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You and the Atomic Bomb

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Michael Henderson

on 25 September 2014

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Transcript of You and the Atomic Bomb

You and the Atomic Bomb
Main Idea and Main Argument
The main idea of "You and the Atomic Bomb" is that a civilization with a large history of weapons, is more likely to have a large history of power and notoriety throughout the world.

The main argument of the essay is that expensive weapons make the powers of the world stronger while weapons that are easier to obtain only give weak lands tools to fight with.
Textual Evidence
"It is a commonplace that the history of civilisation is largely the history of weapons."

"A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon --- so long as there is no answer to it --- gives claws to the weak."

"So we have before us the prospect of two or 3 monstrous super-states, each possessed of a weapon by which millions of people can be wiped out in a few seconds."

"Had the atomic bomb turned out to be something as cheap and easily manufactured as a bicycle or an alarm clock, it might well have plunged us back into barbarism, but it might, on the other hand, have meant the end of national sovereignty and of the highly-centralised police state.
Critical Theory
Structuralism is applied into the use of this essay because Orwell expresses that countries who have potential of creating the atomic bomb, have the ability of controlling the mindsets of opposing countries. Orwell states that it is likely that those who make the bomb make an agreement to never use the bomb. Instead of using it, they use the thought of its destruction to threaten those that cannot defend themselves against it. By displaying the relationships that these different countries have, and their ability to affect the thinking with a nuclear bomb, George Orwell has applied a structuralist viewpoint in this essay.
Orwell's "4 Motives"
Open-Ended Discussion Questions
Do you agree with George Orwell's opinion on military equality and why?

What makes a "complex weapon" different from a "simple weapon"?

Do you believe that military equality is bound to happen at some point in history for all countries? Explain why.

To what extent does the size of a military determine military power? Is size important, or does a military program with that many soldiers need the firepower to correspond with that size? Explain.
Michael Henderson, Jordan Belote, Joseph Collareta
Sheer Egoism: Orwell believes that wars are usually one-sided because the more powerful countries will always have the advantage in terms of firepower. He explains that by giving the poor expensive weapons, the advantage would not be so dramatic. It is as if he is contemplating that countries with better access to money are just as weak as countries without the money, but better tools that contribute to victory

Aesthetic Enthusiasm: Orwell shares the work "The Managerial Revolution", written by James Burnham, and discusses that his (Burnham) picture of what is the new world turns out to be correct. He says that the surface of the earth has been broken up into three powerful empires, with each being ruled by a self-elected oligarchy (or dictatorship).

Historical Impulse: Orwell discusses that the history of weapons correlates with the history of civilization. He also explains that at the time, in 1945, only three, maybe two, countries were capable of waging war on the grand scale, although he would not name these countries.

Political Purpose:Orwell discusses that giving the common man weapons that military combatants from powerful countries use will give the common man a chance to win against these countries, instead of just giving the common man weak weapons.
Full transcript