Arne O. Holm says Does Anyone Remember the Dinosaurs “Walkman” and “Stencil Machines”? Or “Disarmament”?

The Non Violence sculpture
The sculpture «Non-Violence» by the Swedish sculptor Carl Fredrik Reuters outside the UN headquarters in New York. (Photo: Didier Moïse)

(Commentary) Once upon a time, we used walkmans and stencil machines. The words have long since disappeared out of our language and live a lonely and abandoned life in the dictionary. Now, the terms have been accompanied by a new, linguistic dinosaur: disarmament. 

Words disappear because they no longer describe something that is in use or is relevant in any way.

Language changes because the world changes. 

“Disarmament” has been displaced by its much stronger opposite “armament”. The world needs more, not fewer weapons. That is how all security policy dialogue begins, also before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A blushing sunset

In my dictionary, an edition from 1983, «disarmament» has squeezed in between “disapproval” and “disaster”. 

It could, or rather must be a coincidence that the dictionary was published the same year as the Soviet officer and scientist Stanislav Petrov prevented a nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union. The alarm went off on the 26th of September 1983 and announced that an American nuclear attack was on its way.

Something close to treason, or a defeat for the despot Vladimir Putin.

The officer has a gut feeling that it had to be a false alarm, something that prevented a nuclear war. 

For decades, the word disarmament had the power to lead protest marches that gathered millions of people all over the world in a joint desire for peace and freedom.

It employed thousands of people in UN delegations and national assemblies, who spent all their energy negotiating disarmament agreements, such as the 26th of February 1983, the day the UN named the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.

Reagan and Gorbatsjov

Two years later, in November 1985, American Ronald Reagan and Soviet Mikhail Gorbatsjov started what would be a series of political summits for a shared desire for disarmament. In the years that followed, bilateral and international binding agreements on disarmament were successfully made. 

Such summits are now long gone.

To reminisce about this, while Russia is bombing Ukraine, some might perceive as something close to treason, or a defeat for the despot Vladimir Putin.

I will take my chances anyway. Not because I have any alternative solutions to Russia’s bombing of Ukraine. I do it because it must be allowed to mourn the opportunities our political leaders have passed up. 

With weapons and climate emissions, the globe will be saved.

I do it because the term “disarmament” is joining the ranks of the linguistic dinosaurs at the same time as Mikhail Gorbatsjov is laid to rest. His legacy has been thoroughly wiped out by his political successors.

Total contempt

We are back to an international arms race like no other, materialized through NATO’s requirement that all member states must use at least two percent of their GDP on military forces. 

At the same time, the globe is fighting a two-degree overheating.

There is no doubt about which number 2 that will win, the NATO’s or the scientists’. 

War is total contempt for both humans and the climate. 

The term “climate action” is well underway into the ranks of linguistic dinosaurs.

With weapons and climate emissions, the globe will be saved.

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This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.