Friday, 29 August 2014

Flight of Stone's fancy

It was originally these two significant space exploration events which prompted me to quote from the Pelican selection of IF Stone's writing yesterday. Then I was sidetracked by his prophetic words about Palestine. Here now is that piece, published on 8th August 1955, about the warlike aspect of mankind in general:

Note to the Rest of the Universe 

Within two years you may see a flaming ball rocket up from the earth's surface and swing into position in an orbit around it. Do not regard the spectacle with complacency. These satellites will grow larger and more numerous; men will go up with them. Voyages to the moon will follow. After that the distant realm of planet and star will lie open to Man. Beware in time. This is a breed which has changed little in thousands of years. The cave-dweller who wielded a stone club and the man who will soon wield an interstellar missile are terribly alike. Earth's creatures feed upon each other, but this is the only one which kills on a large scale, for pleasure, adventure and even - so perverse is the species - for supposed reasons of morality.

Should you drop a secret mission of inquiry in alarm, you will find that the sacred books on which the young of the various tribes have been brought up for thousands of years glorify bloodshed. Whether one looks in Homer, or the Sagas, or the Bible, or the Koran, the hero is a warrior. Someone is always killing someone else for what is called the greater glory of God. 

This is not a creature to be trusted with the free run of the universe. At the moment the human race seems to be temporarily sobered by the possession of weapons which could destroy all life on earth except perhaps the mosses and fungi. But the planetary rocket may revive recrimination. The currently rival tribes, the Russians and the Americans, fear the other may use the new device against it. They may soon be transferring to outer space the hates that in every generation have brought suffering to the earth. It might be wise to sop them now, on the very threshold of the open and as yet unpolluted skies.

Sputnik-1 was launched on 4th October 1957 and man stepped onto the Moon in July 1969.

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