‘These doomsday warriors look no more like soldiers than the soldiers of the Second World War looked like conquistadors. The more expert they become, the more they look like lab assistants in small colleges.” – Alister Cook
ROLLING FORK — I suppose the last time I thought much about doomsday anything would have been the latest of many times I’ve watched Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece “Dr. Strangelove”– until last week, that is.
In the movie, George C. Scott plays a Cold War-era Air Force General named Buck Turgidson (a name the etiology of which in some way involves “full of it”), who after listening to the Russian ambassador character Kissov (a name the etiology of which is obvious) talk about his country’s which was threatening all life on earth, memorably bemoaned, “Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machine things.”
And while, at least to my knowledge, mankind has resisted the urge to construct such a doomsday machine as the film envisioned in 1954, we do have ourselves a Doomsday Clock, the annual January setting of which last Wednesday inspired this little diddy, one which I doubt will send members of the Pulitzer committee scurrying about in search of my phone number.
The Doomsday Clock, which is neither satirical nor sedating, is a very real thing, and has been for seventy-odd years, now, symbolically representing on the face of a clock, just how close the human race is to midnight, the metaphorical moment its folly results in its extinction via one means or another.
Published (for years in print, but online only now), the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (product of a really fun group of guys and gals to rev up the music, pop some tops and slam back a few with) was again released last Wednesday and concludes, as described by NBC News, “Humanity is perilously close to catastrophe,” due to the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with growing threats from climate change and nuclear weapons that are combining to “push civilization close to a human-caused apocalypse.”
Well, so much for The Kinks getting back together.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists founded in 1945 when the whole world found out there was such a thing as atomic science, is a nonprofit (good thing) organization that examines global security issues relating to science and technology. Every year, the group consults with a board of sponsors to analyze the world’s most pressing threats.
And from that, some fun-loving member came up with the idea of a Doomsday Clock, and last week, clock and calendar had their annual rendezvous.
The Doomsday Clock was left unchanged from the prior year’s setting at 100 seconds to midnight, which Cuban Missile Crisis notwithstanding, marks its most pessimistic setting ever. The hands of the Doomsday Clock have been set backward and forward 24 times since its original setting of 7 minutes to midnight in 1947. Its “best” ever face showed 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, and its worst is, well, now.
But, there is context. The clock, the scientists tell us, doesn’t function as a “prediction of calamity, but rather represents humanity’s perceived proximity to human-caused catastrophe.” And if that makes you feel better you never watched a single episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
Rachel Bronson, who currently plays the Calamity Cassandra role of president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, said the pandemic has functioned as a “historic wake-up call” and one that showed something we’ve all found out to our chagrin, just how unprepared world governments and organizations have been to handle a global-scale crisis.
In an interview, Bronson said that what’s perceived to be worsening climate change and the threat of nuclear war continue to be the primary factors in determining where to set the hands of the clock, but added that the “deliberate erosion of science by politicians,” in the United States (Donnie and the Hole-in-the-Head Gang) “has been damaging.”
Ya think, Sweetie? Stateside, here we were advocating the practice and then practicing the advocacy of injecting ourselves with disinfectant cleaning products to cure a virus.
The group’s prognostication and subsequent clock setting were released in advance last Wednesday of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s declaration of a nationwide terrorism alert, not to address the threat of any foreigners, but rather, that represented by domestic anti-government extremists denying election returns and seeking to initiate some Helter Skelter-quality civil war within what has always been the world’s most stable democratic republic.
Just a guess, but I’m thinking this time next year it won’t be any 100 seconds our Doomsday Clock will say we have to wait for the midnight hour.
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.