Lit by Imagination

History, Politics, Culture

Blog Introduction (First Post)

the gleam of an heroic act
such strange illumination
the possible’s slow fuse is lit
by the imagination
          – Emily Dickinson

This new blog picks up where my old one (Nuclear Free by 2045?) left off a few weeks ago. I started that blog a little over five years ago with no clear idea about what direction it would take or what kind of readership it would gain. The first reason for starting it was just to avoid repetition. I had been discussing the Fukushima-Daiichi meltdowns with various friends in emails, so I just decided to put everything I had to say in one place for all to see. In those days when I was still traumatized and disgusted with the unfolding disaster in Fukushima, 200 kilometers north of my home, I chose the blog name just as an idea toss into the world, with the hope that awareness of the issue would grow quickly now that this major nuclear catastrophe had occurred. That never happened, and it has become apparent that while a few people are getting filthy rich and many people are comfortable and complacent, most people on this planet are under siege, too overwhelmed with day-to-day concerns to worry about how nuclear waste is going to be handled and confronted by future generations. There is a Himalayan range of social and ideological barriers that have to be traversed in order to face the big crises that loom over the horizon.

When I first started writing I was also naive about how many people had been working in obscurity on nuclear issues over the years when Three Mile Island Chernobyl and the Cold War had faded from mass consciousness. I had a lot to learn and a lot of respects to pay to those who had walked this path before. One reason I’m moving on to broader themes is that I know the nuclear beat is being covered well by others.

The more I learned, the more the blog title felt like a constraint. During the first year of writing, the war in Syria began, and the BP Gulf Oil Disaster (2010) and the Financial Disaster (2008) had already happened. My attention was on the victims of the Fukushima fallout, but it didn’t feel quite right to be lamenting only that injustice while so much else was happening. The more I wrote about things nuclear, the more it seemed the reactors and the weapons were merely by-products or symptoms of the deeper problem. Perhaps they are the ultimate symbol of our hubris. It became impossible to talk about nuclear energy or nuclear disarmament in isolation from militarism, capitalism or even materialistic communism, which was also devoted, in its actual applications in China and the USSR, to technological dominion over the natural world. I needed a broader banner to write under.

I didn’t want to fret over the choice of title too long, so I was content to let serendipity provide one. The day I was setting up this blog I heard this quote from veteran activist Bill Ayers:

Today what we need more than anything is an ability to step outside the frames that are given to us for reasonable legitimate debate and say there is something else. What could be and what should be stand just on the horizon. I refer back to Emily Dickinson: imagination is what lights the slow fuse of possibility. I think we have to remember that in a war of fixed positions we always lose. In a war of the imagination, people from below can win.[1]

I don’t want to imply that my writing is a shining example of tremendous imagination, but I chose the blog title to advance this idea that something as yet unimagined has to be pursued. Emily Dickinson wrote of heroic acts and the strange illumination seen when imagination lights the possible’s slow fuse. I can work with that.

See the full interview with Bill Ayers:

[1] Chris Hedges, On Contact: Restrained Resistance with Bill Ayers, November 7, 2016.

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