Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.

 

“First they came . . .”

For those who wonder what World War III might look like, I think we’re in it. To us who grew up in the early Cold War years, when air-raid drills involved ducking under wooden desks, World War III meant nuclear Armageddon, depicted in books like On the Beach, Nevil Shute’s bestseller about the world’s last survivors awaiting the radioactive cloud in south Australia, and Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth, which describes the “second death” – that of the future of mankind. Now, as the veneer of civilization erodes in many parts of the world, world war looks less like a game of nuclear chicken between superpowers armed to the teeth, and more like the state of terror Thomas Hobbes described long ago, with “no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

It’s a world in which violence seems arbitrary and unpitying – calculated to break any sense of common humanity. It comes in the personalized form of a videoed beheading, the random slaughter of a suicide bomb, the sudden swoop of a drone. Its aim is to scare us to the sidelines of relative safety, to watch in horror as the unlucky suffer, and then go about our business, having forgotten the words of Martin Niemöller, “Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Kim Phones Rodman, Changes Country’s Name

The Hubris of Humans