Martin Auer, renowned Austrian author of children’s books has put together a collection of stories for children and young people named “The Strange War-Stories for a culture of Peace”. The book that has been published by Beltz & Gelberg, Germany, in summer 2000 can be read online and can also be downloaded for printing at http://www.peaceculture.net and using in schools about the issues of peace and non-violence.
United Nations and UNESCO have declared the first ten years of the new millennium a Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World. This is what made me put together this collection of stories. I have written those stories for children and young people, but they have something to offer for everyone, I hope. Some have been published in several earlier books, and some so far have been published only on this website. Reading stories onscreen is rather tedious, so after having a look at some of the texts you can download and print them. I hope that these stories will be used in schools, youth groups, church work and the like to talk with children about the issues of war and peace. There is also a discussion forum on this website where readers can communicate with the author and each other about the stories and general issues of a culture of peace. Many teachers already use these stories for work in class and some of the students works have been posted here. And this site still gives you the opportunity to sign the Manifesto 2000 for a culture of peace and non-violence.
Ever since I started writing books for children, I have considered it important to deal with the difficult subject of war and peace in a way that children can understand. It seems to me that it is not enough to tell children that war is terrible and that peace is much nicer. Although even that is a step forward, of course, considering there was once a youth literature that glorified the military and combat action. But most children in our latitudes know that war is something terrible and peace is much nicer. But is peace possible? Or is war an unavoidable destiny that keeps befalling humankind? Doesn’t our history class, as well as the evening news, teach us that war has always existed everywhere in the world and is still with us? A culture of peace, understanding of others, peaceful resolution of conflicts – all of that is well and good: but what if the others do not want to go along?
I cannot imagine how we can banish war from the life of humankind, if we do not search for the causes of war. Only when the cause of a disease is discovered, can a focused and effective method be found to fight it.
The stories I have collected here are intended to suggest a direction in which a person can continue to think; they are intended to convey a feeling for where and how to search for the causes of war.
The Dreamer took shape during a weeklong workshop, arranged by the cultural initiative "Fireworks" in the Oetz valley, Tyrol. The theme was "Free as the Wind and the Clouds."
There once was a man who was a dreamer. He believed, for instance, that there must be a way to see things ten thousand miles away. Or he figured there must be a way to eat soup with a fork. He thought there must be a way for people to stand on their own heads, and he was sure there must be a way for people to live without fear.
The people told him, “None of those things can be done; you’re a dreamer!” And they said, “You’ve got to open your eyes and accept reality!” And they said, “There are laws of nature, and you can’t just change them!”
But the man said, “I don’t know … there must be a way to breathe under water. And there must be a way to give everybody something to eat. There must be a way for everybody to learn what he or she wants to know. There must be a way to look inside your own belly.”
And the people said, “Pull yourself together, mister; those things will never happen. You can’t simply say you want something and then just expect it to happen. The world is the way it is, and that’s all there is to it!”
When television was invented and x-ray machines, the man was able to see ten thousand miles away and he could see inside his own belly. But no one said to him, “Okay, I guess you weren’t so wrong, after all.” And they said nothing after someone invented diving suits that allowed people to breathe easily under water. But the man said to himself: that’s what I thought. Maybe one day it will even be possible to get along without wars.
Martin Auer (1995)
Translated by Kim Martin Metzger
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