But just as the Bush nightmare will soon fade from this troubled planet, so did my nuclear paranoia. For myself, and I believe, for the world, such a major reality shift in is now taking place, and it is epitimised in the shape and form of Barack Hussein Obama.
I can recall two seemingly minor events which precipitated my change of counsciousness about the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) craziness we cowered under. There was the day I attended a quarterly Unitarian service in a little stone church, built in 1858 and nestling amongst a tiny forest off a dirt road, with my wife and my infant daughter, Emily. The Unitarians are the most liberal of worshippers, not adhering to any fixed set of rules about what religious belief ought to be. They acknowledge Jesus as a great man for example, but do not ascribe to the Trinity or the virgin birth.
We sat in this tiny sheltered church, where whispering trees accompanied Bach, before the preacher made his address. While acknowledging the turbulent and uneasy times we lived in, he was able to open our minds with an alternative, positive slant on our view of the world. He spoke of the Dark Ages, when wars, pestilence, and ignorance prevailed throughout Europe, and of the birth of great musicians, artists and thinkers during these darkest of times, and of how the Reformation and the great movements of arts and science bloomed in consequence. It was a healthy injection of the positive for all present, not least for the parents of an infant daughter with the face and disposition of an angel.
Then I discovered the hundredth monkey syndrome.
The story of how a form of consciousness swept through a colony of monkeys stunned me, and gave me hope when logic insisted there was none. At the time (the late seventies) I was devouring all the books and magazines I possibly could. I was involved in politics and environmental activism, and flirted with alternative life-stye theories. I struggled with the ‘spiritualism versus political action’ dilemma, as a friend journeyed towards his goal of becoming a Bhuddist monk. Then I read about the monkeys.
These monkeys lived on a scattering of islands, and were studied by evolutionary scientists. The scientists would sometimes feed the monkeys rice, on the beaches. One day an Einstienian female, instead of picking the rice from the sand, simply washed the sand away in the ocean, while holding the grains in her hand. Within days, all the monkeys on the island were doing the same thing, and suddenly, all of the monkeys on all of the islands were washing their rice in the same manner. This was a revelation for me. I could now believe that great numbers of people could change their way of seeing the world, and that if enough did so, that the world would change. Historians can debate the nuts and bolts of how and why the Cold War ended, but I was satisfied that it was ultimately a change of consciousness by a critical mass which brought about its demise, just as the critical mass of fear and distrust brought it into being.
A generation of youngsters have grown up with no idea of how near to armageddon we were for a period of more than thirty years. It was an age when fleets of US bombers were constantly in the air, flying towards designated targets in the USSR, and turning back when the ‘Fail-Safe’ point was reached, as more planes took off to take their place; all to ensure that the Russians were not able to ‘win’ WW3 with a surprise attack, and making it clear that in the event of one country attacking first, they also would be wiped out. Thus the MAD acronym.
Fleets of submarines with multiple warheads roamed the oceans, each carrying enough weaponery to wipe most countries from the earth, and inter-continental missiles were plentiful enough to destroy the planet many times over. Cruise missiles installed throughout Europe brought the possibility of accidental war closer than ever, as the time between possible attack and retaliation shrunk, to a point at which computers were programmed to determine whether either country was under attack, and whether to counter-attack. Hence we almost all died when the Russians came close to unleashing their arsenal when their computers mistook the moon rising over the horizon for an oncoming missile. Then suddenly, inexplicably, the Cold War ended.
With it went the activism and the urgency of the sixties youth, who had had plenty to fight for.
Unfortunately, eight years ago, apathetic Americans elected an idiot for a president, and the largest mass demonstrations the world had ever seen were contemptuously ignored as the invasion of Iraq proceeded. Eight years of GWB seems to have been quite enough to shake the world out of its apathy, and miraculously, it seems to have thrown us the nearest thing to a savior we could possibly hope for.
When Barack Obama is elected President on the 4th November, the world will welcome a young man who has achieved the most extraordinary journey we are likely to observe in a life-time. It is matched only perhaps by the career of Nelson Mandela, a man of similar qualities. In Obama we have a man of eloquence, a man of intelligence, and a man of vision. He is a gentleman, never resorting to the muck-throwing antics of his opponents, and unceasingly concentrating on the issues, rather than the personalities of his political enemies. He is quick witted and personable.
He is capable of matching the past fictional Presidents we have loved so much as they played their roles in such masterful dramas as ‘The West Wing.’ He is a figment of our imagination made flesh, and he is sorely needed. When one contemplates the reality that he is a Senator from the state of Illinois, from where the great emancipater Abraham Lincoln emerged to serve the country, to preserve the union and to free the slaves, the incredible symbolism of his rise is truly staggering. May Barack Obama give us all we could dare to hope for, and may we give him all he could dare to hope for from us.