The danger to hikers lost in dense fog, can be dramatically reduced at one stroke. They have no idea which way to go. But if they chance to come upon a local mountaineer who knows for sure which way not to go, their risk is cut by 50%.
The Syrian crisis befogs even experts by its complexity; no one really knows which way to go — and the honest ones even admit this. But Common Sense tells an amazing number of common people quite clearly which way not to go. Common Sense tells us that violent action — in whatever form — is no way to stop violence. More and more people are beginning to realize that violence plus violence is more violence. Dare we hope that the human species — merely in its adolescence by evolutionary standards — is, at long last, starting to grow up?

Have we painfully learned something that
can only be learned painfully?

Today’s Europeans and Americans of European descent stem from survivors of the Thirty Years War that killed one third of all men, women, and children in central Europe – and this, less than four centuries ago. That war, too, was a “religious” war — a term which we now recognize as an oxymoron comparable to “clearly confused,” or “military intelligence.” (Our ancestors would have been burnt at the stake by Catholics and Protestants alike for saying this.) Have we painfully learned something that can only be learned painfully?

Slowly we might also be learning that fear brings about what it most fears. Out of fear, those who framed the structures of the United Nations added the Security Council – just to be really secure. But again and again, tension within the Security Council prevented the UN to take necessary security measures. It may be too soon to hope that the men in the Security Council (no women there!) are catching on. But people of all nations are beginning to learn the truth of FDR’s famous statement: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

If the current crisis in Syria becomes the opportunity for us to wake up to these two facts — violent interference with violence only increases violence and fear brings about what it fears — we can be grateful at least for this: to have gained insights we’ll need to survive.

–September, 2013

Br. David Steindl-Rast