“Listen up – there’s no war that will end all wars.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
The first war in recorded history took place in Fertile Crescent in c. 2700 BCE between Sumer and Elam, two city-states in what was known as Mesopotamia. There is prehistoric evidence of earlier wars, but writing had not been invented prior to the invention of cuneiform so there is no record. For five thousand years of recorded history, humans have been consistently good at killing each other and creating better ways of killing each other. Earlier wars were fought over resources, goods, or land. Throw in religion and ideology and one sees little has changed.
From sticks and stones, to spears and swords, to sling shots to the invention of gunpowder, muskets, and cannon, galore. To Minié balls and rifled single shot rifles, to rapid fire weapons beginning with the Gatling gun and ending with…it hasn’t.
Flying machines dropping hellfire and brimstone on innocents, to the latest ultimate weapon, nuclear bombs delivered by ICBMs or cruise missiles. Every generation has its ultimate weapon. I am sure there is a new one just beyond the horizon. Setting our phasers to stun is not an option.
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
― Albert Einstein
Einstein’s quote recalled the movie “On the Beach” and the novel it was based upon, Nevil Shute’s Cold War, end of the world drama published in 1957. It had it all. Love, hate, stalwart heroes, brave and beautiful heroines, gallows humor, and the death of all mankind. There was no one left to use the sticks and stones. Only the cockroaches armed themselves.
I believe a better quote might be, if in fact, there is anyone left….
“War does not determine who is right — only who is left.”
The Fifties and Sixties were rife with fear of instant incineration or an agonizing death from radiation sickness. To say the Cold War influenced my outlook on life would be like saying that the Grand Canyon was a hole of middlin’ size.
Duck and cover drills, “In case of nuclear attack” alerts, nuclear escape routes, advertisements for fallout shelters, movies like “Fall-Safe” or the later, “The Day After”, and books like “On the Beach” had profound effects. And who could forget the ’62 Cuban Missile Crisis and a glut of “brush fire” wars or policing actions. I worried about “mutually assured destruction” and searched for a red star every time a large aircraft flew over my head.
I was a part of a generation of school-aged kids who were sold the bill of goods that sitting under our desks with a book over our heads would somehow save us from a nuclear fireball and that it was “better to be dead than red.” Our parents and teachers swallowed the lies too. Civics was more propaganda than learning how our government was supposed to work. Despite the movie “Dr. Strangelove” I never learned to stop worrying and love the bomb and found other reasons to distrust world leaders.
As I read the latest news from the Ukraine, watched all the pundits telling me what we should do with Russia, especially those on social media who traded their “contagious disease” credentials for “international relations” ones. Fielding nuclear threats from Russia and threats de jour from Communist China, North Korea, or Iran, I realize that history is not only repeating itself we also maybe writing its final chapters.
Rodney King’s lament rings in my head, “Can’t we all just get along?” We haven’t for any length of time in our recorded history. Why would you think we would suddenly change?
I don’t believe that the world is anymore broken than it once was. It became broken when the first tribe picked up sticks and stones and rushed to war against another tribe. The only change is our weapons are no longer sticks and stones. Lest I forget, as I listen to the Trumps, Putins, Xi Jinpings, The Ayatollah, Jong-uns, and others, it is our voices that might be the most dangerous. Words matter despite what the old saying might tell us.
The motivations are the same. Land, safety, ideology, and religion. Water will soon be a motivation if it is not already. With the world’s vast natural resources, people starve, die of thirst, die of disease because we believe it is more important to possess than to share. We would rather allow food to rot than give it away. We would rather go to war than be benefactors. Too many national leaders have the attitude of a cuckolded lover, “If I can’t have it, no one else will.”
To the politicians of the world, beware of what you wish for. We are in dangerous times, and I don’t believe duck and cover drills, or a turtle named Bert can save us.
I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t add one YouTube Video. It is from another era but quite real for millions of us.
Don Miller normally writes on more uplifting subjects. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1U1r59lqC_LpyqJ_duYRx-g4WH71O3bSLVbF9ql_4MFz_Pq-oy13IWkuc
His latest is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes”, more musings from a slightly insane Southerner.