-- Political Issues: Nuclear --
This page archives comments by Bruce Cockburn on the nuclear issue.
8 June 1995 - Contained in the 1995 Annual Report to the USC (Unitarian Service Committee)
by Bruce Cockburn, honourary board member.
Dear Friends of USC Canada;
When I was child, maybe ten years old, in the era when air raid drills were
a regular part of the public school curriculum and we were invited to take
shelter from the feared nuclear conflagration by huddling under our desks, I
first met Lotta Hitschmanova. She came to my classroom and told us about
refuge children. She wore an odd uniform, like an army nurse, and she
radiated love and concern.
When I was twenty-five, I received the first significant amount of money I'd
earned in my life - royalties from radio play of my first album. It felt
like such a godsend that it seemed appropriate to share it with those less lucky.
My wife said that her mother had a good friend who spent her time helping
those in need - and who ran an organization called the Unitarian Service
Committee. This was an agency devoted to helping victims of war and natural
disaster in many parts of the worlds....one which was committed to ensuring
that people's donations were spent on the work at hand and not to support a
swollen bureaucracy or large ad campaigns. This sounded good to me so I
became a donor. Before long I met my then mother-in-law's friend - a short
woman in a uniform reminiscent of an army nurse's, who radiated love and
concern. It was Lotta. The USC was twenty-five.
Now we're fifty. The world has learned that hiding under desks is not an
effective response to the nuclear threat. We have begun to learn that our
physical security depends, not so much on weapons or the defence against
them, as on the eradication of hunger and ignorance - of the fear which
privilege carries with it - of the rate and desperation that comes with
It became evident to the USC, that it is vital not just to offer aid to
famine victims or those displaced by war, because the same misfortune keep
recurring. We have to address the systemic causes of the problem. So began
programmes of literacy and other kinds of training designed to offer the
poor of the world the means to become self-sufficient....that is, development at
the community level.
We've made a lot of friends over the years. Friends at home and in some
places on the earth where life is very hard. It's been my privilege to play
a small part in that process. We have to keep it growing. As we feel the pinch
of collapsing economies in the developed world, think how it must be for
those whose options are already so limited. Please be generous in your
support. The need is ever more urgent.
-- from Bruce Cockburn, June 8, 1995.
Circa 1991 - Cockburn commenting on being in Germany after the Chernobyl nuclear accident
"I arrived in Germany three days after Chernobyl happened, I had wrestled
with myself about going to Europe at this moment but it seemed like it
wouldn't matter, that stuff will get to you sooner or later. It was a very
interesting experience and quite frightening in some respects -funny in
others. The extremes governments went to in order to kind of suppress peoples
anxiety about the whole thing became ridiculous. At first they're saying it's
no problem those stupid Russians made a mistake but we've got it together.
The next day they would say, well there's a little bit of a problem-don't let
your kids play in the dirt. Then the next day-or a week later they would say,
if you're a mechanic changing air filters in a car you should wear protective
clothing and if you're a pedestrian, hold your breath when cars go by-because
of the dust. It just went from the horrific to the ridiculous."
-- from "Bruce Cockburn: The Soul of a Man," by Michael Case, Umbrella Magazine, circa 1991.
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This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.