nukes, genocides and intellectuals

Candice Bradley (Candice.Bradley@LAWRENCE.EDU)
Wed, 19 Jul 1995 13:52:41 -0600

I have to concur with George de Cerqueira Leite Zarur and ask why it is that
nuclear testing seems to get academics' backs up more often than, say, genocide
or ethnocide. Although nuclear power is far scarier and ultimately more
dangerous for the planet -- and of course something to be deeply concerned with
and attentive to on all fronts -- many more human beings have actually died and
been injured as a direct result of ethnic cleansing and its kin. I don't think
I need to cite the numbers much, but point out that Hiroshima had a total
population of under 300,000 on August 6, 1945 -- 100,000 died almost
immediately and of course there have been 5 decades of deaths ultimately
attributable to this. We know that at least 10 million ethnic and other
undesirables died in concentration camps in Europe between 1939 and that date.

I am in not trivializing the real dangers of the French plans, etc etc,
but I believe that the holocaust in Bosnia represents a more insidious human
problem, and one that has fewer clear solutions. Nuclear weapons are
technology. We can deal with technology, we can try to get our fists or bodies
around it and get rid of it. Hatred is not located in the same way, of course,
and although I think most of us know on some level that what is happening to
Muslims in Bosnia is the ultimate of human horror, because we do not know how
to solve it we turn our backs on it.

This reminds me of my big culture shock experience on coming back to the US
from Kenya in 1990. Everyone seemed to be on this ecology kick, and I kept
getting questions about the elephants. Moi had recently burned a pile of
ivory, so folks had questions about that. But I was also baffled at the
extreme interest in the elephants. It's not that I didn't care about elephants
-- I am as deeply concerned about the loss of diversity as anyone else.
Rather, I was amazed that people didn't know about the 1,000,000 Africans who
die of malaria every year. I had seen some of that death, and deaths of
humans, however abundant, seemed to me to be what should have moved me to
action. But old ladies in housedresses and kids in torn school uniforms aren't
cute and fuzzy like cheetas, elephants, chimps and butterflies. You can't make
stuffed animals or puzzles out of them and sell them at nature stores.
Bombs and animals are sexy and interesting; people covered with flies are not.

Of course what moves me to anger and action is personal and doesn't make me
better than others who are moved by different things.