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  • Andre Lamartin

"It´s Evolution, Baby!"

Humanity´s dominion over the animal kingdom should only be exercised as if men were truly superior to his fellow animals. Of the many tragic questions evolution fails to elucidate, man's seemingly innate capacity to destroy his natural environment and global habitat is most certainly one. Why self-destruction must be pre-programmed into the human DNA remains a mystery that should confound the entire human species, especially when playing the self-ascribed role of apex predators. That those supposedly on top should consider the fate and wellbeing of those down below would only be revealing of an enlightened sense of rational self-interest, if not outright self-preservation. It's always important to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, unless a superior exobiological lifeform were one day to teach man his true place in the hierarchical order of the universe. Let's just hope love and humility finally prevail; let's just hope the strong finally assist the frail. Otherwise, the same mindless cruelty and heartless destruction so often served to other "lesser species" might one day be force-fed to humanity itself. After all, as Eddie Vedder himself once so sardonically sang: "I'm in peace with my lust, I can kill cause in God I trust, yeah! It's evolution, baby!"

That the entire history of the past twentieth century has been one dominated by war, disease, death, poverty, and destruction is a well-documented historical fact few should feel inclined to dispute. The industrialization of death itself, first experienced in the chemical-laced, rat-infested, blood-drenched trenches of World War I, later became a ubiquitous feature of the so-called modern life. It was even necessary to conceive a new word like “genocide” only to describe the tragic fate of the Armenians during World War I, and the extermination of millions of Jews during World War II. That concentration camps like Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and Dachau should have become such hackneyed entries into our present-day vocabulary hardly speaks of humanity´s alleged superiority vis-a-vis other animal species. Supposed lesser beings, never so inclined to embrace such unspeakable violence, never perpetrated any monstrous atrocities of this lamentable nature. If this is how the gentiles treated God´s chosen people, as so described by Biblical lore, one can hardly imagine how other less fortunate, but sentient beings are still being mistreated today.

The progressive militarization of the richest, most advanced industrialized nations, leading all the way to the advent of the Nuclear Age and well beyond, also created an irrational, atomic world where peace was maintained by the seemingly bizarre concepts of nuclear deterrence, and mutual assured destruction. Absolutely grotesque is the notion that the most powerful nations of the world should invest untold trillions of dollars solely to amass weapons of mass destruction, meant always to be stockpiled, but destined never to be used. Disturbing the ensuing delicate balance of power between the most preeminent nations was only attempted at our own collective risk and individual peril. While some countries like America, Russia, China, France, Great Britain, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel amassed truly apocalyptic arsenals, most other nations were compelled to permanently divest themselves of nuclear weapons through disarmament, arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, and international law.

When democratic persuasion and diplomatic negotiations simply failed to travel down this road, military force was used to the same effect. It´s certainly not without good reason that countries like Japan expressely renounced war, as determined by article 9 of its constitution, entirely forsaking one day becoming a nuclear power. They simply never forgot how their unconditional surrender in World War II was only forcefully extracted after the mass vaporization of Japanese men, women, and children, not to mention the nuclear obliteration of two major cities. The unyielding remembrance of past military defeat, the ensuing war trauma, and the desire not to relive the same tragedy again all silenced any subsequent political drive towards a second Japanese imperial militarization, one now armed with nuclear weapons. It certainly caused great alarm and consternation that the development of weapons of mass destruction should be seen as an essential feature of world peace for a select number of countries.

The horrific notion that only the threat of mutual assured destruction later guaranteed peace should still befuddle the mind of any allegedly responsible Cold Warrior. The conflict between the defenders of capitalist, liberal democracies on the one side, and socialist, communist countries on the other was always meant to be a fight to the very finish. How close humanity came to the brink of a nuclear Armageddon during the Cuban Missile Crisis remains a tragic matter of public record. For thirteen strenuous days in 1962, the world stood absolutely still as an American naval quarantine was imposed on Cuba. The goal was not only to disarm and remove the Soviet nuclear arsenal already deployed in the Caribbean island, but to prevent the further shipment of nuclear weapons. The number of unfortunate close calls that could have resulted in the outbreak of thermonuclear war is certainly not to be underestimated. A chance encounter between an American destroyer and a Soviet B-59 submarine almost led to a nuclear exchange that could have triggered a much wider war. While President Kennedy was under immense pressure from general Curtis Lemay to launch a nuclear first strike, Cuban leader Fidel Castro also pleaded with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to preempt the seemingly inevitable attack and unleash Hell on America. Though hectic diplomatic negotiations between the two superpowers reached a peaceful resolution to the nuclear standoff, even the later assassination of American President JFK proved to be less traumatic.

In the end, the same humanity so ingenuously capable of splitting the atom also failed to truly unite itself. For all that can be said about love being an universal language, bridging even the most conspicuous of human differences, the Grunge movement of the nineties spoke of a certain social disillusionment that should not have paired well with its time. As the final act of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 were originally heralded as symbolizing the very end of history itself. World renowned professors like Francis Fukuyama went so far as to proclaim the progressive global dissemination, rule, and dominance of liberal democracies, finally perfecting the work once started with the American and French revolutions. Despite the short-lived American unipolar moment, all the additional war, death and destruction unleashed by the subsequent transitional years should already have motivated these “deep thinkers” to reassess their bearings. That the blind should always be so carefully chosen to guide the blind seems like an essential feature of Western democracy, if only sarcasm could serve us well.

An ultraviolent world where terrorists hijack civilian jetliners, solely to be used as missiles against commercial skyscrapers in major urban and financial centers such as New York City, doesn´t necessarily speak well of the sugarcoated, Hollywood ending previously promised. One should also recall that the original argument justifying the preemptive war against Iraq was the seizure of weapons of mass destruction, long before they could fall into the hands of terrorists. How this seemingly noble quest inflamed the torture chambers of the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison is a sad tale already told to exhaustion. That the CIA went so far as to legitimize coercive interrogation techniques, so frequently deemed tantamount to torture, was justified as a necessary evil, if only another terrorist attack was to be prevented on US homeland. The peace, so irresponsibly promised with the end of the Cold War, resulted in a never-ending Middle Eastern quagmire that only recently reached its dramatic finale, at least in so far as American military participation is concerned. As a final tragic act, these wars of attrition followed weary veterans home, even after the last bullet was fired and the final transfer of power was complete. It's absolutely no coincidence that the current number of American veteran suicides vastly outstrips the number of US combat deaths in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This remains a very dangerous time for nations, their soldiers, and veterans alike.

We now live in an ultraviolent world where great powers no longer feel the legal duty or the moral obligation to respect the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of otherwise peace-loving countries such as Ukraine. Now that nuclear nonproliferation has been exposed as the farse it has proven to be, it would behoove us all to seriously consider what the future may bring. In 1994, shortly after Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union, the country decided to disarm, returning the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world to Russia, always under the promise its borders would be respected, and that no military aggression would ever be used against itself. Though the political negotiation was mediated and guaranteed by the US and the UK, twenty years later Russia annexed Crimea, finally invading Ukraine in 2022.

Unprotected by NATO or its once apocalyptic nuclear arsenal, Ukraine has defended itself while relying on American and European financial support. Forced to bear alone the cost in human lives, the country has been reportedly subjected to horrific war crimes, all along having little expectation the guilty parties would ever be brought to justice before international tribunals such as the International Criminal Court. Now that Europe is faced with the greatest armed conflict, and humanitarian catastrophe since World War II, how many other self-respecting countries would seriously entertain nuclear disarmament as a rationally defensible, self-interested, national policy, especially after what happened to Ukraine? The third nuclear power in the world agreed to peacefully disarm, surrendering its nuclear weapons to the very same country that would later invade its territory only a few decades later. Meanwhile, the world is attentively watching. North Korean leaders like Kim Jong-Un would know better than to disarm, in full expectation of being unfairly treated by their enemies, even once abandoning their nuclear arsenals. Iranians might only accelerate their nuclear program as a means to safeguard their territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The once palatable notion that nuclear disarmament through arms control and international law can guarantee peace has been forever victimized by the Ukrainian war. What remains of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, now entirely brought into disrepute, is anyone's guess, especially given the precedent setting nature of this matter.

If America has refrained from taking direct action, it's certainly for good reason. Triggering a military escalation that might otherwise lead to an all-out nuclear world war remains one of the many reasons America has decided not to intervene directly in Ukraine. Aside from the long-term battle fatigue bequeathed by its past Middle Eastern adventures, and the present desire to pivot to Asia while trying to contain a rising China, becoming bogged down in another European war seems anything but strategically enticing, especially given its potential escalation into a nuclear conflagration on a worldwide scale. Since America and Russia possess the two most powerful nuclear arsenals in existence, avoiding any direct conventional war between the two countries is of paramount importance to preventing a possible nuclear escalation, one leading to an all-out thermonuclear exchange. Unfortunately, this is hardly the only reason Russia should have thought twice before invading Ukraine.

The tragedy of having a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council be deemed the aggressor in this burgeoning conflict is only less demoralizing than reaching this sobering conclusion during a global pandemic that already killed untold millions while still raging wild. On this note, one should always remember the United Nations was originally created to abolish war itself as a means of conflict resolution and territorial acquisition in international relations, as stated in its founding charter. That Russia, one of the permanent members of its Security Council, initially entrusted with keeping the peace and maintaining international security, should itself have declared war on Ukraine, only further makes a mockery of international law, as few other nations have before. Meanwhile, a microscopic, viral organism has currently claimed more American lives than all major wars the US has fought during the tumultuous course of the twentieth century. Never should we forget that nature also has its store of biological weapons, occasionally used to retaliate for past unreciprocated, mindless aggression.

Despite what so many interested parties would have us believe, saying the past few years have proven tragically turbulent would surely be a crass understatement. Though some may contend this to be an overly negative and acerbic assessment of global events, caring about the big picture should never blind us to our own personal predicament. The original spark that instigated me to write these unpretentious words was a desperate pleading for help from an animal rights organization. The advertisement, like so many others, instigated me to think about the alleged superiority of a species seemingly destined to self-destroy. That so many lives should have been lost to the tragic causes listed above only further indicates how the bond of love that should unite human beings has been sadly shattered as of the recent past. The tragedy about feeling falsely superior to others, simply for having amassed more power, is being entirely unable to prove this self-righteous claim ever to be true. There is nothing like a false sense of superiority to keep one from being respected for his true stature.

In the end, if love and humility are to finally prevail, all this heartless cruelty we must assail. If past and present we should always connect, old words are conjured for dramatic effect: What can ever be said of human evolution, if a record number of dead is our lasting contribution? What is the real point of an expensive education, if serving only to anoint false prophets of damnation? If the law of the jungle is all one lives to respect, please forgive the humble for daring to object... Violence will never cease while settling an endless score, there is no lasting peace for those living only for war. The deep thinkers of our age, always so well versed in evolution, should never succumb to rage while in search of absolution. The day of the hunter is followed by the day of the prey, while satisfying your hunger, what role are you to play? If a wild animal is all you ever want to be, never consider yourself as being truly free.


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