World War II broke out on 1 September 1939 with the Nazi occupation of Poland. Some sixty million people lost their lives in the bloodiest war in the history of the world. The United Nations (UN) declared 1 September to be World Peace Day so that the great pain suffered in the war that ended in May 1945 would not be forgotten.
Even if the UN subsequently resolved for today’s commemorations to be moved to 21 September, we continue to observe World Peace Day on 1 September. However, be it 1 September or be it 21 September, what both days distressingly have in common is that World Peace Day is being commemorated in a world and region that yearns for peace and tranquillity.
After each big war, humanity says, “Never again!” but unfortunately wars still continue. Moreover, war is being waged against nature, the source of human life and enabler of existence. By clumsily destroying nature, the conditions for our own destruction are being created. The famous thinker Noam Chomsky said humanity being the most intelligent species does not mean that it will be the species to live the longest. The expending of humanity’s exceptionally creative intelligence on nuclear weapons capable of destroying the world several times over and the destruction of nature as if it were boundless and as though it were infinite, adds poignancy to Chomsky’s warning.
The money devoted globally to arms in 2017 was 1.74 trillion dollars. Add unrecorded military expenditure and this amount increases even further. The total amount spent on arms by the five closest rivals to the USA, which spends 610 billion dollars on armaments and is the clear leader in the arms race, amounts to 578 billion dollars.
If these amounts had been channelled into poor countries’ education or health systems, the anger and sense of injustice there would have been prevented from feeding violence and terrorism. This would also have limited global waves of migration and contributed towards people living in well-being in the countries of their birth. It is not enough to devote a special day to peace. The UN must also increase its problem-resolution capacity. The arbitrary infringement of international law in recent years especially by global powers and the constant push for exceptions has imposed a heavy price on the whole world, and continues to do so.
The Syria crisis has shown the high cost of the further weakening of the international legal system’s problem-resolution capacity. The Syria crisis on its own has sufficed to embroil the whole world in instability. In fact, the global and regional powers that turned Syria into the theatre for proxy wars for their own interests have also transported unrest into their own homes.
In today’s world we do not have the privilege of saying, “The fire is distant from me.” The flames of that fire will find you, too, with astonishing speed.
There is a truth that the Syria crisis has once more taught us: there can be no peace in a place where there is no justice.
Another truth that we must grasp is that exaggerating security always returns in the form of a security problem. For instance, is it more correct to view migrants as potential criminals, or see them as people with high hopes and energy who will turn into skilled workers with a good education? The latter viewpoint is the shortest and least expensive path to social peace.
What if we took a closer look at Turkey. This has much to do with attaining peace in the true sense in Turkey and ridding our legal system of 12 September coup law. Moreover, over the past sixteen years, never mind riddance from 12 September coup law, on the contrary, coup law has been fortified. While the state should have been democratized, the state has assumed an authoritarian, oppressive structure.
Especially following the 20 July civilian coup, even uttering the word “peace” in Turkey is virtually deemed indicative of your being guilty. The most typical example of this was the expulsion from universities of the academics who called for peace. Violence is deemed to befit the Saturday Mothers. This approach drags the state into the realm of organized crime organizations. We cannot attain our social peace in an environment in which this approach carries on. On the contrary, expectations of attaining our social peace vanish. This, unfortunately, is the truth we experience today in Turkey. A Turkey in which journalists, parliamentarians, civil society leaders, lawyers and students are held in prison is not a democratic Turkey. Those who turn Turkey into a semi-open prison cannot solve problems but create problems.
But none of this should consign us and this country’s intellectuals to pessimism and hopelessness. The truth must not be forgotten that countries in which intellectuals do not boldly fulfil their responsibilities to criticize become corrupt and rot. Criticism is as vital for the political institution as air and as water.
Social Democrats all over the world believe that the welfare state will create productive and happy people and these people will also stand up for peace. Investing in people for a human life.
The path to constructing peace leads through opposition to the policies of intolerance and polarization that are gripping the whole world like a virus.
It is worth struggling for a world in which differences are perceived as a source of richness and not a threat. We know that we are not alone in this struggle.