Nei hæ! Tom Ellington

Tom Ellington

Spurningaleikurinn „Nei hæ!“ þekkir engin landamæri. Nú siglir fleyið alla leið til Bandaríkjanna og hittir þar fyrir Tom Ellington, umsjónarmann námsstofunnar „Understanding the Unthinkable: The Science and History of Nuclear Weapons“. Markmið hennar er að gera þátttakendur nægilega upplýsta um kjarnorkuvopn til að taka virkan þátt í aðgerðastarfi gegn kjarnorku. Tom svaraði á ensku og fylgja svörin í sinni upphaflegu mynd. Hann svaraði spurningu frá Svandísi Önnu og lagði eitt stykki fyrir Hlöðver Sigurðsson.

Name, age, location?
“Tom Ellington, 40, Macon, Georgia, USA (Macon is a small city of about 95,000 people. It is known as the home of Otis Redding and Little Richard. It is also where the kazoo was invented.)”

Can you name an activist or thinker from the past which gives you inspiration?
“I find myself reading Albert Camus a lot these days, particularly the essays collected in “Resistance, Rebellion and Death.” Having spent some of my formative years in Montgomery, Alabama, I also have a great deal of admiration for the people who participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Of course, Rosa Parks was essential. There would have been no boycott without her. And Martin Luther King Jr. came to prominence because of his leadership during the time. However, the boycott succeeded ultimately because of the thousands of Montgomerians who took part – consistently and in solidarity. They made considerable sacrifices, even putting themselves in physical danger. They did so without any guarantee of success. In fact, they had reason to believe they might fail. The campaign took more than a year before Montgomery’s bus system was finally integrated on an equal basis. That kind of sustained collective action in the face of difficult circumstances is very inspiring to me.”

Is there anything from recent news or popular discourse that has made you think especially strongly about the need for radical social change?
“There is a lot. In fact, it is easy to get overwhelmed reading the news. Related to the topic of my seminar, there is the issue of “modernizing” or creating a next generation of nuclear weapons, which the United States is considering. While it has not received a lot of attention, this idea of next-generation weapons threatens to blur the line between nuclear and conventional weapons. This would increase the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used again in combat or against civilians. Unfortunately, this topic has not captured a lot of popular attention. The Occupy Wall Street movement highlighted increasing income inequality and decreased opportunities for economic mobility in the United States. The movement has receded for the time being, but the problem remains. Many on the right do not recognize that there is a problem. The describe the poor and members of the working class as “moochers” or “takers,” as if the buying and selling of stocks and securities is somehow socially productive labor. I could go on, but I’ll stop there for now.”

What question would you like to pose to your fellow instructor at The Radical Summer University 2013, Hlöðver Sigurðsson?
“What lessons did you learn from the Occupy Reykjavik movement? Knowing what you know now, are there things you would do differently if you had the chance to start again?”

The question from your fellow instructor at RóSu 2013, Svandís Anna: “Do you think we are constantly on the brink of a nuclear war? Oh, and how do you like Iceland?”
“I think the risk of a full-scale global nuclear war is quite low at the moment, but there is a much bigger risk of an attack on a city or a regional conflict involving nuclear weapons. While that does not pose an immediate existential threat to humanity as a species, it would still be an extraordinary catastrophe. I see four main threats in the immediate future: 1) a crude bomb constructed of stolen fissionable material by some non-state actor, 2) a regional conflict that starts going badly for one of the newer nuclear powers, Israel, India, Pakistan or North Korea, 3) a failure of command and control leading to the unauthorized or accidental use of a nuclear weapon, 4) a new, more “usable” next generation actually being used, perhaps even to prevent a new state from developing a nuclear bomb. Other than perhaps the United States, I don’t worry about any of the five traditional nuclear powers actually using their weapons – e.g., France is not going to start a nuclear war. Of course, that raises the question of why these states keep going to the trouble and expense of maintaining their arsenals. As for Iceland, I like it quite a lot. When I come to Reykjavik in August, it will actually be my fourth visit, including three times since 2011. Without sounding too much like a guidebook, I can say that I like the climate, and I have really enjoyed talking to people I have met there.”

Tom Ellington is an associate professor of political science at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. Since 2007, he has also served as an elected member of the Macon City Council. Prior to becoming an academic, he worked as a journalist, and he was active in the movement opposing the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

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