Dr. Pero Mićić
How does someone like me and my team, who are working intensively on the future and on strategies for the future, deal with the Russia-Ukraine war? How can there still be a good future? That’s what we’ve been asked frequently in recent days.
I don’t want to pretend to have the whole picture. Nobody does. Not even the intelligence agencies. Nevertheless, we can learn a few things for dealing with the future.
Video: Russia-Ukraine – Too much history – too little future
French President Macron has reported that Putin lectured him for hours about his understanding of the – quote – historic unity between Russians and Ukrainians. End quote. A unity he perceives as disrupted and destroyed. The vast majority of Ukrainians have a different understanding of their history and identity.
Conflicts between people, and therefore also between states, arise from injured self-esteem. Through perceived devaluation of one by the other. Whether in a private relationship or on the big political world stage. Someone has hurt my self-esteem in the past, and so now I have to fight back.
I know this from the wars in my native land. It is always the self-esteem of a nation or ethnic group that was hurt in the past that serves as the rationale and justification for taking up arms. And, of course, it is always self-defense, even if this justification is usually more than implausible when looking at reality. Of course, it is not the citizens who collectively decide to go into conflict. It is always only a few who seek more power, fame and wealth.
One of my learnings from the events in recent days and weeks is that, once again, in this conflict, the future plays far too small a role and history’s role and significance is by far too large. If we always look to the honor violated in earlier times, the chain of conflicts and wars will not break. I repeat myself: this is true in private relationships, in the family, in business and in world politics. Because it is always about people with their often distorted memories. From which the irrational emotions arise.
It is said that you can only understand the present if you know the history. I agree with that to a large extent. In understanding, of course, history helps a lot. History even helps us methodically to think future. Historical analogies are a great help if you want to imagine how people will behave in the future. Jorge Santayana wrote “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.” I can only partially agree with this. Often the opposite is true. For those who know history and use it as the main justification for their actions in the present and for the future are precisely condemned to repeat history. In such cases, it should be said, “condemned to repeat history is precisely the person who knows history too well, that is, who allows it to influence his behavior too much.”
Those who do not have a positive and peaceful image of their better future are doomed to recreate a perceived better past. At any price that one has to pay oneself and that others have to pay. A past that others remember quite differently. Which will almost certainly lead to conflict or even war. Russia, like too many other states, has no positive picture of its future. Good future for Russia is only the restoration of the past. Even before the war, Russia had a very small economy and a broadly poor population. Which is essentially living on the exploitation of finite raw materials, especially oil and gas. Innovations, new markets, more quality of life for all is not in Russia’s picture of the future.
Russia-Ukraine: An important element of the solution for this conflict is therefore that Russia and the Russian population have a positive image of its future. An image for which the neighbors do not have to suffer. One that is supported by respectful and peaceful cooperation. Some twenty years ago it seemed that the first blossoms of such an image of the future were emerging in Russia. Remember Putin’s speech in the Bundestag. These blossoms have since withered completely. There is no easy solution to achieve a good image of the future. I only know that it would be an enormously important contribution to a good future for Russians, Ukrainians and humankind. The actors on the political world stage must do everything they can to make this happen.
I think it is remarkable how this situation has strengthened cohesion in Europe and to some extent in the global community. From this, the first fragments of a new common vision of the future are also emerging on this side of the conflict. That is encouraging. But the global community will remain divided as long as the people in the world’s largest territorial country do not have a positive image of the future.
What can you do? In your life and business, leave the past behind. Likewise, if you are active in politics. Learn from history, soberly and rationally, but don’t let the past determine your future, don’t let it colonize it. Paint an attractive, cooperative and achievable picture of the future you want to create and focus your time, thoughts and resources on it.
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Have a bright future!