How the World May End

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Republicans and Democrats – along with a complicit mainstream media – are plunging ahead toward war with Russia, a mad groupthink that could end life on the planet, observes John Pilger.

By John Pilger

The U.S. submarine captain says, “We’ve all got to die one day, some sooner and some later. The trouble always has been that you’re never ready, because you don’t know when it’s coming. Well, now we do know and there’s nothing to be done about it.”

Gregory Peck in a scene from the 1959 movie, “On the Beach,” showing how a nuclear war ends life on the planet.

He says he will be dead by September. It will take about a week to die, though no one can be sure. Animals live the longest.

The war was over in a month. The United States, Russia and China were the protagonists. It is not clear if it was started by accident or mistake. There was no victor. The Northern Hemisphere is contaminated and lifeless now.

A curtain of radioactivity is moving south towards Australia and New Zealand, southern Africa and South America. By September, the last cities, towns and villages will succumb. As in the north, most buildings will remain untouched, some illuminated by the last flickers of electric light.

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper   

These lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men appear at the beginning of Nevil Shute’s novel On the Beach, which left me close to tears. The endorsements on the cover said the same.

Published in 1957 at the height of the Cold War when too many writers were silent or cowed, it is a masterpiece. At first the language suggests a genteel relic; yet nothing I have read on nuclear war is as unyielding in its warning. No book is more urgent.

Some readers will remember the black and white Hollywood film starring Gregory Peck as the U.S. Navy commander who takes his submarine to Australia to await the silent, formless specter descending on the last of the living world.

I read On the Beach for the first time the other day, finishing it as the U.S. Congress passed a law to wage economic war on Russia, the world’s second most lethal nuclear power. There was no justification for this…

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