Re: nukes, genocides and intellectuals

Thu, 20 Jul 1995 05:52:52 -0400

Referring to the contribution below:

A possible reason for the differentiated reactions of 'intellectuals'
towards the nuclear test, on the one hand, and malaria and
ethnic cleansing, on the other, is simply that the nuclear
tests take place in a domain over which they have more
control. I.e. The EU political community.

Conrad Steenkamp

> 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.