At the exact moment when the Olympic Games will begin in Rio de Janeiro, at 8:00 p.m. on August 6, 2016, 71 years after August 6, 1945, in Hiroshima, Japan, at the same time, that corresponds to 8:15 a.m., the dreadful launching of the atomic bomb on that city will be remembered. The bomb caused 242.437 victims, counting those who died instantly, and those who died later, as a consequence of nuclear radiation.
In the text of surrender of August, 14th, Emperor Hirohito recognized that «it was about a weapon that could cause the total extinction of human civilization». Days later, when sharing with the people the reasons for the surrender, he declared that the main reason was that the atomic bomb «could bring about the death of all the Japanese people». In his ancestral wisdom, Emperor Hirohito was right.
Humanity trembled. According to cosmologist Carl Sagan, suddenly humanity realized that we had created for ourselves the beginning of our self destruction. Jean-Paul Sartre said the same: «humans will appropriate the instruments of their own extermination». Terrified, the great British historian, Arnold Toynbee, who ultimately penned 12 volumes on the history of civilizations, wrote in his memoir, (Experiences 1969): «I lived to see the end of human history become an anti-historic possibility, capable of actually occurring, not as an act of God, but of man». The great French naturalist Theodore Monod emphatically said: «we are capable of senseless and deranged conduct; from now on, we can be afraid of everything, actually everything, even the annihilation of the whole human race» (And if the human adventure would fail? 2000).
In fact, the horror came to nothing, because nuclear weapons continued to be developed, ever more potent, capable of eradicating life from the planet and putting an end to the human species.
Presently 9 countries have nuclear weapons, totalling 17.000, more or less. And we know that complete security does not exist. The disasters of Three Mile Island in the U.S., Chernobyl in Ukraine, and Fukushima, in Japan, provide convincing proof.
A few days ago, the Northamerican President, Barak Obama, visited Hiroshima for the first time. Lamenting only the fact, he said: «death fell from the sky and the world changed… our moral awakening began». But President Obama did not have the courage to ask for forgiveness from the Japanese people for the apocalyptic scenes that transpired there.
A world-wide discussion now exists as how to evaluate this act of war. Many pragmatically claim that it was the only way to force Japan to surrender, and avoid thousands of victims on both sides. Others consider the use of this deadly weapon, in the official Japanese version, as «an illegal hostile act under the norms of international law». Others go even farther and affirm that it was a «war crime» and even «State terrorism».
Now we are moved to say that it was a criminal act against life, that cannot be justified in any form, because thinking in ecological terms, the bomb killed much more than people: all the forms of vegetation, animal and organic life and the total destruction of cultural goods as well. Wars are usually made of armies against armies, war planes against war planes, battle ships against battle ships. Not here. It was about a totaler Krieg (total war) in the Nazi style of killing anything that moves, poisoning waters, contaminating the wind and decimating the physical–chemical bases that sustain life. Conscious of this barbarity, Albert Einstein refused to participate in the atomic bomb project and, together with Bertrand Russell, he vehemently condemned it.
Besides other deadly threats to the life-and-Earth-systems, the nuclear threat continues to be the most terrifying, a true Damocles sword sits atop humanity’s head. Who could contain the irrationality of North Korea, in unleashing a devastating nuclear attack?
There is a deeply human proposal that comes to us from Sao Paulo, Brazil, from the Association of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Survivors (called, hibakusha–It is believed that there are some 118 in Brazil), led by Chico Whitaker, a militant opponent of nuclear energy, that on August 6, at the moment of the opening of the Olympic Games, there be a minute of silence, to remember the victims of Hiroshima. Not only that, but that our thoughts also turn against violence against women, refugees, Blacks and the poor, who are systematically decimated (in Brazil alone, in 2015, 60 thousand Black youth were lost), the indigenous, the quilombolas, the landless, the homeless, in fact, all the victims of the voracity of our system of accumulation.
On this topic, the Mayor of Hiroshima has already sent a letter to the Olympic Organizing Committee. Let’s hope that the Committee promotes that silent cry against all war, and for peace amog all the peoples of the world.
Leonardo Boff is ecotheologian and writter
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.