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Sliding Doors - a new World

Had John Fitzgerald Kennedy not won the 1960 US Presidential election then the 1960's would not have been as we remember them. 

If there had been no escalation of the Vietnam War: 'to make US power seem credible', then there would have been no conscription in Australia; no American or Australian 'Draft Dodgers'; no calls to 'give peace a chance'; no protest folksingers. No 'swinging sixties'? No hippies?    

On the other hand it's probable that racial tensions in the United States would have been handled less sympathetically and it was Kennedy who founded the Peace Corps.

Kennedy's nuclear standoff with the Russians evolved into the MAD (mutual assured destruction) doctrine. Soon sufficient weapons of mass destruction were, and still are, held by both the US and Russia to assure the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender should it ever come to nuclear war.

Kennedy's 'robust' confrontation with the Russians continued under Johnson and eventually a nuclear test ban treaty was signed. Successive administrations have been more conciliatory.  President Regan proposed talks leading to START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) signed by President Bush (Senior) and President Obama more recently signed New START with the Russian Federation.  Meanwhile Marxist economics failed in every country that tried it and the world (including the those countries that are still nominally Communist) has largely returned to a market based economic model.  Nevertheless US confrontation with Russia (and vice versa) has become a habit and the MAD doctrine still hangs over the World like the Sword of Damocles.

Kennedy's other competition with the Russians was the 'Space Race'.   Kennedy was famously opposed to the rather ragged US space program until April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became 'the first man in space'.  The evident Russian lead in rocketry obviously had defence implications.  It meant that the Russians could potentially deliver a nuclear bomb to any point on earth.  It was Kennedy's epiphany.  With this flash of Russian light in the sky he became a convert to space technology.

On May 25 1961 he announced to congress:  "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."  It was to be enormously costly and needed to be sold.  In September the following year he told a public audience in a televised speech:

No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space. ...
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Rice University, September 12, 1962

 

The impact of this program on the future is difficult to overstate.  It gave us the technology of the 21century:  everything from silicone chips to non-stick frypans. The ability to cheaply travel the world and to communicate electronically even faster rely on technologies developed for that programme.  A myriad of spin-off  technologies flowed from the Space Program, like all those that depend on small powerful computing devices; as well as new understandings and abilities in medicine and genetics.

But more than all these changes in the fabric of time, the sixties was when those of my generation met and wed (or not) and bred.  We met at sixties parties and produced a generation of children who would not be here if the times had been different.  Perhaps their siblings would be here but many pairings simply wouldn't have happened at all.   Those children are now producing children of their own.

So we now have a world of people who simply wouldn't have been had Francis Gary Powers done as he was told.

 

 

 

 

 


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Travel

USA - middle bits

 

 

 

 

 

In September and October 2017 Wendy and I took another trip to the United States where we wanted to see some of the 'middle bits'.  Travel notes from earlier visits to the East coast and West Coast can also be found on this website.

For over six weeks we travelled through a dozen states and stayed for a night or more in 20 different cities, towns or locations. This involved six domestic flights for the longer legs; five car hires and many thousands of miles of driving on America's excellent National Highways and in between on many not so excellent local roads and streets.

We had decided to start in Chicago and 'head on down south' to New Orleans via: Tennessee; Georgia; Louisiana; and South Carolina. From there we would head west to: Texas; New Mexico; Arizona; Utah and Nevada; then to Los Angeles and home.  That's only a dozen states - so there are still lots of 'middle bits' left to be seen.

During the trip, disaster, in the form of three hurricanes and a mass shooting, seemed to precede us by a couple of days.

The United States is a fascinating country that has so much history, culture and language in common with us that it's extremely accessible. So these notes have turned out to be long and could easily have been much longer.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

The Soul of the Matter

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's hot, dry and dusty when they finally arrive in Jaisalmer.  But then, how often is it not? 

In the markets a wizened woman of indeterminate age is using a straw broom to aggressively sweep the area in front of her shop. The dust will soon be kicked back by passersby or swept back by her neighbours; requiring her to sweep again and again.  She will do the same again tomorrow; and the day after; and the day after that.

Jennifer's mind is elsewhere. She's has dreamt of visiting exotic India ever since a client at the hairdressers told her, with enthralling details, of her adventures here.

They've arrived in the dusty city in the late afternoon, by road from Jodphur.   In spite of his preference to visit California again, she's finally persuaded Bruce that he might like India and should try something a bit less conservative.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Death

 

 

Death is one of the great themes of existence that interests almost everyone but about which many people avoid discussion.  It is also discussed in my essay to my children: The Meaning of Life on this website; written more than ten years ago; where I touch on personal issues not included below; such as risk taking and the option of suicide.

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