09 August 2010

Don't mourn. Organize!

Today is 9 August 2010. Sixty five years ago today in Nagasaki, Japan, just 560 kilometres from where I am in Osaka, the last ever atomic bomb was used in a war.

Since this blog is about StemCellsANDAtomBombs I wanted to write something profound to mark this anniversary, but I didn't know what to say. Should I condemn the bombing? But what would condemnation do 65 years later. Should I write about the horror?  But I didn't think that I could say anything as deep as the pictures of the giant mushroom cloud, that you've all seen pictures of, that disintegrated human life, or the actual voice of the survivors that you can hear yourself.

Searching for what to write brought me to this quote by Mother Teresa, "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.

It doesn't really matter whether you agree or disagree with Mother Teresa or the work that she did. This quote made me understand my own thinking and why I have never wanted to be part of an ANTI anything movement, why I used to cringe seeing ANTI demonstrations. Don't get me wrong, I'm a trade unionist so I have been on my share of demonstrations, strikes, and picket lines, but these actions were always FOR something: wages, holidays, insurance, trade union rights.

That's why today, I would like to say thank you to the nuclear disarmament movement in Japan and internationally for making sure that Nagasaki was the last time a nuclear bomb was used. These groups have kept us safe by actively campaigning for a ban on nuclear weapons. I guess subconsciously I chose to write about the last time the atomic bomb was used as opposed to the first time it was used in Hiroshima, on 6 August, to highlight the fact that peace groups do have an impact on global politics.

You can view the Nagasaki Peace Declaration here. Notice that it's not the Nagasaki Anti-War Declaration. 

Visiting countries all around the world. Lobbying politicians. Making public declarations. Educating the public. Talking to the United Nations but more importantly talking to people like you and me. All these things have kept the campaign for a nuclear free world alive. They didn't just say 'War is Bad', nor did they just say 'Peace is Good'. Who would disagree? They actively promote peace and ask us to play role in fighting FOR peace, and because of this they have prevented more Hiroshimas or Nagasakis from happening again.

People are moved by these peace groups because, one - most regular people are on a gut level opposed to destruction and murder regardless of the perpetrator, two - they can see themselves in the stories of the victims, and three - the peace groups give people a chance to participate; signing a petition, participating in activities, listening to those who have experienced the bomb. But most importantly these groups present a viable alternative to blowing up the world with atomic weapons. So people listen to them and politicians listen to people. This is active campaigning.

In short, the disarmament and peace groups have done something very important; by using the terrible lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they actively engage people to participate to prevent it from happening again. This is the basic idea behind 'Don't mourn. Organize!'.

My own personal reason for 'Don't mourn. Organize!' is simple. When I first got sick and lost the use of my legs I had a couple of choices. One, fall into a deep depression, or two, get used to life in a chair. I was told that two was preferable because if I didn't accept option two, option one would would happen naturally. I decided to take another choice and that choice is to campaign for a cure. Not just because I want one. When I learned the science was there but the science wasn't getting the necessary resources, I decided that I didn't want to get used to the chair, I wanted to walk and it's a waste not to try to get me and millions of others to walk.

In the coming weeks I hope to give you more information on what different pro stem-cell-research groups are doing to make sure that money, science, and human potential are no longer wasted on death. By actively engaging you in the fight to cure disease, I hope that you don't just watch, but participate.