Helen Caldecott is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and a world renowned campaigner against nuclear weapons. She says that our species is “mentally sick… The whole society is sick”. We are in the grip of a death wish. She points out that 1 in 25 people are sociopaths with “no moral conscience” and these are the people who rise to the top; who are in charge. Is she right? Have we really become insane? There is good reason to believe so. By insane behaviour I am referring to avoidable behaviour which will result in our own destruction and would be seen as such if we were “in our right minds”.
There are many reasons for the belief that much of our behaviour has become insane. Here are some of them.
1. Nuclear Weapons on High Alert – 2000 nuclear weapons are held ready for launch at the press of a button. This could happen by accident, misunderstanding or malicious intent. It came within hours of happening in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It came within seconds of happening when the drunkard President Yeltsin had his finger on the button after being told Russia was under nuclear attack. It could happen now at any time. Is this sane?
2. Nuclear Arsenals – There are seventeen thousand nuclear weapons in existence; enough to incinerate everyone on the planet many times over as well as destroying most of the other nine million species we share the planet with. Is this sane?
We are not told the destructive power of the weapons being deployed but we do know, for example, that the 180 B61 American bombs now in Europe can be 30 times more destructive than the Hiroshima bomb. President Obama has recently put $537 million in his 2014 budget proposal (total cost is expected to be $10 billion) to upgrade these bombs and make them more accurate! Each bomb can destroy a major city the size of London or New York. Is this sane? All this is totally unnecessary. A perfectly sane alternative is available – an enforceable treaty banning nuclear weapons. The existence of a feasible sane option compounds the madness.
Harbouring arsenals of nuclear weapons undermines our very humanity. As the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Kenzaburo Oe, declared “The most terrifying monster lurking in the darkness of Hiroshima is precisely the possibility that man might become no longer human.”
3. Nuclear power and radiation – Contamination from a single failure at Chernobyl spread right across Europe. The struggle to keep the lethal emissions at bay is going on still, 27 years later. At Fukushima three complete meltdowns of reactor cores have been emitting radioactive material for over two years and nobody knows how to stop it. If the wind had been blowing the other way when the disaster started, Tokyo would have had to be evacuated and a large part of Japan would have become uninhabitable for 300 years. If another earthquake occurs, the cooling ponds of reactor 4 (loaded with fuel rods) could lose their coolant, releasing sufficient radiation to pollute the entire northern hemisphere. Two-and-a-half years after the triple meltdowns started the general manager of TEPCO, the responsible corporation, announced, referring to the discharge of radioactive cooling water into the sea, “We understand that this discharge is beyond our control and we do not think the current situation is good.”
Humanity is refusing to abandon a technology which can, through a single accident, pollute countries and continents. Is this sane?
4. The Arms Trade – The arms trade fuels the world’s wars. It is a major cause of human suffering. Each year, around $45-60 billion worth of arms sales are agreed. The 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, Russia, France, United Kingdom and China), together with Germany and Italy, account for around 85% of the arms sold between 2004 and 20115. Most arms sales (something like 75%) are to developing countries.
The leaders of selling countries are shameless. Prime Minister Cameron recently led a bevy of arms dealers on a selling spree to Saudi Arabia (the only likely use of weapons sold to the Saudi government will be against their own citizens when the Arab Spring finally arrives). Senior UK Minister Dr Cable MP took another ‘defense delegation’ to India. Dr Cable publicly justified the UK government’s behavior by saying if we didn’t do it someone else would. This does not earn a reprieve for other criminal activities like robbing banks. Another common justification is ‘The arms industry creates jobs’ – jobs for killing people. Can any of this be considered rational behavior by mature human beings?
5. Wars – Global military spending is over $1.7 trillion dollars; more that 2/5th of this is by the US. The western powers purport to be peace-loving. The only countries on the planet who currently routinely invade other countries and kill their citizens are the UK and the US. The western powers claim to be law-abiding. Yet the United Nations forbids armed attack on other states. The 1970 UN Declaration on Principles of International Law declares:
Every State has the duty to refrain in its international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations. Such a threat or use of force constitutes a violation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations and shall never be employed as a means if settling international issues.
In order to stop terrorism we invade other countries where we think there might be terrorists and slaughter their families. Like dousing a fire by throwing petrol on it…