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The images of Russian tanks rolling over the democratic nation of Ukraine and the peaceful people who live there make me depressed, sad, angry, and pissed off, but also determined to contribute to a world where this kind of behavior no longer exists.
It feels so terribly outdated. The year is 2022 and we have a dictator who invades another country. We should have come further.
A naive childhood dream?
I have a background in politics and during my time in the Swedish Parliament, I sat on the Foreign Affairs Committee (it was not my main committee) and have for a long time had a great interest in democracy issues. In a parliamentary debate on international cooperation, we touched on the issue of peace on earth. I said:
"Mr. Speaker! Peace on Earth. Is that a naive dream? Is it something that only children believe in nowadays? Peace on earth might feel like a dream, but how to get there is based on hard facts. We know what would create such a world. For peace on Earth we need a democratic world. We know that a democratic world would be a peaceful world."
The chairman of the committee, Kenneth G Forslund, replied:
"I am no longer a child, but my vision is peace on earth. It sometimes arouses some laughter when I say in a meeting, but it is actually what drives me in my political work and in the work I do with Swedish foreign policy to create better conditions in the world.
I remember far from all the parliamentary debates, but this one has stuck in me. How people laugh at 'peace on earth'. Not because they do not want it, but because they do not think it is not possible.
A dream, but not naive
Peace on earth is definitely a dream, but I do not think it is naive. The key to such a future is spelled d e m o c r a c y.
Humanity has had a strong trend in recent centuries towards more democracy and less tyranny and as a result fewer and less bloody wars. This progress was extremely strong after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. In recent times it has been shakier, and the example of Russia shows that it is far from a straight path forward. Russia has gone from some form of democracy in the 1990s to a full-fledged dictatorship invading its neighbors.
People want to live in freedom
A historical trend does not automatically mean that it will continue in the future, but the trend arose because people generally want to live in freedom and are prepared to fight and risk their lives for it. Democracies also deliver better living conditions for their people than dictatorships, making them remain attractive. Therefore, there is reason to be fact-based optimistic about the future of democracy.
A democratic world is a peaceful world
There is plenty of research that shows that democracies do go to war with each other.
Imagine the idea that Sweden would invade Finland or Norway roll into Denmark with tanks. It's unthinkable. In the same way, wars would be unthinkable in a world where all countries, all people, live in strong democracies.
In the Warp News Manifesto we write:
"Democracy is humanity’s greatest invention. It protects human dignity and, like nothing else, sets ideas free. It is ideas turned into action that move the human race forward. Democracy is not “just” voting, it’s a system with institutions that guarantee and protect human rights.
A fully democratic world would mean a peaceful world, since democracies never go to war against each other.
Every human being living in democracy would completely transform humanity. Not without problems, but without the big problems that have haunted us for our entire existence: Hunger, poverty and oppression."
Peace on earth is possible
It is easy to lose hope when you see the Russian soldiers and hear the stories of small children hiding in bomb shelters. Of course, there is nothing optimistic about Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
But the hope of peace on earth is not a naive dream. It is a fully realistic future. The road there is difficult, but I am convinced that we'll get there.