any writing about this might sound like a smart-ass text but I still have to say it: Even in such a dramatic situation, we are still seeing nations who do better than we do. There are countries who actually manage to rescue the people; some of them are our immediate European neighbors. There are armees that are able to control the embassies and checkpoints. What I am saying is: ACTION, this ability to quickly HELP, seems to have become such a strange concept in this country (Germany) that in every possible area of life, people shy away from it. They talk, they vote, they write (yes, I am aware that writing is also sub-optimal for saving lives), and then — nothing! To make this clear: When I say “action,” it, of course, means that people need to make decisions faster. There is no action without a prior decision. But there also needs to be the ability to quickly implement a decision. Both do not only require skills and plans.

They require courage.

“Ass in the pants,” as Germans tend to call it (“having balls”).

Instead, we are messing with incredibly many assholes

who are great at putting their dumbheads into TV cameras.

This is the real problem behind wars.

And you know what, this is actually why this crisis has a positive side to it too — like every crisis. It probably needed this disaster to show that we have really hit rock bottom now. No, Covid was not enough yet. Gregor Gysi, a German politician, in an interview just mentioned that the entire government needs to step down. Well, I am not sure this would help anybody. The only thing it would actually achieve is signal responsibility — at least something to start with. But the radical cut Gysi suggests still makes sense apart from the government. It signifies a radical shift in the cultural mindset of a country that has lost touch with the ability to take action — this almost intuitive impulse which people have when they recognize — NOW OR NEVER.

My Learnings

“Nach den Angriffen des 11. September versuchten alle, die Vergangenheit der Terroristen zurückzuverfolgen / “After the September 11 attacks, evryone tried to trace back the origin of the terrorists.“ Actually, this was not my first reaction when I saw the images of the towers falling down. Maybe I shared this before, I do not know. But this was the year when I had just returned from a high school year in the U.S. Just a few months before the events, I had been celebrating the U.S. life style and dreamed of returning soon, this time to the East Coast, maybe even NYC. Now, I was sitting in front of a television set in a living room in Germany, almost 4,000 miles away, and was seeing something which nobody could make any sense of in the minute when it happened. But my first impulse was not the question of “who exactly did this and where do they come from? No matter how much I usually like asking questions, my first response was, and I remember this just like it was yesterday:

“This means war!”

Well, two decades later, we are watching what happens if a military engagement turns into an endless disaster without this being called a “war.” I have no military answer or judgement because I have no expertise in the field. The only thing I am suspecting is that, at least on the German side, a series of fatal decisions led to some form of inaction which caused many people to get killed now on all fronts. Of course, the action of not acting is also action in a way. But I do no want to get into philosophical bullshit. The point simply is that, fast forward, even NOW, even this week, we have been hearing more reports about how Germany decided to WAIT instead of ACTING. This was the case with the evacuation of the embassy, it was probably the case with sending the first planes in the air, it is probably the case with the helicopters now.

Dammit — is it so difficult to infer that one can use helicopters to rescue people from houses if the streets are filled with terrorists?

Yes, I know it is dangerous to fly helicopters if the bearded guys shoot at you.

But life and saving lives is about giving it a try, right?

Just having people sit in their houses while criminals keep knocking on their doors,

is not going to save anyone, right?

All my writing is not helping, I know. But there are people who know so much about this country and nobody listened to them in the past. That would have been crucial. They could have told people how to rescue people and where. Even hours make a difference. Now it is too late. You can only watch. What a shame this is to know that we, more or less, all watched in the past years without really caring. I include myself. I was just as passive as most people were. As long as you are not there, you always have this: “Things will turn out fine, one should not be too pessimistic” attitude. And that is driven by the internal knowledge — “if things do not turn out well, you will still be alive.”

Guess what,

Others will not be alive anymore.

I do not know where it comes from but I am thankful to God that I have this hyper-activism in me and this boiling impatience. Yes, during 80% of my life time, I hate both of these characteristics. But in moments like this one, I am thankful for it. I simply HATE and get MAD at people who sit there and DO NOTHING, even though they could at least TRY. In the train when someone harasses a woman, YOU can tell them to stop. If someone throws trash in the street, YOU can tell them to pick it up. If someone needs shelter, YOU can give it to him/her. YOU can always do SOMETHING. It might not lead anywhere, but at least, you have tried. This might be a selfish reason, after all. Maybe it is just satfisfying your personal need to feel better. But if it leads to a result and maybe even saves lives, I approve of it.

Everything I am writing here applies to all people and all nations. But I do think that Germany, when it comes to any kind of military conflict, has a special responsibility. We cannot leave behind our past. And we HAVE TO learn from it. Everyone of us. And for me, this finding is a key point which I am — no matter how sad the situation — grateful for. In a situation like this one, you see what matters in life and in politics. All of a sudden, the priorities are very clear. That also means that your lessons are very clear and the ACTION that follows from it.

Reflection Questions

1) Did you ever listen to war stories by relatives — what did they teach you? If you yourself experienced war — how did it change you?

2) Can you remember how exactly you learned about the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001?

3) Did you ever feel ashamed because you did not take action on a particular matter even though you could have tried?