It's necessary, I think, that every now and then an American old fart of the War Baby or Boomer generation get out on the web and recycles with a comment or two the 1950s song most of us knew in its Kingston Trio version, "The Merry Minuet," by Sheldon Harnick.
If you sing it, please do send royalties to … well, maybe your favorite charity.
They're rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain.
There's hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don't like anybody very much!
But we can be tranquil, and thankful, and proud,
For mans' been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away.
They're rioting in Africa, there's strife in Iran.
What nature doesn't do to us, will be done by our fellow man.
Since the song came out, it's been a game updating the lyrics, but that doesn't require much work. There's no longer a Yugoslavia, nor the apartheid Union of South Africa, but the successor states to Yugoslavia demonstrated quite nicely that there are still enough "unhappy souls" that we can get fighting among Serbs, Croats, and other subdivisions of increasing fineness. And, of course, the "hurricanes in Florida" have the potential of growing stronger as global warming pumps more energy into Earth's systems, and Texas — or southern California, in a "variant" version of the song — is just one portion of an increasing list of places needing rain.
So, take heart! Human history has frequently sucked since … well, at least since people started writing down human history, and we humans are still here.
That's "on the one hand."
On the other hand, we humans are still "endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud": changing the figure of speech, an atomic Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. We have in our future, potentially, many thousands of mushroom-shaped clouds, more than enough swords for everyone, still a couple or three times over. (For younger readers, the term of art is "overkill," and the standard sardonic comment was that after the first hour of World War III all the bombs would do is melt and pulverize the rubble.) Even with the end of the Cold War, various governments of Earth have more than enough nuclear warheads to end human civilization and possibly bring on a nuclear winter that would end the human species and more generally force mass extinctions on a scale not seen on Earth since the extermination of the dinosaurs.
Human nature will not change any time soon, and the "Minuet" will continue. Indefinitely: however horrible the suffering of individuals and peoples, the species will survive. So we can be confident except for that strong possibility "that some lovely day / Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away."
We need to recycle "The Merry Minuet" from the 1950s and 1960s, and far more so we need to recycle the nuclear disarmament movement. Maybe not immediate or total nuclear disarmament — having a few nukes around may help keep things relatively peaceful: but we need to disarm enough that we will not "all be blown away," we need to disarm at least enough to be fairly sure the dance of mammalian life will continue.