Shantih Journal 3.1 - Page 32

than shoebox-sized, just right for squirrels, too large for mice, too small for raccoons and cats. I knew that mother skunk wouldn’t fit, but the wire box could accommodate one of her squirrel-sized babies. While not as ominous as The Blob or Creature from the Black Lagoon, this could be serious. No one wants to get between mother and young, especially not Mephitis mephitis. I needed to proceed with caution. Chemical weaponry might be deployed. I grabbed a flashlight and slipped outside. 32 Charles Darwin, in Voyage of the Beagle, reported that skunks feared ‘neither dog nor man,’ and their smell could be perceived at one league (about three and a half miles). These mammals have the perfect defensive weapon and are well-advertised with eye-catching black and white stripes. Their chemical blast doesn’t kill but leaves such a searing memory that repeat encounters are rare. Forty million years of natural selection produced a mammalian group that is docile and self-assured, confident that their chemical arsenal is just a tail snap away. These animals are not aggressive and make good pets. Why bother with claws and teeth when it’s possible to knock out an adversary from ten feet? Does an overpowering arsenal, well-advertised, act as a deterrent in such a way that future generations evolve to be insouciant? Kenneth Waltz, author of The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Be Better, said yes. He noted that the world has enjoyed more years of world peace (lack of a major war) since 1945 than was known in the entire 20th century. That was the year that the United States dropped a pair of atomic bombs on Japan. There have been notable close calls and accidents, some due to mechanical failures, some not. Regardless, the consequences of launching a nuclear missile with many times the destructive force of an atomic bomb are inconceivable. By comparison, effects of sending in troops with conventional weapons, waging cyber skirmishes, or tightening economic nooses are minor. Heads of state can be stupid, evil, petty, but like most of us they tend to do things only when think they can get away with them. When a skunk is alarmed it flexes his tail; when a chief is challenged, he puffs up and struts his nuclear buttons.