Interpreting Hammarskjöld's Political Wisdom
More than 50 years ago, Rolf Edberg, Swedish ambassador to Norway, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of "the administrators of the estate of Dag Hammarskjöld". A few months earlier, Hammarskjöld had died in an air crash in Africa; the world was still assessing what he was.
Dag Hammarskjöld is compelling on the topic of duty because he never stopped questioning its meaning and probing his experience of it. There was no dry boundary around something called "duty".
One reaction is explained by another reaction. And in an atmosphere of general distrust, even a move which in its intention is fairly innocent may be misinterpreted by the other side.
Early in his years at the UN, Hammarskjöld gave a radio talk about his ethical and religious beliefs. Few heard it at the time. It was a classic statement.
International service will expose us to conflicts. It will not permit us to live lazily under the protection of inherited and conventional ideas.
Finally, we have to deal here with a question of integrity or with, if you please, a question of conscience.
A note in Hammarskjöld’s journal: "Conscious of the reality of evil and the tragedy of individual life, and conscious, too, of the demand that life be conducted with decency".
We have seen how out of present-day conflicts and the underlying tensions has grown a widespread state of fear and frustration, of distrust and desperation. This is in itself a source of evil. It maintains an atmosphere in which unbalanced reactions may suddenly release.
I asked as I used to do on meeting him again, "Do you still have faith in man?"
How happy in that which alone is great.