August 9th, 1945. A date as good as any to signify the start of the modern era. It was the day the first nuclear weapon was used on a civilian population. An entire city razed in the blink of an eye. Thousands of lives snuffed out faster than it takes for someone to flip on a light switch.
The true tragedy of the atomic bomb does not lie in its potential for mass destruction. Cities have been wiped off the face of the earth since time immemorial. Women and children have always been casualty of war. The a-bomb is terrifying simply because of how efficient it is.
It once took legions of highly trained and motivated soldiers to destroy a city. It would take days to spread the destruction with fire, put all those who opposed it to the sword, and round up everyone else in chains to be sold into slavery. With the invention of nukes, a single man in a solitary plane became an unmatched killing machine. He became a one man army who takes no prisoners and spares no wounded.
A nuke is the most modern of all weapons. It’s the McDonald’s of bombs. It brought the fast food mentality to warfare. Grand in scale and deadly in its efficiency, it is simply the fastest way to fight a war. It removes human error and human weakness from war. It does not matter whether he vaporizes a saint or a sinner. Its only concern is that all is destroyed.
Since that day in 1945, the threat of global nuclear holocaust has loomed over the world. Each and every person in modernity has it hanging over their head like a radioactive Sword of Damocles. In an effort to ensure the safety of their own citizens, other nations started to acquire nuclear weapons. It had the opposite effect on the world at large. The fear of annihilation only grew stronger.
Fear of global nuclear winter reached an all time high in the ensuing decades. The two world super powers of the era constantly had to prepare for countless end-of-the-world scenarios. Eventually, they both concluded the only sane policy for this new kind of warfare was one of mutually assured destruction. It led both to stockpile a countless number of weapons that could incinerate the world many times over. All in the effort to deter the other side from ever using one.
In an act of supreme cosmological irony, not a single one of these weapons has ever been used. The most sophisticated, powerful, and costly weapons ever made were created for peace. They sit dormant in a missile silos and submarines all around the world. Their only purpose is to rust away into obsolescence.
The psychology behind this farce is a symptom of the modern mind. Nobody wants to live in a world that can spontaneously combust at the whim of a tyrant. Yet, once nuclear technology was out of the bag, it could develop in no other way.
This mentality can be found in any undesirable development of the modern world. Nobody likes living in a world were they have to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour. It takes most people hours after a long day at work just to get home. Any sane person would prefer to be able to walk to their job. Before cars, almost everyone did.
Cars started out as a luxury item. It was a fad for the rich alone. It was merely a status symbol. However, as the technology became cheaper and more reliable, the benefits of owning a car were plain to see. Within the span of a generation, car ownership shot through the roof. It transformed itself from a novelty into a necessity.
Cities changed to accommodate this new development. As cars flooded the streets, the infrastructure need to be updated. Old buildings were demolished to make way for expansive freeways. As commuting by a car became the new normal, valued any other mode of transportation. It soon became impractical to walk, ride bicycles, or ride the train in many cities.
The voluntary of the past becomes mandatory of the future. When the majority adapt a new technology, it becomes the path of least resistance for everyone else. Each bit of progress seems beneficial to the individual but it ultimately backfires when it becomes adopted en masse. Modernity is the tragedy of commons on the grandest scale.