My grandfather and his two partners contracted and built the administrative head quarters for NATO’s operations in South East Norway in the early 70’s. In the office of our family-owned building, the black and white picture of a very serious group of distinguished gray-beards still serve as a reminder of the top-secret strategic activities that took place within these walls prior to and during the years of the Cold War. Up until 2012, NATO still rented some areas of our building, and the stories their seniors shared, adds some extra perspectives on how fragileend peace is. Last weekend, we added a new chapter to our company history, as we offered 2-400 square metres of vacant storage space to the local Red Cross and the “Refugees Welcome to Asker & Bærum” initiative.
The Cold War has one important parallel to the mindset of some European politicians today. The thought of securing our own prosperity and position by enforcing a barriere and keep people from tresspassing. Whether the barriere is made of concrete, barb-wire or water, is of less importance as I see it. The intention is the same.
As a humanist, I strongly support the key human right of being able to fled war and terrors, seeking a peaceful shelter where your loved ones are kept safe from harm.
Simplified, any war involves two key counterparts. Those who have a choice, who initially decide to start a war; armed, strong and mighty. And those who didn’t get to choose. The ones coincidentally living in the area affected by the war actions, shattering the framework and stability of their core existence. Fearing for the lives of their loved ones and the potential terrors awaiting them. Innocents, caught in the deadly cross-fire between those fighting for (most often) power, territory and/or natural resources.
We should make every effort on all levels of our society to push our governments towards resolving the complex war in Syria. And offer our support until that happens. I believe history will judge us hard in this case. Syria is the Rwanda, Balkan, Vietnam of our time. People being slaughtered, both by their own government and by terrorists. We cannot afford not to act. Nor can we afford to let a limited number of Mediterranean countries break down, by letting them continue to take the main responsibility of the waves of refugees and migrants. We HAVE the resources, and these people ARE resources.
Norway has a very recent history of experiencing some of the same terrors. More than 70.000 fled our country during WWII. More than 20.000 of them by sea. And the fear of what could have happened during the 80’s (hadn’t it been for great diplomatic work leading up to Perestroika) should still serve as a reminder to us, as we witness the terrible situation in Syria from a safe distance. I cannot think of a better way to utilize the vacant capacity of our x-NATO building than as extra storage space for Red Cross and the grassroot initiative “Refugees Welcome to Asker & Bærum”. Sharing resources in a “sharing economy” mindset, will be an important perspective in a world that has to find its way into a more sustainable path. This time, we chose to share some of ours.
Where my grandfather was the old-style hardcore capitalist, building his fortune on the combination of hard work and hiding parts of his earnings from governmental taxation. Focused only on maximizing profits and dividend, while keeping investment and maintenance costs down (to an extent that we’re still struggling with the back-log from it). For our generation, I believe that we have to ensure better business models, building the basis for long-term value and growth through ensuring a sustainability and responsibility focus in all parts of our operations. A key philosophy for me is Ubuntu. Interdependence – we can not exist, nor accomplish anything all alone.
There is currently a lot of excess property capacity in our region, and I hereby pass the idea on to other property owners, who should concider to free up some extra space – either for refugees or for storing supplies gathered by the fantastic initiatives that fill our Facebook & news feeds these days. People gathering supplies, signing up as refugee contacts, initiating fundraising campaigns++.
To me, these grassroot-funded initiatives are the core of Ubuntu. People engage, not as an obligation, but because we feel this in our guts. The hard realities of the global society outside our own protected society just knocked on our door. Through the photo of a drowned 3-year-old, carried to his final destination by Mediterranean waves. This is one of those rare times when we realize that it’s not just up to our government to call for action, while we remain passive awaiting their decisions. It’s up to us, as individual human beings, not to allow our societies to look the other way. I hope that our government – and those of the other European and Arabic countries – listen!
PS: I also hope that we will continue to embrace and take better care of any refugee here in Norway, not only the Syrians, and not limit our compassion to the time-span of the media attention.
Enjoy your Saturday! // Birgit