Tag Archives: history

Vasili Arkhipov: Another Man Who Saved The World

It’s amazing and sobering to think that there was a point in human history where one person held the fate of the entire world in their hands. We’re a species that can barely be trusted with fireworks. How can we possibly be trusted with weapons so deadly they can end all life on this planet?

Whether we can be trusted or not, these weapons cannot be uninvented. They’re here and they’re a part of the human condition. I’ve made the argument that in some ways, they have benefited the human race. That doesn’t make all the times we’ve come distressingly close to nuclear annihilation any less distressing.

Last month, I highlighted a man who, at one point, held the lives of every person on this planet in his hand. His name was Stanislav Petrov and this year, he passed away shortly before the 34th anniversary of the 1983 nuclear false alarm that almost triggered nuclear war.

That incident was horrifying in that it came so distressingly close to unleashing a nuclear war and due to a computer malfunction, no less. However, there was another incident two decades before that, one that was also disturbingly close in terms of unleashing a nuclear holocaust. Today, October 27th, happens to mark the anniversary of that terrifying, yet sobering event.

Unlike the 1983 incident, though, this is not one of those lesser-known incidents that got swept under the rug for several decades. This involved something called the Cuban Missile Crisis, a terrifying event that most kids learn about in school.

The official story is fairly well-documented. Cuba becomes a communist state, the Soviet Union tries to base mid-ranged ballistic missiles there, the United States is not okay with that, tensions escalate, and eventually, the situation diffuses when both sides realize that negotiating is a lot easier than nuclear war.

Most kids probably know names like Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro. They’re the main players who get the credit/blame for bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. However, there’s one name that few in America or Russia know about. Like Stanislav Petrov, his name is largely an afterthought in history, but at one point, he literally held the fate of humanity in his hand.

His name is Vasili Arkhipov. He was a high-ranking officer in the Soviet navy. What he did on October 27th, 1962, may very well have saved the world, as we know it. The fact that he did this at a time during one of the most tense standoffs in history makes his accomplishment all the more remarkable.

To appreciate what he did, it’s important to understand just how close the Cuban Missile Crisis came to going nuclear. At one point, a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine was stationed in international waters near Cuba. It was then detected by US destroyers and, in a message that seems pretty mixed in hindsight, began dropping depth charges to force it to surface.

Keep in mind, this sub is armed with nuclear weapons. They also had the authority from Moscow to launch those nuclear weapons if they suspected that war had already started. Once those depth charges started dropping, it’s easy to understand why the officers on board thought that the bombs were already dropping.

That’s where Vasili Arkhipov enters the picture. On that sub, every ranking officer believed that they had to launch. Their sub was running out of air and as far as they knew, if they surfaced, they would only be inhaling radioactive fallout. Everyone on that sub voted to launch. The only one who didn’t was Vasili Arkhipov and because of that, the launch never happened.

Why did Arkhipov’s vote carry so much weight? Well, before he had the fate of the world in his hands, he’d already distinguished himself in an incident involving an ill-fated Soviet submariner called K-19. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis, it resulted in a sub-par movie.

However, the movie did get one thing right. Vasili Arkhipov was a badass who knew how to make hard decisions. Why else would he have been played by Harrison Ford? That incident established Arkhipov as someone whose voice carried more weight than most in the Soviet navy. Even when he was outvoted and outranked, he could make decisions and other people would follow them.

That’s a big part of what sets someone like Vasili Arkhipov apart from Stanislav Petrov. You could argue that Petrov was just in the right place at the right time to make the right decision. That alone makes him a hero.

With Arkhipov, the decision wasn’t as clear-cut. He was an officer in the navy. He had a rank, a responsibility, and a role in one of the most tense geopolitical situations in the history of mankind. He was in a floating coffin surrounded by enemy ships with every other officer wanting to launch a nuclear strike.

He could’ve easily chosen to go along with his fellow officers. Given how badly humans respond to peer pressure, that would’ve been the easiest thing for Arkhipov to do. The fact he chose otherwise is a testament to his ability to do the right thing in a moment where the right thing is hard to grasp.

To appreciate just how hard that decision was, Arkhipov wasn’t even praised for his decision. In fact, he and his crew were disgraced for surfacing in the first place. Sure, he averted a nuclear holocaust, but he didn’t follow the proper protocol that he should’ve after being discovered by the Americans.

Granted, that protocol didn’t involve starting a nuclear war, but it showed weakness during a geopolitical shit storm. This wasn’t like the the 1983 incident in that it could be swept under the rug. This was the Cuban Missile Crisis. You don’t call something a crisis unless it’s that big a deal.

That’s what makes Vasili Arkhipov’s actions on that day all the more remarkable. He was not praised, commended, or even celebrated for his decision that day. He might not have even realized that he had the fate of the human race in his hands at that moment. Remember, he made that decision at a time when, for all he new, nuclear war had already started. Despite that, he did the right thing.

Unlike Stanislav PetrovVasili Arkhipov didn’t live long enough to see his accomplishments acknowledged. He died in 1988 in relative obscurity. He may not have a holiday or a monument named after him, but like Stanislav Petrov, he made a decision that saved the world.

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It’s still scary to think that any one person was in a position to make such a decision to begin with. However, the fact that both he and Petrov were able to do it says more about humanity than any weapon ever will.

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The Horrific Consequences Of Human Stupidity

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We all make mistakes. We’ve all done or said things that make us feel stupid. I certainly have. One time, I tried to impress a girl by claiming I’d eaten a live caterpillar. She just took two steps back, gave me that repulsed look, and made it clear that she did not find that sort of thing attractive. Needless to say, I never got a date with that girl.

Mistakes are a part of life. They’re an understandable part of the human experience. We’re bound to make mistakes because the world is chaotic. Our decisions are bound to be erratic, misguided, or just downright wrong at some point. Even the smartest among us is prone to making mistakes. Just ask a certain high-ranking general who got busted having an affair because he foolishly used unsecured emails.

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Mistakes are one inescapable element of life. Stupidity, however, is the 800-pound, machine-gun toting gorilla in the room that we can’t stop poking with a stick. I’ve spent all week preaching the importance of education. I did so despite all those times I belabored how much I hated high school. I still don’t think I can overstated just how much it matters.

More than anything else, education matters because stupidity comes at a cost. In fact, it can become very costly very fast if you let it. Stupidity, by definition, ensures that we’ll do more than make mistakes. We’ll actually find ways to turn a bad situation worse.

Remember that little story about me trying to impress that girl? Well, I’m lucky I’m not that stupid because if I were, I would’ve doubled down on my claim. Even after she’d been repulsed by the caterpillar story, a stupider version of me would’ve taken it a step further. He would’ve gotten on the floor, found the first bug he could find, and licked it up as though it were the last piece of chocolate fudge. That’s the power of stupidity.

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It doesn’t just hinder our ability to impress the opposite sex either. Stupidity can have huge, world-shaking consequences. I’m not just talking about the brilliant scientists at NASA losing a probe because someone didn’t know the difference between feet and meters. I’m talking about real events that shaped our history due to spectacular acts of stupidity.

It does happen. We humans are capable of that level of stupidity. For better or for worse, a part of why our history and our civilization has manifested like it has is due to some ridiculous acts of stupidity. Some of it is just an honest mistake that just snowballed. Some of it is just stupidity in the highest degree.

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The number of events incurred by human stupidity are too vast and voluminous to list. I could probably start a whole new blog with the sole purpose of discussing how stupidity shaped our world. For now, I’ll keep it to only nine, thanks to the fine folks at Listerverse.

A couple years ago, they did an article that discussed some tiny acts of stupidity that had huge consequences on society, civilization, and the course of history. Granted, there’s no way these people could’ve known at the time the sheer breadth of their stupidity. Hindsight being what it is, though, there’s just no getting around the results.

Listverse: 9 Tiny Mistakes With Monumental Historical Consequences

Read the article and then dare to have a high opinion of the human species. If you’re not much for reading, here’s a few highlights that are worth mentioning.

  • The event that sparked World War I, and World War II by default, hinged on some idiot driver making the wrong turn in Sarajevo.

  • The failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 was an unmitigated disaster because someone in the American military stupidly forgot about the existence of time zones.

  • The fall of Constantinople, one of the most important cities of the Medieval Europe, was almost entirely due to some idiot forgetting to lock the gate.

Some of these mistakes have had huge consequences on our world, even today. There’s no denying the impact of events like World War I or the fall of Constantinople. Without these events, history and society as we know it today just doesn’t exist. How odd/frustrating is it that so many of them hinged on acts of gross stupidity?

Again, hindsight being what it is, it’s impossible to know what could’ve happened had certain people not been so stupid. It’s also important to maintain some sense of perspective when it comes to the stupidity of the past compared to what we deal with in the present.

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We’re actually in the midst of an unprecedented time in human history. As recently as 1820, only 12 percent of the population could read and write. Today, around 83 percent of the world’s seven billion people are literate. That is not a trivial shift. A world with this many educated people is unheard of and nobody really knows what kind of impact that will have on the course of history.

Despite the progress we’ve made, though, there’s still plenty of room for stupidity. Thanks to the internet and social media, we can expect our various mistakes, spectacular or otherwise, to be documented for all to see until the end of time. It’s part of being human, making mistakes and never living them down. Let’s, at least, acknowledge the extent to which some of those mistakes have affected our species.

 

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How To Make Sense Of The World In One Easy Step

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When it comes to politics, the news, or general advice, I try to avoid it as best I can on this blog. I want this blog to be a refuge and reprieve from the vast, stinky ass crack that is the real world and the parts of the internet that amplify the smell. That’s why I prefer talking about less dire subjects like sex robots and sex-positive comic book characters.

If I do talk about something that’s in the news or controversial, I usually try to put a humorous and/or sexy spin on it. I don’t want to push an agenda, start a movement, or leader a rally. That’s just too much time and effort that could be better spent talking about hot teachers and bionic penises.

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I know that I sometimes give the impression that I have an agenda beyond selling my novels. I try to minimize that, but sometimes it’ll slip through. I try to avoid it, but I’m not going to apologize either. I’m only human. Every now and then, something I write or say will have some sort of connotation to real world news, events, etc. At the end of the day, I want to make this blog as sexy and fun as my novels.

That being said, I’d like to do something a little different today. No, I’m not going on some sort of political rant. I’m not going to get on a soap box, hold up a sign, and start talking about shape-shifting lizard people. I’ll leave that sort of thing to Alex Jones or the character/troll he allegedly plays.

Instead, I’d like to offer a bit of insight to those still struggling to make sense of the world, the news, and the people claiming that fluoride is an elaborate mind control scheme. It’s not necessarily advice. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I’m as qualified to give advice as I am to build a star ship.

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What I’m offering here is perspective, a precious commodity in a world where everyone has the means of muting messages they don’t want to hear. Anyone who watches the news for more than ten minutes or spends more than five searching for it on their Facebook feed is sure to be overwhelmed, upset, and confused.

It’s just too easy to filter out the news and facts you don’t like. It’s too easy to mold your own agenda into a neat little package that makes you feel content to some extent. Sometimes we do too good a job. Sometimes our agenda is so nice and neat that it does everything other than give us oral sex.

That’s why we need perspective. That’s why we need to step back, see the bigger picture, and understand that we all embrace our own particular brand of fake news, alternative facts, and elaborate excuses. It’s the only way to truly make sense of the world, at least as much as our caveman brains will allow us.

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So here’s how you do it. There’s only one step. It’s free. It’s simple. There’s no complicated instruction manual. It can all be boiled down into three simple words. Brace yourself because this is going to either rock your world, break your heart, or make you yawn. Take a moment if you need to. If not, read along because here it is. Here is the secret to making sense of a chaotic world full of crazy people.

Nobody Knows ANYTHING

Go on. Roll your eyes and laugh. Start calling me names in the comments.  Call me a cuck, a troll, or an agent of the Illuminati. I don’t expect this to blow anyone’s mind or soak anyone’s panties beyond a certain extent. It is, however, as true and honest insight as you’ll ever find in the era of fake news.

Now, I can’t claim to have come up with this on my own. This little bit of insight is actually something one of my old college professors told me on the first day of his class. Before you roll your eyes again, know that this professor could easily have been mistaken for a hobo who just robbed a fancy clothing store. Imagine every pipe-smoking professor you’ve ever had. Now imagine the exact opposite. That’s this guy.

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He dropped this incredible truth bomb on us the first day because he wanted to make clear that he would not be giving us the politically correct version of his class. He was going to be honest in as brutal a way he could without getting fired. The fact he was tenured and admitted to working drunk in the past kind of added to his credibility.

So what exactly did he mean when he said those words? How do they relate to what I mean by it? In the grand scheme of things, it has to do with the certainty we all seek. Our caveman brains, for better and for worse, crave certainty and abhor stress. When we have a gap in our knowledge and understanding, we naturally jump at anything to fill it.

Sometimes it’s a certain news source. Sometimes it’s a certain religion. Sometimes it’s a particular political ideology, social club, or even a TV show. Talk to anyone who was a big fan of “Lost.” They’ll put any charismatic preacher to shame.

Since our brains are so crude and aren’t equipped with a google connection (yet), it doesn’t matter whether or not the source we seek is true. It doesn’t even matter of it’s debunked. Our brains still cling to it because changing our minds causes too much stress and we’ll make any excuse to avoid that stress.

That creates an unavoidable paradox of sorts and I’m not talking about the ones Doc Brown worried about in “Back To The Future.” Our caveman brains are so limited, but they’re wired to seek certainty. However, because of those limits, our ability to achieve certainty on complex issues is next to impossible. In most cases, it is impossible.

Nobody knows for sure what the economy will do today, tomorrow, or even two hours from now.

Nobody knows for sure whether a new product will sell or be a flop.

Nobody knows for sure whether a rookie athlete will be a bust or a hall of famer.

Nobody knows for sure whether a particular movie will be a big box office success like “Deadpool” or an unmitigated disaster like “John Carter.”

Nobody knows for sure whether a law, court decision, or executive order will do more harm than good.

Nobody knows for sure how a new piece of technology will affect society.

Nobody knows for sure whether their theories about life, the universe, and everything in between are accurate.

In the end, nobody knows anything. It’s just that simple.

That’s not to say that we should be inherently doubtful of everything. At most, those who make bold proclamations can only make best guesses. It’s not always accurate, but sometimes it’s fairly close. Other times, it’s just dumb luck. Ask the guy who predicted the Chicago Cubs world series victory in 1993.

We can surmise, speculate, and reason all we want. In the end, nobody really knows anything. Nobody can really be certain. Nobody can have all the facts. That’s why people gravitate towards others who express such certainty. It’s akin to having a superpower. In our minds, having that kind of certainty is right up there with Superman, the X-men, or the Avengers.

Unlike superheroes, though, that certainty is self-delusion at best and a scam at worst. Those who at least try to be reasonable, offering facts and best guesses in extrapolating those facts, deserve a chance and some credibility. If they’re honest, they’ll admit they don’t know everything with absolute certainty. They can be fairly confident, but they can never be completely certain.

Keep this in mind the next time you see a news story, an article, a book, a self-help guru, or a religious zealot. They can only claim certainty, but they don’t know any more than you do. They don’t know anything for certain. That doesn’t make them inherently bad. It just makes them misguided.

I hope this perspective helps. I hope the world makes a bit more sense now. I can only do so much as an aspiring erotica/romance writer. Like everyone else, I don’t know anything with certainty. I know only that I want this blog to be both helpful and sexy. This is just another part of that effort.

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Alternate History Fiction: The Potential And Limits

Contrary to the sentiment I convey on this blog, there are other genres of fiction that tickle my fancy and not in the way that makes my pants feel tighter. It’s true. It is possible for someone to appreciate multiple genres of fiction, even those that are exceedingly different. I’ll give everyone a moment to get over the shock.

While I do consider erotica/romance my specialty as a writer, there is another genre I often contemplate in my quiet moments. It’s a genre that doesn’t make anyone who isn’t an ardent fan of The History Channel horny, but it has a unique appeal and one day, I do hope to explore that appeal in my own writings.

It’s called alternative history. No, I’m not talking about the history of BDSM or alternative relationships that involve multiple partners and/or aliens. I’m talking about elaborate, sometimes exceedingly detailed, scenarios that craft a whole new timeline of our history. From these scenarios, all sorts of stories can emerge. Some are pretty damn successful.

Probably the most recent examples involve Stephen King’s “11/22/63” and Philip K. Dick’s “The Man In The High Castle.” Both of these stories take a seminal event in recent history, namely World War II and the Kennedy assassination, and put a new twist on it. That twist can be pretty intriguing, even if some details would make a historian’s head explode.

Now I like alternative history. It’s one of those guilty pleasures I can enjoy with my pants on. However, there is a recurring theme in these stories and one that tends to undermine the narrative.

It’s an inescapable byproduct of the genre itself. In order to craft stories about alternative history, it’s necessary to make a few too many assumptions that can’t possibly be understood. Until we create a functioning time machine, we just don’t know how changing one detail or another would affect history. There’s a reason why Doc Brown was so uptight about that sort of thing in “Back To The Future.”

What bothers me most when I read historical fiction is how these assumptions tend to fuel certain biases. Those who speculate on the tweaks and alterations on the timelines tend to have an agenda. More often than not, that agenda requires that a good chunk of reality be ignored or, in some cases, spat upon.

By far, the most popular assumptions come from the various “What If” scenarios surrounding World War II. In many respects, World War II is to alternate history what “50 Shades of Grey” has become to BDSM erotica. It is essentially the standard by which all others are measured.

There are already so many flawed assumptions about this period in history and I say this as someone who had relatives fight in this war. Movies, TV, documentaries, and conspiracy bloggers like to craft this flawed image of World War II, as though it was a real battle against an evil force bent on world domination. That makes for great, iconic comic book stories, but it’s about as historically accurate as a Zack Snyder movie.

There are any number of stories that make the same claim. If Hitler had only done this or that, then we’d all be saluting a Nazi flag today and tiny mustaches would never have gone out of style. That’s a tempting and terrifying thought, but thankfully it’s about as valid as a physics lecture by Homer Simpson.

The truth is that the Nazis were never close to winning World War II, America’s involvement had little to no impact on the outcome of the war, and Hitler was an inept basket case who just had more luck than brains. History is rarely that frail because in general, people aren’t nearly as diabolical or heroic as the fiction we craft around them.

The same goes for the JFK assassination. There’s a whole cottage industry around the crazy conspiracy theories surrounding this assassination (see the non-Dan Brown version of the Illuminati). Oliver Stone even made a movie about it, which took so many liberties with proven facts that it would take multiple blog posts for me to list them.

Now I’m not saying these narratives don’t make for great stories. They do succeed in creating a world that’s much more interesting than the one we live in now. Unfortunately, it assumes too much of mankind’s ability to keep secrets, conduct wars, and document their various screw-ups.

For me, personally, I prefer alternative history that just doesn’t give a flying fuck about sticking to the facts. There are some stories that basically just give a big middle finger to history books and craft a less elaborate, but more colorful form of alternative history. For me, the one that really got me into the genre wasn’t a book. It was a video game, specifically this one.

That’s a header for Wolfenstein: The New Order, a video game that came out a few years ago. It’s a bloody, brutal, historically inaccurate shoot-em-up that gives everyone a chance to kill hordes of evil Nazis. It’s as much fun as it sounds.

It also has a powerful story that is, again, exceedingly inaccurate. However, it doesn’t try to be accurate. That’s what makes it fun. That’s what makes it engaging. Nobody outside Alex Jones fans are going to argue the plausibility of the events of this game.

It’s in that overtly implausible spirit that I feel inspired to craft my own alternative history story. However, I don’t want it to be one of those stories that preventing JFK’s assassination will lead to a hippie utopia or that Hitler sleeping in would somehow change the course of World War II. For my alternate history scenario, it needs to be more ambitious. It also needs to be much sexier.

Yes, history tends to be pretty repressive when it comes to sex, but it can still be pretty damn sexy. If you don’t believe me, do some research on the antics of Cleopatra, Theadora, and Catherine the Great. Hell, look up some of the massive amounts of erotica produced during the Victoria era. I promise your pants will be tight for a week. It’s no wonder they needed chastity belts back then.

History is full of horny men, horny women, and people trying to thwart horny men and horny women. Most of the time, those trying to thwart horniess are shoveling sand against the tide. In the long run, the desire to hump, hug, and orgasm wins out.

So with that dirty, sexy thought in mind, I feel like there’s potential to craft a different course of history, one where that potential can manifest into something an erotica/romance writer can appreciate. If done right, I can make history the sexiest topic we all slept through in high school.

How would I do that? When in the timeline would it take place? How much will I upset historians with the liberties I take? Well, these are the kinds of detailed questions that I’m still fleshing out. If and when I complete this process, I’d like to build upon this narrative and possibly set the standard for a sexier brand of alternate history. Between our collective fascination with alternative timelines and BDSM erotica, I think there’s an audience for it.

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