Fifty years ago, and today

(Posted by Jeff Porten)

I am doing my best impression today of a highly ambulatory decapitated chicken in preparation for my trip to MacWorld starting tomorrow, so abbreviated remarks follow about what’s on my mind, with permission from the Speaker to revise and extend them for the Record at a later date.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a wholly remarkable document, The Russell-Einstein Manifesto. It begins, “We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt.” It led to the founding of the Pugwash Conferences, which along with its co-founder Joseph Rotblat shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

I received an email from an activist friend earlier this week who asked me, somewhat tongue in cheek, if I was still trying to save the world. I responded in the affirmative, but in reality I can’t say such things. On the other hand, Rotblat is a man who I believe truly has. Fifty years on, he is still pursuing this work, and his work is not over.

Moving on to current events, one begins to wonder about the value of keeping the population under constant surveillance (if one does not already) when considering that London has the most police cameras per capita in the world, and under the lenses of these cameras a terrorist attack was successfully completed. Had that happened in the US, I have little doubt that the response would be a panicked clamor for more cameras, more government tracking, and greater restrictions on “dangerous” movements, speech, and activity. But reports from London indicate a calm that is entirely in contrast to our own hysteria (and in keeping with their historical mien). It will be interesting to see whether the attack brings upon a redoubled pursuit of illusory safety, or if people will ask somewhat more loudly why the millions of law-abiding are watched when the criminals are not deterred.

More to come.