THE TRINITY TEST, VII.16.1945 / 5:30 am . . .
On the road in the American Northwest. [click photo for next . . . ]
WORLD WITHOUT NUCLEAR
The simplest and most powerful of all
possible tests is the test of doing without.
"For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may
lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is free to
combat it." Thomas Jefferson
"To know when we are wrong is all that we
shall ever know in this world." F.M. Alexander
If there are indeed angels, or other beings of a more subtle
realm, I do not for a moment doubt that from their perspective
of serene and neutral objectivity which comes so naturally with great
distance and repose, on the morning of July the 16th in the
year of 1945 ce, at a place in the New Mexico desert called
prophetically "Journey of Death," they surely witnessed
with great horror and consternation as humanity took
its first step down a tragically mistaken path.
As Robert Oppenheimer, one of the most prescient physicists
who worked on the development of the first nuclear bomb, and who
was later brutally ostracized for this very reason, said of this moment
years later, "A few people laughed. A few people cried. Most people
I am here not so much concerned about what is commonly
regarded as "the nuclear debate," that is, whether or not nuclear
power is necessary to address Climate Change, or whether or not
there is an irrational, exaggerated fear of the health effects of
radiation. This is because I feel that what passes for debate or
argument is really by and large what I call, conclusionary rhetoric.
This is a kind of arguing backwards and disingenuously from rigidly
held conclusions, together with what a better informed and wider
perspective would most certainly see as but obvious and blatant
This is evidently the price we pay for scientific illiteracy, one of
the many negative side-effects of an essentially anti-democratic,
fundamentalist-style home schooling so popular in North America,
and now coming full circle to fill the halls of Congress.
It is also a result of a more general disinterest in the deeper
formative movements of thought itself.
Instead of debate in this limited sense, personally I am much more
concerned about initiating and sustaining in an ongoing, serious
way, dialogue. I am using the word here in the sense that
the late American physicist and philosopher, David Bohm,
himself a student of Oppenheimer and forced to flee the US
after he refused to testify against him before the House Committee
on Un-American Activities. Bohm suggested that we consider
dialogue in terms of its root meaning, a kind of "dia" or "through
flow" of "logos" or "meaning." So the image suggested to me
here is one of friends sitting alongside a clear mountain stream
and discussing in a free, open, convivial way, real primary problems,
and not simply taking aim, as it were, and throwing 'hard and
fast conclusions' at one another.
Entering this dialogue, my own views are simple and explicit:
I refuse to complicate what should be crystal clear: the nuclear path
was simply a mistake, a profoundly tragic one.
And, as any mountaineer knows, when we are are on the wrong
path, when we are lost, the first thing we must do, above all else,
is stop. Take our bearings. Retrace our steps. That is why I have
organized the twenty some films brought together here in what I am
calling a Dialogue Page in the way I have: so that we may carefully,
alone or together, in a calm, contemplative way, retrace these
steps, and discover where and how we went wrong.
In our more quiet, honest moments, when we have inner visions
of the nuclear world, I think we tend to see frightening images
of men in white protective suits, or worse, men on TV, using
this utterly incomprehensible language characteristic of the
nearly disembodied literal man, a kind of irre-poetry of "REM'S"
and "Sieverts" and "Megatons" and "Criticalities" and "Half-lives"
and "Hydrogen events." This is, in my view, the highly confused
and confusing language of the wrong path, and only of interest
insofar as it is necessary to correct the mistakes we have made.
For clearly, there is but one, not scientific, but moral fact: nuclear
weapons and nuclear power are inseparable from each other.
This has been demonstrated time and time again. Just as
Oppenheimer saw that it was impossible to keep the physical
science of bomb production secret, we should now also see
that it is impossible to keep any nation with reactors, if it
chooses to do so, from developing bombs. Yet, governments
now are going to the brink of war as this is being written for
these very—impossible and contradictory—reasons. This is
where I think the dialogue should begin, and not the important, but
less primary problems, of say, CO2 levels in the atmosphere, or
alternative energy sources, as vital and urgent as these issues
may also be.
For if the violent fragmentation of consciousness is the key
psychological problem of our time, as I think it is, wrecking
havoc in both our relationships with each other and with our
relationships with the Earth, then the fragmentary species
of science which has broken matter itself apart while unleashing
nuclear terror upon the world--a science largely devoid of ethics,
largely unrooted in a sense of place and Earth--is this disturbed
psyche's logical physical and technological counterpart.
"Most were silent," indeed.
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