During the Cold War, we were scared. I don’t mean the general fear people feel of terrorism or war, but the most scary, specific fear that we have become complacent about and now simply ignore.
I mean mass death from nuclear weapons. A handful of people have the power to end all of human existence. That is a profoundly scary thought; one that should shake any sane person to their core.
By virtue of the electoral college, 80,000 people spread across a handful of states gave Donald Trump the power to obliterate mountains.
The problem is not the cast of characters who possess this superhuman capability, however scary they may be. Putin, Trump, Kim Jong Un, Theresa May, Xi Jinping, Modi and so on. These people could be extremely responsible, which they are not, and fear would not subside. JFK and Khrushchev were not madmen by any stretch, but the Cuban Missile Crisis was threatening nonetheless. People are flawed, we make mistakes, we accidently do things, our technology fails, we get wrapped up in a tense moment and do not make the best decision. These are normal human qualities. When these normal, human qualities clash with world-ending weapons, it brings disaster. The fact that we have avoided such a calamity so far is a stroke of excessive luck that we must recognize will not last forever.
The non-proliferation treaty is not a good enough solution. The world certainly does not need any more countries with the power to end all life. More countries mean more room for accidents and less luck. Yet, it cannot be acceptable that the strongest countries retain the power to destroy everything.
No leader, no country, no nation should have the power to end humanity. Not Modi, not Kim, not the Ayatollah, not Netanyahu, not Trump. Not Obama. No one.
Arundathi Roy, the author of “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” impresses in her beautifully scary essay, “The End of Imagination,” that these weapons that have powers previously only ascribed to vengeful deities have no place in human life. They are abominations and embarrassments to our existence that endanger that very thing. Risking the world and everything and everyone in it for a little more security for your own country (assuming that these weapons even provide such security) or your country’s pride or greatness is short-sighted. I cannot even accuse such people of being selfish as they, themselves, could also perish in the event of a nuclear catastrophe.
My goal is not to be an alarmist, to say “the end is nigh,” but to point out the sheer stupidity of nuclear armament. My goal is to say we should all be passionately in favor of nuclear disarmament. No person or government should have the power to end us. All of us.