by Jack Bragen
The advent of atomic weapons has radically changed the way that humanity now looks at war. Additionally, the systematic decimation of the Earth’s environment for purposes of comfort and profit cannot continue indefinitely.
Warfare is a major part of this ecological destruction, since our oceans, atmosphere, and land are impacted by the dropping of bombs, by nuclear tests, by disposal of nuclear waste, and by the pollution created by war vessels.
War is psychologically and socially poisonous. The misinformation that leaders use to sell war to the people doing the fighting and to other participants (meaning all of us) is a mindbender. The public is barraged by propaganda and media manipulation and this constant deception and distortion is psychologically harmful.
Even more injurious is the climate of fear and alarm and stress that governments deliberately provoke in the civilian populace in order to build support for their military spending and wars of aggression.
The human species needs to immediately wake up to the fact that we cannot continue on this path. The fact that countries are armed to the hilt with nuclear bombs, with many countries having launches on a hair trigger, means that in all probability, at some point, these weapons will be used.
With the cessation of the Cold War in the 1990s (and we didn’t realize at the time that it would come back), and with Bill Clinton’s election (arguably, a less war-like president than his predecessors), I believed at the time that people were finally evolving beyond war, and I thought that there really was hope for the future of our planet.
Then came changes in the U.S. government with the election of an administration that had an agenda of going to war in the Middle East. And then came the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, which was used to convince Americans that we ought to go to war. At the time, it seemed to me that we were going back to the Stone Age when government officials launched these large-scale wars.
The U.S. government convinced most people that we could “install a government” in Iraq that would be friendly to the U.S. I never believed a word of that, as evidenced by a letter that I sent to the Contra Costa Times that was published in 2002. I wrote that it was not believable that we could install a government in Iraq that would be able to govern.
Think of it this way: If a foreign country invaded the United States and tried to install a government supposedly better than what we have now, every able-bodied man, woman and child would fight such a thing. People living in other countries are the same way.
In the United States, we had some kind of delusion that we were the only country that had national pride, and that was capable of putting up a fight against invaders. Those who fought against us were labeled “insurgents” or “aggressors” because if we had called them “rebels” it would have evoked sympathy. In fact, with the invasion of Iraq, we were the ones carrying out a war of aggression.
Since then, we have paid a considerable price. We have countless veterans who have come home permanently disabled; constant war has become a constant drain on the U.S. economy; and we have ignited global violence, the scope of which we haven’t seen since World War II.
The human body, mind, and constitution are increasingly not designed for violence. Evolution has taken us in a different direction than predators such as lions and tigers. Human beings are far more fragile physically, and also psychologically. Many people sustain lasting damage in their minds and hearts from violent incidents. I believe this evolutionary trend in humans exists because nonviolent people have a better chance at surviving, and therefore at transmitting their genes.
Yet, the world continues to fight. The violent instincts of many individuals have outlasted the human ability to physically and mentally sustain violence. This is a sickness that plagues the human species, a social cancer. Given our technological advances, warlike tendencies in people threaten to wipe out all life on our planet.
There is such a great variety in people. Some embrace war and violence and do not have a problem with cruelty. Others follow a peace ethic, and some go so far as not consuming animal products to survive. Some will fight in defense of self, defense of loved ones, and defense of innocent people who could use some help. Others across the board cannot be made to perpetrate violence.
The late science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote, “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.” Certainly, with more brains come more alternatives and more choices, wherein we can use resources other than violence to get an objective accomplished or even to nonviolently defend ourselves against the violence of ignorant people.
Human beings must shed our violent tendencies or suffer the consequences, which could include our extinction. If human beings use atomic weapons on a massive scale, the likelihood of which increases as more time passes, there is no “shield” in existence that will protect life on our planet from the resulting radioactivity.
The rest of the creatures on our planet would then be innocent victims of the Earth becoming uninhabitable. (Other creatures do not get a vote, and other creatures do not have a say.) And this would be an obscene atrocity, one that would stand out in infamy in the universe.