By Stephanie Hiller
The energy and attention that used to be applied to the creation of temples, libraries, and settings for higher learning are now devoted to the creation and maintenance of nuclear weapons. It’s a necessity, a matter of life and death. Without that, there would be accidents. Even with all that intensive maintenance, there are accidents, as Eric Schlosser has reported in his massive study, Command and Control. The real miracle, for which we ought to be more grateful and remain unaware, is that none of the accidents have triggered an accidental nuclear war. God apparently is not into Apocalypse Now; that invention by one John the Divine that so captured the Christian imagination may not be an actual transmission after all. That we have survived this far may be enough to make one believe in the divine Creator; but we’re not out of the radioactive woods yet: there’s still time for the Big One.
We are worshipping death, not just death but mass death, likely extinction, and have done so since 1945 when Truman praised America for being the first to get the bomb, and now it’s 70 years and we still scratch our heads when one of our young men runs into an elementary school with automatic weapons and slaughters children; this is what the worship of genocide has produced, and we are all responsible.
Now the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which every year sets the minutes on the Doomsday Clock, alerting us to the nearness of the apocalyptic threat, is freaking out. The board and their 23 Nobel prize winning advisors have determined that it is no longer “five minutes to midnight” on the doomsday clock, but THREE. (See “Three Minutes and Counting,” http://thebulletin.org/three-minutes-and-counting7938). And with this determination The Bulletin has issued a powerful warning to all humankind, and especially to the world’s leaders, stating in no uncertain terms that human failure to react to the proliferation of nuclear weapons AND the imminent disaster of climate change may easily bring on species extinction. And it could be right now, or in the middle of the night, or in the middle of your golf game, or in the middle of coitus, gentlemen, that the lights would go out over our heads, and the most horrific scenario of unparalleled suffering many times worse than Hiroshima and beyond anything we’ve ever imagined will begin to take place.
Where the one would be quick and deadly, the other will be slow and agonizing with the same result. The Pentagon, not quick to embrace new ways of thinking, nevertheless has recognized climate change as the greatest threat to our national security. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-pentagon-climate-change-how-climate-deniers-put-national-security-at-risk-20150212?page=14
Unfortunately its response to the chaos and suffering that may be expected from drought, famine and tidal waves is to bolster our reliance on defense as the necessary counter measure and includes modernization of the nuclear weapons pile in the name of deterrence, enhancing potential holocaust to manage the other rather than digging deep into the collective psyche to ferret out the cause of both, and change it. But there are some signs that this is changing; in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, http://www.defense.gov/pubs/2014_Quadrennial_Defense_Review.pdf environmental solutions are beginning to rise to the top.
But there is not much good news on the nuclear front, except for the emergence of a new movement to abolish nuclear weapons led mainly by young women and men and centered largely in Europe, a twinkle of hope on the screen of humanity’s endangered future.This abolition movement, called the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICANW, brought into being by (God bless them) the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW, www.ippnw.org), does not mince words. It has chosen to focus on the real effects, the humanitarian impacts of the actual use of nuclear weapons whether accidentally or on purpose; and this focus is beginning to bring the story home.
States have begun to participate. Last December, Austria hosted the third international conference on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear war, and 163 (out of 194!) states sent representatives to hear doctors, activists, research scientists and heads of NGOs tell them about the incomprehensible suffering, not of the initial victims who will die quickly but those who remain, victims of a slow death from fallout, with no medical care, little or no uncontaminated water, no sunshine and therefore little or no food, to writhe in pain and watch their dear relatives suffer and die also. It’s a vision of pure hell, and it could easily happen. We have become enslaved to these nuclear weapons while men interested only in money are profiting from our predicament, and we, and our governments, are letting them do this, because we are frozen into the trance of what psychologists call “learned helplessness.” But we are not helpless, and we must snap out of this petrified forest of frozen human forms and put up a mighty shout of protest. Bechtel and Northrup Grumman and General Dynamics and Boeing – the lot! — can turn their prodigious work force to eliminating these weapons, taking them apart and disposing of them safely, and thus freeing the world of the worst scourge ever invented by hapless Man [sic]; and we can use the resources freed up by closing all the nuclear labs and vast other facilities (Los Alamos Nuclear Labs occupy 40 square miles of the Pajarito Plateau in Northern New Mexico) to create alternative energies and other technologies to address climate change. Plenty of JOBS to be had and maybe a bit less money to be made but really, gentlemen, what can you possibly do with that second billion anyway?
It must come to a stop. These conferences are a hopeful sign in a number of regards. First off, the nations of the world have decided to stop waiting for the nuclear nations to take the lead, saying, You have failed to disarm as mandated by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty you all signed, so why wait for you? The non-nuclear nations can take the lead, and now they are doing so, a powerful act of tremendous significance because, after all, as Arundhati Roy put it a few years ago at the World Social Forum, “We are many, and they are few.”
To see the abolition movement, which had so long clung to the grey hairs and beards of a vanishing generation, move down to the millennials, is the second marvelous achievement of this new effort. For youth to open its eyes, yank itself away from the earphones and the smart phones and all the other distractions spawned from the same basic military technologies (the Army invented the Internet you know, and by satellites we are blessed or cursed with other electronic devices) – for young people to dare to look into the horrible face of ultimate destruction and stand up for a livable future is the most encouraging sign in decades that we are not all sinking into the miasma of oblivion even before the horror show starts.
We’ve got to wake up. Please go to the website of the recent conference, Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, http://www.bmeia.gv.at/en/european-foreign-policy/disarmament/weapons-of-mass-destruction/nuclear-weapons-and-nuclear-terrorism/vienna-conference-on-the-humanitarian-impact-of-nuclear-weapons/. Listen to the talks and evaluate the information for yourself.
Meanwhile, our disarmament president’s proposed new budget (for fiscal year 2016) allows even more money for the so-called “modernization” of our nuclear arsenal which is just a cover for creating new nuclear weapons, something specifically prohibited by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970. Please go to Los Alamos Study Group’s website http://lasg.org/press/2015/press_release_2Feb2015.html
for a full breakdown of where your tax dollars are going.
Getting rid of these horrific weapons will take the best minds of our generation. It is a heroic assignment worthy of our deepest attention. Many have gone before us, and failed. Eisenhower wanted to get rid of them, Kennedy tried and was assassinated, Carter, even Reagan, and Obama talked about trying, even the Soviet Union’s Khrushchev tried, Gorbachev tried and is still trying… clearly it is going to take something more.
A plea for human survival is in order; and a commitment to change our way of life, which is clearly at the root of all our life threatening social diseases. We must find a way to stop what we have been doing, and start talking about what we might do right, instead.