Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Bomb in the Mind

I read an interview of Jonathan Schell over at Tomdispatch which sent my mind, once again, around the bend and when it returned to me all worn out, dirty and tore up by brambles, this rant was the result:

It's kind of strange, my generation was the first to be born with the consciousness that the world could actually end -- not with "God" poking a stick in the anthill or sending one of the head angels to, figuratively speaking, blow a big whistle and shout, "Everybody out of the pool!"

On my fourth birthday, the first true Weapon of Mass Immolation lit up the skies of Hiroshima and left a bit more than a tenth of a megadeath in its hideous wake.

Everyone in my generation grew up with this knowledge more or less niggling at the back of our mind -- that we could actually snuff the planet Earth, Our Blue Mother, and we, Her Only Begotten Son.

If you (dare) think about it, it was inevitable the moment we began to think. Eventually, we would develop the scientific method, the mathematics, the chemistry and the physics and idea of the "Bomb" would, sooner or later occur.

The only questions were, would we make it and, having made it, would we use it. In our case, the answers were "yes!" and "yes, of course!".

As a matter of history, it was Leo Szillard to whom the idea first occurred -- it was on a street in London in the year 1933. But, it was inevitable.

It was also inevitable, considering the world situation at that time -- and that we had such a situation was perhaps also inevitable -- it was inevitable that someone would bring the idea into reality and rip the fabric of time and space.

The Americans, mistakenly, thought that Hitler's Germany was trying to make the "Bomb" and the Manhattan Project was the consequence.

Having the "Bomb", although Germany was defeated and Japan essentially so, the Americans had to use the device. Perhaps America was the only country which might have resisted the temptation -- but the fact is, two bombs, the one using highly enriched uranium (HEU) and the other plutonium were used to incinerate, in seconds, the populations of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After that, the jinni was out of the bottle and there was no putting it back. The Americans, narcissistically, thought that it was "their bomb" -- this was ridiculous! That it could be made was an idea inherent in our scientific understanding. Once it had been made and used there was no way to hide the knowledge of how to do it. True, spies hastened the process, but there was no way to hide the knowledge that a certain amount of certain heavy metals, when assembled in a critical mass, would detonate in devastation -- the rest was details, a matter of research, time money and the will to death.

My children's' generation is the first to mature with the knowledge, not only of the "Bomb" but also of other, alternative, ways to ensure our common demise. Bacteriological and chemical death made in thousands of liters and prepared for warheads; the appearance of mutating viruses, one of which could make a bid to outdo the Black Death; and, of course, the slow strangulation of the biosphere through was is so neatly called, "Global Climate Change".

Just as the attempts to put away the "Bomb" have not only been half hearted but, in fact, counter productive, the efforts to address the other doomsday options have been insufficient.

Is there anything which could awaken the drunkard from his slumber?

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