Reason is not enough to halt the nuclear juggernaut that rumbles unsteadily toward catastrophe, toward omnicide.
The broken heart of humanity must find a way to enter the debate. The heart must find common cause with imagination. We cannot wait until the missiles are in the air with the sand falling through the hourglass. We must use our imaginations. We must listen to the sad stories of those who survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki and imagine the force of the winds, the firestorms rushing through our cities, the mushroom clouds rising, the invisible radiation spreading. If we can’t imagine the death and destruction, we cannot combat it and we will never stop it.
We are trapped by our myopia and lethargy, the forces that keep us impotent in the face of the nuclear threat. I call these forces ACID: Apathy, Conformity, Ignorance and Denial. ACID is corrosive to our common future. ACID is the collection of obstacles to change that is preventing us from ending the nuclear weapons era and preserving the human future.
Our challenge is to move from ACID to Action by changing apathy to empathy; conformity to critical thinking; ignorance to wisdom; and denial to recognition.
Apathy is indifference, a recipe for maintaining the status quo. Empathy is the result of imagining oneself in another’s shoes, in this case the shoes of those who were victims of the atomic bombings, either at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, or victims of atmospheric nuclear testing.
Conformity is going along with the herd mentality, like lemmings over a cliff. Critical thinking is a means of breaking with the herd, of seeing the dangers in what is commonly considered acceptable. Apply critical thinking to nuclear deterrence theory and you find a theory that cannot be proven and is subject to failure. Nuclear deterrence cannot, for example, stand up to terrorists, those who have no territory or are suicidal. Nor can deterrence theory apply to leaders who are not rational, and most leaders are not fully rational in times of extreme crisis.
Ignorance is not knowing, or thinking one knows that which is just plain wrong. It is a result of disinterest or a warped perspective. It bends toward extreme arrogance or hubris, and includes an absurd and dangerous belief in human infallibility. Wisdom is grasping our human fallibility and acting to prevent it from leading to disaster.
Denial is putting on blindfolds and failing to see a problem or threat that would otherwise be obvious. It is countered by recognition of the threat, in the case of nuclear weapons by recognition of the threat to all humanity.
We must move from ACID to action, from education to engagement, starting with the recognition that nuclear weapons undermine security, provide no physical protection, threaten civilization and complex life, and are subject to human fallibility. They are the ultimate evil for they threaten all we love and cherish.
What can you do? Start with A-B-C. Awaken. Believe. Contribute. Awaken to the threat (be aware, attentive and active). Believe you can make a difference on this most critical of issues. Contribute time, talent, money, ideas. Everyone has something they can contribute, and it will take many of us joining together to achieve the goal. Beyond A-B-C, stand up, speak out and join in. Be a nonviolent warrior for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons. Choose hope and keep hope alive, and persevere and never give up.