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Yes!! The NPT Might Fail


The NPT review is in trouble. The conflict between the nuclear-weapon states and the non-nuclear-weapon states has never been more obvious and intense. According to Susi Snyder of PAX, a group of 159 countries have made it clear they consider any use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances whatsoever to be unacceptable. Why? Because of the humanitarian consequences.

   Meanwhile, France is insisting that the final document say nothing at all about the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. In fact, they are objecting to any use of the word “humanitarian”. France is so 20th century, but for now, I hope they hold firmly to this insanity.

   I’ve read two reports about the Middle East Nuclear-free Zone and still have no clear idea what Egypt is up to. However, they do seem to be pushing the States Parties very hard to push Israel to agree to abandon its nuclear weapons and join the NPT as a non-nuclear state. And the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is stating very clearly that they will accept no final document that does not mandate some sort of progress toward disarmament.

     I love this! Go France! Go Egypt! Go NAM! I always knew there was a chance this review would end in failure, like the one in 2005, but I pessimistically assumed that everyone would bend over backwards to make sure it didn’t. Looks like I might should have been more optimistic. Too early to tell, of course. Maybe they’re all just putting on a show to convince onlookers that something is happening, but here I go getting my hopes up again.

   By all rights, this 2015 review should fail. The nuclear-weapon states are saying, “We are not going to disarm or even talk about disarming any time in the near future, so stop whining about all that end-of-the-world bullshit.” The non-nuclear-weapon states are saying, “Come on, you assholes, throw us a bone here. After 44 years you’re still saying disarmament negotiations are ‘premature’? Since you’re still threatening to kill us all, let’s at least start talking about it.” This conflict should not lead to a 100% consensus document in the next week or so.

   Still, I fear they will somehow snatch some sort of patched-over, meaningless victory out of the jaws of honorable defeat. So every night I pray, “Dear God, please fill the worst of them with passionate intensity. Don’t let the center hold. The NPT has been fun. Please, please, let it die with dignity.”

   I pray this prayer because I am so interested to see what happens next. Might we see a real revolution? Might the nuclear have-nots finally stand up to the haves on behalf of collective human survival? Might we get a chance to campaign for a nuclear weapons ban treaty? Might we get some serious money and a chance to persuade the global public that nuclear weapons are public enemy number one? Hope springs eternal.

   So what is Japan doing? The country of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini, and Fukushima, the country that should be leading the revolution against the nuclear haves, is arguing with China about something irrelevant, very busy selling nuclear power, and making sure we all talk about Fukushima in the past tense. 

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Free Speech and Violence


Free Speech and Violence

   On Feb 16, Omar Abdel Hamid El-Hussein attacked a free speech seminar and a Jewish synagogue. He was a Muslim. He’s now dead so we can’t ask him, but everyone seems to believe his target was a cartoonist who insulted the prophet Mohammed. Then, of course, he was also targeting Jews since he attacked the synagogue.

   Just before the gunfire began, Inna Shevchenko was on the stage at the freedom of speech seminar saying we should all be free to laugh at anything we think is funny.

   Shevchenko is right, of course, and Western society has pretty much adopted this attitude. In Europe, the US and Japan, the vast majority of us now agree, and our laws indicate, that a husband is not allowed to hit his wife, no matter what she says. We are not allowed to beat spouses, children, or even animals.

   This was not always the case. When I was young, well into the 1970s, it was widely acceptable for men to beat women, children and animals to force them to bend to their will. After all, the man was supposed to be the king of his home, and everyone else was supposed to obey him. If they did not, he was given some latitude to enforce his rule by violence.  

   This rule by men and violence is still accepted in some countries and in some parts of nearly all countries, including the US and Japan. But in general, most societies now believe that words are one thing and hitting (or stabbing or shooting) is another. Words, any words, are not an excuse for violence.

   On the other hand, violence begins with not caring how others feel. In fact, this has recently become my definition of violence: doing something without caring what you are doing to someone else. 

   When you make fun of another person’s God or prophet or mother or sister or face or handicap or skin color or gender identification, you are hitting first. You are starting it. If the person you are making fun of knows that you love him or her and takes your teasing in good fun, no harm done. But if your words really hurt that person, and words can cause real pain, you have just started a potential cycle of violence. If it escalates, you are morally, if not legally, responsible.

    Westerners make cruel fun of Muslims for many things, not least of which is their tendency to kill people over insults to their Prophet. In this context, we should remember that it wasn’t long ago both in Europe and the US when insulting a man’s honor meant a duel to the death. Insults were well known to carry the risk of physical retaliation. In fact, if a man was insulted, or if his mother or sister or wife was insulted, and if he did not seek revenge, he was a coward.

   This honor-revenge reflex is classic war culture behavior, and thankfully, we are slowly evolving toward a peace culture in which violence is supposed to stop with words. The Middle East is quite backward when it comes to peace culture, but this is not the fault of Islam. It is the fault of European colonialism followed by US neo-imperialism and an endless series of bloody events provoked, funded and armed by the West.

    People do not graduate easily to a peace culture when they are watching their friends, relatives, cities and countries blown to bits by bombings, drone attacks, night raids and suicide bombers. The high-minded Europeans and Americans who flood the streets to protest Muslim violence live in the relative calm and safety of so-called “advanced nations,” these advances having been purchased with the blood of literally millions of people all over the world, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

  I am not in any way condoning the killing of cartoonists or anyone else. I am an American who lives in complete safety here in Japan, so, of course, I firmly believe that words are no excuse for shooting. But if we really want folks to stop killing us for making fun of them we should 1) stop making fun of them, 2) stop killing their friends and relatives, and 3) stop destroying their countries. The only way to stop violence is to stop it in ourselves.    



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Where it all began...


August 6, 1945. The people of Hiroshima experience the end of the world. The world ends for the Urakami Valley of Nagasaki on August 9. Since then, an increasing number of survivors have been telling their stories in a desperate effort to keep the human family from using the “new type of weapon” to off itself.

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