By Eric Reker and Anna Ikeda
When we engage in dialogue with youth about nuclear abolition, one question often comes up: “How does this relate to my life?” True, discussions around nuclear abolition usually involve policies and politics, and it is only natural for young people today to feel disconnected from the issue. The Cold War is over, and for many of us, nuclear weapons were never a fear we actually grappled with. Nuclear weapons have always existed in our lives. Abolishing nuclear weapons seems so far away from our day-to-day activities. So, how does it relate to our lives?
Recently, the SGI-USA Student Division held its annual conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center. On the second day of the conference, we presented a session entitled “Trailblazers for Our New Clear Future: Creating a Culture of Peace Through Dialogue.” In one of the exercises, we asked the audience a question: “What is the atomic bomb in your heart?”
This question was originally inspired by SGI President Ikeda’s “Building Global Solidarity Toward Nuclear Abolition” (2009), which became the foundation for the Our New Clear Future movement:
If we are to put the era of nuclear terror behind us, we must struggle against the real “enemy.” That enemy is not nuclear weapons per se, nor is it the states that possess or develop them. The real enemy that we must confront is the ways of thinking that justify nuclear weapons; the readiness to annihilate others when they are seen as a threat or as a hindrance to the realization of our objectives.
If we think about it, we all “annihilate others” in our daily lives. You may get angry at your parents if they are getting on your nerves, or you may fight with your siblings. Or you may roll your eyes at your friends and call them names when you are not in agreement. Those tendencies, when amplified, can lead to bullying, violence, and ultimately the justification to possess and use nuclear weapons. We call this tendency – often a manifestation of the world of Anger in the concept of Buddhism – “the atomic bomb in our hearts.” And it is these feelings and tendencies that are “the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of [nuclear] weapons” that President Toda pointed out in his “Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” in September 1957.
The October 2010 issue of the SGI Quarterly, “A New Era of Nuclear Abolition,” states:
When people in positions of power and authority become caught up in the snares of Anger, or when this world begins to predominate in society, the consequences can be catastrophic. As SGI President Ikeda describes, to one in this state, “everything appears as a means or a tool to the fulfillment of egotistical desires and impulses. In inverse proportion to the scale of this inflated arrogance, the existence of others—people, cultures, nature—appears infinitely small and insignificant. It becomes a matter of no concern to harm or even kill others trivialized in this way. It is this state of mind that would countenance the use of nuclear weapons… People in such a state of life are blinded, not only to the horrific suffering their actions wreak, but to human life itself.”
At the conference, the youth engaged in deep discussion when sharing their thoughts on the atomic bomb in their own hearts. For many of them, it was perhaps the first time they could draw a direct connection between their lives and the Our New Clear Future movement.
As we celebrate the 55th anniversary of President Toda’s courageous declaration, let us challenge the atomic bomb that we each possess in our own hearts. When we are able to dismantle that internal bomb, we are taking a significant step for creating a future without nuclear threat.