The slow path to victory
On fixing the broken, forgetting too easily, and why it is unfair but unavoidable that making repairs takes longer than doing wrong
More often than we impatient human beings would like, it takes longer to fix what is broken than it takes to do the breaking. Three months ago, Russia started a war by invading Ukraine. The Ukrainians have resisted far longer than many of the early projections, but that doesn't mean the three months that have passed have been anything short of grueling, devastating, and heartbreaking. While the fighting continues, even the Ukrainian government knows that only negotiations will bring the fighting to a conclusion.
■ Even then, there will be a great deal left to repair. A country will need to be rebuilt. War crimes will need to be prosecuted. And, as the Secretary General of NATO has remarked, "The war in Ukraine demonstrates how economic relations with authoritarian regimes can create vulnerabilities." Those vulnerabilities -- not just with Russia -- will need to be repaired. There will have to be both a will to conduct those repairs and a sustained campaign to remind millions of voters across the many NATO member countries why the costs will be worth bearing.
■ If human beings weren't so predisposed to forgetting pain, then solving long-term issues would be far easier. But we have to be able to let time heal all wounds, or else life itself might become unbearable. It's a good thing we can forget or at least diminish the memory of pain, at least individually -- otherwise, the physical pain of childbirth might become a bigger barrier to reproducing the species.
■ But when it comes to big-picture issues -- the things that matter to entire cultures or entire countries -- our instinct to forget pain can keep us from achieving the slow, long-term work to do the necessary fixing of the broken parts of our world. There may be no good easy answers. But we can't escape the responsibility to build up a reservoir of patience to undertake (and stick with) the fixing. Malicious actors count on us to forget.