FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Simple Act of Pushing a Button

“Since the appearance of visible life on Earth, 380 million years had to elapse in order for a butterfly to learn how to fly, 180 million years to create a rose with no other commitment than to be beautiful, and four geological eras in order for us human beings to be able to sing better than birds, and to be able to die from love. It is not honorable for the human talent, in the golden age of science, to have conceived the way for such an ancient and colossal process to return to the nothingness from which it came through the simple act of pushing a button.”

I recently came across this quotation by the great Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and recipient of the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature. The quotation is from a 1986 speech by Garcia Marquez entitled “The Cataclysm of Damocles.” In the short quotation, he captures what needs to be said about nuclear weapons succinctly, poetically and beautifully. With a few deft literary brushstrokes, he shows that the journey of life from nothingness to now could be ended with no more than “the simple act of pushing a button.”

The button is a metaphor for setting in motion a nuclear war, which could happen by miscalculation, mistake or malice. Of course, it matters whose finger is on the button, but it matters even more that anyone’s finger is on the button. There are not good fingers and bad fingers resting on the button. No one is stable enough, rational enough, sane enough, or wise enough to trust with deciding to push the nuclear button. It is madness to leave the door open to the possibility of “a return to nothingness.”

On one side of the ledger is everything natural and extraordinary about life with its long evolution bringing us to the present and poised to carry its processes forward into the future. On the other side of the ledger is “the button,” capable of bringing most life on the planet to a screeching halt. Also on this side of the ledger are those people who remain ignorant or apathetic to the nuclear dangers confronting humanity.

We all need to recognize what is at stake and choose a side. Put simply, do you stand with life and the processes of nature that have brought such beauty and diversity to our world, or do you stand with the destructive products of science that have brought us to the precipice of annihilation? We must each make a choice.

I fear too many of us are not awakened to the seriousness and risks of the unfolding situation. We are taken in by the techno-talk that amplifies the messages of national security linked to the button. Nuclear deterrence is no more than a hypothesis about human psychology and behavior. It does not protect people from a nuclear attack. It is unproven and unprovable. Nuclear deterrence may or may not work, but we know that it cannot provide physical protection against a nuclear attack. Those who believe in it, do so at their own peril and at our common peril.

The possibility of “a return to nothingness” is too great a risk to take. We must put down the nuclear-armed gun. We must dismantle the button and the potential annihilation it represents. We must listen to our hearts and end the nuclear insanity by ending the nuclear weapons era. If we fail to act with engaged hearts, we will continue to stand at the precipice of annihilation – the precipice of a world without butterflies or beautiful roses, without birds or humans. The golden age of science will come to an end as a triumph of cataclysmic devastation, which will be humanity’s most enduring failure.

Reading, discussing and understanding the meaning of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short quotation should be required of every schoolchild, every citizen, and every leader of every country.

More articles by:

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org). 

September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail