BOSTON--When Charles Kupperman, adviser to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, says, "It is possible for any society to survive a nuclear war" and "Nuclear war is a destructive thing but still in large part a physics problem," what does he mean by "survival"?
The physicist Edward Teller has an answer. In his most recent book, "The Pursuit of Simplicity," he assails the myth that a full-scale nuclear war would wipe out mankind. He then defines survival in terms of an extraordinary parallel. He describes the invasion of Persia in 1219 by the armies of Genghis Khan, intent on killing "everyone they could find." "Perhaps," he says, "there is no example of greater havoc in human history. Yet at least 10 percent of the Persian population survived." For Dr. Teller, the death of 90 percent of the inhabitants of Persia represented "survival." He would use the same word to describe the extinction of 90 percent of our population in a nuclear war. This is a narrow-minded use of the word, designed to obscure its full meaning.
We can only marvel at the relaxed and amiable insistence of the nuclear prevailers and the nuclear winners who "know" that survival is possible. Of course it is. In a literal sense, Dr. Teller is right. The human race, unlike the dinosaurs, will survive over the next few millenniums, if only in the Southern Hemisphere.
When Dr. Teller speaks of survival, he really means species survival. To survive is to remain alive; its meaning is confined to the metabolic life process. By no stretch of the linguistic imagination does species survival address the quality of life. This use of the word speaks to duration, to time, but avoids the fabric of living.
Species survival, however, does not guarantee political or economic or social survival, or biological and physical survival, or psychological survival.
Political survival is a central assumption of civil defense: free elections and the free enterprise system will prevail. Nowhere is the sense that chaos and anarchy may equally dominate the American and Russian wastelands.
For the individual, what must be defined is acceptable survival: life with quality. Family. Friends. Home. Neighbours. Worshiping with acquaintances and family. Masterpiece Theatre, "60 Minutes," "Nicholas Nickleby," Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, Fifth Avenue. Add to that the fire department, the police, transportation and the power companies, and some of the ingredients of social survival emerge. All of these must be placed in the perspective of a pile of rubble near a great crater.
The medical problems of survivors will so far exceed the capacity of available resources that physical survival will surely be tenuous. But even in conventional war, the dead exact a toll among the living that reflects the fragile nature of psychological survival. In the postnuclear world, anything that permits the individual to endure will be permissible.
In the concentration camps, as the psychiatrist Bruno Bettleheim has noted, existence meant for some a complete disintegration of autonomy and self-respect--cheating fellow prisoners or turning spy for the Gestapo.
Here, then, is a glimpse of the real meaning of survival--living through privation and degradation as the central ingredients of life. Living only in time.
Thoughts such as these rarely trouble the nuclear statesmen. In their lexicon, survival has become a term so deliberately ambiguous that it supports policy decisions that would otherwise be unacceptable even to those making them.
The politics of survival underlies the concept of destructive advantage, the firm belief that national security requires still another measure of overkill.
Survival must be depoliticized. We must learn to use the politics of survival, not to obscure, and thereby to pursue nuclear war-fighting strategies, but to clarify, and thereby to heighten the urgency of risk-taking in the negotiating process.
This requires a clear concept of our adversaries' views and an understanding of their acceptable goals and interests. It demands an attack on the assumption that we are forever enemies and that nuclear weapons can defend us. The tempering effect of the reality of survival on the negotiating framework must preclude bellicose threats and rigid posturing.
The dimensions of survival as we understand them must be conveyed even more widely to policy makers. Even the true believers among us may be shaken by the facts.
The challenge is no less than to reverse the grim
Orwellian curse that characterizes this century: To get back to
the true meaning of words.*
Herbert L. Abrams is a professor at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the department of radiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
(text of February 27, 1983 New York
Times op-ed piece)
*-WHILE I WOULD SUGGEST YOU START AT PAGE 1. AND READ ALL
OF "SCIENCE FICTION" IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, IF YOU JUST
WANT TO BRUSH UP ON THE WEBSITE AUTHOR'S REACTION TO "THE GRIM
ORWELLIAN CURSE," TAKE A
BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
THERE IS ONE OF THOSE LONG BUT NECESSARY FOOTNOTES HERE. IT SUMMARIZES THE 1978 CIRCUMSTANCES IN PREPARING THIS "INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC WORK...ON A DIRECT BASIS" FOR THE WORLD'S CHILDREN IN RELATION TO THIS TERM OF REFERENCE.
TO READ IT, TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
AND FINALLY, WITH MY APPRECIATION FOR THE "INFLUENCE" OF (THE) SYMBOLISM IN "CONTEXT" UNDERSTOOD, I PROVIDE HERE THE LINK TO A TERM OF REFERENCE THAT I WILL AMEND THROUGHOUT THE YEAR 2000 AS WARRANTED BY CHANGING CONDITIONS IN THIS PRESENT SITUATION."
TO CONSIDER WHAT I ANTICIPATE SHOULD HAVE EMERGED AS THE U.S. ELECTION YEAR FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE--CLINTON-GORE EXPECTATIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST ASIDE BEYOND THE LINKAGE EXISTENT--TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
INTERESTING CHOICES FOR HIS VICE PRESIDENT EACH MAN MADE.
RE DICK CHENEY, TAKE A BRIEF SIDESTEP HERE.
RE JOE LIEBERMAN, TAKE YOUR NEXT FOOTSTEP HERE.