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War and spiritual (ethical) decisions

The other day, a good friend brought to my attention a thought-provoking passage from Georg Simmel's speech delivered in Strasbourg in November 1914, emphasising its enduring relevance in today's world.


‘Was sie an Wucht und vitaler Bedeutung besitzt, kann die Jugend nicht in seiner ganzen Tiefe empfinden; sie hat zu wenig Vergangenheit, von der sie präjudiziert würde, zu wenig schon erworbenen Lebensstoff, um mit den Bedingungen, unter denen er erworben ist, verwachsen zu sein; sie wird sich in einheitlicher Anpassung an die neue Basis entwickeln.

Für uns Ältere aber, die wir in der ganzen Epoche seit 1870 unser Leben geformt haben, liegt ein Abgrund von kaum abschätzbarer Breite zwischen ehemals und künftig, vor dem wir stehen wie vor der Entscheidung: noch einmal ein Leben auf neuen Voraussetzungen und in neuer Atmosphäre aufzubauen, oder, wenn die Kraft dazu nicht reicht, in Desorientiertheit und als unbrauchbares Überlebsel zugrunde zu gehen.‘

(Deutschlands innere Wandlung


Reflecting on Simmel's words, it becomes evident that the interplay between personal history and present circumstances holds significant weight, particularly for those who have lived through eras of profound change. The notion that younger people, who lack the life experience to form strong opinions and may not fully understand the significance and impact of certain things, are more adaptable to new challenges highlights the contrast faced by those who have lived through the previous century.


As we now navigate the uncertain waters of the 21st century, we are once more confronted with a choice to either embrace the challenge or risk becoming irrelevant and left behind.

The poignant nature of this passage struck me deeply. Although I tried to dismiss this thought, it kept coming back to me with even more intensity, leaving a lasting impression on me. Regardless of one's opinion of Simmel and his social theories, one fact remains: One has a choice. That choice should be made with careful consideration and good judgment; otherwise, if one fails to make a decision, someone else may end up making it for them.


This world may seem to be in constant motion, but in reality, it is more like a pendulum that swings from right to left. History, by definition, is the ultimate storyteller, often revisiting familiar themes and narratives, albeit with a cast of characters that changes and evolves with each new iteration.

It is essential that we learn from our past mistakes and use them as a guide for making prudent decisions. However, it is the responsibility of all generations, not just the new ones, to learn from the errors of their predecessors. We should all make an effort to avoid repeating them. Instead of blindly following trends or reacting impulsively, we need to be more conscious and thoughtful in our choices. Unfortunately, our society seems to be caught in a cycle of extreme swings, moving from one end of the spectrum to the other without finding a balance.

The ongoing crises are a clear example of such behaviour.

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