I’ve had a lovely bike ride today, out west to the RAF Museum at Cosford, briefly visiting the impressively-housed Cold War Museum and then on to Ironbridge on the River Severn and the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. It’s an odd thought, looking back on it, that the Cold War and all its ramifications and consequences was only possible because of the technological pioneering that took place in this small gorge, where water, coal, limestone, some iron ore and wood were conveniently available in the one area. That made it economical to start using coke, rather than charcoal, to produce iron of a higher quality with which more could be done, such as building a bridge over the river – the Iron Bridge. It’s an impressive structure.
On the way out along the quieter back lanes, I found some unexpected treasures:
the Lone Singer in Codsall
first signs of Autumn, just after a pot-hole that nearly had me off my bike.
a tree trunk outside the front gate of a hidden house, surrounded by this dense mushroom ‘forest’,
poppies in a field just outside the airfield
. under the wing of a Hercules… to the beauty of cold steel… (ok, probably aluminium then!) This impressive building houses various aircraft, displays, tanks and missiles from the Cold War era.
I remember watching, and hearing, the Vulcan bombers flying over our house in Cornwall in the 60s, the futile nonsense of the ‘Protect and Survive’ leaflets distributed in the late 70s/early 80s by the Government, many more memories from that period up until the momentous fall of the Berlin Wall, which I watched on TV. So many changes, so much technology and creative effort in pursuit of a conflict that, in reality, was entirely constructed in our minds; it really is possible to fool all of the people nearly all of the time, or at least for a considerable time. The definitions and causes have shifted, but the same stupidity persists.
Apparently this was ‘World Peace Day’, as well as a day on which many people marched to draw attention from governments and other institutions to the urgency of real action on climate change. Both of these are issues which we have the capacity to solve, within a year if we really decided to, but we would need to motivate ourselves in the same way and with the same degree of commitment to the cause as we have done so successfully in our wars… I see no sign of any attempt by those currently in power either politically or financially to take the leadership actions required to do this, to solve these real problems that face us all.
Some might find the contents of the Cold War Museum depressing, chilling or even superficially exhilarating if you don’t consider the full implications. Today I felt some of the first two and recalled the latter from earlier times in my life (watching a Sea Dart launch from an aircraft carrier was quite something, better to be behind it than in front). I do admire the technology for the skill in solving challenging problems but most of it is really a misguided, if so far necessary, effort. What I do find hopeful though is that it shows what we could achieve with a change in our aim, by lifting the veil of the siren illusions and prejudices and distractions that seduce us collectively onto the rocks.
Maybe we have to just go ahead and start to do it ourselves, even if that is just to get out on a bike for the afternoon.