I took the red pill…
Berlin, fall 2014. A four-day academy on nuclear disarmament was my kind of poison to ignore the usual readings for the week. Thanks to one of Leiden University’s finest professors, any student slightly interested in international affairs was encouraged to sign up. Whether or not the actual event would entail any academics didn’t bother me as it already sounded like the perfect getaway: a fully-funded trip to Berlin and a long-awaited adventure in a city far away.
It was an offer one couldn’t refuse to be honest. Strolling through the trendy streets of Berlin was a joy while the city’s rich yet unnerving history had become an unfortunate bygone, a distant past too cloudy to be reminded of. However, the academy did not feel out of context as many of Europe’s most eager seekers of change had been invited to share their ideas on nuclear disarmament.
And then there was me. During those four days, I didn’t really feel like an activist but I definitely considered myself to be one. Indeed, I was brainstorming with around a hundred other participants on issues like efficient campaigning, perfect ways to reach out to influential politicians and how-to-use social media techniques from the 2000s.
It was kindergarten and I loved it. During one of the activities, we had to perform a small discussion panel on the humanitarian aspects of nukes. It was the activists versus the NATO generals and I was conveniently part of the latter team. Soon after the exercise ended someone came up to me and told me smilingly that I’m pretty good at being a NATO general. I wasn’t quite sure if that was a compliment, but in all my glory all I could do was to smile back.
Many of whom I met in Berlin had one thing in common: they were big fans of Santayana’s famous saying. Many of them went to great lenghts by dedicating their time to bring about just any kind of positive change towards a world free of nuclear weapons and until now I cannot deny the fact that they have come very far in their efforts. Yet while they all dreamt of the future and thought of the past, it was even more pleasing to be part, even if it was just for a few days, of a cause that so vigorously was trying to step out of the present illusion.
After all, as new treaties will be signed, it matters greatly who gets to hold the pen, or in this case the pill. No enlightening adventure in any city has the ability to change that fully, but these campaigns are nothing short of noble efforts to guarantee a safer future.