JONATHAN SCHELL, THE FATE OF THE EARTH, Jonathan Cape, London, 1982, pp 244.
THE BLURBS on the book cover were superlative and induced scepticism: "The new Bible of our time, the White Paper of our age", said Dr Helen Coldicott. "Simply the most original and searching work yet produced on the meaning of the nuclear arms race, and a huge reinforcement of the forces of sanity", claimed the Guardian. With apprehensions of a new pop-prophet, or cult guru being thrust upon the unwary reader, I opened the book. This after all is the age without epic heroes, I thought, and the media bravely attempt to plug the gap every six months or so by synthetically manufactured fame or notoriety.
By the end of the first chapter the doubts evaporated. Written in the white heat of sincerity the book has solidity combined with a sense of lyricism, which is compelling. The reader is plunged into nuclear reality and forced to confront it head-on. No more the averted glance, the studied evasions, the anaesthesia of jargon! What would happen to you, to me, to our neighbours, to our country and to the world if a nuclear war broke out? Does each of us not have any moral resposibility to transcend this situation, to evolve modes of thought, life, political and social organisations appropriate for the nuclear age? These and other questions are tackled by the author honestly without recourse to either glibness or cleverness.
All of us are generally aware of the existence of nuclear weapons and of the fact their use in war would mean universal destruction. Yet for the last so many years, as nuclear weapons multiplied, none of us grappled with the implications of living in the nuclear age. Schell attempts to analyse this paradox, this numbing insensitivity of mankind to the dangers of nuclear weapons for so many years. Schell in this book and the peace movement in the West have succeeded in shaking man out of his comfortable unconcern about nuclear reality. To a large extent this somnolescence for nearly two decades is a reflection of the power of the modern media and the congruence in the world view projected by it and the needs of the ruling establishment which continues to manufacture and stockpile nuclear weapons. To add a tinge of madness to the nuclear arms race, the U S and NATO establishments are toying with the idea of a "winnable" and "limited" nuclear war. Jonathan SchelPs Fate of the Earth is a