Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Scenario: Multinational Nuclear Experimentation Lab in 2005
One of our assignments involved writing a scenario set in 2005 about a "Multinational Nuclear Experimentation Lab (MUNNEL)" that had been founded in 1988; although we could choose from three general story templates to describe MUNNEL's activities and status, in retrospect it became apparent that that we were expected to portray glowing, optimistic visions of the nations of the world joining hands and singing "kumbaya"--but even though I had just turned 13, I fully understood that the world does not work that way and that it was sheer folly to imagine that the nature of humankind and world politics would change in just two short decades. Therefore, I offered up a dystopian characterization of MUNNEL, mirroring the corruption that I saw in the U.N. and other multinational organizations that ostensibly work toward the betterment of the world but in reality largely serve the interests of dictators and despots.
In addition to submitting the story as a Spectrum assignment we also had the opportunity to enter our stories in a "Scenario Writing Contest" from the "Future Problem Solving Program." My story received the highest possible grade from my Spectrum teacher but--in an outcome that is hardly surprising considering the pessimistic (but quite realistic) tone of my piece--it did not win a prize in the contest; the contest stories were graded on a 1-5 scale (with 5 as the best score) in seven different categories: I received a "5" in "Structure of Scenario," a "4" in "Creative Imagination," "Interest," and "Quality of Solution Proposed or Inferred" and a "3" in "Social/Cultural Influences," "Feelings/Emotions" and "Future Knowledge." The latter grade is particularly ironic considering that the real world in 2009 is pretty much in exactly the mess that I described in my 1984 story, with the very countries that I mentioned--Russia, Iran, Syria and Libya--continuing to be major sources of instability. The contest judge offered this comment about my story: "The existence of opposing blocs of nations is a valid scenario based on the stimulus solution proposed. But otherwise the scenario sounds very much like the present with exactly the same national alignments and controversial personalities. The future, in other words, sounds so much like the present that the reader wonders how the world got from 1988 to 2005. You certainly have loaded the central figure with the enigmatic characteristics that people can interpret to fit their own prejudices."
What a shortsighted view by the contest judge! Although the Berlin Wall fell with much fanfare just a few years after I wrote this story, Russia today is ruled by an ex-KGB official and the U.N. is still dominated by a Communist-Third World voting bloc that prevents that organization from taking any meaningful actions to stop war, feed the hungry or fight disease.
Some of the phrasing used in the story reflects my age at that time, but it is funny that even when I had just turned 13 I already wrote better than a lot of adult bloggers do now! Of course, now I cringe at some of the sentence formulations that I used but this story can be made much stronger with just a little bit of editing--which is more than I can say for a lot of the work that professional writers submit (just for fun, I have appended a lightly edited version of the story at the bottom of this post). More important than any structural changes that I would make to this story, I think that the understanding I displayed of exactly why and how a "MUNNEL"-type project would fall apart was well beyond my years; just as I foresaw, the international community has been unable to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons, a problem that is a major threat to peace and security worldwide.
I wrote this story before the information about former U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim's Nazi past became public knowledge but the description of the sordid nature of the character Hans Kiplinger clearly reflected my cynicism about the background and motivations of Waldheim and other ostensibly neutral voices for peace who have served as mouthpieces for despotic regimes. At first glance the allusions that I made to Kiplinger's disreputable lifestyle away from his job may seem bizarre or out of place in the story but considering some of the scandals that have taken place in the past decades involving powerful leaders in various fields I think that was actually a bit of precocious insight on my part; corrupt men often act in dissolute fashion away from their jobs as well: consider some of the activities enjoyed by Max Mosley, the top official in Formula One racing.
Here is my "MUNNEL" short story exactly as I wrote it on December 3, 1984:
A visitor to the "Multinational Nuclear Experimentation Lab" (MUNNEL) in Blurin, Denmark would find on the surface scientific wizardry coupled with international cooperation. Perhaps it's this surface view of MUNNEL that has too many people fooled. Although some people see through this, most don't see that the Communists and the Arabs just aren't playing fair. In the past year alone, there have been 20 cases of Communist espionage and over ten of Arab espionage. However, some say this is overshadowed by the appointment of Hans Kiplinger as chairman of MUNNEL in 1997.
Hans Kiplinger is a man who appears to have lived several lives. At least the claims about him are past enumeration. The only things known for sure about him are that he is in his late 50s, of German stock, that he is 5-11 and 180 pounds. According to some rumors, Kiplinger is a former mercenary, while others say he is a businessman befallen with more than his share of bad luck. Whichever the case, people from a dozen nations hold his credits. Some say his debt, however he got it, climbs into six figure numbers.
How would such a man get the chairmanship of MUNNEL? Simply, he has connections. Russia, Libya, Iran, Syria and their allies voted him in. Back in 1997--and still today--the Communist/Arab bloc holds on to a narrow 35-33 majority at MUNNEL. On top of that, not all Western Bloc countries voted against Kiplinger.
Another problem of MUNNEL is that the terms of the agreement (the so-called "Blurin Pact") are constantly challenged by either the West or the Communists. Furthermore, the pictures released of MUNNEL showing American and Russian scientists working together were usually either staged or out and out falsifications. Of course, Hans Kiplinger denies this, saying (June 8, 2003), "MUNNEL is a place of international goodwill and cooperation." Ralph Jameson, head of the International Council Against MUNNEL (1200 members worldwide), responds to that by saying, "MUNNEL, in reality, is a haven of espionage, distrust, secrecy and international hatred."
Hans Kiplinger's lifestyle is another example of one of Jameson's prime arguments. The argument is that MUNNEL and Kiplinger are "hypocrites." Hans Kiplinger claims to be in favor of the simple life. He once said (August, 2000), "I am against alcohol and the modern life of the rich...drugs and greed are disgusting to me." Hans Kiplinger lives on the French Riviera, is often seen with one or more female companions, drinks alcohol and, in general, lives life to the fullest. It should be added that Hans Kiplinger flies almost daily to Denmark so that he can live on the Riviera.
A further example of Kiplinger's alleged hypocrisy is the claim that he spent five years in a drug rehabilitation center in Franfurt, Germany. Kiplinger and his chief ally, Russia, claim that the aforementioned is "dirty propaganda and capitalistic lies." America usually tries to remain and appear neutral in this, though the U.S. voted against Kiplinger in the 1997 MUNNEL elections.
Instead of releasing international tension, MUNNEL has instead increased it. Bold optimists who once declared, "MUNNEL will defrost chilled U.S./Soviet relations," now have to admit it just won't happen. Even MUNNEL's primary goals of nuclear disarmament and different uses of nuclear energy have failed, miserably. By 2000, the Soviets already started to rearm. America did likewise in 2001. With most people fooled and a cure not in sight, total failure of MUNNEL seems imminent.
Without altering the essence of the scenario that I crafted as a 13 year old, here is a lightly edited version of that story:
A visitor to the "Multinational Nuclear Experimentation Lab" (MUNNEL) in Blurin, Denmark finds on the surface scientific wizardry coupled with international cooperation--but this superficial, idealistic view of MUNNEL has fooled too many people and blinded them to the reality that several Communist governments and Arab regimes are not upholding their MUNNEL treaty obligations. However, these violations are overshadowed by the appointment of Hans Kiplinger as chairman of MUNNEL in 1997.
Kiplinger is in his late 50s but the stout, 5-11, 180 pound German still looks robust enough to be a mercenary; he is rumored to have fought as a soldier for hire in various conflicts two decades ago but his past is shrouded in secrecy and intrigue. There are also persistent reports that he is deeply in debt to various governments and/or private individuals.
How did such a shady character become the chairman of MUNNEL? Simply, he has connections. Russia, Libya, Iran, Syria and their allies supported his candidacy. The Communist/Arab bloc still holds on to a narrow 35-33 voting majority at MUNNEL. On top of that, not all of the Western countries voted against Kiplinger.
Another problem for MUNNEL is that the terms of the agreement (the so-called "Blurin Pact") are constantly disputed by the West and the Communist/Arab bloc, with each side offering vastly different interpretations of their responsibilities and privileges. Furthermore, the published photos released by MUNNEL showing American and Russian scientists working together were often either staged or out and out falsifications. Kiplinger denies this, declaring (June 8, 2003), "MUNNEL is a place of international goodwill and cooperation." Ralph Jameson, head of the International Council Against MUNNEL (a non-profit organization with a membership of 1200 concerned scientists and intellectuals), responds to that by saying, "MUNNEL, in reality, has been plagued by espionage, distrust, and ethnic hatred."
Hans Kiplinger's dissolute lifestyle has also come under fire, because there are indications that Kiplinger has enriched himself at the expense of MUNNEL's budget. Kiplinger rejects these charges, saying (August, 2000), "I am against alcohol and the modern life of the rich...drugs and greed are disgusting to me" but the truth is that he maintains a residence on the French Riviera, where the married Kiplinger has been seen with various female companions who are not his wife. Instead of maintaining a residence in Blurin like most MUNNEL officials do, Kiplinger often uses MUNNEL aircraft to shuttle back and forth from the Riviera to Denmark.
There are credible reports that Kiplinger spent an extended period of time in a drug rehabilitation center in Franfurt, Germany. Kiplinger and his chief MUNNEL ally, Russia, say that he is the victim of a campaign of "dirty propaganda and capitalistic lies."
Although the U.S. voted against Kiplinger in the 1997 MUNNEL elections, the U.S. has avoided public confrontations with Kiplinger since he took power.
Instead of relieving international tension, MUNNEL has instead increased it. Bold optimists who once declared, "MUNNEL will defrost chilled U.S./Soviet relations," now have to admit that it just won't happen. MUNNEL has failed miserably to achieve its primary goals of nuclear disarmament and the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In 2000, the Soviets violated the Blurin Pact by restocking their nuclear arsenal, forcing the U.S. to do likewise in 2001. Total failure of MUNNEL seems imminent.
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