The greater part of Europe has for long enjoyed the status of very high levels of prosperity and even higher levels of prestige. It has been the desired land not only for those persons of the majority world who seek to improve their economic prospects but even for prominent members of their business and political elite who have been willing to spend a fortune to acquire real estate and other favors in Europe. Many reputed intellectuals of the majority world have been very keen to seek their ultimate recognition in Europe, testifying to the enduring hold of neo-colonialism. Even several victims of human rights violations in the majority world seek much-needed relief here, a fact which suits Europe as its helps to cover Europe’s own terrible role in recent times in violations of human rights in many countries (Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, to mention only a few) as well in lubricating its finances from tax havens and other corruptions and injustices of the world’s finance and trade systems.
Europe has not made a very conscious and conscience based effort to make a break with its highly unjust past. This is evident from the fact that even the last days of colonial rule were frequently marked by very high levels of aggression and injustice on the part of colonial powers ( instead of the expected reconciliation and grace at the time of leaving), testifying that there had been no real change of heart. In India the last decade of the British Empire witnessed avoidable deaths of millions in man-made famines and other injustices, as well as imprisonment and other atrocities inflicted on several hundred thousand freedom fighters. At a time when tens of thousands of Indian soldiers were sacrificing their life for the British and allied forces in distant parts of the world, the colonial rulers had imprisoned their most beloved leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and were using their absence as an opportunity to strengthen divisive leaders collaborating with them who would later be in the forefront of instigating communal violence paving the way for highly violent partition of the country, causing several hundred thousand deaths and many more times the numbers getting displaced. Colonialism’s departure from several parts of Africa was sought to be delayed as much as possible, as was the French departure from Indo-China, leading to immense distress for people.
These examples of a later phase of colonialism, as well as Europe’s continuing tendency to try to extract as much as possible in trade and other deals with the majority world, reveal that there was no real attempt at regretting and moving away from a past in which the relatively small region of some countries of Europe became the main perpetrator of some of the worst cruelty and exploitation seen in world history, all in the name of spreading civilization of course.
Of course the present generation is not to be blamed for what was done by a significant section of previous generations (even at the worst of colonial times, there were some people in Europe speaking for justice and peace), but there should be a widespread recognition that what happened in colonial times was very wrong and unjust, and should never happen again. There should be strong efforts to spread such a social conscience. This has not happened, and as some visiting European friends told this writer, instead there is an effort to keep the worst of colonial cruelty and injustice away from students and others. This is also reflected in a prominent leader of Europe recently saying that Europe alone has created gardens while others have only created jungles. Hasn’t he read basic history? Of course he has, but his statement reflects the prevailing tendency of only selecting that part of history which is comforting.
Temporarily comforting this can be, but this tendency of selective memories will not help to create a better and peaceful future. The quest for a future of sustained peace with justice should be based on a recognition of serious past mistakes, with focus on how aggressive-destructive tendencies have ultimately proved self-destructive for Europe, reflecting a wider reality that may take time to unfold but unfolds it does.
Many countries of Europe particularly Germany have a wide commitment which says—Nazism and fascism, never again. However in recent years in Ukraine the USA and some European allies were looking for those local forces which could be most aggressively hostile to Russia. When it was found that it is the Nazi and Nazi like forces in Ukraine who were the most suited to fit this role, it was decided to go ahead and arm and support these forces to play their role of hostility against Russia and Russian language speaking citizens of Ukraine.
This is what is likely to happen when there is no conscious and strong effort to learn from history to acquire a strong principle-based commitment to justice based peace. The lessons of history which point towards a very strong commitment to justice based peace are very much there, but these will be ignored by anyone looking only for opportunistic temporary gains and efforts.
All this is important to remember, as Europe, including its bigger, richer and more powerful countries, are now entering a phase in which the biggest colonizers of yesteryear are likely to get increasingly colonized, although in a different context of course. The very fact that even those regarded as pillars of establishment in Europe have been speaking in terms of vassals and vassalisation trends (while critics go a step further to speak of serfdom or worse) would indicate that the concerns are real.
The USA emerged as a source of post-war recovery and security for several countries of Europe and there is reason to be genuinely grateful for this. But is the price for this to be extracted even at this late stage, and will it be so high as to undo or even overwhelm the genuine support of earlier times?
The concerns would not be so high if the agenda of the USA itself was not so irrationality divorced from the path of peace. Unfortunately highly aggressive policy makers and controllers in the USA have embarked on an agenda of dominance which is likely to involve extreme hostility towards Russia and China, both of whom are strong military and economic powers, also nuclear weapon powers, as well as irrational hostility towards several other countries ranging from Iran to Venezuela. All evidence indicates that a policy of pursuing enlightened leadership using the path of peace and diplomacy would be better for the USA and for the rest of the world, but US policy makers and ruling classes appear to have shut their eyes to all this evidence in recent times.
What is most important for Europe is that using the NATO and whatever else it takes, the USA is now set on enforcing on Europe the role of a junior obedient partner or perhaps a vassal in this larger enterprise. This would imply that for the next several years, willingly or unwillingly, Europe would have to follow a USA led path on a very destructive course. At an early stage, several western strategic experts and diplomats have pointed out the very serious risks of the USA’s Ukraine proxy war escalating into a wider war and a nuclear war, while others have pointed out the heavy economic costs for Europe. But there is much more to come if this destructive path continues to be followed.
Hence this is a time for all sincere people, organizations and forces of peace with justice in Europe to assert themselves with the utmost urgency for a very different path of justice and equality, peace, protection of environment and other forms of life ( in brief these five precepts being called the JEPP path). It should be emphasized that checking climate change and ensuring environment protection is also most possible on a path of peace with justice. With growing unity, these forces should strive to change the future path of Europe. In addition they can forge a larger unity with similar forces in the USA to take there the anguished cry of ‘no more of this destruction’ so that the chances of a change in the USA also increase.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders, A Day in 2071 and Man over Machine.