Time is running out for humanity. The Doomsday Clock stands at two and a half minutes to midnight.
“The Clock is ticking, global danger looms,” warns the Science and Security Board that established The Dooms Day clock in 1947 when the clock was set at 7 minutes to midnight.
How did mankind slip from 7 minutes to 2.5 minutes to midnight? What forces colluded to bring us to the brink?
Noam Chomsky, esteemed and revered MIT academic, linguist and anti-war activist, explained what these forces are and how they have brought about a perfect storm in an interview with Christopher Lydon on Open Source Radio.
“First, human intelligence created two huge sledgehammers capable of terminating our existence–or at least organized existence–both from the Second World War.”
The first one Chomsky refers to is nuclear weapons. The United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.
The Doomsday Clock moved to two minutes to midnight in 1953 when the United States and Soviet Union exploded hydrogen bombs, said Chomsky.
The second existential threat is the so-called Anthropocene Epoch in which humans have a severe, even a disastrous impact on the environment.
“So there’s the two that we’ve created–which might in the case of nuclear war maybe wipe us out; in the case of environmental catastrophe severe impact–and then some.”
The third thing that happened was neoliberalism: “Beginning around the 70s, human intelligence dedicated itself to eliminating, or at least weakening, the main barrier against these threats. It’s called neoliberalism. There was a transition at that time from the period of what some people call ‘regimented capitalism,’ the ’50s and ’60s, the great growth period, egalitarian growth, a lot of advances in social justice and so on. That changed in the 70s and with the onset of the neoliberal era that we’ve been living in since.”
Chomsky explains the principle of this era is undermining mechanisms of social solidarity and mutual support and popular engagement in determining policy.
It’s not called that. What it’s called is “freedom,” but “freedom” means a subordination to the decisions of concentrated, unaccountable, private power. That’s what it means. The institutions of governance–or other kinds of association that could allow people to participate in decision making–those are systematically weakened. Margaret Thatcher said it rather nicely in her aphorism about “there is no society, only individuals.”
Chomsky explains that the one thing that is a threat to all this destruction is an engaged public, an informed engaged public acting together to develop a means to confront the threat and respond to it, but that’s systematically being weakened.
“In the 1970s there was a lot of elite discussion across the spectrum about the danger of too much democracy and the need to have what was called more ‘moderation’ in democracy, for people to become more passive and apathetic and not to disturb things too much, and that’s what the neoliberal programs do. So put it all together and what do you have? A perfect storm.”
The Doomsday clock, moving through ups of 12 minutes to midnight in 1963 and 1972 and the highest of 17 minutes to midnight in 1991 when the Cold War was officially over, slowly moved closer to midnight until it hit 3 minutes to midnight in 2015 where it has stayed until this year.
According to Chomsky the clock moved 30 seconds closer to midnight immediately after the Trump election in January this year.
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