Monday, 9 September 2013


Name any given movie including nuclear weapons – ‘Dr Strangelove’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Superman’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ – and I can tell without looking that they don’t play a minor part. Since its gruesome entry into the world the atomic bomb has been a dramatic symbol of ungodly interactions by science into the world of man. It’s scared many a country into or out of war. It’s a game changer. It’s a referential point in our mind of complete chaos and destruction. It’s a narrative symbol.
I don’t know much about politics, but I know a lot about films, media, fiction, that sort of thing. This might have something to do with my choices of subject at college and what I’m good at, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t crossovers. For instance, what if I were to propose the hypothesis that Bashar Al-Assad – one man on one side of the ongoing Syrian civil war – dropped an atomic bomb on his own people? What would that change?

Back in July, the United Nations estimated that 100,000 people had died in the Syrian civil war since it’s outbreak two and a half years ago. That estimate was before the chemical attacks in August, the estimated deaths of which are between 500 and a thousand. 
So why the comparison to nuclear weapons? Well excusing the fact that nuclear weapons are tightly controlled in today’s world and it is therefore unlikely that the scenario would actually be possible, the damage to human life has been equivalent. When the ‘Little Boy’ bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, the initial explosion and detrimental effects killed over 100,000 over the course of a year. Politically, that and the bombing of Nagasaki three days later ended the war that had killed millions, and so no further military action was taken – but consider the conflict since then that has been sparked by even the possibility of nuclear weapons.

Of course, to simply discuss mortality in numbers in such situations is cold – to fully get our heads around the hypothesis we must also discuss what else separates the bombing of Hiroshima and the Syrian civil war.
When Little Boy was dropped, it was a step into the unknown – a dark turn in human history. The survivors of the blast literally did not know what hit them – for days after the bombing, rumour circulated that ‘Mr. B’ (The affectionate name for the circling B-52 bombers) had dropped either petrol or some sort of chemical explosives which were then set alight by the towns tram network. The explosion was big, it was blinding, and it was silent. It was dramatic.
The Syrian civil war has been going on for nearly three years, with no military intervention by the west. Like many a story that drags on without a happy ending, the news dropped for a while after the first few months of coverage. People continued to die, and us busy Westerners stopped reading, stopped watching, stopped caring. It wasn’t until recent chemical attacks that we shifted in our armchairs and got a bit hot under the collars as politicians started talking and we started asking ourselves – quite unassumingly – if we’d like to bomb another country again, as though we were simply diners pondering whether or not to visit the buffet table once more. The graphic videos and pictures that spread on social networking of people and children convulsing and foaming at the mouth from the attacks were much of what prompted calls for military action, and much more graphic than anything we've seen of Hiroshima. But as the Osundare poem goes, ‘What business of mine is it / so long they don’t take the yam / from my savouring mouth?’
Another thing to consider is our attitudes towards countries like Syria – the fact that we regard them as ‘others’ (See ‘9 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About London’) the fact that we regard it as little more than an unimportant political country and therefore okay to be bombed.

Of course we would see things differently if Assad dropped a nuke – maybe it’s because of what films we watch or maybe it’s because of more logical reasoning. What we need to remember is the paints that are used when our news is displayed for us. We need to ask questions beyond that of what on Earth the newsreader is wearing and where did he get that tie from – we need to ask things like: What makes us think we have the authority to bomb another country that poses no threat to us? What alternative measures are we faced with as a wealthy and democratic country? Do we care because we have heard the facts, or because we are told to care?

I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess my point is watch the news – watch it as much as you can and pay attention to it. But don’t just watch, god knows all we do nowadays is watch – think.


(As a side note, thank you for reading. I haven't posted for a while despite having nothing else to do, but I caught a glimpse of my stats the other day and realised how many people check back every day. It kinda broke my heart. I feel like an abusive parent. But really, thank you.)