Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 722, May 26, 2013

The sad thing about [WW-2] is that it was not
a conflict between good and evil, but between
differing brands of fascism. Fascism won.

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The Cult of Nuclear Theology
A Response to Alfred Crosby's Children of the Sun
by Giovanni Martelli

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Nuclear power is an object of some contention, and rightly so. The idea brings to mind visions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ravaged by the atomic bomb; it recalls to us the Cold War and dirty tableau of post-nuclear paranoia. We are reminded of mushroom clouds, fallout shelters, the fear of radiation poisoning (the long term effects of which are not easily studied, because to expose our fellow man to those effects would be cruel and inhumane torture), and the images burned into the walls of the Japanese cities—literally shadows of the people who had lived normal lives until just seconds after the bombs fell. These ideas and images have been burned similarly into our minds, a specter of looming catastrophe: those people (for they are people, despite the implied sentiment of the time) could be us. They could be our children. For this reason, many maintain that nuclear power is an unviable alternative to conventional energy.

Alfred Crosby's book Children of the Sun: A History of Humanity's Unappeasable Appetite for Energy presents an overview of human history in the context of the desire and need for power sources. Humanity, unlike any other species, has harnessed the powers of fire and of the sun for our own use... but we have become so dependent on this energy that we are inextricably bound to the necessity. Humans see poorly in the dark, and so we require light by which to continue our projects into the evening hours; our teeth have evolved to chew foods that we cook using fire; and our bodies, on a whole, do not possess the wherewithal to run for hours or lift more than our own weight. Therefore, we have developed tools or domesticated animals to provide for these needs. We utilized fire, at first, and then the natural power of electricity, to provide us with light. Fire, in its purest state, was also used to cook meat off of the bones of animals, before the development of more sophisticated tools using gas and electricity. The horse can gallop for much longer (and much faster) than a man can run, and so we have used him and his brethren, such as the llama and the ass, to carry us and our equipment so that we would have the necessary energy to complete our projects when we arrived at our destination.

Humans, for some reason, have developed a sense of necessity. We believe that we must always be doing something; the impetus is, perhaps, related to the real prime mover of all life on earth: evolution and reproductive drive. If a man does not eat, he will certainly die, and he will not pass on his genetic material to his offspring. Similarly, if a man does not attract a mate, he will continue to live his normal lifespan, but his genes will be removed from the pool. Perhaps those "doers" in early humanity were more successful and more attractive, and so the drive to "do things" has been placed in us.

The more sinister drive, however, is the desire for power. It is a drive not to "do something," but to have others "do" these things and then reap the benefits of their work. This leads to tribal leadership, in which one person or group of persons takes responsibility for the others, but also wields power over them; to monarchy, in which a king asserts his authority over the people who happen to reside within the imaginary confines of his kingdom; and to government, in which, ideally, the people residing within the imaginary confines decide who is best-suited to lead the people. At least monarchy is unfair and biased on its face; the power exerted by government is much more insidious.

It was by force of authority that the Irish peasants were marginalized and subjugated by their British landlords and forced to keep small farms upon which they were to grow potatoes. It was because of this exertion of power that so many of these peasants died or left their homeland for fear of death when an American fungus killed their single sustenance crop. It is because of the same exertion of power that we must argue for or against the use of a specific type of energy.

The fact of the matter is that the face of the world changed when the Enola Gay dropped Little Boy over Hiroshima in August of 1945. It had been changing before, and it has changed since, but the use of nuclear weaponry for the first time on a city full of civilians threw into stark detail the corruption of government and authority. The plan was kept a secret because the military had been unsure as to its viability: the decision was made not to inform the Japanese people of the impending strike so as to save the American government embarrassment if the bomb had not detonated. The result, then, was the murder of thousands upon thousands of Japanese civilians. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, in effect, carpet-bombed by one explosive each, indiscriminately ending some cumulative 200,000 lives of soldiers, farmers, businessmen, children, and grandparents.

Alfred Crosby argues that we must begin to use nuclear power in order to end the global energy crisis, but the answer that the citizens of the world must give is a clear and definitive "no." He and his ilk, those more concerned with saving the planet than with the life that exists on it, do not appreciate the clear and present danger in which we find ourselves. Thomas Jefferson said that dissent represents the clearest and truest form of patriotism, but the American populace has allowed itself to be cowed by the authority of its so-called "elected representatives." America is a global power not because she deserves to be, but because she has bullied the rest of the world into accepting her as such.

With all of these things in mind, nuclear power is far from a viable alternative to the power sources we currently use, and it will not be until we have shaken free of the stranglehold of government. The government cannot be trusted to allow the people to use nuclear power, for no matter how responsibly the people themselves would use this massive source of energy, the government is the truly greedy party in the equation, and it is always looking for another way to kill the competition.

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