Last Sunday the Observer carried an informative column by Simon Tisdall, entitled simply, A nuclear space race? It seems we’ve learned nothing from Hiroshima. In a direct few paragraphs he outlined the precarious nature of the arms race that appears to be accelerating amongst all the nuclear powers - and beyond them.
The dangers of the potential anti-satellite weapon that has apparently been tested by the Russians is, alone, an extremely worrying change from the previously, unquestioned and universally accepted demilitarised zone that is space. The destruction of even one satellite would cause debris to orbit the earth and damage or destroy other satellites. Within no time at all we could have a satellite black-out - unthinkable, we may imagine, but, so is the massive proliferation of terrestrial nuclear weapons that is underway. What are the world leaders up to?
Seventy-five years ago this week nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed over 200,000 people. Even the terrible blast in Beirut early this week is dwarfed by the destruction that was unleashed upon Japan three-quarters of a century ago. My generation grew up with CND demonstrations, and ‘ban the bomb’ was a heart-felt plea, now we have little said and a general acceptance that things ‘are what they are’, as nations are renewing, enlarging and extending the capacity of their nuclear arsenals. Other concerns concentrate the attention of protesters.
All of which brings me round to John Hume, one of the finest politicians of his generation and an architect of the Good Friday Agreement, who died last Monday. This is a significant claim for someone who never held high political office, but his rigorous intellect and indefatigable workload, coupled with steely determination, produced success, and with David Trimble the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to them jointly in 1998. One obituary during the week has spoken of the way that, “over nearly 30 turbulent years he decisively influenced the way that successive British and Irish administrations handled their common Northern Ireland problem…”
It is that degree of wisdom, in tandem with determined hard work (without the inflated egos that self-serving leaders apparently crave, with the possessive, “Look what I have done!”) that the nations of the world require in bucketloads, and, what I really appreciate in these days of “me first” is John Hume’s broad and embracing vision - and, yes, idealism - of a world in which everyone can share this earth with understanding of one another, accommodation and agreement.