Friday, November 16, 2012

How Societies Retreated From Trust and Responsibility for Each Other - The Path Through the Atomic Bomb

Seems like Oliver is telling the story  "The Untold History of the United States", beginning with how the atomic bomb transformed American Society , that I have been preparing to tell. 

Sven Lindqvist  (born 1932) has written a trilogy on this, taking the broader world view over a longer period beginning in 762 with the Chinese invention of gunpowder. The story in the third book, "The History of Bombing"  is told in an interesting way:

This book is a labyrinth with twenty-two entrances and no exit. While printed in a chronological order, it is recommended to be read according to themes, and thus skips around chronological with  " >>"  suggesting the order the numbered sections are recommended to be read.

Section 1.                                                                            BANG, YOU’RE DEAD

"Bang, you're dead!" we said. "I got you!” we said. When we played, it was always war. A bunch of us together, one-on-one, or in solitary fantasies -- always war, always death.
      "Don't play like that," our parents said, "you could grow up that way." Some threat --there was no way we would rather be. We didn't need war toys. Any old stick became a weapon in our hands, and pine cones were bombs. I cannot recall taking a single piss during my childhood, whether outside or at home in the outhouse, when I didn't choose a target and bomb it. At five years old of age I was already a seasoned bombardier.
      “If everyone plays war,” said my mother, “there will be war.” And she was quite right – there was.  
                                                                                                >> Section. 166

166.    [1939]  When the Second World War broke out on the first of September in 1939, I was seven years old and had just started school. Suddenly I realized my father was already an old man.  He didn't even know how to put out a firebomb. He wouldn't be able to get out of the cellar of a house that had collapsed, he had no idea how to hide in the forest and dig down into the snow. He was stuck back in the first World War, and if I wanted to survive the second, the responsibility would be all mine.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

It's always puzzled me how societies moved from mutual cooperation, that Charles Darwin alleged was the most important inheritable characteristic for survival, to an Ayn Rand, dog eat dog, every man for himself mentality. Yes, I realize that Thomas Hobbes, in his Leviathan, 1651 wrote:
               ".....there be no Propriety, no Dominion, no Mine and Thine distinct; but only that to be                 every mans that he can get; and for so long, as he can keep it.

A Thread of my own making, to give a sense of how Sven Lindqvist tells a story.

1803. [#35-p13] 
Malthus:  Principles of Population (1803). It is quite possible to solve Europe’s food shortages temporarily by exterminating the native populations of other continents.
“If the United States of America continue increasing, which they will certainly do, though not with the same rapidity as formerly, the Indians will be drive further and further back into the country, till the whole race is ultimately exterminated, and the territory is incapable of further expansion.”
But not Africa or Asia.

“To exterminate the inhabitants of the greatest part of Asia and Africa is a thought that could not be permitted for a moment.”
1869.  [ #45 p. 17 ]   
Charles Dilke:  Greater Britain (1869).   Bestseller

              “The gradual extinction of the inferior races is not only a law of nature, but a blessing to    

1961. [ #315 p. 149 ]
Several hundred professors: Open letter to US President Kennedy:
                “By buying a shelter program that does not shelter, and thereby believing that we can  
                   survive a  nuclear war, we are increasing the problem of war.”

Margaret Mead.  The U.S. was no longer trying to build a safe world, or even a safe country or a safe city. No, the family sought instead an illusory security by creeping into itself and pulling back from the world. The last station on that line was the little hole in the ground where the family ducked and covered under attack from nuclear weapons. 

Margot A. Henriksen:  Dr. Strangelove’s America:  Society and Culture in the American Age.
                “The armed, individual  shelter is the logical end of this retreat from trust and
      responsibility for others.”

Lindqvist, Sven:  TheHistory of Bombing.    1999  Translated 2001 by Linda Rugg. New Press

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