Thursday, July 08, 2010

Einstein @ OMSI

This exhibit is largely biographical, although it does make a sincere attempt to explain the science.

What was Einstein's relationship to the Manhattan Project? He wrote that famous letter to FDR, but had no direct involvement in the development of the atomic bomb. He likely wouldn't have gotten a security clearance in the first place. The FBI was tracking his every move, looking for Commie connections. The McCarthyites were on his case. Intellectuals in general were against the wall in those days, as Nazism and hatred of Jews was hardly confined to Germany.

He hated the fact that the bombs were used ("Woe is me" said the poster). He was thinking in terms of deterrence, hoping humans would get their affairs in order with this threat hanging over their heads. Nationalism was a disease, a mental illness. Yes, he wanted Jews to have a safe haven, supported the formation of a Jewish state. He was even offered the presidency thereof, which he wisely turned down. He didn't trust nationalism though, nor the United Nations really, as its components were nation-states. One poster used the word "supranational" (versus "inter" or "trans") for the kind of cybernetics he thought might work.

Einstein suffered from being so intelligent, endured being aboard a Ship of Fools. He wasn't arrogant about his intellect though. On the contrary, he was forever humbled, given his inability to crack nature's most secret codes. He lived modestly in Princeton, used his fame to speak out on the issues. He had a lot in common with Linus Pauling, and indeed the two men show up together on one of the posters, as co-supporters of a peace group. He was a big fan of Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein was.

I don't suppose the exhibit was designed with Oregon in mind specifically, but it was good to see Pauling's name, and to see McCarthy pointing at our state. I permit myself some pride in Oregon, as a way of expressing my own values, in Princeton too.

Earlier, on the Wanderers list, I was continuing to spell out the view that only organized criminals harbor nuclear weapons these days, using nation-state decals as camouflage, a way of dodging the glare. Non-proliferation means aggressively rounding up and dismantling these abominations, with the full support of our fearless leaders.

The USA flag is like an art supply: anyone can wrap themselves up in it. Racists, classists, bigots-- all the usual suspects pose as patriots. It's a masquerade ball. "Takes all kinds" as they say.
Note: a lot of good people take the position that nuclear weapons are a crime against humanity, so anyone harboring them is ipso facto a part of a terrorist organization. Such organizations often hide behind nation-state iconography, like those drug smugglers in Central America, really just mercenaries, but quick to say "working for the government" if caught red handed (not that drugs should be illegal -- it's those hypocritical Puritans who are destroying the planet with their phony self-righteousness, but that's for another thread...).