Chapter 5 The Role of the Citizen in Preventing Nuclear War
Achieving any kind of meaningful international nuclear disarmament will require considerable behavioral change on the part of U.S. leaders and other nuclear weapons countries. Such political change will require attitudinal change, which, in turn, will require sound education for nuclear disarmament aimed at politicians and citizens alike. Correspondingly, education must be offered to other nuclear states on a worldwide basis. Some individuals will insist that nuclear weapons policy and disarmament issues are not topics that they have the intellectual competence to address. Others may hesitate to confront those issues because they feel they have no substantial knowledge of what appears to be a highly technical, overwhelming field of inquiry. The fact is, a responsible citizen does not have to be competent in physical science or technology of any sort to challenge the madness of nuclear war. The stakes are too high for anyone to worry about technical incompetence or inter-personal embarrassment as they face up to the threat of nuclear war. EVERYONE'S motto must be "JUST DO IT."
Educators, clergy and other citizens must start only with some basic facts on the subject. First, the human race is faced with the possibility of instant extinction without representation. If nuclear war occurs, there will be no parliamentary or congressional debates or declarations of war. This possibility does not gain the level of public or media attention that its consequences demand. Second, the situation is bound to worsen unless citizens worldwide demand action on the part of their leaders, and there will be precious little citizen action unless educators and activists help their fellow citizens confront the problem.
The likelihood of nuclear war is without doubt one of the most crucial problems in the world's history. Yet, sparse attention is being devoted to its elimination. Currently, insufficient intellectual and political activity concerning nuclear disarmament, especially at the local level, is going on in the U.S. or other parts of the world. Despite the many non-governmental organizations which are supplying timely information and strategies for political action, nuclear war continues to rank very low on the list of citizen concerns when compared with problems of personal income, health care, environment, the economy, education, etc.
Accordingly, in recent years nuclear disarmament has received practically no attention during U.S. congressional and presidential campaigns. When it has, most presidential candidates make it clear that "the nuclear option" is always on the table. In other words, those candidates are willing to kill thousands, and perhaps millions of people on the planet, in order that the U.S. can "prevail" and have its way in certain bilateral or multilateral conflicts. The Russians also assume a similar posture. This is criminal tribalism and immorality at its worst.
If this situation is to change, and if our children and grandchildren are to have a nuclear weapons free, livable world, we will have to deal with the ignorance, denial, apathy and other avoidance mechanisms that block genuine, effective citizen action to eliminate the danger of nuclear war. Given the task's difficulty, a solution will demand the energies of a much greater proportion of our local citizens including activists, clergy, business people, educators, medical professionals and professionals of every other stripe. Pressure for nuclear disarmament has to come from the grassroots.
The problem will not be solved in Moscow and Washington, unless local citizens demand nuclear weapons abolition. The U.S. and Russian military-industrial complexes have too much vested interest, too many politicians in their pockets, and too much financial gain from a perpetual arms race to initiate the abolition process. Thus, if citizens who have a sense of public responsibility regarding other pressing social and political problems do not turn some of their attention to the nuclear weapons hazard, it is possible that their other concerns will have little meaning. The overriding environmental and health problem facing the world today is the threat of nuclear extinction. Consequently, the role of responsible citizens in a democratic society is to focus their energies on human survival in much the same way they do on other local issues. Make no mistake about it, nuclear extinction is a local problem.
In sum, the role of the citizen in preventing nuclear war can be stated in the following propositions:
§ Nuclear war prevention requires political change.
§ Political change requires public pressure on elected officials.
§ Public pressure requires attitude change on the part of a substantial portion of the citizenry.
§ Attitude change requires education and social action at the local level.
§ Education and social action require time, money, energy, and dedicated, committed citizen participation.