Speech by Europe for Peace at the meeting of the World Humanist Forum on 19 May 2024

Hello everyone and thank you for inviting me to such an important debate.

I think it is necessary, before addressing the question, to look at the two great paradoxes in which we live today. The first is that in trying to encourage others to actively address the world’s problems, we end up inadvertently reinforcing what we want to fight. Let me explain. Today we are immersed in a media campaign that could be described as a campaign of terror. All the media are constantly telling us about wars, pain, hatred and revenge. And all the information we are given only offers solutions based on more wars, more hatred and more revenge. The majority of the population is despondent and remains paralysed or detached from reality. People prefer not to think about these issues because there is no possible solution in sight. People even avoid talking about these issues to avoid possible conflicts with family and friends, limiting communication to trivial and secondary issues.

There is no doubt that power has always used terror to better control the population, but in recent decades the issue has become more complex and articulated. We all remember the horrific images broadcast by the media of ISIS members cutting the throats of prisoners. It seemed that these terrorists could arrive in our cities at any moment. Then the media focused on immigration, and again we felt anxious about the threat of an imminent invasion. This media terrorism continued with the pandemic. We were all frightened, both by the virus and by the compulsory treatments imposed on us. And we have reached today, where news of wars and tragedies abound in all media.

The aim of this media campaign is to frighten people, to make them feel like helpless ants in the face of a complex and dangerous reality.

And that is exactly how people feel! And when anti-war movements talk about nuclear danger, with the intention of inspiring people to take action, they unfortunately and unintentionally reinforce the paralysis and the need to switch off and do something else. No one wants to hear about such serious and seemingly insurmountable problems.

The second paradox is that of convergence. In order to face the problems we are experiencing, we need to unite so that they make us stronger, but when we try to converge, the differences that divide us instead always win. I will give an example from Italy. There are hundreds of pacifist and non-violent organisations, made up of fantastic people, but they fail to unite around a common programme. There are some parties that are in favour of a diplomatic solution to conflicts, but on the eve of the European elections they did not manage to unite around a single list. Differences and divisions prevailed, not what unites.

Finally, the question: “Is humanity at risk of a possible world war”, the answer is yes. Just read the Pentagon document published on 11 June 2019, which talks about the use of nuclear energy not only as a deterrent, but also as an offensive weapon to win wars. The document speaks of weapons of low potential, but more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. But beyond the voluntary use of nuclear weapons, there is a serious risk of an accident.

Unfortunately, this knowledge leads to further paralysis and polarisation: will it be the Russians or the Americans who use nuclear weapons? This is not the way out of what we have called the “media campaign of terror”.

More than a century ago, Tolstoy explained with profound lucidity how power accuses “evil”, the enemies guilty of endangering our lives. He showed us how this fight against evil was used to justify wars when the real interest was only to defend and consolidate one’s own power.

It is not by seeking blame and reinforcing feelings of fear, hatred and revenge that we will get out of this situation and move towards the realisation of the ideal of a better world.

To get out of these paradoxes, it is necessary to understand the depth of the roots of the crisis we are experiencing and to get out of the vision of the ant man. This requires a profound awakening of consciousness, which we will discuss in our next intervention.

We need a new vision of man, a vision of the future. We need to do like Galileo, who took the telescope that the Dutch used to look into the future and turned it towards the stars.

Gerardo Femina