by Courtenay Barnett
It was 1968.
I had been sent to a Catholic High School and had a number of Jesuits from the Boston area of the US as teachers. One striking contrast between the older and the younger ones, as a general rule, was that the older Jesuits saw the sun shining on most everything that US foreign policy represented, inclusive of the Vietnam war being embraced as a necessity to stop the spread of Communism. The younger Jesuits were far less sanguine and told/taught us totally different lessons about the US use of napalm and agent orange and educated us on the horrors of war. That was the time that was.
About then I heard of a planned space trip destined for the moon. So surreptitiously in 1969 I journeyed to the Kennedy Space Centre and slipped on to Apollo 11 (unbeknown to anyone but some select family members and some close friends). I promised myself to remain in contact and fortuitously was able to access a duplicate communications system on board, obviously placed as a back-up in the eventuality of a failure of the main devices.
When we landed Neil hopped off first and Buzz followed while I stealthily exited via a hatch. At first I thought of returning with the flight, but with the communication device and the opportunity to explore the Moon I decided to remain with the firm knowledge that what man had accomplished mankind would repeat and I could eventually on a Russian or Chinese or even some other American flight return to Earth at a later date.
As the years wore on I kept asking if warfare had ended on Earth and each time the same negative response came in reply. “Why do you keep asking?” my brother eventually inquired.
“Well, ever since man landed on the moon it seemed obvious to me that not only the astronauts’ minds, but those of every other sentient being on planet Earth would have come then to the stark realisation that we are actually all ‘earthlings’ and homo sapiens living on one planet. So, with that knowledge, I assumed that the lunar landing would have jolted all the inhabitants of the green and blue planet into immediately accepting that it made far more sense to bond together as one, and weigh the prospects of invading Martians or any other alien species likely to threaten us earthlings, than expend energies fighting each other.”
Sadly, all the news I received from 1968 until anno domini 2017 has been about repeated belligerence and armed conflicts between nations and groups on Earth. We, as a species, despite the lunar landing simply never learnt anything by way of aspirations for tranquility and actualising the liberating feeling of freedom from war. Finally, after all these years, I have had to accept that not in my lifetime will there be a realisation of quietude in the human condition on Earth. Having enjoyed these several years here on the Moon, I am now planning my return to planet earth to face the unpleasant discords which constitute earthly existence.
Now that I am safely back on terra firma, on the planet of my birth, there has been opportunity to reassess the human condition. This I do, so my fellow humans inform me, with the most advanced intellect possessed among all the vertebrates and invertebrates. Yet, in reflecting on this assertion, I note that other species kill for food to eat; we kill for sport, assertion of manhood and various other reasons amounting to the infliction of gratuitous violence on our fellow beings. The numbers who do this is reflected amongst many humans and is accompanied by the technological capabilities to deliver death and destruction ranging from hand held guns all the way up to nuclear bombs which can assure annihilation of us as a species. Incredible, when you think of it, that we are so smart that we actually have developed weapons that can assure the ending of our existence as a species. So sophisticated we are that the world’s most advanced nation, the United States of America, has a special Amendment in its Constitution making it a lawful right to bear arms. Therefore, as of legal right the weapons used for the various types of killing just mentioned has been elevated to a position of jurisprudential significance that assures that when a decision is made to launch an attack of mass murder it remains a legal right to obtain the necessary weaponry so to attack. Of course, we are also cultivated significantly above other mammals, vertebrates and lesser animals that after the event we have the cognitive superiority to call the attack a crime. We then uphold the attacker’s (if he is still alive) right to another Constitutional safeguard of a trial before his peers. Then, if convicted, the death sentence or multiple life sentences might be the legal penalty. We, of course, are logical in all our doings. A single life sentence is insufficient, for when one is completed there still remain 49 others as a justified measure for the severity of the crime of gunning down 50 faultless human beings who just happened to get in the way of the bullets that the shooter, exercising his Constitutional right, had decided to discharge. Now, the weapons of mass destruction takes our intellectual superiority to totally astounding heights in full confirmation that unlike horses or donkeys ours is par excellence – the crème de la crème above all other known cognitive capacities. We have reached a stage where, again, America can destroy human existence many times over. Thus, rationally, if the level has been reached (which it long since has) of having in hand the weapons capability to destroy human life in its totality one time over, then the added ten or twenty fold that all nuclear weapons combined can now accomplish seems then equally as logical as the multiple life sentences imposed on the mass shooter, as increasing numbers of nuclear weapons keep being produced. The only difference is that nations now possess the capacity with WMDs that a single mass shooter could only dream of having desired to destroy not just some, but all of humankind. Indeed, far exceeding a paltry 50 after so many rounds fired. Believe it or not, I have just described what we actually are doing as a species which calls ourselves intelligent with intelligence on a higher plane than all other species inhabiting planet Earth.
Truth be told, since we landed on the moon we seem to think that there are other planets that we can live on so we search for something which sustains life as we know it here on Earth. Not surprisingly so, for as we head towards self-inflicted annihilation as a species, those of us having the material wherewithal already have an exit ticket to Mars and are already booked knowing what is pending.
Towards that destructive end we have the excuse to ravage this planet, keep cutting down trees, expand our population, poison the rivers and the seas and destroy the ozone layer. Practise blowing up each other doesn’t really matter much any more; besides, it keeps the rich in power and the wealth where others can’t get to it.
The dream of establishing a colony somewhere ‘Out There’ where people like you or I aren’t allowed on it is the great dream of a new paradise pending and is the professed long term goal.
This all sounds a bit bleak; but since 1968 predicting the place we are in now would have been called bleak too.
And all accomplished with the use and application of a superior intellect. Don’t forget that. Just think about it.
Courtenay Barnett is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer for over thirty years, has been arrested for defending his views, has been subjected to death threats, and has argued public interest and human rights cases.