Nuclear Genies and Racism

Had a conversation a little while back that keeps echoing.  The topic was a mildly racist event of some sort, I don't particularly remember what.  The key question was this: "what's the big deal?"  After all, the event didn't particularly change anyone's life.  My answer at the time was along these lines: "the (nuclear) genie is out of the bottle, within 50 years any group on the planet can likely get hold of weapons that can render whole countries uninhabitable".

We've got lots of rouge states with old nukes.  We've got barely stable states with ties to seriously unstable states being declared nuclear powers and apparently selling the core requirements out the back door.  Within a few decades it seems to be a certainty that we'll have criminal organizations with minimal morals selling the various components you would need.  One way or another, it seems pretty likely that by the time I'm dead it will be possible for any nut-job group with an axe to grind to get hold of something ridiculously destructive just by taking over some tiny country in the middle of nowhere with a barely-functional government that happens to have nukes.

There are other threats than nukes, other issues that require global cooperation, but the presence of nuclear weapons seems a decent minima.  In 50 years we can expect that the genie will get out.  Other genies may show up before then, but it seems unlikely that this particular one will stay capped for more than 50 years when it's already leaking around the edges.

We need to get to the point where we can solve problems politically, rather than via armed conflict.  To do that we'd need some sort of institutions that could provide international justice, policing and the like.  But at a more basic level, we'd have to start teaching our children that racism, intolerance, and hatred are stupid, outmoded ways of thinking, so that by the time they are making the decisions and being asked to back those institutions they will be capable of being world citizens, of trusting that justice will prevail, of demanding that it does, and of being willing to accept their fellow citizens basic rights.  Obviously there's a lot more that needs to happen, education, stable food supplies, etceteras, but that's more than one blog-post worth.


  1. Steve Holden

    Steve Holden on 08/10/2008 6:11 a.m. #

    I believe you are right, but fear that in a world where religions abound, and many religions' followers believe theirs is the only true religion, it's going to be hard to stamp out bigotry, intolerance and the like. It's been acceptable for 20 years for the President of the United States to say "No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."

    See for some other frightening quotes from religious people. I really do get depressed when I read shit like that.

  2. Alan Pater

    Alan Pater on 08/10/2008 11:16 a.m. #

    As long as any country has the right to have nuclear weapons, other do. The goal should be Total World Disarmament.

  3. jason Nolan

    jason Nolan on 08/13/2008 7:02 a.m. #

    And the winner is:

    Strangely enough, merely teaching children how to be independent critical thinkers who challenge all conceptual paradigms, particularly the ones they grew up in, is probably enough. Kids are smart, they'll figure it out... and they may even come to forgive us.

  4. Steve Holden

    Steve Holden on 08/13/2008 8:03 a.m. #

    Unfortunately that depends on the parents to be free-thinking. Which many aren't - some are constrained by their own value systems, some just don't appear to take any interest in their kids' development at all. Doomed as they are to imbibe these attitudes with their mothers' milk I believe it's difficult to actually get children to be independent critical thinkers.

    Sadly, too, we independent critical thinkers are being outbred by the rest. Idiocracy draws closer year by year.

  5. jason Nolan

    jason Nolan on 08/13/2008 8:21 a.m. #

    I focus on teacher training and education in my life, and I totally agree with you, but, it is not the parents faults at all. All parents were taught by the previous and present generations. We're all complicit. Ever since the 60s, we've dumbed down education particularly in terms of critical thinking; we've over programmed our children; they have no autonomy; we've even made learning things like science too dangerous.

    I bet you'd love written in the 50s about this very topic. I'm a Kornbluth fan.

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