Peace is a new idea. As a matter of fact, today we witness the decay of the world that was born in 1945 on the ruins of Europe and whose golden rule was: keep the peace … The collapse of peace is the outcome of the temptation of force, which prevails in the West. Force has triumphed on the international stage because of lack of balance and counterweights. After 1989, the American superpower … has contributed to transform agreed–upon rules premised on balance in planetary decrees based on morality – a morality sometimes too self-righteous and blind to its own prejudices … it’s time to oppose force with a renewed spirit of peace. A proactive peace… This new spirit of peace will require a dialogue. Westerners cannot think they have the world at their beck and call, wielding sanctions, demonizing and excommunicating, regardless of the consequences. We must speak with all nations, otherwise all negotiations will go nowhere…The only real foreign policy for Europe is peace. This is its story, its vocation, its conscience and interest.
Hermann Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
A blister has now turned into a bloody, festering wound.
Mikhail Gorbachev, Gorbachev warns of new cold war threat as Berlin marks fall of wall, Guardian, 8 November 2014
All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort [against Russia, T.N.] even if that involves running up budget deficits.
George Soros, Wake Up, Europe, New York Review of Books, 20 November 2014
This Mart’s exhibition, which opened on October 4th, 2014 and will stay until September 20th, 2015, derives its rather ominous name from a poem by Bertolt Brecht, urging Europeans to resist the seductions of the siren call of Adolf Hitler and his war preparations:
The war which is coming is not the first one. There were other wars before it. When the last one came to an end there were conquerors and conquered. Among the conquered the common people starved. Among the conquerors the common people starved too.
I am NOT going to visit this otherwise probably worthwhile (and costly) exhibition. This is my very personal act of protest against Trentino’s unhealthy fixation with the “Great War”, an event that, a century on, still sustains an industry based on remembrance: war tourism, war literature, war museums, food&wine&war tours, war memorials, war songs, war art, etc.
As we have moved further away from that a pointless bloodbath, sentimentality, conformism, rhetoric and commercialism have gained the upper hand (Con la Grande Guerra la promozione del territorio [WWI centenary-related tourism as a local marketing opportunity], Trentino, 6 September 2014; The real purpose of the First World War centenary celebrations, Times Higher Education, 29 August 2013).
For the next five years, we will be told that the Great War narrative has still much to teach us, that it deserves further investigation, that we must never forget.
We have chosen to only remember war (it’s so exciting!), instead of peace (boooring!) and, as a result, we have “war museums” in lieu of “peace museums” (see the notion of salutogenesis as opposed to pathogenesis in Becker et al., Salutogenesis 30 Years Later: Where do we go from here? International Electronic Journal of Health Education, 2010; 13: 25 – 32).
The Great War has saturated the air we breathe for so long, morphing into a most profitable relic, although we respectfully but firmly deny this newly found role of a medieval marketing practice in contemporary society.
It is to be expected that, like a modern cathedral, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto will become a site of “pilgrimage”.
This is all part of the economic benefits of the commemoration. Hopefully, the WWI industry will prove an important source of revenue. Our economic well-being is definitely a plus.
Germans are well off anyway (Germany’s low-key plans for first world war centenary criticised, Guardian 2 March 2014).
Our culture minister, Dario Franceschini, argues that the truth about the Great War can emerge from these documents and these works of art enabling us to experience the human drama of those years (ANSA, 3 October 2014).
The truth…but which truth? That war is bad and (non-authoritarian) peace is good?
There are all sorts of truths surrounding “the war to end all wars” (Recruited by MI5: the name’s Mussolini. Benito Mussolini, Guardian, 13 October 2009; Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I, 2011; Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War, 2013)
Anyhow, we will have to withstand a consumerist flood a books on the subject, most of which will offer no new insight whatsoever on the abomination of the industrial slaughter of young men, on what it does to humanity. Or we wouldn’t be repeating the very same mistakes again and again, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent (Isaiah 53:7).
If there is one book to read to understand the phenomenon of war and genocide, from WWI trenches to Auschwitz, and how it ties in with corporatism, bureaucracy and the unquenchable eagerness of sociopathic personalities to enslave other human beings, it is Richard L. Rubenstein’s “The Cunning of History” (1987).
The problem we are facing boils down to a series of questions: are we the cause and solution of our ills, or are we playthings of overwhelming forces?
Are the ruling classes of Europe more peace-loving than a century ago?
Are the masses less subdued than in 1914?
Will this exhibition strengthen our commitment to peace?
Will it cheapen the meaning of the slogan: “lest we forget”?
The exhibition presents some historic masterpieces from the Mart’s own collections, including works by Giacomo Balla, Anselmo Bucci, Fortunato Depero and Gino Severini, Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Albin Egger-Lienz, Adolf Helmberger, Osvaldo Licini, Arturo Martini, Pietro Morando, Mario Sironi, Filippo Butera, Segundo de Chomón, Abel Gance, Josef Sudek, Lida Abdul, Enrico Baj, Yael Bartana, Alberto Burri, Alighiero Boetti, Pascal Convert, Gohar Dashti, Berlinde De Bruyeckere, Paola De Pietri, Harun Farocki, Yervant Gianikian e Angela Ricci Lucchi, Alfredo Jaar, William Kentridge, Mateo Maté, Adi Nes, ORLAN, Sophie Ristelhueber, Thomas Ruff, Anri Sala and Artur Żmijewski.
Full price: € 11
Discount ticket: € 7 for groups, young people 15-26 years old, over 65 years
Free admission under 14 years
The volume accompanying the project will include texts by Massimo Recalcati, Rocco Ronchi, Marina Valcarenghi, Jean-Luc Nancy, Marcello Fois, Gustavo Corni, Diego Leoni, Fabrizio Rasera, Camillo Zadra, Saretto Cincinelli, Gabi Scardi, Marco Mondini, Paolo Pombeni and Franco Nicolis, together with other contributions from Serena Aldi, Nicoletta Boschiero, Veronica Caciolli, Duccio Dogheria, Daniela Ferrari, Francesca Franco, Luca Gabrielli, Denis Isaia, Mariarosa Mariech, Marta Mazza, Luciana Senna, Alessandra Tiddia and Federico Zanoner.