There's a brilliant opening line in the novel "The Go Between" by L P Hartley - The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
The book has social and romantic themes.
I've poached this fabulous opening line to wonder if our collective memory of war is so shallow, we forget how close we are to Armageddon and extinction.
The media is justifiably full of China's growing appetite for power and dominance, like an unhinged North Korea.
Years ago, the movie Terminator 2 Judgement Day spooked me, in how it so artfully dramatized the inevitable approach of an extinction event.
So now, after almost 80-years of relative world peace and an absence of the nuclear threat, bar the Cuba missile crisis, we are at the foot of the doomsday clock again, vulnerable and mystified that it has come to this.
Fearfully we seem to be on a sombre, mindless treadmill towards conflict, whether by nuclear or biological means.
If China invaded Taiwan the US and other western powers would intervene.
War would be so indiscriminate either side would resort to germ or nuclear warfare as a killer punch.
Biological warfare is most likely because, like a neutron bomb, it destroys life but spares infrastructure and the enormous cost of rebuilding.
Chinese annexation of Taiwan would spark an almighty conflict. It seems inevitable, some say within five years.
The threat of mutually assured destruction won't bother them if global supremacy is the prize.
A newspaper article has revealed how five years ago Chinese scientists did modelling on biologically warfare, such as weaponizing a virus that could spread worldwide.
I don't think COVID-19 was an act of war but I do think, the way they behaved in the early stages of the Wuhan accident, that China became curious about the fallout and its impact on the west.
I think I'm saying they decided to let it go and didn't try too hard to alert the world as to what just happened. Maybe even China didn't realise the potential for a global catastrophe.
Given the Chinese Communist Party's obsession with making Australia the whipping boy for all things it despises about the west, there's no certainty that we could luxuriate as a spectator to any regional conflict.
We would be in the firing line as an irritant regional player that should suffer, especially when we have joint bases, like Pine Gap near Alice Springs and a joint naval base at Exmouth in North West WA, to assist America's war strategy.
My mother lived in Hobart during World War II while dad was away.
She said strict rationing and other curbs on freedom constantly fuelled an apprehension that we could be invaded and occupied.
People feared what the newsreels were showing about Japan, even before Pearl Harbour sparked war in the Pacific, just like our fears about China today.
Surely, even though the past can seem so remote like a foreign country, they would remember Hiroshima and the 90 million or so who died in the two world wars.
On a tour of the battlefields in Brussels, overlooking a relatively flat countryside, the guide showed where the German positions were, in relation to US, British and French forces.
I asked him when did this take place in World War I. Oh no, he said. He was talking about World War II. The same enemies fought over this same stretch of ground in both wars.
You might think, that even the military fanatics in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran would know how futile and costly war has been through the centuries.
We should condemn China and Russia for their rampant human rights abuses, but notice how the media demonises them in a nightly diet of paranoia.
It certainly has moved me to write this.
And, if that's the case here, imagine the mandatory propaganda in mainland China and Russia, where the population has no idea about oppression of protests and minority groups.
You can see how Hitler, Stalin, and even in our era, Donald Trump, used power to manipulate public opinion. At least Trump tried to walk back his provocation of North Korea.
Japan's war mongering seriously spooked Australians, and China is using its extraordinary rise as a super power to intimidate us today.
I've delighted in the arrival of grandchildren in recent years, but at the same time despairing over the global nightmare they may inherit.
It is easy to dismiss this stuff and say we're far more sophisticated than they were in the Cold War era and in the two world wars, but even the pandemic has failed to unite old foes.
I'm fortunate that I'm growing old. I'd hate to be young in today's world, so precariously poised.
The past is supposed to be a foreign country, littered with pyrrhic victories and misplaced pride, but don't bet on it.
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