Call me paranoid

Call me silly. Call me crazy. Call me a pessimist. Call me suspicious. Call me paranoid if you wish. Still, I will be sharing my feelings: “I am scared”.

I am scared what is coming

After more than half a year living in Colombian capital Bogotá, D.C., I have come to the point when I could no longer postpone answering the persistent question: Am I coming back to Europe? Given the recent circumstances, the answer that one would expect is yes.

Yet, it sounds like a paradox: I found myself more comfort with the idea to staying in the country that is known for more than fifty years of the violence, insecurity, armed conflict and displacement, than with the prospect of living back in Europe, the dream of stable, secure and prosperous life for some. Well, the world has changed. In July 2014, considering my return in order to work and live in Europe again, I feel insecure. Somewhere deep inside, something is holding me back to make this apparently logical decision.

The answer grounded in my intuition is no. I want to stay in Colombia. I am scared of what is happening in Europe. The sneaky, invisible and irrational change of attitudes. The hidden fear of uncertainty of future. The arrogance of keeping calm that nothing serious will happen to us. Where exactly is written that the security and peace in Europe has been granted to its habitants forever? Unfortunately, the darkness inside each of us seems to be common to all human beings alike, indifferent to a country or region where one is living.

I am scared that the hatred and anger will overrule our hopes

It is like to switch on a machine. The global machine of hatred and aggression of any of its kind has been switched on: dissatisfaction and protests in hand with violent clashes on the streets have been raising internationally; the extremists and fundamentalist movements have been succeeding to address their audience and followers; neo-Nazi influence and presence has been increasingly reported; the word ‘terrorism’ has become the part of our daily talks and thoughts, and more importantly, part of the recent policy making; innocent people have become the intended targets in the wars of the 21st century.

The sample of “violent incidents” in the world over the last twelve months reaffirms that people being still killed and suffering in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Chad, Central African Republic, DRC, South Sudan, Somalia, Venezuela, Brazil, USA or Ukraine; with other protests that had out broken into new violent clashes in Greece, Italy, Russia, Germany, Sweden, France or Armenia. And the list is clearly incomplete.

This list has been constantly growing over decades. These last twelve months is just the current snapshot. How would the list of the last twenty years look like? How many people worldwide have grown up in a war or surrounded by injustice, hatred, violence and desire for freedom and recognition of their rights that had never happened? The other day I saw the title “Three wars old”, addressing the situation in Gaza. It made me think: if children are our future, what kind of future is coming when so many young people have been raised by disappear, uncertainty, permanent fear of loss and killings?

I am scared of a new devastating conflict

Following the news about Ukraine since the last year, my concerns have been simply growing: feeling sad when hearing about the severe protests in Ukraine in November 2013, sleeping bad after the deadly clashes in Kiev in February 2014, deeply worried when reading the news about the escalation of the internal conflict and the Crimea annexation, truly crying when Russian troops intervened in the eastern and south-west Ukraine in the spring, losing the hope when the international flight with innocent people was shot down by the Russia-backed separatists last week. What next?

Here we are: witnessing the Putin’s dream of the world superpower becoming true. Obviously, the evolution of Ukraine’s conflict demonstrates his power to start a conflict. What is missing is only the demonstration that exclusively he is able to end the conflict. How much time has to pass between the latter and the former? How many lives have to be lost? How many innocent people on the board of commercial planes have to be sacrificed in order to provoke the conflict and stimulate the war industry?

I am scared that I am not paranoid

“When you need to have a hundreds of protests just to tell the world that bombing children is not ok, that is when you know that humanity has failed.”
(Unknown about bombing in Gaza)

Honestly, I just want to be a silly, crazy, pessimistic, suspicious and paranoid freak. This is my deep wish. What about if my wish doesn’t become to be true? More people may share my concerns; their number may increase over the upcoming months. So what? More people will be scared? Will our fear change anything? It will definitely not. We need urgently to look for the new hope, solidarity, understanding, respect and tolerance, trust each other again, to look for the humanity, forgiveness and love. Anywhere. For me, it is inacceptable that the humanity has failed.

The favourable climate of uncertainty

Whose fault is that?

In the time of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament in May, the support of the far-right parties has been intensifying across Europe: in The Netherlands, France, Hungary or Switzerland among others. The campaign of the political party “Úsvit přímé demokracie” in the Czech Republic follows the similar direction while being inspired by the anti-migration campaign from Switzerland. What does this growing support of far-right in Europe mean? Is it warning signal?

I am not one of those people who believe that the current socio-economic situation in Europe is causing growing xenophobia and extremism in hand with the achievements of far-right parties across the continent. I rather believe that the belt-tightening of the states as well as the scarcities in households’ budgeting are only exacerbated the situation that has been here for the long time as a part of the “European dream” of integration, multiculturalism, cooperation, equality of opportunities and vision of prosperity for all. Fear of diversities, differences or otherness, fear of losing the comfort of a certain living standard, or in the worst the intolerance among people, they are simply features of human history.

In the climate of uncertainty and insecurity of current living standard, people often look for someone to blame for their troubles. “Why this is happening to me? Whose fault is that? What to do with this or them?” Fear, loss of seemingly unshakeable stability and security, even hysteria. In the “favourable” circumstances, the search for blaming one for worsening the other one’s life may turn to a witch hunting. Fear turns to hate. The alleged suspect becomes the enemy.

From the economic crisis to the social one

In the words of Professor Joseph Stiglitz, the winner of the Nobel prize in Economics, the majority of U.S. citizens still did not record the end of the economic crisis of the years 2008 – 2010. As he stated in his speech at The International Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia, at the beginning of April 2014, only one percent of U.S. citizens yet have felt the new economic growth of the country. This is an illustrative example demonstrating the alarming consequences of a crisis: indebtedness, increasing inequalities, disappearing middle class and social changes. It sounds like the analogy to present and future Europe, in particular.

The European countries, especially those enjoying the long-term prosperity, social welfare and security, convenience and economic growth, are now facing challenges and concerns with which they have stopped counting. These challenges have surprised them unprepared. Furthermore, it is not only about the economic crisis anymore. It is about its impacts on the society as such. In an everyday life the economic problems are simply mixed with the personal, family and social ones.

One could feel that the air in Europe is hardening, it is getting more difficult to breath there. People in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Ukraine are showing their discontent, fear and anxiety, impatience and intolerance – in elections, in public life, in discussions, in social networks, in medias, on the streets. What will be awaiting us then when the following symptoms get synchronized and inflamed more intensely at the same place and at the same time?

  • xenophobia, extremism and racism;
  • islamophobia and anti-semitism;
  • influence of far-right parties and movements sharing their extremist ideas in election programs;
  • anti-immigration and anti-terrorism laws changing our perception of freedoms;
  • major budget cuts in the public finance, indebtedness;
  • rising unemployment and social insecurity;
  • widening social scissors, inequality and disappearance of the middle classes;
  • violent disturbances and demonstrations on the streets;
  • general dissatisfaction, anger, frustration and stress in hand with work overloads and pressure to be even more efficient, faster, to make more money, to get more power;
  • weakened defence and security mechanisms in order to protect;
  • inability of the international community to effectively respond to the growing threats;
  • tensions and the threat of the armed conflict in Ukraine;
  • existing violations and “proxy” wars in Central Africa or the Middle East.

Warning signals

In the number of the European countries most people do not remember wars, systemic violence and repressions, the uncertainty of future anymore. Yet, the Crimean crisis reminds us once again how fragile our lives are in the brace of the superficially safe, stable and strong Europe. In my view, we are not going to the past, to the times of the Cold War or the beginnings of World War II. However, the current situation of living in peace may be compromised similarly to the past.

Putin’s dictatorial and self-serving behaviour sounds as a threat. And the whole world is turning to prevent a possible conflict between the East and the West. Flashback? The world, however, has changed since the Cold War. We may pay a way too much attention to parables with the past while ignoring the warning signals of the future events. The violence is happening on the streets where the anger, hatred and fear of ordinary people is misused and turned to a weapon. Then a single spark may outgrow to a flame, anywhere and anytime.

Crimean crisis has uncovered the fragility of the current world system and unpredictable performance of Russia in the international relations, but it also strengthens our fear of the future. It is restoring the old injustices and harms that never entirely disappeared and it is doing it with the new intensity. Can we recognize the warning signals and pay them enough attention? Are we able to act upon them in advance, to prevent a fire? Or do we rather quench the fire in its full strength when its flames threaten our lives and property? Or do we just mourn at burnt place?