Folk who write will at some stage cite ‘The Muse’. According to Ancient Greek literature there were nine of them, each with an allotted art, science or as we would recognise it, genre. In this case, for my defence I will cite that Melpomene the Muse of Tragedy has been, for some time, nagging at me to get this done.
The final push was made by listening to an audio book version of Prompt and Utter Destruction by J. Samuel Walker an historian whose subject matter is the nuclear age. Originally published in 1997, and revised in 2004 this is a work that would be in its inception 30 years old. In this the author manages to accomplish the near impossible of balancing the pros and cons of the US use of atomic weapons on Japan in 1945, while at the same time sewing compelling doubt as to whether the reasons given at the time were wholly valid. He also argues that a proposed invasion of Japan was not ‘a given’ as was D-Day, nor that the projected loss of American lives were actually a set in stone documentation, and finally that the Japanese view within government towards a peace accord was in existence. At this stage I would confess to having used the opposites as concrete evidence why the nuclear bombs were used. The author in his balanced arguments, with no railing or emotive language, no blanket condemning of the USA as the usual source of most evils lead me to believe that all which I judged to be hard fact was not ‘necessarily so’ (as the song goes). That said, having listened and respected the writer’s research and questions I was still left with the feeling of the subject of the Atom Bomb attacks ‘They were still going to happen’ . By then the whole dynamic of American, Soviet and Japanese interactions had reached a critical stage in which amongst the milieu of Human Interactions, Reactions, Anticipations, Suspicions and Motivations made the dropping of the Atom Bombs an inevitability.
That assertion will strike some folk as outrageous, some others will believe I am ducking an awkward question on account of being locked into a belief. Both reactions are quite acceptable and understandable. My response would be to read or listen to this book, then put yourself in the position of Truman, those around him, those involved in the Manhattan project and those out in the front lines. The qualifier being don’t just drop yourself in there are you are at this moment, imagine you have been in that war-time atmosphere for a long while, you have been living it, every day and night it has been with you, sets backs, costs, pressures, pains.
And that’s where we stop. For all of this has been an introduction to a thornier topic. Not one where we ask hypothetical questions of historical events which have happened and cannot be erased. Using this measuring stick let us look into the Present and the Future, which is where we dwell and where we have a say in the shaping of, being that say small or even large.
I am guessing from the politically inclined blogs I subscribe to and the vast majority of replies to those blog posts that most folk involved are of liberal and what you would call tolerant outlooks. They don’t think wars are inevitable, they have a great dislike of privately owned firearms, they believe in the general freedom of adults to associate with other adults in whatever mutually respectful relationships there are, they have no problems with folk of any race, they accept a person’s right to religion, belief system or absence of belief systems, just so long as those do not promote hate or intolerance, they feel the same way about politics. They do have very strong views about those who promote intolerance, lack compassion, and who assume they have a mandate to impose their will on others while being hypocritical about their own ‘rights’. In short the folk ‘around here’ are what I would call ‘The Nice Guys’. Angry, frustrated, incandescent even, but ‘Nice’, because you want all folks, every where just to live unfettered by pressures of hate, intolerance and injustice. Right?
Just suppose then
There is some prominent hatemonger or conspiracy snake oil merchant in town. One who is supporting the very heavy political hitters you loath, this person is one of the rising stars in that movement, and just by some chance, you happen upon the sight of a shooter, obviously intent on targeting that person you hate. So what do you do? You have five seconds. No real time to reflect on the pros and the cons. You do raise an alarm? Try to stop them. Or do you steal away back into the shadows let ‘What will be will be,’ or whatever phrase you think suits your frame of mind. After all you are not actually pulling the trigger, you don’t know the shooter. The target is such a loathsome, you think dangerous person, implicated in such hateful stuff as to be at least complicit in violence. And does not ‘The Good Book’ say ‘Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword’ (or something like that). Do you let the bomb fall?
Here’s another one…
By some chance you find yourself by a couple of degrees of separation in the company of folk whose general views you might share, but you are a bit leery of some of the language, maybe a bit too ‘rich’ for you. Some are talking about meeting violence with violence if necessary and so forth, hoping some figure on the Right gets shot. Someone might in a roundabout way even cite the IRA as an example of what might happen; in a way which suggests they would not mind. It wouldn’t take a security analyst to reckon some of these folk might step beyond just shouting off steam. Would you feel you should notify ‘someone’ or would you just back off, sever all links because you don’t want to get involved, that’s their outlook, not mine. Nothing to do with me. And stifle that mischievous ‘but good luck guys’
Turning to something more plausible…
Someone you think as offensive on the Right dies, maybe not in a dramatic way. Perhaps through an accident or ill-health. And after all that time of witnessing their behaviour which offends you, in that instant you say or think – ‘Yeah. They had it coming. Boo-hoo. Like I cared’. There. That was easy wasn’t it? You didn’t do anything. You are not responsible. You are unsullied. You just spoke your mind, that’s all. Well, yes, you couldn’t help but feel just a little twitch of joy. But that was only natural. Because, after all- they had it coming. Well, yes, that’s fine. Isn’t it?. Let’s move on. And you wish to be spared the hysterical eulogies from their followers or the throw away commentaries from the pundits, etc, etc.
Be honest dear reader. None of us are saints. None of us come close to ‘Pure of Heart’. We take our stance and we have our views. In the scheme of things we may, have not so much a moral high ground, but have the least worst options in one case which in this mess which is Humanity. We may be on the ‘good’ side, well in The Big Picture of The Welfare of Humanity. We may celebrate a cause. Currently you may be cheering on Ukraine’s stand against Russia. So ask yourself this very hard question. Do I accept the losses of tens of thousand of Russian soldiers as a necessity? You can grieve their deaths of course. You can wish they had not happened. But are you accepting them? And if not, then what do you say to Ukrainians, today?
Some choices made are so obviously bad, so filled with a hateful or callous vibe they are repellent to most folk. Then there are the rest where the two, maybe three of four or more sides of the argument come into a jarring kaleidoscopic panorama, that if stared at for too long could tip you off of your allegorical feet. Reaction? What sort of Reaction? Constructive Reaction? When does that tip into Destructive Reaction? Then there is No Reaction? Just what does that mean? Apathy? Or quiet acquiescence, soft enough not to give you guilt by association, you hope. Or maybe paralysed by exasperation- that’s a common affliction, maybe the most understandable and acceptable for most folk, of course it may not be the correct one; there is always the anguished ‘But. What can I do?‘. Who can claim, tired from their ordinary days, they’ve not gone there?
Once more this is not the place where I present you with a tidy Ethical Solution to fit all situations. After all, this post is about Human Nature. Just when was that ever straight forward, neat, simple to package up in a snappy paragraph?
When faced with various levels and themes of Human Disputes, Transgressions and Conflicts, the individual rarely has the same measure of response based on one Ethical Stance, because in addition Emotions play a part and they will be a variable. Yours might be the correct one at the correct time, the unstable place where your previous views of Right and Wrong just do not seem to suit. Your choice. Your reaction. This is not History where you have the opportunity to sift the evidence of what had been and you have no responsibility in the participation. This is happening now, or will happen.
And here I conclude.
Sorry that I have no neat answers or a tidy ending.
Oh, just one last thought hit me.
Watch out for those Inevitabilities, they sneak up on you.