By Marlene J. Geary
“Large parts of the world are faced with starvation, while others are living in abundance. The nations were promised liberation and justice, but we have witnessed and are witnessing, even now, the sad spectacle of liberating armies firing into populations who want their independence and social equality, and supporting in those countries by force of arms, such parties and personalities as appear to be most suited to serve vested interests. Territorial questions and arguments of power, obsolete though they are, still prevail over the essential demands of common welfare and justice.” – Albert Einstein, 10 December 1945, speaking on a Voice of America broadcast about world peace.
I listened to the speech above and thought “well, not much has changed; the geography has simply shifted.”
In October, the Nobel Prize for Peace was awarded to the European Union [EU]. I remember hearing the news and thinking “um, why, exactly?” All I hear about these days are the economic problems going on in Europe. So I went and looked it up and the Nobel Organization had this to say:
“For over six decades [the EU] contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”. (“The Nobel Peace Prize 2012”. Nobelprize.org. 17 Oct 2012)
Fair enough. Sixty years ago, Europe was just a few years into rebuilding after the second world war. Germany was still occupied by four separate powers. The Marshall Plan had just ended and the various economies within Europe were on their developmental way up. Groups of European countries were forming that would later coalesce into the powerful economic, political and diplomatic force that the European Union is today. The Nobel Organization goes on to say that in the seventy years prior to this period in the 1950s, France and Germany fought three separate wars and it is an achievement to have reached a point in 2012 where war between France and Germany is inconceivable.
And further, democracy has been introduced to three former dictatorships: Greece, Spain and Portugal. We no longer think of Europe as strictly “East” and “West” in the Cold War sense, not since the Berlin Wall was torn down and the countries in the Eastern bloc were brought into the union. The European Union has done much to restore balance to the countries of the Balkan peninsula. And Turkey has made significant advances in the field of human rights as a part of its effort to achieve full member status of the European Union. All of this was mentioned as a part of the reason the EU was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
I wonder what Albert Einstein would say about this new Europe, this union of 2012. Sure, there are still power and economic struggles and vast philosophical differences between and inside of the countries of the European Union. Europe was torn in half by the Iron Curtain for decades. In 1945 and for many years afterwards, it was barely possible to hope for more than formally strained relations. But here we are: peace in Europe is a Nobel reality.
The wars beginning in Europe in the 20th century alone wreaked devastation upon the entire planet and killed millions upon millions of people, often by the tens of thousands in a single day. If Europe can find believable Nobel peace after all of that, then maybe we can believe that the countries of other regions of the world can, too.