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Humanity At A Crossroads

And we are once again idle bystanders

Thomas Lahnthaler
4 min readAug 15, 2021


Crises are inevitable turning points and one of our core values, humanity, is currently approaching such a decisive moment in front of all our eyes. Once again, we are inactive witnesses to an incomprehensible scenario, which everyone knew to be the only realistic one to come, and yet, many with a child-like naiveté still try to rationalize. An act that, with a mix of incompetent perplexity and bewildered paralysis over how decades of effort are nihilated within weeks, turns into a farce.

The images from Afghanistan are making headlines globally. Twenty years after their removal by a US-led military operation, which had a different main directive, the Taliban are about to finally regain their power position. The consequences of this unavoidable development were known to everyone, yet I am sitting here — with a combination of apathetic disbelief, uncontrollable anger, and utter pain — like so many others, following the decisions of the very same countries that underlined the importance of a developed Afghanistan for decades. The repeated promises fade into hypocrisy, which is hidden behind a narrative that turns the ones who suffer the most, the population, into pawns in a global game of politics. In the conference rooms around the world, this is no more than a pawn sacrifice.

It is, however, about people whose destiny was used for years as an argument for the military operation, from which many soldiers did not return. About people for whom billions of aid money were invested with the plan to facilitate their prosperous future and where humanitarian workers lost their lives out of a passion to contribute and help realize this aim. So how come that the very same people are worth nothing from one day to the next? Moreover, that there are still countries, who continue to forcefully return people to a country where what awaits them in the best-case scenario is a brutal war zone and in the worst-case death.

Where is humanity in all this?

Afghanistan captures you with its uniqueness and enchants you through its ambivalence of simplicity and complexity. Surrounded by mesmerizing beauty, the population is characterized by an extremely multi-layered, value-driven, and fascinating social system, which as a foreigner, even with above-average interest, one can hardly ever begin to comprehend. The value hierarchy is a different one than in many western countries and despite the efforts, the international actors never mastered nor comprehended its depth and complexity, which could have led to real change and sustainable progress in the country.

During my humanitarian career, I had the privilege to visit Afghanistan many times and even call it my home for more than two years. I was witness to many incredible developments but also many oversights, failures, and a lack of comprehension of the interests and real needs of the population. The interventions were driven by egoistic motives of different countries and the ambitious goal to change and develop the society was sabotaged in all openness without hindrance. The forces that are currently regaining power were never gone. They were always present, even if maybe not with the same strength they have now managed to rebuild. They waited patiently, as Afghans have already proven to do in the time and again when different countries have tried to control the rough terrain and its unruly population, and everyone who is of the opinion that the past two decades were not viewed as an occupation was not listening carefully. The warnings were there and repeated frequently. And yet, the decisions were and are almost exclusively made taking political instead of humane perspectives.

So the very people who strove for modernisation and the progress that was promised to them for two decades are the ones that are faced with the consequences of the international power games. Moreover, some actors have the cowardly audacity to blame the population for the Taliban regaining power because they are not picking up arms and showing the necessary resistance.

I am thinking of my friends, the countless fascinating and inspiring people whom I had the privilege to get to know and who met me with such warm hospitality. The many young people who were promised a future full of possibilities and who now watch the house of cards collapse. The girls and women, who tirelessly fought for their own freedom and who were given hope only to end up again as brutalised prisoners in their own homes. The children, whose stage should be the world instead of being socialized into a radical system that keeps itself alive that way.

What will become of them?

The world is watching, once again, and brushes off the responsibility for a humanitarian catastrophe that it played a leading role to co-create. What is forgotten is that it is more than the destiny of a country and its people that is at stake and that we are faced with a way bigger crisis, which forces me to ask: Where is humanity in all this?



Thomas Lahnthaler

Experienced international crisis leader, mediator, mentor, facilitator and speaker. Psychology geek and a little sarcastic at times.