Yesterday I drove through the vast emptiness of Semey, formerly known as Semipalatinsk. It was a long drive and for me it was a moment of awareness in this invisible monument of the absurd criminal thinking of a government. In other words, I was thinking about what happens if psychopaths get a chance rule a country. And don’t worry, I am well aware of the historical and cultural context of what happened there at that time.
Semipalatinsk is better known as the nuclear testing ground of the former Soviet-Union. Starting in 1949, and ending in 1989, in that area 468 (!) nuclear bombs were exploded at less than 100 kilometer from the cities like Semey. That is almost 1 nuclear bomb every month for 40 years! Sometimes, depending the wind direction, the radioactive clouds would cover cities further away like Ust-Kamenogorsk and its inhabitants. All of this wasn’t an accident, but deliberately and consciously done by the government and performed by scientists and their personnel. Who were those people doing this? Would they ever feel any regret about the suffering they have caused?
Inhabitants of the area were even invited to come and watch the beautiful mushroom clouds and so used as guinea pigs to study the effects of nuclear radiation on the human body. A great experiment, at least for doctors and scientists involved, a lot less for the people for that area. Of course the government lied about all of this to their citizens, even today the damages of these criminal experiments are still experienced by those citizens, their children and grandchildren. Ten of thousands people died for the sake of the experiments for a war that never happened and for science. All of this was, as any government will tell you, a “necessity”, in this case to balance nuclear power in the Cold War with the West. So what does this say: We have to kill for your own good? Truly a brilliant idea is was: killing tens of thousands of people in order to protect them!
Worst of all, nobody was ever fired, or punished for this deliberate mass-murder. Of course not: it was the government’s own idea. The state and its officials, and its self-designed legal system of rules and laws, will always try to protect themselves from prosecution even the most evil crimes.
Think about this: under the laws of that time and place, slavery, apartheid (Population Registration Act, South Africa, 1950) racial segregation (Jim Crow laws, USA, 1880-1965) and the Holocaust (anti-Jewish laws, Germany, 1933-1939) were legally justified by the law of the countries where these things happened! In other words, a government will always find a “necessity” and a legal justification for its crimes.
The real bad news is that almost all of use came to accept this being normal! Very few people dare to stand up against their government, even it is performing mass-murder. Self-preservation might be one of the main reasons, because for a government to destroy one or just a handful of people who oppose the their crimes, is just easy, compared but the mass-destruction that these people are opposed to.
In many countries, people who raise their voice against the government’s misdoings are vilified, criminalized, prosecuted, tortured or simply killed. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Edward Snowdon, Tankman, Alexei Navalny, the list is long, no government likes the truth, nor the people who tell about it or try to do something about it. States like to work in the shadows and hate everybody who sheds a light on that.
This is not a political statement in any case. Left or right-wing oriented, dictatorship or democracy, governments act all the same, they only differ in the choice of their weapons, but the final result is the same.
In the past, swords, guns and bombs were used to control the population, nowadays, states use mass media, manipulation of the news, more and new laws, rules and restrictions, technological population control, camera’s, spying on your computer and mobile phone or drones, in order to control the sheep, it does not matter what kind of imaginary threat or unseen enemy it is, a war, terrorism or a virus. Again, governments always find a “necessity” to create anxiety and apply new rules to stay in complete control, keep the population subdued and real opposition silenced
I could not avoid thinking about two quotes from two critical thinkers who’s work I admire:
“Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent.”
-H.L. Mencken, critical thinker, author and journalist
“Yep, sooner or later the people in this country are going to realize the government doesn’t give a fuck about them. The government doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety. It simply doesn’t give a fuck about you. It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing…keeping it, and expanding wherever possible”.
-George Carlin, standup comedian
Just some food for thought.
For further reading:
Yan, W: In the shadow of nuclear sins; Nature, Vol 568, April 4, 2019, pg. 22-24.
Genova, A: This Is What Nuclear Weapons Leave in Their Wake, National Geographic, October 13, 2017.
Bazyler, M: Holocaust, genocide, and the law. A quest for justice in a post-Holocaust world; Oxford University Press , 2017.
Taylor, Steve: The Fall. The insanity of the Ego in human history and the dawning of a new era; O Books, 2005.
Cogswell, D: Chomsky for Beginners; For Beginners, 1996