Community Update - A Systemic Approach to War

March 4, 2022

Community Update - A Systemic Approach to War

By Laura Sullivan

Last Monday there was a run on iodine pills in pharmacies in Belgium. I woke up on Tuesday to hear that this was going on all across Europe. [1] Iodine pills protect against thyroid cancer in the event of a nuclear emergency. If ever there was a sign that war is on peoples’ minds, it was this.

The last time I heard about the threat of nuclear war, I was a small girl eavesdropping on hushed conversations among adults. And whilst I am a sucker for nostalgia, this one has a bitter taste. Why are we here again? Why does Putin get to destroy so many people's lives and timewarp us back to the fear of the Cold War 80s?

But there is no place for bitterness or fear right now. The invasion of Ukraine should only deepen our resolve to turn the fear into courage and to fight back. There are ways we can do that right now and in the longer term.

Putin’s shells and tanks are firing on kids just to the east of us. In the coming months, up to 5 million people will be forced to move. [2] Last week we got started by acting on an opportunity to help them get fast access to visas in the EU through what is called the Temporary Protection Directive. [3] Within a day, 70,000 of us had responded. Partner organisations backed us up. By 5pm the next day, EU countries agreed to invoke the directive. This directive has never been actually invoked before and is being described as revolutionary.

But it’s not all good news. It doesn’t apply to all humans fleeing the war in Ukraine – the EU has excluded temporary workers, foreign students and people who were seeking asylum or without permanent status in Ukraine. And whilst the offered protection has been granted on paper, it still needs to get applied in practice. So that is our next move. Watch this space!

We also need to consider the long term and the root causes of this crisis. The fact that crises keep coming at us – from financial to health pandemic to war – means we have to dig deeper and go beyond responding to symptoms. What is at the root of this crisis?

Over the last decade, Putin has amassed a huge army from the billions we are paying him for gas and oil. That same gas and oil we are still sucking up is creating emissions that are quickly destroying our planet. Meanwhile, our dependency on Russian fossil fuels ties our hands at the negotiating table and causes some leaders to weaken sanctions for fear of Putin turning off the taps and leaving us cold. It is all connected.

At the root of all of this is an economic logic that is based on profit-making without consideration for the wellbeing of people and the planet. That logic has dominated pretty much every political decision taken in Europe since it took hold in the 1980s.

At the root is also a patriarchal form of leadership and a form of democracy that does little to really listen to people and that concentrates power in the hands of a few.

At the root is also racism that prioritises the rights of white people over others. Europe should be called on double standards around solidarity for Ukrainians that is not extended to other humans. All of them, regardless of the colour of their passport or skin or their migration status face the same tyranny – whether it's tanks or floods or an arid field. In our hearts, we know this, and we are better than this.

If we want to stop the constant crises, we have to address them at their roots, taking sustained action on that basis. That is why WeMove Europe exists.

There is a real chance right now to turn the whole thing around in Europe. For every shock doctrine, there is a chance for a reverse shock doctrine. We will be using the momentum now to extend the new blast of solidarity to all people. What if we didn't just welcome Ukrainian asylum seekers but all asylum seekers? What if we got organised to help all those escaping war, as well as climate change and poverty? What if we recognised that we too may be fleeing climate change before too long? All of this is within our power.

Beyond this, what if we stopped being dependent on Russia and other despotic regimes for our energy? What if we stopped being dependent on fossil fuels full stop? What if we listened to the voices of science that tell us we have no choice but to get over gas and oil? But also that there are alternatives. [4]

What if we acknowledged that the root causes of the crises are all the same – but that they were man-made and can be unmade? What if we just put people and the planet first?

I want to live in a Europe where the 11-year-old living under my roof doesn’t need to worry about tanks or iodine pills or climate change. Let’s focus on getting there.

References: [1] [2] [3] [4]

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