We’ve recently witnessed the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz extermination of over six million Jews and others. Any human being from whichever country, ethnic group or religious belief, you would have thought wouldn’t have allowed such a tragedy to be repeated, whatever it took… Have we succeeded?
Commemorations were a-plenty in many countries and all over our TV screens with thousands of solemn faces which read, `How, could this have happened?’ and `Never Again!’ Well, nearly eight decades later you’d be forgiven for thinking the world is not on a trajectory to become a better place, considering what has happened since. The lessons that horrifying and shocking episode in the world’s history should have taught us have gone unheeded… or so it seems.
Over a cup of coffee and a glass of wine I chatted to friend and fellow broadcaster – amongst other `occupations’ – Levi Attias, a Jew, who like me, was just as apprehensive or anxious as I, as to `which way we are going Billy…’ or so the song goes! Given the goings on since those atrocities all those years ago there seems to be no positives in our behaviour to speak of. “During our Chanukah feast,” Levi tells me, “we place a candle on our window sill outwards facing the world, declaring peace to all and sundry, but it seems much of what needs to be addressed is swept under the carpet. As a Jew I am hopeful and my faith helps me be positive.” The record does indeed show lessons not learned: Cambodia in the 70s genocide to the tune of almost 14,000 who entered an execution centre, only seven survived… Rwanda in the mid 90s, mass murder of over half a million Tutsis and others whilst thousands Hutus killed in Burundi in the early 70s… again during the mid-90s genocide in Bosnia. Almost 9,000 were killed with the mass expulsion of thousands and many more thousands dying during the fighting in those war torn countries.
Levi and I continued our chat highlighting the hotspots around the world and ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East: Syria, the Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the never ending skirmishes between Israel and the Palestinians, unrest in South America and lest we forget the occupation of Tibet and the Rohingya’s struggle in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Trouble everywhere and no lessons learnt… at least looking that way, we contended. Does the West only intervene where it suits? “Yes, there are so many more important issues we could be attending to that affect us all and yet not enough is being done as we see now with the climate issue, global warming and the plastic in our oceans etc.,” Levi reminded me. It seems we’re more intent in creating conflict and killing, being corrupt and ruling over others. “Remember the story of Noah’s Ark, how all the animals of every kind went in two by two with no trouble between them? Maybe therein is the message of how we humans are meant to behave. I always accept individuals for who they are, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or a nonbeliever and regardless of their nationality.” And I fully agree; you deal with individuals on a one-to-one not what you assume they represent because of where they’re from, their social status, beliefs or colour of their skin. It has to be said though, there are those who are like-minded and try their hardest to get us on the right track. For all the negativity places of worship and those that frequent them receive and are criticised for, there are many believers who are genuine in their task of putting the right message across and maintain a culture of doing the right thing by producing good deeds. Thank heavens for that! I’m sure to the more enlightened and discerning, all of that sounds a little simplistic but it could be argued that’s where it starts: be happy with yourself first, and then apply some of that feel good factor towards others. As for those nations, ethnic groups and countries and peoples of differing beliefs that hold those populations, more `jaw jaw’ and less `war war’ – as said by Winston Churchill – would not go amiss.
I specifically asked Levi to meet me and talk about these issues mainly because I know his reasonableness would augur well for a good `jaw jaw’ between us, spurred on also because I enjoy his short contributions on Radio Gibraltar’s Monday to Friday segment of `Pause for Reflection’ where he picks on subjects which are pertinent to today’s, yesterday’s and tomorrow’s world, and relevant and useful for everyone of us to take on board. “Well in total it can take me four or five hours to put those two minute talks together, mulling ideas around in my mind as I go. They come from observations from bits and pieces I may have read or heard about anywhere. Also, for example, taken from when I travel on the bus to town by simply listening to what fellow passengers are saying.” Levi’s been delivering those interesting thoughts for the day for many years now – about 30, I think – and he never pushes the religious theme, instead he aims to give them a universal angle which anyone can understand and take on board. His topics are very relatable, to the point, and more importantly… they’re appropriate and relevant at the start of the day!
I sometimes think the problem with conflicts of any type whether domestic, in the street, amongst communities or culminating in serious confrontation, point to you and me – us humans! Jealousy, hate, greed, vanity, never accepting one may be wrong, plus all the other negatives which dwell within, winding all the way up – for some – to the insatiable thirst for power, ending in WAR and the killing of each other which make you question if we are born good or evil?
Going back to the 60s whilst in the UK, I remember watching those promotions on TV which went something like this: `just £2 a month, will help feed this child for a month…’. Those promotional appeals, as are world conflicts… are still ongoing! Yes, the elusive `glimmer of hope’ comes to mind.