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From the Great Peace … to the ordeal of Adam Lyth at the Oval cricket ground

Between 1945 and about 1965, atom bombs and then hydrogen bombs were devised and demonstrated by the two biggest Great Powers, and then manufactured and attached to rockets in sufficient numbers to cause any all-out war between these two superpowers very probably to be a catastrophic defeat for both, to say nothing of being a similar catastrophe for all other humans, within a few hours. This new kind of destructive power also spread to a small club of lesser Great Powers.

This did not happen overnight. It didn’t all come about in 1945. But it happened pretty quickly, historically in the blink of an eye. It changed the world from a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be prepared for, at all costs, to a place in which Great Wars between Great Powers had to be avoided, again, at all costs. That is a very big change.

I do not assert that all wars have ended. Clearly they have not, as one glance through a newspaper or news website will tell you. Small powers still have small wars, and Great Powers regularly join in, in small ways. Sometimes, Great Powers start small wars, like the one in the Ukraine now. But even these small wars have been getting less numerous and smaller in recent decades. Small wars can get big, so even small wars are now discouraged by Great Powers.

Nor do I assert that all preparations for war by Great Powers have ceased, or that they should. But more than ever, the purpose of such preparations is to enable mere confrontations to be emerged from victoriously or failing that satisfactorily, rather than for such preparations – such weapons – constantly to be “used”, in the sense of being fired, fought with, and so on. The purpose of weapons is to scare, as well as to win fights, and they are being “used” whenever anyone is scared by them. Great Powers will still spend lots of money on weaponry.

But what has not happened, for many decades now, and what still shows no sign of happening despite all kinds of diplomatic, ideological and financial turbulence, is an all-out fire-every-weapon-we-have war involving two or more Great – by which I of course mean nuclear – Powers. In this sense, countries like mine, and almost certainly yours too given that you are reading this, have become peaceful in a way that they have never experienced before in all of human history before 1945.

In case anyone mentions Iran, I don’t believe that Iran’s leaders want to use nuclear weapons, as in: detonate them. I think they want to scare their enemies while trying to win other, non-nuclear victories, just like any other nuclear power. I didn’t believe Chairman Mao when he played the nuclear madman either. He was just trying to scare people, and he succeeded also.

And if you want to say that like all historical trends, this one could end, because of this or that imaginable or unimaginable circumstance, then I of course agree with you. History keeps on happening. But for the time being, the trend is as I have described it. We now, still, live in an age of peace more profound than any of our ancestors have ever experienced.

There have already been many, many consequences of this historic turnaround, this Great Change, and there will surely be many more. Indeed, I would say that just about everything of importance, not just politically but in the wider culture, that has happened to the world, anywhere and everywhere, between 1945 and now, can only be understood properly if you factor in the invention of and the deployment of nuclear weapons.

Do I really mean that? Yes, I really do mean that. Indeed, I offer the world, and in particular the Samizdata commentariat, a challenge. Tell me about a change that has happened in the world in recent times, any change, to absolutely anything, and I will be able to show you, at about one or at the most two or three removes, how your particular change has been affected by this great thermonuclear transformation, this Great Change, that I have just described. Indeed, there is nothing in the entire world, I assert, that has not been affected, often very profoundly, by this Great Change. (I don’t promise actually to answer all such comment-challenges on the spot. I merely announce that if I had nothing else to do for the next week, I could. So, let’s make it a team effort. Let those of us who already understand the truth of what I am saying respond as a tag-team to those who are still unconvinced.)

Talking of team efforts, let me offer the example of sport, and in particular the inexorable rise in the importance and in the social and economic impact of professional sport, during the last clutch of decades.

Professional sport is on my mind today, because today is the first day of the final game in the so-called Ashes “test” cricket series between England and Australia, already mentioned earlier here by Michael Jennings, very unhappily, on account of his preferred team having already lost this series of games 3-1 with just the one game, the one that starts today, still to be played. That I will be paying attention to this game for the next few days is one of the reasons why I do not now promise actually to answer, although I know now that I easily could, all the challenges that may or may not now materialise, about how needlework or the internet or motorways or teaspoons or sex are all different now to what they would have been, because of H-bombs.

So yes, as Michael Jennings would say: professional sport.

I do not know if there was a meeting, in about 1961, of a subcommittee of the Bilderberg Commission (itself a characteristic consequence of the Great Change) at which it was resolved that, what with Great Wars needing now to be things of the past, some harmless outlet now had to be found for all those nationalistic passions which until so very recently it had been necessary for Great Powers to keep permanently inflamed (in case they found themselves having a Great War), but which they now needed to extinguish (in case these passions started a Great War). Discuss. Having created nationalism, what were the Great Powers now going to do with it? One big answer: sport. Don’t have the hoi polloi wave their national flags and have big urban demonstrations and nationalistic ecstasies and lamentations in their newspapers and internet sites and city squares because of war. Let them indulge in these things because of sport.

As I say, maybe there was such a meeting and maybe there has never been such a meeting. But, if such a meeting had occurred, events would probably have unfolded, in sport, much as they actually have. What did definitely happen, I assert, is that the end of Great Wars, and the coming of the Great Peace, has left a war-shaped gap, so to speak, in all the cultures of the Great Powers. And one of the many things that has flowed into this gap, like molten metal into a mould, has been professional sport.

The “professional” bit is important. The former manager of the Liverpool football team Bill Shankly once famously said something like: “A lot of people say that football is a matter of life and death, but it’s a lot more important than that.” And one of the ways in which it is “more important than that” is that the most successful sportsmen, successful footballers especially, are now paid such huge sums of money, a lot more now even than in Shankly’s time.

Professional sport means more, especially to spectators, than mere sport does. If a game is “only a game”, then people simply don’t watch it in large numbers. They may participate in large numbers, but when it comes just to watching, too little is at stake, in an “only a game” game. But if what potential spectators are offered as entertainment is the public struggle to become one of the absolute best at whatever it is, and as an intrinsic part of that the struggle to be either averagely well-off or worse (because of having placed your bets on sport and lost), or super-rich, depending on how things play out during the next hour or two, then millions will pay to attend. And that sets a positive feedback loop in motion, of more money being paid by spectators (including television spectators) and hence even more money being paid to the contestants, and hence even more being at stake when the contestants have their contests. And whereas the careers of earlier generations of sportsmen, then very poorly paid indeed compared to their successors, were often interrupted and frequently terminated by Great Wars, now, there is no such upheaval on anyone’s horizon, either to wreck sporting careers or to put sport into anything resembling “perspective”, in other words to make it not seem like a matter of life and death.

So, is sport in any sense a matter of life and death, or even, as Shankly said, only partly in jest, more than that? For many years I was puzzled by the constant use of the adjective “gladiatorial”, with all its ancient Roman associations of fighting literally to the death, to describe modern sporting contests. But recently, the experience of giving a talk about the sort of stuff in this posting made me realise that this is not an unreasonable way to describe something like this Anglo-Australian set-to that will be starting in about half and hour, as I first write this.

Nor is it coincidence that the original version of gladiatorial sport emerged into prominence during that earlier Great Peace, the Pax Romana. That too was a Great Peace that happened at a time when smaller wars continued, these smaller wars or the threat of them being the means by which Rome’s Great Peace was continuously contrived.

Meanwhile, in our own time, consider the predicament of a certain Adam Lyth, one of England’s recently recruited cricketers. Adam Lyth will, as soon as England bat (which could be very soon indeed if England bat first), himself be batting, because he is what is called an “opener”. He and his captain and fellow opener Alastair Cook will both walk out to open the England innings.

For Cook, this will be a high pressure set of circumstances, but nothing like as high pressure as these same circumstances will be for Adam Lyth.

Alastair Cook is an established England batting star. Of course he is, he’s the England captain. He has made more runs in international five day (“test”) cricket than any other England batsman. He has been in an England Ashes-winning team about four times, twice as captain. True, his team got thrashed 5-0 last time they visited Australia, so he hasn’t won them all, but he is assured of a place in the cricket pantheon, and most certainly the English bit of it. He will be paid lavish sums of money for the rest of his life just to open his mouth at dinner parties, never mind whatever else he may contribute of value to the world, in between his international cricket retirement and his actual death.

For Adam Lyth, on the other hand, matters are very different. To say that Lyth is now playing for his life, and that those first minutes – if all goes well, that first hour – of his next batting effort for England will be, for him, a matter of life and death is somewhat of an exaggeration, but only somewhat. Lyth made a very good hundred against New Zealand earlier this season. But if he fails yet again to make a decent score against Australia, as he has failed to do all through the current series so far, then he is liable to be dropped from the England team, quite likely then never to return. More failures after that and he will definitely be dropped. He could end up as something like a badly paid pub-landlord in some Yorkshire backwater, Yorkshire being his county team. In Yorkshire he will still be remembered. But for non-Yorkies like me and like Michael Jennings, he will soon only be a name, and then scarcely even that.

If, on the other hand, Lyth now nails down his place in the England side with a big score, that could be his next step towards an international sporting career of real substance, with an income-flow and an adulation-flow attached to it that will be the difference between just about everything, and just about nothing.

If Lyth fails today or tomorrow, he will not literally die. The Yorkshire team will welcome him back with open arms. But it will feel a lot like he did die if he fails now, and not only to him. Everyone who knows anything about England cricket just now knows what I have just been telling you. Lyth is the sort of batsman who looks great, right up to the part where he gets out. So he could look great, and then get out, and everyone at the Oval and everyone watching on TV or following the game on the radio or on Cricinfo will know that this could be curtains for him as an England player, and the difference between him becoming either a front-rank British sports celeb, or else just another of sport’s almost-unknown warriors.

England have won the toss and have chosen to field first, so Adam Lyth’s ordeal has been postponed. But even if England do today to the Australian first innings something resembling what they did to the Australian first innings in the previous two games, and even if England then, again, pile up the runs in reply and win easily, if Lyth himself does not get a decent slice of those runs, then for him, the game will be yet another failure, all the more galling because of the success he will again be surrounded by, which he personally will have done so little to make happen.

Actually, following some diversions and some polishing of the above, I can now report that Australia have already made a very good start with their batting. In the previous game they were all out before lunch! For 60! Now, at lunch, they are 82 for nothing, and the odds have shifted strongly towards an Australia win, or even a draw, and away from another England win. But win, lose or draw, for Adam Lyth personally, his personal contribution to the England cause may well be personally decisive, for the rest of his life. He still has everything to play for, everything to win, and everything to lose.

Cricket, more than most team games, is also a very individual sport. At its heart is a personal confrontation between one bowler and one batsman. It is, you might say, particularly gladiatorial.

To all those who think that this posting has been an exercise in descending from the portentous to the trivial, from grand history to the mere gibberings of a sports fan, let me explain that my entire point is how deeply the Great Peace is influencing … everything, including and especially things that are often considered trivial, like professional sport. Sport just happens to be something I get excited about, and is hence a good way for me to illustrate the general point about how very different the times we live in are to former times. There are plenty of other impacts of the Great Peace that I could have written about, and although I promise nothing, I hope in due course to be proving this in future postings here.

33 comments to From the Great Peace … to the ordeal of Adam Lyth at the Oval cricket ground

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    about how needlework or the internet or motorways or teaspoons or sex are all different now to what they would have been, because of H-bombs.

    Needlework? The Great Peace is also, not coincidentally, the Great Enrichment and, in terms of trade, the second era of globalisation. You can buy a new Bangladeshi-manufactured skirt in Primark cheaper than you can buy the fabric to make one yourself. In the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin I saw, along with the shot-to-hell Lancaster bomber, a wonderful 1930’s device for semi-automated darning of fabric. No one darns socks any more.

    But of course you knew that.

    The internet, motorways, teaspoons and sex I shall leave as an exercise to other readers.

  • Steve D

    ‘Tell me about a change that has happened in the world in recent times, any change, to absolutely anything, and I will be able to show you, at about one or at the most two or three removes, how your particular change has been affected by this great thermonuclear transformation,’

    Two or three removes, eh? I’m pretty sure with a little imagination you could take any ‘great’ technological change (e.g. the telephone; printing press; computers; stone tools) and explain absolutely anything subsequent with a criteria that relaxed.

    ‘…about how needlework or the internet or motorways or H-bombs or sex are all different now to what they would have been, because of the internal combustion engine…’


  • Patrick Crozier

    Professional sport was in swing (if not full swing) well before Hiroshima. The World Cup began in 1930. The Olympics in 1896. The Tour de France in 1903. The Ashes began sometime in the 1880s (no one is quite sure when). The FA Cup began in 1872 and in 1913 the final attracted a crowd of well over 100,000. Oh, and commentators were complaining about over-paid professional sportsmen even then. The major North American sporting competitions pre-date most of these.

    Oh yes. And some of us still darn our socks.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Patrick, OK, so I do still darn heirloom woolly walking socks hand-knitted by now-deceased great aunts. But your basic ordinary socks that you can get from Tesco Value at £5 for five pairs? Really?

  • Mr Ed

    I have no recollection of reading about gladiators stopping for rain, never mind tea. Nor do I recall any gladiator ‘Tests’ with 5 days to finish each other off, and two innings each is problematic, as is the follow-on.

  • Rob Fisher

    Ah, a long, meandering Micklethwaitian stream of consciousness. Makes me happy.

    Here’s an easy one: Microprocessors. Moore’s Law and all that. I suppose ploughing vast amounts of capital into such things is possible when we’re not blowing each other up all the time. And maybe something about a lot of the really clever stuff coming from Israel.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Natalie, if you can find a decent set of dark knee-length socks that actually reach my knee for less than £5 per pair please let me know. Right now I am having enough trouble obtaining such a pair of socks at any price. When I succeed I tend to hang on to them.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Patrick, serious suggestion: get to know someone who knits for a hobby or learn for yourself. (Not that I have ever managed it.) I haven’t completely lost touch with the point of Brian’s post – I observe that these days knitting is undergoing a resurgence as a hobby, but is no longer a necessary skill for a housewife.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Time to knit a pair of socks (ignoring time to assemble kit and acquire skill) = hours.

    Time to darn a sock (or, as it often turns out, darn a darn) = minutes.

    Time to earn money for a new pair of socks = about an hour

    Time to find a pair of socks that come up to my knee = many hours.

    I can’t believe I am writing this but I suppose so long as the world is infested with darnophobes I shall have to.

  • staghounds

    The gross decline in the quality of general public education and learning since 1945. (I believe the decline began twenty years before, but it rapidly accelerated post 1945. Seems counter to your idea,)

  • CaptDMO

    OK, explain to us the six degrees of separation between Kevin Bacon, and the development of “actually useable” (no “baby with the bath water” HERE)neutron bombs (or smaller megaton “useable” single warhead nuclear drones and ICBMs). Is unhardened “electronic” management of personal/public transportation (and home refrigeration) the direct, or indirect recognition of the greater “value” of EMP, than wholesale mechanical devastation, in nuclear assault?
    (US)Is Harry Reid related to Keven Bacon? Why the lack of plausible disposal space for beneficial nuclear “waste” in otherwise “dead” zones, that have already been built at great taxpayer expense?
    And what’s the connection between the new “bottom of the lake” drain for drinking water in Lake Mead,
    that would negate the “green” hydroelectric properties, WITHOUT nuclear alternatives dotting the coasts
    that are currently served. (ie) flashing casino lights, computer “security”, beverage monitoring, guest profiling, and “gambling processing” in Las Vegas.
    You ask for rudderless navigation, you GET rudderless navigation!

  • Mr Ed

    On separations, I have met two people who met Himmler, one of whom also met Goering, and therefore I am 2 people from Hitler, despite being born decades after he died. My Dad’s boss met Gorbachev when the latter ran the USSR, putting Gorby 5 people from Hitler.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Mr Crozier, let us not lower the tone of debate by using terms such as “darnophobe.” (Said with dignity.) I am a darnosceptic. As well as hand-knitted socks, I do also darn the elbows of woolly jumpers. But here, again, taking Brian’s point, I point out that you can no longer just go into a shop and pick up darning wool of different colours. I only managed to find some slate blue wool by going on eBay and buying some from the stash a particular seller had scavenged from a bankrupt French haberdasher. There is the general abandonment of home repairs and the newfound ability to source obscure items on the internet illustrated in one.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not agree with you Brian.

    For example the Iranian regime is certainly planning to USE the nuclear weapons it seeks.

    The “Hasteners” among them believe it is their religious duty to spread fire and blood over the world (not “just” wipe out Israel) so that the “Hidden One” will return on his white horse.

    Them many be insane (although that seems an unkind way to describe people with a different belief system) – but they are certainly not stupid.

    Even the non “Hasteners” among the Iranian leadership believe (and have good grounds for believing – within the Islamic tradition, both Shia and Sunni) that they should USE nuclear weapons to, at least, take the land between the river and the sea back from the Jews.

    There is no need to bomb Jerusalem – an atomic bomb in Tel Aviv would cripple Israel.

    “But Israel would fire back”.

    Yes – and lots of Muslims in Iran would get to go to paradise early.

    A “win-win” from there point of view.

    Even if one ignores the religious.

    China is clearly preparing for war.

    It makes no claims to lands and seas almost daily – and it is seeks (constantly) to disarm the United States.

    The decline (really collapse) of the American armed forces is the great missed story of our time.

    Most libertarians write as if it was 1960 and the United States armed forces dominated the planet.

    The declining Air Force and Navy – and the rapidly ageing nuclear infrastructure (telephones that do not work, wiring that is falling apart, and on and on) are ignored.

    But the Chinese PRC regime is not content to wait for the American armed forces (including the nuclear forces) to collapse – their agents constantly seek to control computer systems and to modernise their own defensive and offensive forces (a process that started as far back as 1978).

    Mr Putin is helping with all this – as our various traitors in the West.

    Indeed, unless there is a change in the “Mandate of Heaven” (things can dramatically change over night in China) war (great war) with the current regime is quite likely.

    Unless, of course, the United States just collapses into military impotence and economic de facto (if not legal) bankruptcy.


    One nuclear submarine (i.e. one Chinese torp) is unlikely to keep the PRC regime much fear.

  • M2P

    I agree with commenters above. Professional sport was very professional in Victorian times – some sports much more so then than now (e.g. rowing).

    Professional sport as a deliberate outlet for nationalism? No, sorry. Not least that in plenty of professional sports (football, motor racing) the nationalist angle is of secondary importance, at best, and always has been.

    Bilderberg always sounds to me like a rather dull version of Davos with a bit of suburban masonic hocus pocus chucked in.

  • Gene

    I think of professional sports as an outlet for homo sapiens’ hard-wired tendency toward tribalism. You can reasonably consider nationalism as a large-scale form of tribalism.

    That professional sports (interesting how we Americans use the plural, Brits the singular) were “deliberately” created as an outlet for that tribalism, however, I find unlikely.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Half the fun of darning is using wool that doesn’t match. You can’t beat black socks with luminous green darns.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Just to clarify, I do NOT think that sport was deliberately created, or deliberately bigged up, to allow the masses to let off nationalistic steam. I refer Honourable Gentlemen to the bit about how there was a “war shaped gap” in the world, and pro sport “flowed into it”. I do think the Bilderberg Commission exists, as a talking shop, and that it is a characteristic consequence of the age of the Bomb. I do not have any reason to think they talked about this, and they did not need to for pro sport to get as big as it has.

    But I think many people do this sport-as-safety-valve thing for themselves. Most of us know that slagging off foreigners is not good, and our hearts are mostly not in it any more, what with all those foreign holidays and foreign imports and foreign work colleagues. Many of us, I think, allow ourselves a spot of harmless tribalistic/nationalistic fun when following sport, but not in real life, so to speak.

    I am well aware that pro sport predates the Bomb. My claim is not that the Bomb created pro sport, rather that pro sport got a lot bigger in the age of the Bomb and during the Peace it imposed. And when I say bigger, I mean more for the numerous fans of it than for the participants, although they too have become more numerous and a few far richer. Sure, the Olympics, the soccer World Cup and the rest of them existed well before 1945, but they have become a hell of a lot bigger since. While they are on, they dominate news coverage. WHen huge crowds gather these days, these are the reasons why.

    What I have in mind also is how people remember the dates of favourite sporting moments these days, the way our ancestors remembered the dates and details of wars. For ancient English soccer fans, a big one was 1966. For me, the 2005 Ashes will always be a fond memory, as will “Botham’s Ashes” of 1981.

    In general, I don’t think that the changes of attitude I describe are an imposed conspiracy, so perhaps it was an error to even mention Bilderberg, even in jest. I think these changes reflect widely held opinions, at all levels of society, many – perhaps even most – of which opinions I share, about how the world is now and how best to live in it and how to enjoy it.

  • Paul,
    I think Brian is right. Iran wants nukes to become the regional super power. Recall what happened when India went nuclear. The USA pissed and moaned for a bit and a year or so later India gets “most favored nation” trading status.

    If there is a big risk here it is the Saudis getting them to counter Iran a la Pakistan/India. They hate each other. And then there is always Pakistan going utterly tonto.

    The reason I believe Iran is not a direct nuclear threat is that whilst there are hasteners and such Iran is a very complicated country (it’s organisation of government is for example fairly unique). They do have checks and balances. I don’t think there is a real groundswell for the apocalypse. Oh, yeah, when/if they deploy nuclear weapons they have the ultimate backstop and shall remain a pain in the arse for the foreseeable but…

  • JohnB

    When the “great man of peace” steps in he will, indeed, be welcomed as a hero by very desperate people.
    Quite possibly not too far to go.
    And Paul’s comment: Most libertarians write as if it was 1960 and the United States armed forces dominated the planet.

  • Mr Ed

    Dear Brian,

    I have just checked the sports news and England do not have a ‘cricket score’ and seem unlikely to do more than to follow on.

    Normality returns.

    Did I read that Mr Lyth has 19?

  • steve

    How about explaining the collapse of the Soviet Union in terms of the nuclear backdrop. Communism’s collapse is inevitable. No nukes required. I suppose you could claim timing, but many a country went bankrupt making weapons. I suspect the nuke program was actually a fairly small part of their military budget, but I don’t know. I suppose you could also claim they collapsed relatively peacefully because of the nukes (plausible) but hard to be sure.

  • Cal

    >Lyth is the sort of batsman who looks great, right up to the part where he gets out.

    Really? He looks pretty mediocre to me from ball one, and his pedestrian first-class batting average reflects that. As with Australia, England’s batting cupboard looks pretty bare.

  • Cristina

    “But I think many people do this sport-as-safety-valve thing for themselves. Most of us know that slagging off foreigners is not good, and our hearts are mostly not in it any more, what with all those foreign holidays and foreign imports and foreign work colleagues. Many of us, I think, allow ourselves a spot of harmless tribalistic/nationalistic fun when following sport, but not in real life, so to speak.”

    I hardly dare to ask, but do you know that there is a world outside the bubble populated by castrated barbarians called Western civilization?
    By the way, Paul Marks is right

  • I think the major hole in Brian’s thesis is that it’s undone by the very words he uses to describe the protagonists: “Great Powers”. Not to denigrate the newcomers (and wannabe newcomers like Iran) to the nuclear bagatelle, but frankly, they’re not Great — hell, they’re not even great. Instead, they’re either run as a lunatic’s plaything (e.g. North Korea) or else they’re run as a religiously fanatical plaything (Pakistan, Iran etc.) whereby there the only restraint on their local ambitions (e.g. taking over South Korea, destroying Israel and so on) are the actual Great Powers. Without the Great Powers acting as a restraint, there hasn’t been an India-Pakistan nuclear conflagration, for example, but frankly, my prognosis for a nuclear Iran is about as gloomy as one could imagine.

    The reason for my gloom is quite obvious: North Korea and Iran are as crazy as a sackful of rabid cats. Let’s face it, the nuclear impasse between, say, NATO and the Warsaw Pact was the fact that neither side wanted that “mutual destruction” thing to occur because both sides had a great deal to lose.

    Unfortunately, the NorKs and Iranian mullahs just don’t care — in fact, as pointed out above, massive universal destruction may actually be a desired outcome for these lunatic assholes, given that for them, the very existence of South Korea and Israel respectively is unacceptable.

    As long as nuclear non-proliferation was managed by the aforesaid Great Powers, there was indeed the Peace Of All Time. This sounds paternalistic, but unfortunately there’s no alternative. There’s a reason we don’t allow schoolchildren to carry hand grenades into schools, but somehow we seem to have fooled ourselves into thinking that the small emerging nations are just as trustworthy and responsible as the Great Powers. They categorically are not, and we’re soon going to see the bitter, nihilistic endgame of this mistaken mindset.

    Your opinion may differ, and I would love to be proved wrong, but that’s not going to happen.

  • Oh, and Adam Lyth is toast. Even a double century in the coming follow-on at the Oval won’t rescue him.

  • Alisa

    But Kim, it is obvious to me at least that the point Brian is making does not include the non-Western nuclear powers. Rather, his point seems to be about the world where the only nuclear powers were Western – which was until fairly recently, at least from the perspective of someone my age, or Brian’s (or yours, for that matter). So yes, I do think that Brian has a point – an interesting one, if not perfectly stated.

    I think the detractors here read a post different from the one I read. Nowhere in it did I see the claim that Big Sports were invented by the PTB to fill in the “void” left by Big Wars. It should go without saying that Big Sports existed long before The Bomb, but got bigger probably and partially as a result of said void into which they naturally flowed, riding on the innate and universal human tribalism. The other reason sports got as big and as professional as they have, compared to days of yore has been very obvious: technology of mass communication, such as first radio, then TV, and now the internet. It really does make perfect sense to me.

    I agree with Paul’s comment, other than his take on Iran. On that I agree with Nick M. – which is not at all to say that we should be complacent about the Iran-US “deal”: it is a very bad one indeed, but not because Iran is going to actually use the bomb. At least not the persons currently in power there – someone else may, of course.

  • Mr Ed

    In the UK, sports got ‘big’ in money terms with satelitte TV and subscribers paying for what the BBC and ITV had provided, patchily without specific cost to the viewer. Before Sky TV in the mid-1980s, the BBC pretty much had all football that there was, except perhaps events like the FA Cup Final, and it had cricket, tennis and the odd spot of golf and rugby, iirc. ITV (the main commercial broadcaster) had the odd big football game, fat middle aged male wrestlers and stock cars for a Saturday afternoon, (I generalise and abbreviate). Now that the rights to sports viewing have been monetised, huge sums flow in, and Rugby Union went pro (perhaps mid-1990s?) taking advantage of the resultant opportunities.

    So satelittes drove the growth of TV and of sport, which I suppose comes back to Werner von Braun and his team.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Sports as an outlet for “tribal” passion predates the nuclear age; in fact it predates modernity. The chariot racing factions in sixth-century Byzantium were as hysterical as any modern hooligan.

    One might also wonder about the political context of the original Olympic games. Was there much concern about the relative performance of contestants from Corinth, or Thebes, or Athens? Were there men who got their political start through success at the games?

    The degree of nationalism varies greatly among sports, too. The U.S. mostly plays sports that few if any other countries care about, and in which the U.S. is very dominant.

    I think perhaps Mr. Micklethwaite’s perspective is skewed by the British experience – soccer and cricket being so important there, and also having very important international contests.

  • Alisa

    Well, soccer is pretty important everywhere outside the US, and even there it is gaining ground steadily, if slowly. The Olympics are important everywhere including the US – and yes, I know the view on it prevailing here and share it, but you and I are a minority, I’m afraid. The point is, again, not that there were no Big Sports before The Bomb, or that the sports got this big because of it. Rather, the point is that The Bomb had an important part in making sports as big as they are now, and that Big Sports have been playing an important political role for the past several decades.

  • Mary Contrary

    Patrick Crozier
    August 21, 2015 at 12:02 am
    Time to knit a pair of socks (ignoring time to assemble kit and acquire skill) = hours.

    Time to darn a sock (or, as it often turns out, darn a darn) = minutes.

    Time to earn money for a new pair of socks = about an hour

    Time to find a pair of socks that come up to my knee = many hours.

    Reading Patrick and Nathalie arguing about darning: Priceless!

    On a (slightly) more serious note, to take up Brian’s challenge, you mention sex. Well, the Pill, the sexual revolution, the huge increase of women both seeking and achieving paid employment etc etc, though a somewhat loosely related collection of phenomena, taken together clearly constitute one of the major social changes of the last half century (in the UK/USA/Europe at least). So, how do you tie this to the A-bomb?

  • Alisa

    Reading Patrick and Nathalie arguing about darning: Priceless!

    Oh, that goes without saying (although it probably shouldn’t 😀 )

  • Kevin B

    And right on cue, Booker in the Telegraph blames environmentalism in general and climate change madness in particular on the bomb.