Sunday, February 9, 2014

Four Men Who Will Save the World--Part 6

Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here—this is the War Room! —President Mervin Muffly, in Doctor Strangelove

For a long time I thought the big influence unleashed during the 60s was the Bomb. I grew up with the Cuban Missile Crisis, civil defense shelters in the grade schools, duck and cover drills, and movies like Doctor Strangelove. People might scratch their heads nowa­days over the subtitle to that film —“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”—but that was indeed what everyone had to do back then, like children in abusive homes who must learn to love their abusers. The Bomb taught my genera­tion the meaning of what H. P. Lovecraft called “the oldest and strongest human emotion”—fear. I used to have nightmares about someone dropping the Big One and waves of flame pouring across the world.

                And it was a generational fear. I remember talking to my mom about it as a teenager and realizing that she didn’t fear the Bomb the way I and my peers did. And I remember won­der­ing if her generation had to die before the world could do anything about the nuclear nightmare. My high school buddies didn’t expect to live past 30; we all figured the Bomb would get us. Mom, despite her wisdom, never understood.

                And The Big One is still possible. The under 30s seem to have learned to disregard this most fun­da­mental fact of 21st century existence, and many of their elders have too, but there’s plenty of us who haven’t learned to Love the Bomb and never will. Why do you think Obama got that Nobel Prize? It’s be­cause the people on the Nobel Com­mittee are elders like me, ones who grew up with that fear . . . and then this “funny-looking kid with a strange name and big ears” proposes to outlaw nu­clear weapons, and the world takes him seri­ously. At last! I’ve lived my whole life waiting for that seriousness. Why not give a Nobel Prize for hope? It’s been a long time since we had any.

                But now I think that it wasn’t the Bomb that revolutionized the consciousness of those young wo­men during the 60s. Fear seldom changes anyone or anything. Quite the reverse: fear freezes, ossifies, holds back, strangles. People with a lot of fear don’t want to grow, don’t want to change: they want cozy and comfortable, and they’ll worship anyone or anything that prom­ises to make the fear manageable—even if, in the end, the object of their worship makes things worse. Why do people join the Tea Party, or Al-Qaeda, or the NRA? Why would anyone in their right mind listen to Wayne LePierre?

                And isn’t it interesting that our current Tea Partiers like to play dress-up in Betsy Ross bonnets and three-corner hats when the real Tea Partiers dressed up as Native Americans?

The leader of the Nine [Nazgûl] is known as the Captain of Despair, . . . [but] he cannot induce it in others unless he first feels it in himself. —Paul Kocher, Master of Middle-earth

Fear is another fact of human nature the Masters know well, or they would not spend so much time and effort trying to induce it. Fear makes people into slaves, and how can you be a Master if you have no slaves? And to keep slaves is to be one yourself. The courageous have no need to frighten anyone. Yet a significant number of young women in the 60s—all over the world—seemed less afraid of the future, not more. And their children are still willing to gamble on the chance that the world could be better, or Obama would never have gotten that Nobel.

                But it wasn’t just the Nobel Committee that got him that prize. It wasn’t even the young people who put him in office. It was those four mysterious men who will save the world . . . . TBC

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