“You can … be assured that our administration is committed to strengthen and modernise America’s nuclear deterrent,” Mike Pence, the vice-president, said on Friday on a morale-boosting visit to Minot air force base in North Dakota, home to Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and B-52 strategic bombers. “History attests the surest path to peace is through American strength. There’s no greater element of American strength, there’s no greater force for peace in the world than the United States nuclear arsenal.” the guardian.com October 29th 2017
For a short time, when I was nine, nuclear war became a distinct possibility. I remember cowering under the forbidding wooden and iron desks in the schoolroom of the boys’ boarding school to which I had been sent as an ongoing educational exercise in cruelty and the privilege of deprivation.
“The Russians are going to attack America from their nuclear bases in Cuba,” the older boys were saying.
“And they will bomb us as well!” added other boys, a mixture of fear and excitement in their voices.
From a small seaside town into which the cold Baltic wind swept in arctic breaths that would numb and paralyse, the thought of what might be happening on an unknown island, thousands of miles away, was conjuring a terrified lifelessness in us all; for us the world was ending.
Again, there are people who have attained positions of power in the world that see nuclear weapons as a legitimate show of force, want to create stockpiles of destruction, and are prepared, indeed willing, to use them. The last two world wars were preceded by certain countries stockpiling weapons in a deadly, nationalistic fuelled race to become the dominant world power; today we have the potential for global destruction in the hands of those individuals who possess that heady and volatile mixture of ignorance and arrogance…
‘there’s no greater force for peace in the world than the United States nuclear arsenal.’
In Africa, Asia and America devastating floods are causing havoc to all life. Ice caps are melting, and deserts are growing. The extinction of species is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Human population is growing exponentially. Those of us who have been alive for a while can see it every day: more cars, more planes, more high-rise blocks, more of everything; inevitably, more competition, and the world is continuing to fragment at an alarming rate in almost every aspect of human existence. Life has become incredibly complicated and extraordinarily dangerous in ways that are difficult to imagine.
‘The object of education is to give man the unity of truth. Formerly, when life was simple, all the different elements of man were in complete harmony. But when there came the separation of the intellect from the spiritual and the physical, the school education put entire emphasis on the intellect and physical side of man. We devote our sole attention to giving children information, not knowing by this emphasis we are accentuating a break between the intellectual, the physical and the spiritual life.’ Rabindranath Tagore: ‘My School’, 1901.
Harmony and balance….where are they in modern life?
‘A toxic ideology rules the world – of extreme competition and individualism. It misrepresents human nature, destroying hope and common purpose.’ George Monbiot: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis, 5th Sept. 2017.
Equilibrium, balance, is the basis of a healthy individual, community and society. Conflict is essentially destructive: the threat of nuclear war as a real possibility is highly disturbing, bringing a deep fear of existence into every home; and, looking out on the rain, the clouds, or blue sky, the questions arise, ‘Why are we prepared to destroy all this? What is the purpose of this man-made destruction?’ Many children, with all their lives ahead of them, wonder: ‘What is life about?’. This questioning intensifies with the viewing of destruction caused by the latest hurricanes in the Caribbean, the plight of the refugees from Myanmar, and the daily pronouncements of politicians all over the world.
I am reminded of my conversation with the Buddhist monk, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, that took place earlier this year in Chennai, India. And I quote from a previous blog:
‘Towards the end of our conversation we observed that humanity was on an almost irretrievable course towards disaster; that, even if it was not to be precipitated by human behaviour, it might equally come about through some natural phenomena. This, he felt, had the possibility of bringing about some sense of realisation or understanding of the effects of self-centred or egotistical activity. The global economic system as it is currently, underpinned by violence and greed, with the existence of rapid environmental degradation, widening inequality between the poor and the rich, and increasing religious intolerance is destroying any semblance of balance or harmony in the world - negating the values and ethics that might give some avenue to ensuring the survival of the human race.’
There is a tide of revolution that is swirling round the world, demonstrating the courage, compassion and sensitivity of which humanity is capable. Against this tide runs a global wave of aggression, greed and hatred. At some point the wave will disappear into the endless motion of the ocean; but by then, what damage will have been done?