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September 13th, 2022

How Nuclear Reactors And Democracies Fail

YouTube recently started feeding me clips from the HBO docu-drama series on Chernobyl. I’d never watched it or even knew of it, and the clips are mesmerizing, and especially every scene in it with Jared Harris’ Valery Legasov.

This exchange is brutal. Understand that this happens well after Legasov was at Chernobyl, and knows that the radiation he received there, even at the distance he was from the reactor, will kill him in a few short years. He is giving testimony as to what caused the explosion to party officials and he is a man who has nothing left to lose. He is going to tell the Party what it does not want to hear. Because he knows Chernobyl has killed him. Because he is not afraid of the Party anymore. Because it is the truth.

Judge Milan Kadnikov: Professor Legasov, if you mean to suggest the Soviet State is somehow responsible for what happened, then I must warn you, you are treading on dangerous ground.

Valery Legasov: I’ve already trod on dangerous ground. We’re on dangerous ground right now, because of our secrets and our lies. They are practically what define us. When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there, but it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies.

This was pure gold. It’s meaning goes beyond Chernobyl:

Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.

Trump. MAGA. Fox News. The election was stolen. January 6. Or if that isn’t good enough, just pick any of the other lies they’ve been waving in our faces. Your LGBT neighbors have had them yelled in our faces for decades. Every lie incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how democracy fails. That is how we fail as human beings. Lies.

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