Failures of Imagination I ; Trinity Test Site with Groves And Oppenheimer 36″x48″ acrylic on board
I remember after coming along a bit, painting this, how the subject matter, I didn’t think it justified heroisization. The Manhattan project, it seemed to me a gross failure of humanity, of human imagination. In the 20th century a radical new set of models and conceptions about the nature of the material universe opened up…And of course this knowledge was used to develop a weapon of such devastating consequence as to literally cleave history into a ‘before’ and ‘after’.
Technically, it certainly marked a ‘profound achievment’, but ethically ? The term ‘genius’ used to refer to an inner voice of conscience, similar to Plato’s ‘Daemon’, and then, around the period of the enlightenment, shifted to mean ‘One possesed of superior mental abilities’.
But superior mental abilities without the conscience and imagination to guide them is monstrosity. Look at the recent article in Vanity Fair, where Richard Perle (no doubt partly in an attempt to distance himself from the scapegoat which GW is swiftly becoming) goes on about how he “underestimated the depravity” into which Iraq would sink owing to the invasion and occupation. In essense he’s saying his support for the invasion was brought about by his lack of imagination regarding the consequences. He didn’t understand the chaos which can become unlocked in the human heart, and that war is a serious business. Why it almost made me sick the first time I saw the image of Bush cavalierly blustering into a megaphone atop that pile of rubble. You could see so clearly that he was not a serious person, not a person who understood consequences. Not a person who understood what the spilling of blood meant.
Which isn’t to say there is never a cause, or justification, or perhaps imperative to use force, to ‘make war’. But that when a nation enters into such a course, it must be done seriously and gravely, for upon such a course, all forces of chaos and darkness in humanity will rise up and be known.
And of course, as regards WW II…Was it neccesary ? Keynes warned of the consequences of the scapegoating, punitive measures laid on Germany at Versailles, and how the vengeful, economic colonization it amounted to, would lead straight to the darkness which would follow, a few brief decades after their enstatement.
This is actually something which I’m trying to dimly convey in my abstact Connectogon pieces. A sense of the vast scale, sweep, complexity, and interconnectedness of things in the human condition. A sense of the unseeable, yet paradoxically predictable nature of events in history. Looking to the future, we can see many possible strands, many future outcomes. But if the actions we are taking now, are ones which help to enforce a system of injustice, poverty, and degradation, there will be consequences to bear.