Monday, January 31, 2011

strange game

"I'm lucky to have been in the last cohort of American children to grow up with the living fear of total nuclear annihilation."-Will Wilkinson

There's a lot to say about the larger issue in Wilkinson's post; we are all living in a time of partial internationalisms, which produce rhetorical and theoretical outcomes that are always schizophrenic and often tragic. (There's a class of politico out there that thinks the only way to show respect for the needs of Indonesian mill workers is to demonstrate total callousness towards unemployed Detroit factory workers, and that's cosmopolitanism!) But that's an issue for another day.

No, for this particular quote, I just want to say-- these children may not grow up in living fear of total nuclear annihilation, but they still grow up under the danger of total nuclear annihilation. There are still enough active nuclear weapons in the world to render much of it an apocalyptic wasteland. I'm glad that scenario feels farther off then it did when I was a child, but please. As long as the impediment to such a scenario is human discretion and human virtue, our ticket is close to being punched.

11 comments:

Simon said...

I think what makes things different for (western)children now isn't the risk - in fact it may be greater, given the Iranians, Nth Koreans, and the equally(more-so?) trigger-happy war hawks of America, Israel, Russia...
No, the risk is the same or greater.
The difference is the media. The media have by and large made war bloodless, nuclear annihilation a computer game for some, a patriotic necessary risk cloaked in the flag for others, and something that happens only to those who 'deserve it'(meaning, for many in the U.S, Arabs).
Maybe what I just said is all political bunk - but the media have most certainly tamed all war to the point even American and Israeli children can feel OK saying that we ought to 'nuke' this or that culture back to the stone age, even get a congratulatory slap on the back by mom or dad for their comment.
It's just not a fear that parents want their kids to have(though some are OK with their kids wanting it for others), nor is it one politicians want their constituents to have(same again: they are OK with their constituents wishing it on others).
In America, the media gives it to them.
But believe me: in countries where journalism is till a valued and honorable profession, and in some other countries who are constantly under attack either verbally, militarily or both: children are still fearful - especially in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, who are regularly threatened by leading American(& some Russian) politicians with being wiped out.
They of course are playing to their war hawk consistencies(who also are convinced, it seems, that war has no negative consequences for them) - but those threatened, hear it.
They see a very bleak future.
Big surprise they are easily manipulated into fighting with little chance of survival, some even very easily manipulated into becoming suicide bombers. These kids have lived their entire conscious lives being threatened - daily - with annihilation; nuclear and otherwise. And they believe it: it's common knowledge, for example, that kids get shot in Palestine when sitting in their classrooms studying, or when playing outside in the schoolyard. This is life for them - ;fear' is something that is normal for them. And we blame them when they grow up and become what we call 'Terrorists'?

North said...

I disagree.
Now I allow that the weapons are still out there, enough to blow the planet to kibble easily. But I would submit that there are fewer now than there were. A lot fewer. And they are being stored and maintained in a more controlled and less readily used fashion. Objectively the world is further from nuclear destruction than it was in the past. A lot further. The previous nuclear terror was like two men blindfolded, hopped up on cocaine with guns in their hands at each others temples. The current scenario is more like the same two men soberly sitting in chairs in the same room with the guns in holsters at their sides.

Freddie said...

Certainly there are far fewer, and thus the threat is less. I just think that the threat is far from over.

Mysterious Man from the shadows said...

I just want to say that I for one would really like to read your take on that "issue for another day."

Freddie said...

OK.

FOARP said...

I agree with North, I just hope his first name isn't Oliver.

Joshua A. Miller said...

I’m not a “politico,” and I don’t feel at all callous to Detroit factory workers. I worry about them both.

However, it’s important to note that the Indonesian per capita GDP is $2,349 while the Michigan per capita GDP is $32,079. Also, Michigan has unemployment insurance and the full gamut of US social protections, while Indonesia is one of the four OECD countries with the worst social protections. Until the economic downturn here in the US, Indonesia also suffered from negative rates of foreign direct investment, which is part of why they couldn’t afford a more extensive welfare state. Now that the FDI trend has improved (in large part because of FDI deregulation that no longer forces de facto nationalization of foreign investments) Indonesians are indeed capturing some of the jobs, like a new Hyundai tire plant, that would otherwise go to Detroit workers. Is it callous to say that, while they both need it, the Indonesians need it more?

Freddie said...

Not at all. But as you indicate, supporting both their needs is not mutually exclusive. The devil is in the details; I want to support them both by, to pick one example, establishing a worker health, safety, and compensation regime in Indonesia that is similar to ours in the US. But many think that this would be contrary to liberalized trade orthodoxy.

Riggsveda said...

I dunno...I remember a deep fear of nuclear annihilation raising its ugly head during the late 70s through the 80s. Remember the movies? Mad Max, Testament, The Day After, Threads, When the Wind Blows? Remember Jonathan Schell's book, The Fate of the Earth? Reagan's unfunny joke about blowing the USSR off the planet? People may not have been engaging in duck and cover exercises, and building bomb shelters, but in a way it was worse. There was a fatalistic attitude, as if nothing could stop it, so why bother anyway?

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