It has to be said, and truthfully so, that more often than not in international relations actors take the position of power and force to protect and represent their interests. While this is considered unacceptable in interpersonal relations, the principles of raw power play are remain valid in the international arena.
At the time of writing, the answer to this question is much more brief and clear than it was only seven days prior. There is no dialogue, and the world is reverting to negotiating via rifles and tanks. Is it even possible to write about the importance of dialogue, at a time it seems to have grossly lost its meaning? I believe so, because it was the lack of it that ushered the world into a new era of instability. And it is worth learning the lessons, what is it that went wrong this time.
We are unequivocally entering a new Cold War era. It is no longer just an assessment, it is an undeniable fact starting from February 24, 2022. Only 30 years have passed since the end of the First Cold War, almost as much time as between the two world wars. Similar historical mechanisms are driving the wheel now. The losing side in the Cold War starts a new conflict, showing frustration over the way the previous one ended. It should be said that the victorious side did not understand, and that it grossly underestimated, the significance and power of the resentment. That is how, in the previous years, the two sides talked but never listened to each other, and in the end – they did not hear one another. We are watching the terrible consequences of the lack of dialogue on our TV screens, with hope that enough strength will soon be summoned to reverse the process and stop the war.
It has to be said, and truthfully so, that more often than not in international relations actors take the position of power and force to protect and represent their interests. While this is considered unacceptable in interpersonal relations, the principles of raw power play are remain valid in the international arena. We can also often see the levers of power being used in something that looks like it should be a dialogue, but is in fact just giving the other side the opportunity to speak, without actually respecting what they say. That is how we get dialogue without essence, a shell, a formality. After this sort of false dialogue, a military conflict inevitably follows.
The intermezzo between the two Cold Wars showed us that things have changed a little in the global set-up. Armed-to-the-teeth forces cannot get used to the logic of conversation. This is where local communities come into play – each society has a separate responsibility to encourage that dialogue from within. The point would be to achieve a common prevailing understanding that every militarization is a step towards a future war, that every division is a step towards a future conflict, that every injustice guarantees a new injustice in an attempt to correct the previous one.
Constantly reinforcing the dichotomy, reviving the Manichean struggle, glorifying worldviews molded into either-or perspectives – they all encourage a fight for supremacy, even by a little bit, leaving the other in a state of inevitable frustration. The dichotomously set-up world gives birth to permanent dissatisfaction. And as long as we build the world on the children’s model of winners and losers, we will never move beyond the constant recurrence of conflict.
In conversations, and let’s start tomorrow – with each other, we should reach a point where we do not get angry, where we do not fight our interlocutor for the position of correctness, but rather understand each other. Understanding is nothing but stopping the ego halfway. When both sides learn to restrain and meet the two egos, who will then turn their backs on each other without fear of being struck in the back, we will have achieved our goal.
A world free of “affective pollution”, and in which the Other is seen through the eyes of understanding, is a world of the future I want to see, and a world in which conflicts like the ones that are going on now will not happen.
Sanja Radović, Doctor of Historical Sciences