When I was 15 years old I decided to have nothing more to do with the
Danish State Church. This was a reaction against the lifeless and petit
bourgeois attitude I felt the church represented.
I wasn’t really in opposition to religion as such, but I didn’t feel
that my opinion of justice coincided with those of the priests and church. As a
consequence I ‘filed for a divorce’, and I don’t think the local priest
considered it a great loss for the church.
I would never have imagined myself standing in a pulpit 35 years later.
A few years later I travelled to Asia. In Teheran an old woman collapsed
on the pavement just in front of me. I tried to help, but everyone else simply
walked away and seemed to be indifferent to the fact that she might be dying
there alone. I was shattered, but got up and left like the others. It was a
pretty tough experience for a 17-year-old, and on the spot I decided to become a
Later I experienced the famine in Afghanistan, and became accustomed to
the sight of corpses around me.
I believed that socialism and the working-class would create a new world
of freedom and justice.
I was an apprentice at Lindoe Shipyard, became a socialist and leader of
the apprentices! The dream lasted
for 10 years, but all of a sudden I no longer believed in my own vision.
I had not forgotten the old woman, or the famine. But since I had no
solution to the global problems I felt I had no right to voice my opinions, and
I chose to remain silent for the following 10 years.
I became a sculptor and created aesthetic sculptures: interpretations of
the miracles of the world - especially women. All the while keeping the pains I
felt at the injustice and the imbalance of the world to myself.
In 1992 I participated at the world exhibition in Seville with a large
exhibition of sculptures. In the meantime the Yugoslav civil war was raging. The
Serbs were using a new strategy: raping Muslim women and killing their husbands
and children, leaving them pregnant with Serb babies in their womb.
The massacres released great waves of refugees up through Europe, to
Germany and other countries where they were interned in the empty
concrete-ghettos that the East German workers had abandoned when the Berlin-wall
fell. Young right-wing radicals gathered outside the buildings and threw flaming
Molotov cocktails, through their windows so that they, once again, had to be
I was shocked. I hadn’t imagined that that we could behave like that
anymore - after Auschwitz. I believed that we Europeans had reached a standard
of civilisation and knowledge, which precluded a revival of the barbarism from
Apparently this was also one of my youthful illusions.
I began making researches into what mechanisms make ordinary people
capable of committing massacres. Which path has one trodden from being a decent,
civilized German in the 30’s, to become a gaoler 5 years later, in a
Concentration Camp? 10 million people were exterminated, in history’s first
It starts as a sliding motion: ‘the others’ become demonic: they are
dangerous, lazy, impure, dirty scroungers – in fact rather inhuman.
‘Inhuman’ is the keyword. Once we have reduced other human beings to animals,
we are able to release the animal in ourselves, and kill them.
The opting out of morality and the combination of cynical rationality
and base, instinctive impulses paved the way to barbarism.
It is a kind of seduction, a psychosis, a spell, which blinds us to
The Germans’ have a phrase for it: ‘der innere Scweinehund’. In
English we may call it ‘the inner beast’.
In the text for this day Jesus says: “The
Devil is the father of lies“: He who blinds us to the truth.
It is difficult to persist in maintaining the truth when one is
subjected to extreme pressure. The majority surrender to base-instinct and
support the atrocities. Very few say “NO”. Those who do are called traitors
and exposed to reprisals.
I realised that when these things could happen to the Germans and the
Serbs it could happen to me as well, unless I claimed to be a better person than
them, which I cannot substantiate.
Perhaps this is what Jesus is trying to tell us with
the words: “Let him among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at
her”. The beast is within us all.
My research into these matters led to a turning point in my life. I
still hadn’t found an overall solution to the problems of the world, but I
contented myself by concentrating my efforts on my own conduct.
I decided to try to maintain my human decency and compassion for other
people, however inhumane my surroundings might become. I decided to be among
those who said “No” to barbarism and dehumanisation of my fellow human
beings. As a reminder to myself I materialised my inner devil in the sculpture
‘My Inner Beast’.
These new decisions and realizations had the effect that I no longer
felt I had to carry the burden of pain I felt about the old woman’s death and
the state of the world in general in silence. Now I could shout it out and
demand action from the people surrounding me, who all belong to the richest
people in the world.
When they asked me what I intended to do about the imbalance, I replied
with equanimity that I had no reply, but that I could not accept living in a
world were one third live in a society of overconsumption, while the rest live
in the deepest poverty and that I am willing to share my wealth, and lower my
standard of living to achieve a world in balance.
Do you remember? –They tore down the Berlin Wall and we rejoiced. The
world had become a whole; there were no reds and whites anymore. We were all
However, the imbalance was still there, and all the stones we pulled
down in Berlin we used to build a new and bigger wall. This time it was to
separate the rich from the poor. We shut the door and shielded ourselves from
the poor, who tried to escape from wars and impossible living conditions.
The world has become so small, as a result of globalisation and global
communication, that it no longer can contain it’s own imbalance. In addition
to the flow of refugees, international terrorism has emerged - bombing innocent
civilians - in order to create further polarization.
The Berlin Wall was built in a few days. But it wasn’t sufficient.
Human beings are ingenious creatures who are not easily stopped by walls. The
Germans crawled over to visit friends and relatives on the other side.
Then they cleared a large area on the eastern side of the wall to
prevent the flow of people, but it didn’t help much.
Mines were laid out. That had some effect, since many people became
afraid when they heard about those who had been killed or mutilated. It still
wasn’t enough. People kept fleeing.
Automatic machine-guns which fired on anything that moved on the Eastern
side of the wall, were mounted. That helped - hardly anyone managed to get over.
But the price to be paid was high. After the fall of the wall the
politicians who had given the orders to fire without warning were put on trial
for crimes of inhumanity.
The problem lies in the way in which people are prevented from crossing
borders: first control measures are taken into use, then reprisals - finally
murder. This is the slippery slope Europe is on. Those responsible for building
walls become callous, completely unscrupulous.
Control measures have been carried out; legislation against refugees has
been tightened with unprecedented severity. The reprisals have begun:
Refugees of war are being sent back to the prisons and torture chambers
they fled from. Holland has recently deported 35,000 people, many of whom have
lived in the country for more than 10 years.
Scanners have been erected along the entire Mediterranean coast to
prevent African boat refugees from landing.
All trucks and ships entering Europe are inspected with detectors, which
can measure human expiration, before they are allowed to pass.
The killings have also begun:
Greece has recently mined its borders to Turkey. 30 refugees have lost
their lives within the past 5 years.
The scanners in the Mediterranean force the refugees to use ever smaller
boats, so as not to be discovered. Several hundred drown each year, and those
who are not eaten by sharks drift ashore on the Spanish coast several times a
But it is not our fault. After all, they could simply stop running away
from their executioners.
Our Christian ideal of: ‘Do unto others as you would be done by’,
does not apply beyond national borders.
I suppose they should have realised long ago, that the rich world’s
talk about: ‘The inalienable Right to Life’, doesn’t apply to the poor in
the 3rd world. To mention just one fact: 35,000 children die every
single day of easily curable hunger related diseases.
Why are we barricading ourselves?
In order to protect our civilisation, we say. But what does that consist
of? – ‘Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood’ ???
Is it imaginable that the construction of the wall and the war against
terrorism can prop-up these values of western civilisation? As far as I can see
our reaction against the imbalance only serves to escalate the conflict
transforming the western world to be meticulously controlled, exploitive and
oppressive, in sheer contradiction to our democratic values.
The question is, therefore, whether it is the foreigners, or our
reaction against the foreigners that constitutes a threat to our civilisation.
This raises the following questions:
Are we really worried about our civilisation, or is it rather our money
and high standard of living we are afraid of losing?
Is it possible that it is out of sheer greediness that we entrench
ourselves - because we don’t want to share with the poor?
Is our money worth more than our humaneness?
Is it possible that most people in their secret hearts have exchanged
the God of Love and Mercy for the God of Mammon?
Human beings are the only creatures on earth that are capable of acting
beyond instinctive impulses. It is our faculty of creating ethical and moral
values that gives us the right to call ourselves human beings.
I don’t know whether I can call myself a Christian. But I do believe
that Jesus’ talk about Love and Forgiveness ought to be the basis for all
people’s social behaviour. And I think Jesus would agree to the essentials of
That it is of essential importance to adhere to these fundamental values
Jesus underlines in the text for this day by saying: “Truly I say to you, if
anyone keeps My Word he will never die”.
|Writings by Jens Galschiot|