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? Bright future, my ass. That’s what we’ve been asked more often in recent days.
I don’t want to presume to have the whole picture. No one does. But 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 image of – literally – historic unity between Russians and Ukrainians. A unity he perceives as disrupted and destroyed. The vast majority of Ukrainians have a different understanding of their identity.
Conflicts between people, and thus also between states, arise from injured self-esteem. Through the 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 and assert myself.
I know this from the wars in my native country. It is always the self-esteem of a nation or ethnic group that was hurt in earlier times that serves as a reason and justification for taking up arms. And, of course, it is always self-defense, even if this justification is usually more than adventurous when looking at the real conditions. 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 of the last days and weeks is that in this conflict again the future plays a far too small role and history a far too big one. If we always look at 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. Of course, history is very helpful in understanding. History even helps us methodically to think the 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, which one must pay oneself and which others must 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 nourished by the exploitation of finite raw materials, especially oil and gas. Innovations, new markets, more quality of life for all are not in Russia’s picture of the future.
Russia-Ukraine: An important element in resolving this conflict is therefore for Russia and the Russian people to have a positive image of its future. An image for which its neighbors do not have to suffer. One that is supported by respectful and peaceful cooperation. In the early 1990s, it seemed that the first blossoms of such an image of the future were emerging in Russia. Let us recall Putin’s speech in the Bundestag. These blossoms have since withered completely. I don’t know how Russia is supposed to achieve a good image of the future. There is no patent remedy for this. I only know that it would be an enormously important contribution to a good future for Russians, Ukrainians and humanity. The actors on the world political stage must do everything to achieve this.
I find it remarkable how this situation has strengthened cohesion in Europe and to some extent also in the global community. From this, the first fragments of a new common image 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 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!