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February 17, 2017

The perils of proliferation


February 17, 2017

Two psychologists conducted the Robbers Cave experiment to investigate conflicts within groups. They divided 22 boys a group of 12-year-olds who belonged to a similar socioeconomic background but were completely unknown to each other into two groups and sent them on a summer camp in separate areas.

They stayed together and interacted within their group during that time. When the two groups were allowed to contact each other, they had developed signs of prejudice and enmity, even though they were given a short period of time to cultivate their own social group. To escalate the conflicts, the experiment was further modified. The two groups competed against each other in a variety of contests and activities, which increased tension and hostility against each other for desired resources. The hostilities would even convert into physical fights, with participants showing a readiness to be violent and take deadly action similar to what is depicted in the novel ‘Lord of the Flies’.

The experiment still continues. But I would propose applying this theory to a larger scale. Let us posit the idea that one country has become a genuine threat to another country for whatever reasons. There is no doubt that we have made great advancements in technology for productive and beneficial purposes. But, at the same time, nuclear power has become a threat to seven billion people living on this earth.

India has just announced that it will increase its defence budget by 10 percent for the upcoming fiscal year. Recently, Pakistan successfully tested its missile technology in response to India’s actions. Both countries do not relinquish any opportunity to show each other and the world that they are ready to attack if the need arises.

North Korea continues to build their nuclear arsenal and their president has recently said that the country is about to test missiles which would have the range to reach the soil of some states in the US. This is now a growing concern in the UN and has also served to further isolate North Korea from the rest of the world. Iran is also mounting their ladder of nuclear proliferation, in response to which the US has issued sanctions to curtail their nuclear development.

It is widely believed that Russia, France, China, Pakistan, India, Israel, North Korea and the US and UK all have nuclear technology. There is also a strong possibility that other countries will be working on their atomic bomb as well.

If two atomic bombs alone can engulf 20 million people in 1945, the devastation of a full-scale nuclear war is unimaginable especially when technology has evolved to such a degree that mutually assured destruction can take place within a minute of a warning.

From a patriotic and nationalist standpoint, it would be a point of pride for anyone to say that his or her country possesses nuclear technology and has the capacity to retaliate against their enemies in the event of such an attack. In this way, with every nationalist boast about our nuclear capacity, we keep justifying the use of dangerous ammunition, missiles and atomic bombs and the need to stockpile more and more weapons.

Threats to our world and life as we know it are piling on fast. Global warming, carbon emissions, rising sea levels, war, poverty, famine and natural disasters, are some of the creeping threats we are confronted with. But the biggest of all these issues is nuclear proliferation. While global warming is destroying our world slowly and gradually, nuclear proliferation can wipe out the entire human race and the planet within minutes. The lives of seven billion people are at stake.

Even though we are not currently embroiled in a nuclear war, the concept of a threat continues to exist. It has converted itself into the looming fear that we are always on the precipice of potential destruction. We are taking this world in the wrong direction by abusing technological advancements to breed fear and danger.

We are divided into different groups, races, castes and nationalities and inhabit different parts of the same world. In order to compete negatively, remain superior or have the upper hand, we have become hostile and prejudiced towards each other. This is where fights begin and turn into attempts to end another’s life.

The final phase of the psychological experiment involved trying to turn the rival groups into friends. A variety of fun, playful and positive team-building activities were introduced and, at the end, the two rival groups decided to travel together in the same bus, eat together, form a joint community built on friendship and association. This demonstrates that conflicts can be resolved through cooperation and positive interaction.

If young children can put their perceived differences aside, why can’t superpowers, such as China, America, Russia, and Britain, come forward and agree to end the threat of nuclear war by putting an end to nuclear proliferation?

This is easier said than done. But as they say, it is better to aim for the moon even if you land among the stars than to never try at all. Our world leaders must end this undue stress. We all need to escape the weight of this unnecessary burden. The seven billion people on our planet were not born to die this way.


The writer is an organisational



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