“Now I Am Become Death, The Destroyer of Worlds.”
In the late 20th Century the world was nearly destroyed — the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 threatened to turn the Cold War hot, and the world stood still and waited with baited breath. They held their breath until the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT), the Helsinki Accords and then the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. From there we all breathed a little easier as the world woke up a little bit and realised ‘oh wow we could have actually blown up the whole planet with these things’ and began a scheme of gradual nuclear disarmament.
That is until 2021, when Boris Johnson, the man who last month couldn’t find enough money to give our NHS staff more than a 1% pay rise after they kept him alive and fought through the pandemic, scrounged up enough to build more nukes. The British Government has removed the cap placed on Britain’s nuclear stockpile and intends to increase our stocks of nuclear warheads by 44%! One imagines that now we’ve officially Brexited and are no longer answerable to the EU, and what with the government removing people’s human right to protest (ushering in an authoritarian and fascist regime), nuclear rearmament will be unopposed.
The government is claiming that this increase will keep us “safe” yet fails to name which threat can’t be stopped with 180 nuclear bombs…but can be stopped with 260. Have we just forgotten about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? In 1965, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist in charge of the Manhattan Project, famously declared with a cold dead gaze, “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’” What the twin nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki represented to the world was that nuclear weapons are, as…