Orwellian by Omission?
If one by chance read the public service directives regarding what to do in case of a real nuclear attack that were suffered upon the residents of Hawaii and elsewhere and were reported in the media after the false alarm of last week one could be forgiven if one imagined that one had been dropped back into 1958. Either that or someone working in said service has a poor sense of humor. Taking shelter behind concrete, in basements, staying away from windows, getting inside rather than staying outside and the like, all duly and blandly listed as ‘recommended’ just in case the attack is real, will not save you. Save us. The US president is admired by many as a ‘straight talker’. Some straight talk on nuclear warfare might be handy, and as it is so succinct not to pressure even the sound-byte attentiveness all of us exhibit now and then, here it is: urbanites are vaporized no matter what they do or where they are; suburbanites are burned alive by the heat blast no matter what they do or where they are, and rural folks get to die an agonizingly slow death through the combination of radiation poisoning, nuclear winter and disease. If things drag on long enough, they will get to see a single generation of Chernobyl children take the last breaths of the human species. End of story.
Of course the propaganda machine of state media cannot afford to be honest in such matters, for then citizens would actually have to make up their minds regarding the continued presence of such weapons systems. Either we accept them and their implications by stating with all honesty to ourselves that we would rather end the world than adapt our way of life to anyone else’s, or that they should not in fact exist and must be banned for the sake of the human future, whatever its cultural stripes. We would, in other words, have to make a real choice between indefinite human life, which would mean discarding our bigotries and anxieties concerning the other, or that the other is simply too much for us and if we go, everyone must go. No doubt there are many cultures, perhaps almost every other one, that I myself would not wish to live in. Perhaps, since the death of any individual is relatively insignificant when compared with the death of human consciousness as a whole – we are not simply ready to kill ourselves in the present, but for all times, past and future, the Beethoven et al we have known and loved and any possible versions of him or her to come will also die forever and ever – those of us who cannot abide the other, either inside us or that external round the globe, ought to simply kill ourselves before it is too late for the rest of us. That said, the other has to try to be more amenable to us as well; there has to be a modicum of give and take in this our conflicted world, but I think, perhaps naively, that most people who live on our singular and unique planet do not think the way some politicians and a few others do and have no interest in ending the species simply because we could not agree about this or that specific issue. At least I hope this to be the case.
One way to begin such a reality check is for supposedly responsible arms of government to cease the spreading of utter nonsense regarding one of the most serious issues of our age. It is disconcerting that the ‘duck and cover’ domesticity of the 1950s has made an unexpected return to the pages of our news items some half century later but the vague misgivings our grandparents must have felt at the time surely have been made more rational and palpable by now. If not, read the above again and again until you get the message.