Monday 15 February 2016

Poetry: On Nuclear Logic

Editorial note: Poetry touching on the great stories of our time, from Iran to North Korea, to Turkey to Israel, to...?

A poem by Chengde Chen 

Dr Strangelove provided a fictional insight into something all too real

On ‘Nuclear Logic’

Hearing that nuclear control on Earth is troublesome,
God sends His envoy to investigate.
Riding down the wind and passing over countries,
the envoy is puzzled by what he sees:
in country A, nuclear missiles striding proudly ahead;
in country B, nuclear programme being openly upgraded.
but in small countries like C and D,
there are inspectors under UN flags sniffing around,
searching for traces of nuclear evidence, or intention.

The envoy can’t figure out the logic,
so he asks the Secretary General of the UN,
‘If such weapons endanger human existence,
shouldn’t those who have them destroy theirs first?
If the UN principle is that all nations are equal,
why are they treated differently over the same thing?’

The Secretary General replies, ‘Your Excellency,
nuclear logic is different from ordinary logic.
It is not something that if I can have, so can you,
but that because I have it and you don’t,
I can forbid you while you can’t stop me.

“Equality” means that we have one right each.
Since I have had the right to have,
you have to have the right to have not –
which is just as important to the world peace and order.
It is most irrational and irresponsible to think that
that I can set a fire means you can light a candle!’

The envoy is stupefied,
‘What interesting logic; no wonder you’re unique!
I’d better hurry back to report it –
let the Old Man learn something new too.’ 

Chengde Chen is the author of Five Themes of Today: philosophical poems. Readers can find out more about Chengde and his poems here


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Now I know my ABC!

Your poem would seem to serve as a metaphor, Chengde, for how the world works in every respect.

Unknown said...

Yes, Thomas,the “logic” seems applicable to many places – it's the powerful who make the rules. But in most other places it would at least be disguised somewhat, while with the case of nuclear, it is so undisguised that it makes you think that it can’t be questioned.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Chengde, your poem makes me think of two persons who have lived together for many years and then one says to the other out of the blue "I don't know you." That claim takes away from the other, to know the other as well.

docmartincohen said...

Yes, very well put, as ever, by Chengde. On a boring practical note though, I don't think there's any reason to pretend that "the UN principle is that all nations are equal" - because it is structured as a hierarchy with the five permanent members at the top: Russia, US, UK, France and China. Not entirely coincidentally, these are the original 'nuclear five'.

Perig Gouanvic said...


Perig Gouanvic said...

And then there's the structure of the UN: it is based on the fact that all human rights are interdependent, but when you look at how the organisation is structured, with its different bodies, you see. It's all very fragmented and contradictory. I think that there is a contradiction between this hierarchy and the founding texts of the UN.

Unknown said...

Yes, it's full of pragmatic compromises, which is why can be laughed at by "principles".

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