No more Cynicism

The term “ignorance is bliss” has never quite resonated with me as much as when I returned to the office after the end of the American Presidential Election and I reread my “Clinton, Trump and Daisy” blogpost. I can remember writing the article, all the while thinking it is almost implausible for the eventuality that Trump would actually become President. Yet lo and behold… here we are.

Now the word “cynicism” now springs to mind.conquering-cynicism_foreground

Cynicism – ˈsɪnɪsɪz(ə)m/Noun, “an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism.” Or, “Public cynicism about politics”.  Synonyms: scepticism, doubt, distrust, mistrust, doubtfulness, suspicion, disbelief, incredulity.

The new President-Elect has caused quite a stir on the world’s stage with his dangerous rhetoric regarding the notorious American nuclear codes, and his outward looking approach on the rest of the worlds’ relationship with nuclear weapons.

Looking back to the last few days of the election, the rumour spreading around that Trump had his Twitter Account confiscated from him was fuelled by Obama’s statement in Florida;

“Apparently, [Trump’s] campaign has taken away his Twitter. In the last two days, they had so little confidence in his self-control, they said, “We’re just gonna take away your twitter.” Now, if somebody can’t handle a Twitter account, they can’t handle the nuclear codes. If somebody starts tweeting at three in the morning because SNL made fun of you, then you can’t handle the nuclear codes.”

One of the major anti-Trump arguments was in line with what Obama said – how can we trust a man with the nuclear codes who has a temperament of a toddler? Especially when there is no eventuality within American politics that would be able to stop Trump from pushing the big red button! Even if all his advisers and field experts tell him otherwise, Trump is still allowed to press the button (or use the nuclear biscuit, which is the nickname given to the credit card-like material which holds the nuclear codes!).

Bearing this in mind, there has been an alarming sense of confusion with regards to the President-Elects position on Nuclear Weapons. He is now denying that he ever promoted horizontal nuclear proliferation (more countries acquiring nuclear weapon capability), despite proof of him saying it in late March whilst being publicly interviewed during his campaign trail.peter-schrank

He argued that there could be a change on outward nuclear policy in favour for proliferation, in which he explicitly referred to allowing Japan to develop their nuclear capability. He hasn’t ruled out the possibility that he would use nuclear weapons in times of necessity. And even more worrying than these two comments, is his blatant dislike and distrust for the Iran-Nuclear Deal – as he has the very real opportunity to un-do the hugely significant and successful deal between two previous disaffected countries.

Now having a Republican as President and an overall right wing sentiment within the House (who are ready to work with Trump when he takes up his presidency post), it is increasingly likely that the Iran-Nuclear deal will be up for discussion once again. It will be both simultaneously interesting and alarming to see what steps Trump will take in order to reassure the global nuclear stability – or in fact, do quite the opposite.

Many members of the Left, throughout the world, have joined a widespread outcry at Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States due to his lack of political experience and his unsettled temperament. But despite a unison of worried politicians and loud voices declaring their contempt for the President-Elects previous statements, there seems to be a prevailing feeling and rhetoric of cynicism.

2016 has been a bit of a rubbish year across the board. It will always be the answer to the “guess the year” round in a pub quiz. Or if you have a political question that seems completely and utterly bonkers, the odds are in your favour that it happened in 2016. Not just politically, but within pop-culture too, there seems to be a downtrodden feeling towards 2016. Prince. Alan Rickman. David Bowie.

Even the word of the year, nominated by the Oxford Dictionary has underlying links with cynicism; Post-truth.

Post-truth /ˌpəʊs(t)ˈtruːθ/ adjective, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in post-truthshaping public opinion than appeals to emotion of personal belief.”

Rather than remaining cynical, depressed and making memes about how bad 2016 has been, we instead need to join together and create a leading opposition to the new right-wing, populist parties that are gaining popularity amongst the people. We need to ensure we need to work together and rally against them even more, rather than giving up on hard struggles when faced with a strong opposition,

The need for reorganising ourselves in a constructive manner against the seemingly mainstream rightwing was epitomsied in Sarah Marshs’ “I hate cynicism; you have to fight” 1960s activists on Modern Politics article in the Guardian. It has made me realise that every generation growing up fights a different battle – whether it was a World War, Civil rights movement, Womens liberation movement, the Cold War, Genocides, etc… Every young and politically minded individual grew up with a variant of the “impending doom”.

For us today the threat of impending doom is a complex one (I’m by no means belittling the previous historical problems we had, but hindsight is a wondrous gift), globalisation, climate change, global terrorist network, rising tensions between U.S. and Russia, refugee crisis are just a few amongst many. To add to this list is now President-Elect Trump and his actions towards creating evident instability on the world’s stage with regards to nuclear weapons.

Marshs’ article is a simple but eloquent reminder that in the face of harsh struggles, instead of allowing our cynicism to take control and block any forward movement. That we need to unite, engage with our disappointment in a constructive way and find a way forward. Students are essential to this type of forward movement.

Students are known for their prolific engagement in politics. We are just starting to engage with and understand a world bigger than our homes towns and we are not quite yet lumbered with the responsibilities of adult life. We have the curiosity and the passion to question the zeitgeist, and enough autonomy to partake in events that show our disenchantment with the direction that things are heading.

This year seems to have really highlighted the fact that we have had no progression on disarmament of nuclear weapons, especially when considering the British Vote on Trident Replacement. But this does not mean that we are complacent in our vehement opposition to the replacement of Vanguard-class submarines that have the capability of causing excessive harm. We are still meeting together, still discussing how to move forward, still illustrating that we will not remain silent on this matter.

Whether you’re holding a small event at your university or school, attended a march wielded with a placard with anti-nuclear weapon sentiments, or simply RT’d and raised awareness of the dangers and illogical reasons of possessing a nuclear weapon – it is important to remain positive and forward thinking and to continue pushing for a nuclear free world!

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Remove the cynicism in your life, and channel your passion by joining us in the active fight against nuclear weapons possession and proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the world by becoming a member of YSCND today. 

 

Clinton, Trump and Daisy

With the new President of the United States to be elected in less than 10 days, I’ve been following along to see what each candidate says about nuclear weapons. My love for Netflixs’ House of Cards combined with little in-depth knowledge about real American politics means that I personally find the whole American political processes nothing short of bizarre. If it wasn’t such a terrifying prospect that Trump may actually become President, I probably would have found it more comical than troublesome.

My love for Obama’s personality, combined with not being too overzealous about Clinton means that I have had a similar position to 4 year old Christopher from Las Vegas (I highly recommend watching this video if you want to see possibly the CUTEST and most hilarious opinion on US politics going). However, after Trumps confusing and nonsensical comments on nuclear weapons, it has made many seriously doubt his competency to be in charge of such a force.

Obama hasn’t exactly been fantastic with regards to his non-proliferation and disarmament of nuclear weapons. He gave a fantastic speech back in 2009, in which he broke the nuclear taboo and publicly announced that he wanted to seek a world where there are no nuclear bombs. This, he called “global zero”. This gave hope to many grass-roots activists of a real, progressive change.

Almost 7 years on from this speech in Prague, little has happened within the U.S. for the disarmament of nuclear weapons in their country, nor for the pushing of a wider multi-lateral disarmament across the world. In the New York Times earlier this year, it was announced that “the current administration has reduced the nuclear stockpile less than any other post-Cold War presidency.

So despite an encouraging and inspirational start to his eight years in office, which gave hope to many grass-roots campaigns like CND and other international groups, Obama has actually done seemingly extremely little for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

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Barack Obama discussing “global zero” in Prague (2009)

A new President could seriously shake up the current way America looks at its nuclear weapons. As a result, the nuclear weapon debate has come up several times across several months in the presidential debates, and rightly so. Whoever becomes the next leader of the free world will have an immense amount of power and control over one of the world’s biggest nuclear stockpiles.

Several heated discussions between Clinton and Trump have occurred over nuclear weapons, and it would be tedious to outline them all here.

However, I’ve found it very interesting the strategic move by Clinton yesterday (31st October 2016) by releasing a new TV advert, which illustrates a very powerful message Trump’s stance. It briefly highlights the historical relationship between America, its nuclear weapons and the culture of fear that many young Americans were raised in; nuclear annihilation is never too far away.

Clinton drafted in Monique Luiz, who as a child starred in a famous political attack advert about nuclear weapons during the 1964 presidential race between Johnson and Goldwater. The original advert depicts a young girl, who is standing in a field plucking the petals off of a flower and counting down. When the girl reaches 10, the camera zooms into her eye until you see the notorious mushroom cloud explosion that is synonymous with nuclear obliteration.

In the 2016 “Daisy” advert, Luiz encourages citizens to vote for Clinton on the basis that Trump’s temperament and rhetoric surrounding nuclear weapons is deeply disconcerting.  Fundamentally the aim of this advert is illustrate the horrors that could potentially ensue if nuclear weapons are within reach of such an unpredictable character like Mr. Trump.

“The fear of nuclear war that we had as children, I never thought our children would ever have to deal with that again” – Luiz, 2016 (the Daisy Girl)

To me however, it highlighted something a little more than that. Not only is it a terrifying prospect if Trump would have unequivocal access to nuclear weapons, but the remake of this advert speaks volumes about how little we have progressed in respects to global non-proliferation and multilateral disarmament. For an advert to hold as much significance in 1964 as it does in 2016 is quite frankly demoralising and distressing.

Think of what the world was like in 1964, and how far we’ve come since then on a varying array of areas.

  • Nelson Mandela began his prison sentence in South Africa.
  • Robert McNamara gave US military increased resources to fight in Vietnam.
  • The Civil Rights Movement was still ongoing.
  • Khrushchev was still leader of the Soviet Union.
  • Harold Wilson became the first Labour party Prime Minister for over 13 years.
  • Che Guevara addressed the U.N.
  • Nicholas Cage was born!

All of these events are historical moments in time that are now subject to history textbooks. Everything has come such a long way from this date; Nelson Mandela was President of South Africa, Vietnam won the war and the Soviet Union no longer exists. Yet we still have the exact same fears about nuclear weapons as we did then.

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Both candidates asked about nuclear weapons in a televised debate

It’s incomprehensible, that in a modern and globalised world that has seen so many fantastic progressions across the board, that we still have the same, basic security fears that we had over 50 years ago. Nothing has significantly changed, with specific regards to nuclear weapons, over that period of time enough for this fear to be removed from our collective societal worries.

If nothing else – the security worries surrounding nuclear issues has increased! Thanks to advances in technology, which translate into impressive hacking powers by several different bodies and organisations, even civilian nuclear projects are no longer safe from a terrorist threat.

There is an increasing sense of instability due to North Korea’s recent nuclear tests and Russia’s supposed preparation for a nuclear war, among several other factors which have a knock on effect to the nuclear dialogue throughout the world. A seemingly cavalier approach to nuclear weapons and their use by Mr. Trump is not helping to stabilise the situation.

The lack of progress on disarmament and non-proliferation is disheartening. In over 50 years, we are still discussing the same worries to our global security due to nuclear weapons. Clinton’s PR team have done a fantastic job focusing on Trump’s unreliability of being in possession of America’s nuclear button.

But in my eyes, they’ve done an even better job at emphasising the sad reality that global security still mirrors the same nuclear concerns from over 50 years ago and that the nuclear capable states need to be leading the way forward towards multilateral disarmament.

 

**Please note, the views expressed in this piece are that of the individual, and not representative of CND as an organisation***