If I look away… it will disappear

If I look away long enough, the thing I do not want to see will go away and disappear. Like the belief that you can see elves and spirits out of the corners of your eyes. (Common lore). Or that if you want to master the art of flying you must throw yourself resolutely forward and just before you hit the ground manage to miss it. (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

I looked away for a few months and hoped the war fought in Ukraine would disappear. Or that at least by now, 6 months later, we would enter the phase of peace talks, negotiations, the end of the destruction of lives, of livelihoods, of countryside, infrastructure, factories, power lines, etc…

I was wrong. It did not disappear, on the contrary it keeps on escalating and we are getting used to the loss of lives and the destruction on a daily basis. There are too many people benefitting from it right now and others who think they will continue to benefit or start benefitting in the future from this destruction and the change of power balance.

Life has become so “interesting”, men and women can play with weapons of destruction again, openly, freely, and we do so we are seen as patriotic, as freedom fighters, defending the values of Europe, the free West, the civilised world.

I have got news for you: this is not very civilised at all. What is civilised about fuelling a war when you could stop it, even if others fight it with their bodies and lives? What is civilised in pushing governments to send more and stronger weapons to a country that cannot win this war without all the supporting countries (sending weapons and money) becoming more and more involved in it and thus risking further escalation? What is civilised in continuing to promise the moon (EU membership, NATO membership, etc) to a country that cannot enter these circles in the near future, and by near I mean the next 30 or 40 years. Unless you are prepared (or even aiming for) a total redefinition of what the EU stands for and what NATO is prepared to risk.

And while I looked away hoping the war would disappear and hoping the reason would finally prevail, others – those who were not praising the freedom fighters in Ukraine, condemning Russia as the sole culprit in this affair and pushing their governments to send more money and weapons to Ukraine – others spent their time glueing themselves to the road surface, or to paintings, and are planning to continue these actions… as their contribution to a better, more just and sustainable world. Or those who were busy planning laws that criminalise calling a man a man and a woman a woman. Or the ones busy replacing one generic structure of language by another generic structure in order to fight against the discriminatory effects of using generic structures. And nobody points out the failing logic in that. 

Or still others who fight for laws of self-identification. Simple questions suddenly become difficult to answer. What is a woman? What is a man? It is whoever identifies as one or the other. Ok. But what do they identify as? Surely you need a picture or a concept of something in order to feel the wish to identify as such…

And while people are preoccupied with these and similar issues, war and power hungry cliques are destroying a country and daily risking further escalation. Daily creating a more and more unstable world not only for the warring parties but for all those who live in Europe. The future looks bleak, the material well being of millions and billions of people is being endangered and potentially sacrificed for …. What exactly?

There is no just war. There never has been.

There is no virtuous side to a war. 

If your life is in danger, you will defend yourself. That is legitimate self defence. This rule cannot automatically be extended to countries although international texts do just that. If a country is in danger of being taken over by another country the leaders of the former need to analyse the situation carefully and weigh the costs and the chance of succeeding. And then take the appropriate and morally defendable position.

You cannot hide behind vague concepts such as defending values if this means that while the conflict lasts you can yourself disrespect these values and act immorally. When the costs are too high then you need to find a different way of resisting. And not just look for money lenders who allow you to fight back and in this fight destroy your country and kill your people. This is not responsible statesmanship, nor “statewomanship”, not “statepersonship” nor “statecomedianship” for that matter. Anyone supporting this way of action by thinking that it is the moral, the virtuous thing to do is lying to themselves.

There is no virtuous side to stand in in a war except if you stand with peace. I invite you all to stand with peace and to revive the almost extinguished flame of the European peace movement. Let us all stand up against this madness and stand with peace.

Cards for PoM – 2

This is the second instalment of my cards for Peace of Mind. I will publish – in irregular intervals – my favourite cards for PoM. Why? Well, like many other people I like cards, and I like my peace of mind (and abbreviations). In the current times which are animated, free-wheeling, chaotic, uncertain, frightening and interesting – as the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” has it – we need something that brings us back to basics and helps us keep a clear head.

You are welcome to use the cards in your dialogues and monologues with friends, family, students, teachers and colleagues. Just quote the source and if you wish to tell me something then please leave a comment here or on my social media channels.

Here is the second set of three

"I don't always ask others for help because I want to grow trying"
"I participate in community activities when I agree with the aims and can influence their outcome"
"I do not revise my opinion after listening to others unless they have convincing arguments"

Looking forward to your reactions.

Cards for PoM – 1

My cards for Peace of Mind. I will publish – in irregular intervals – my favourite cards for PoM. Why? Well, like many other people I like cards, and I like my peace of mind (and abbreviations). In the current times which are animated, free-wheeling, chaotic, uncertain, frightening and interesting – as the Chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” has it – we need something that brings us back to basics and helps us keep a clear head.

You are welcome to use the cards in your dialogues and monologues with friends, family, students, teachers and colleagues. Just quote the source and if you wish to tell me something then please leave a comment here or on my social media channels.

I will start with the following three

"There is no point in asserting your right to fly when you do not - and never will - have the capacity to fly"
"I do not listen attentively to people talking nonsense"
"I challenge opinions claiming that our thinking is mostly determined by our origins, gender, nationality, ethnicity, traditions, ... Except for old white men"

Looking forward to your reactions.

Say NO

Have decades of peace education passed us by without a trace?

A question for everyone who supports and calls for support for the war in Ukraine. To all who speak of the heroism of Ukrainians and urge us to do the same, or to remain silent in shame.

“Would you go to war if our president asked us to?”

Imagine the Austrian President calling on all Austrian men between the ages of 18 and 60 to defend the country  with arms because another country wants to take over Austria. Would you heed this call? Would you really take up a gun and shoot other people? And risk your own death? Would you still support war and support it with your life? A war devastates the country, kills people, endangers your family and friends, destroys the material future of yourself and other Austrians for decades to come, and risks escalating into an even bigger war that has the potential to let many more generations suffer?

Filled with a sense of (national) mission and heroism, would you be willing to risk all of that?

I honestly don’t.

Why not? In short: Because wars – if you look behind the heroic pathos – only bring destruction and death, but certainly no solutions.

To put it in a few more words: Would anything change for the population, for us, if the political and economic leadership of Austria were replaced by that of an attacking country? For me, and for many other “average citizens” probably not much. Yes, one would notice the presence of the new leadership class, the country might now have a different name, but a new leadership elite would also have to ensure that people can live under this regime, that they have work and an income. If not, there will be resistance. The political struggle for a better life would remain a necessity, regardless of which ruling class determines Austria’s fortunes. Or do you really believe that one, “nationally defined” leadership class is fundamentally better than another, “differently nationally defined” leadership class?

But supporting the war and going to war would have an extremely large impact on us, our loved ones, our friends, our material future, our health, and our lives. I find it quite shocking how much the EU’s political elites – and all those who participate in the published discourse – simply brush these dangers aside by defining the EU as a de facto in a state of war with Russia and, disregarding the basic needs and desire of the people for peace and a good life, moralise and, without batting an eyelid, demand that people accept the deterioration in living conditions. And it’s just as shocking for me to see how easily and quickly people can be convinced that it is now that hey have to fight, risk their lives, risk everything to defend Europe.

So would you still? And if you start having doubts now, if you say “No, I wouldn’t”, then stop clapping when arms are delivered again, or when further demands are made, stop condoning everything that comes from the Ukrainian leadership. The war must end before it takes more lives and causes more material damage. There is no such thing as a just war. Even if a country has the right under international law to defend itself against an aggressor, that does not mean that it should or must do so under all circumstances.

Stop pretending that wars can be be just and ethically justified and do whatever you can to stop this war. And if it is nothing other than telling our politicians that they must stop serving this war on our behalf. Tell them WE do NOT want to be a part of this madness.

There has to be another solution.


Sind Jahrzehnte der Friedenserziehung spurlos an uns vorübergegangen?

Frage an alle, die den Krieg in der Ukraine unterstützen und zur Unterstützung aufrufen. An alle, die vom Heldenmut der Ukrainer sprechen und uns fordern, dasselbe zu tun, oder in Schande zu schweigen.

“Würdest Du in den Krieg ziehen, wenn unser Präsident es von uns forderte?”

Stell Dir vor, der österreichische Präsident ruft alle österreichischen Männer zwischen 18 und 60 zur Verteidigung mit der Waffe auf, weil ein anderes Land Österreich übernehmen will.  Würdest Du diesem Ruf folgen? Würdest du wirklich die Waffe ergreifen und andere Menschen erschiessen? Und deinen eigenen Tod riskieren? Würdest Du auch dann einen Krieg befürworten und mit deinem Leben unterstützen? Ein Krieg verwüstet das Land, bringt Menschen um, bringt deine Familie und Freunde in Gefahr, zerstört die materielle Zukunft deiner selbst und der anderen Österreicher auf Jahrzehnte hinaus, und trägt die Gefahr eines Ausufern auf einen noch grösseren Krieg, der das Potential hat viele zukünftige Generationen leiden zu lassen, in sich? 

Würdest Du – vom nationalen Sendungsbewusstsein und Heldenmythos erfüllt – bereit sein all das zu riskieren?

Ich ehrlich gesagt nicht.

Warum nicht? Kurz gesagt: weil Kriege – wenn man hinter das heroischen Pathos blickt – nur Zerstörung und Tod bringen, aber sicherlich keine Lösungen.

Mit mehr Worten  gesagt: Würde sich konkret für die Bevölkerung, für uns, etwas ändern, wenn die politische und wirtschaftliche Führungsschicht Österreichs durch die eines angreifenden Landes abgelöst würde? Für mich, und für viele weitere “Normalbürger” wahrscheinlich nicht viel. Ja, man würde die Präsenz der neuen Führungsschicht merken, möglicherweise würde das Land nun anders heißen, aber auch eine neue Führungselite müsste zusehen, dass die Menschen unter diesem Regime leben können, dass sie Arbeit und ihr Auskommen haben. Wenn nicht, wird es Widerstand geben. Der politische Kampf um ein besseres Leben bleibt eine Notwendigkeit, unabhängig davon, welche Führungsschicht die Geschicke Österreichs  bestimmt. Oder glaubst du wirklich, dass die eine, national definierte Führungsschicht fundamental besser sei als die andere, anders-national definierte Führungsschicht?

Aber den Krieg unterstützen und in den Krieg ziehen, das hätte extrem große Auswirkungen auf uns, unsere Liebsten, unsere Freunde, unsere materielle Zukunft, unsere Gesundheit, und unser Leben. Ich finde es schon ziemlich schockierend, wie sehr die politischen Eliten der EU – und die die sich dafür halten und im veröffentlichten Diskurs mitreden – diese Gefahren einfach beiseite schieben, indem sie die EU de facto im Kriegszustand mit Russland definieren und die Grundbedürfnisse der Menschen nach Frieden und nach einem schönen Leben missachten, ja moralisierend und ohne mit der Wimper zu zucken von den Menschen ein Akzeptieren der Verschlechterung der Lebensbedingungen einfordern.  Und ebenso schockierend ist es für mich zu sehen, wie einfach und schnell Menschen zu überzeugen sind, dass sie jetzt kämpfen müssen, jetzt ihr Leben einsetzen müssen, jetzt alles riskieren müssen, um Europa zu verteidigen. 

Würdest Du also noch immer? Und wenn du jetzt zu zweifeln beginnst, wenn du sagst “Nein, würde ich nicht”, dann hör auf zu klatschen, wenn wieder Waffen geliefert werden, oder gefordert werden, hör auf, alles gutzuheissen, was von der ukrainischen Führung kommt. Der Krieg muss aufhören, bevor er noch mehr Leben kostet und noch mehr materiellen Schaden anrichtet. Es gibt keinen gerechten Krieg. Auch wenn nach internationalem Recht ein Land das Recht hat, sich gegen einen Aggressor zu verteidigen, heißt das noch lange nicht, dass es dies auch unter allen Umständen tun soll oder muss. 

Hört endlich auf so zu tun, als ob Kriege ethisch vertretbar wären, und tut alles, was ihr könnt, damit dieser Krieg aufhört. Und wenn es nichts anderes ist, als unseren Politikern zu sagen, dass es sie aufhören müssen, in unserem Namen diesen Krieg zu bedienen. Sagt ihnen, dass WIR an diesem Wahnsinn NICHT teilhaben wollen. 

Es muss eine andere Lösung geben.

Education and the cost of things

You can’t be proud of your education system and practice, even if you call it democratic, if it allows you to agree to the destruction of lives and livelihood through wars. Even when we leave the ethical question aside and decide to simply apply basic mathematics it quickly becomes clear to everyone that war is a bad option. A very bad option.

After a quick research on the internet about the costs involved in the war in Ukraine, the sources give differing numbers. One of the most commonly cited is the daily cost of about 20 billion for Russia and about 5 billion for Ukraine. Other estimates are higher. These numbers take into account the direct military costs, the cost of lives and the costs of infrastructural and economic damages.

That amounts to about 25 billion € per day for both countries. By today (29/06/22) the war has lasted 126 days which adds up to 3150 billion €

Imagine what could be done with that money….

… and then think again.

Have they all lost their minds?

War in Spring 2022 in Europe

Sure, Russia is the aggressor. You don’t invade a neighbouring country and call it special operation to help the Ukrainians overthrow their “nazi” government. Even if other states too have meddled in the internal affairs of other countries in the past this does not make such an invasion right.

Sure, controlling the media and punishing all dissident information about the special operation such as calling it invasion, war, etc. is against all the principles of free speech and the rule of law. However, the country now stands behind its leaders, or so it seems, most probably also because they do not know what is actually going on. 

The west, with every act is does, is helping Putin to stay in power, by providing the absolutely essential “outside enemy” against which the country needs to rally round its leaders to defend itself and the honour of the country. Putin’s regime was weakening. Now he has got what he needed: public opinion uniting against the outside enemy who “dares telling us what we should do or not do….

Sanctions do not end a war. They only strengthen the home front.

Weapons do not end a war. They only destroy goods and kill people and they make those who sell them very rich.

Where have the pacifists gone to? Where are those voices that remind us very loud and clearly that war is not an option because it only causes further losses?

Across the political spectrum what we hear now is a constant call to support Ukraine in their heroic and just defence of their freedom, their liberty, their life and their country. Give them weapons, more weapons, heavy weapons, …

The Ukrainian leadership keeps on calling out “Give us weapons!” “Get more involved in the war!” “We are Europe, we are defending you” “Do your duty to help us.”

Humanitarian help. Yes. Diplomatic help and efforts. Yes. Risking a third world war through our involvement. No!

And Europe and the United States increase the sanctions. And they plan to stop buying oil and gas from the aggressor.  Across the political spectrum people are ready to call for and support measures which would ruin our countries, endanger our wellbeing, and push us on a path towards generalised war.

Have they lost their minds? Has any inkling of critical and rational thinking been flushed down the drain? Have people forgotten that you need to think things through including all the probable and likely consequences of one’s decisions. 

You cannot call for more weapons, more outside involvement if you do not want to face the prospect of a third world war. Is that what you really want? Is that what you are ready to risk? Are you so much bored in your comfortable lives that you feel like acting out what you see in all the action films, horror stories, series of heroes and villains that you follow on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Apple TV, or any other streaming service? Just to get a kick out of it and make your life more exciting?

Increase the sanctions. Stop buying oil and gas from the aggressor. If you are a man….

Discourse like that will not help the Ukrainians who die, who flee the country, who fight… discourse like that will not stop the destruction caused by the Russian army and by the war in general. It will not help the Russian people and it will not stop Putin. 

We have to stand with Ukraine if we want to stand on the right side of history. Yes, Russia is the aggressor. But we need to stand with Ukraine without supporting the Ukrainian leadership in their drive for more war which will kill more people, destroy more homes, industry and infrastructure, … 

We need to stand with peace!

It is highly unlikely that an autocratic leader be brought down by sanctions and outside interference. At least not sustainably. Leaders can only be brought down from the inside. Sustainable change has to come from inside. Only Russians will get rid of Putin. And as long as we fuel their bond against the outside enemy there is little chance for that to happen. Unless we are prepared to wage destructive war against Russia which in turn would destroy us too. Like in the apocalyptic films that crowd the internet. 

Is this what you want?

Not me. 

I call for an immediate end of the war. No more delivery of weapons. Only humanitarian help. And diplomatic efforts to stop the war. And rebuild what has been destroyed.

A just war? Fighting for the honour of the country? Cui bono? Who benefits? 

What do you call a leader who engages his country and his citizens in a war they cannot win without outside help?  Without the world getting involved and risking a third world war Ukraine cannot win this war. They cannot win against Putin. I cannot call such a leader a hero. I cannot admire his strengths and strategy. It is a deadly strategy for all of us who do not want the war. 

What stops a hungry man? Food! What stops an angry man? Gentleness! What stops a greedy man? Give him what he wants and more. He will choke on it!

When I take a step back and look at all the things that are happening right now, when I listen to or read the statements and comments which are made day in and day out, I notice an almost total lack of consequential logical thinking in the majority of published discourse, be it in the traditional media or through social media. Feelings, convictions, opinions and beliefs abound. Presenting an argument, weighing the pros and cons, weighing the cost of the consequences of a particular decision and comparing it to the consequences of an alternative decision are almost totally absent.

I wonder if that is all education has brought us. We learn to read, write, we study mathematics, we have education for democracy, global education, peace education, education about the economy, geography, philosophy, religious education, etc. And what is the result? Independent, critical, logical thinking that builds on facts and their logical consequences seem to be absent. 

We need to change education, fundamentally. Starting with learning how to think for oneself, how to apply logic, how to think things through and realise that every act that I commit to has consequences for which I am responsible  and accountable. 

And that also means that I must not ask for things which – should they be granted – carry the risk of blowing up the planet on which I live. Asking them nevertheless may make you look a hero but in real life you are but a dangerous fool.

Education for critical thinking is needed more than ever. In times when Fake News – the new word for propaganda? – is all the news that we get. 


PS: I would be very interested in hearing your views in the above and engage in a discussion. 

PPS: The International Forum for the Future of Education puts its 2nd Education Forum under the title of Education for Critical Thinking. The Forum takes place from 8 – 10 July in Gamlitz, Austria. Perhaps this event can serve as a necessary platform to explore how we can change the course of things, and how education for critical thinking can become a central and more and more vital concern in our immediate future. For more information on that event  follow this link to the conference page.

Whatever happened to … critical thinking?

Beginning of January 2022 and the news are full of COVID-19, vaccinations, another wave again, another variant, what presidents say and should not say, outrage over exceptions made to rules, another outrage about exceptions that are not made, percentages of this and of that quoted but rarely comparable, … . The populist parties across the spectrum meet in the streets to protest against government measures. Not with any proposal of alternative and better ways of dealing with the pandemic but merely in the hope to gain electoral pull from this undertaking.

When the populist right presents itself as the only safeguard for human rights and personal liberties we have seen it all and we must be wary. Public health concerns are construed as authoritarian rule. Refusal to vaccinate is presented as exercising the right to choice and over one’s body. The spirit of Asterix and Obelix has conquered the world. “Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well not entirely! One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders”. We are the last resistance against the evil empire… and we draw moral virtue from our self-righteousness. Are we morally good? Is the government really the evil empire?

What we are experiencing are the effects of a decade or more of the erosion of authoritative sources of information. We do not any longer know who to turn to for a clear, rational and trustworthy picture of what is going on. Every bubble has its own experts and heroes, its own (partial) statistics, its own diction, using words that resemble each other but mean different things. Each bubble has its flock of followers and looking beyond the fence is becoming more and more difficult. Beliefs and convictions have always, to a certain extent, filtered the facts we are ready to perceive. But now we have added one more step and do not even care for facts any longer. Convictions are enough. If someone comes with facts that might contradict our convictions we make magical signs and incantations “vade retro satana” to fend off the evil of doubt.

How could this come about?

  • Too much of not-telling-the-truth and saying I-am-not-lying
  • Too many instances of “you-can-trust-me” and then betraying that trust
  • Too many tweaked statistics to prove X and the contrary of X
  • Too many honourable men .. and women being discovered as not being so honourable after all
  • Too many dreams evoked and then sold out
  • Too many grand visions used to attract people and then dropped
  • Too many promises made and then broken
  • ….

What must we do to turn things around?

  • Make up our own mind
  • Find the sources, check them, compare, interpret, …
  • Take responsibility for what we say and check the truth value of what we affirm
  • Separate facts from fiction, truth from convictions
  • Have valid factual and logical arguments ready to support our affirmations
  • Do the hard work of thinking for ourselves
  • Be modest and bold at the same time
  • Recreate authoritative sources of knowledge

We need to learn how to do this, urgently. That is the role of education and schooling. It is not only to empower people to reproduce the existing but it is also to empower people to critique the existing and develop alternatives.

And it is summer again

A year has passed since the last entry, and it was a busy year. Ideas that were born last summer are coming to fruition, an educational summer retreat is going to take place in the South of Styria in two weeks’ time. It is the beginning of a series of events organised by the newly created association “International Forum for the Future of Education” (IFFE).

And it all started with memories of the Pestalozzi Programme Summer Schools (Council of Europe) being shared on Facebook by a number of alumni of these summer schools between 2013 and 2017. And the memories were good; and they sparked creativity and desire to do something about it so that motivated education practitioners can come together and discuss the burning and fundamental issues, share experiences and explore solutions.

So we set out to design the Retreat21 “Retreat to better strike” to take place in Gamlitz, a small town in the wine-growing region of Southern Styria, on 9 – 11 July 2021. The town offered its support for the event, investing this into potential future developments. And over 50 education practitioners from across Europe enrolled despite the uncertainties and restrictions the pandemic imposes on travelling.

Learn more about the event here “Retreat21“. The outcomes of the intensive debate will also be published there in due time.

In the summer time…

when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and reach the sky;

Summer is approaching and the well-earned break from school for teachers, teacher trainers and for learners too. There is life beyond school and I do hope that you can take some time to rest relax and get new energy for the next round. And energy will be needed because the next round is rarely easier than the previous one)).



 So enjoy the coming weeks and if you find the time think of what you can do in autumn to integrate the following five principles in your daily life and work.

IMG_7481 2