Ever since the visit to the exhibition “Care, Repair, Heal” at the Martin Gropiusbau in Berlin the image of flying protheses rest with me. Repairing the human body is feasible in many fantastic ways. The inner wounds, however, are less visible and sometimes hurting even more. In recognition of the thousands of victims again in the Russian war on Ukraine’s territory and the atrocities causes by mines to injure humans, we have to assist in caring, repairing and healing. This has not changed since the Great War or the Nazi-induced mass murder and mutilations. Humanity is unable to ban such landmines despite international conventions trying to achieve this. The strong image produced by the protheses as clouds in the sky (Kadar Attia) remind us of the lasting effects of war. Images we had associated with the mutilated soldiers and civilians of the 2nd world war, many still around us in the 60s or 70s, are coming back to Europe. Writing about the 20th century, Aurélien Bellanger described in words a similar traumatising vision of flying protheses in his story of the lonely poet and philosopher. We cannot repair history, but we can work towards reducing useless additional suffering. It is part of the absurdities of our world that technology has created masterpieces to assist us and reduce suffering, but at the same time technology is applied to create the worst suffering as well. Rather than thinking of this relationship as 2 sides of the same coin, I prefer to hope for dialectic evolution towards a better synthesis solution using enforceable international law. Yes, I still have a dream …
Thucydides on War
Thucydides (born around -460) has received a lot of fame for his “thick description” of the Peloponnesian War. He deserves continued praise even for inspiring statisticians. The account of events without emotions, but with lots of details, is often perceived as the beginning of historiography and history as science as well as empirical political science. The entry of “Thucydides” in the Encyclopedia of Social Measurement (2005, p.805) by P.A. Furia and A. Kohen cites the derivation of a causal or explanatory effect based on his historical account as a foundation of scientific approaches based on empirical data. “The growth of the power of Athens, and the alarm which this inspired in Lacedaemon (i.e. Sparta), made war inevitable” (Thucydides, I 23). The empirical assessment of the growth of power is subject to controversial accounts. Power may derive from population, wealth, industry, weapons, munition or general military capabilities or skills. The assessment would also need to consider relative rather than absolute strength of just a one-sided approach. Here we are in the middle of the Russian war on Ukraine from 24.2.2022 onwards. Statisticians discuss, whether it is just a single variable that has the overall explanatory power for the beginning of the war and what other intervening variables might be important to take into account to avoid a selection bias. Beyond this materialist explanation we might stress the importance of the sociological concept of “collective fear” (links to approximation through trust, xenophobia) of the strength of Athens as the underlying causation of the beginning of war. The ideation of perceived strength gives rise to the construction of many intervening processes (Coleman’s macro-micro-macro linkages), which make a simple causal attribution just to material strength an illusion or risky shortcut explanation. The Thucydidean Method (p.806) exemplifies much of the dilemma and spice of social science analyses. Scholars of diplomacy challenge the empiricist perspective in arguing that the breakdown of diplomatic discourse several decades before was at the beginning of the causal chain. Here again we can make links to the preparation of war by Russia through strategic diplomacy as well as the risks taken through a break-up of diplomatic channels of communication. The perceived strength of the opponent in war might play a decisive role at the beginning and at the end of war. The charisma of leaders, democratic decision-making and political alliances with neighbouring states, Sicily at the time of the Peloponnesian War, were further intervening processes. This is perhaps not all too different from today, if we consider the role of Belarus in the aggression of Russia against the Ukraine. In fact, Thucydides seemed to be convinced that under similar circumstances human behaviour would reproduce itself. Therefore, thick description of historical facts might still inform political leaders today and tomorrow.
(Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, XV pp. 752,
Der neue Pauly, Enzyklopädie der Antike 12, pp.505 image below).
The opening of the exhibition on war crimes committed by Russian soldiers took place in front of the European Parliament today. The images frighten us as they reveal human atrocities. Destruction on a large scale with so many lifes lost will take a long time to overcome the grief. The images of the commemoration and the minute of silence show the solidarity of the whole of Europe with the Ukrainian people. The European Parliament has the patronage of the exhibition which is curated by Justyna Napiórkowskiej. Commissioner Reynders expressed the commitment of the EU to support the Ukraine 🇺🇦 in their capacity to fight back and the rebuilding of the country. Stand with Ukraine.