Throughout the history of mankind, those with power are desperate to control everything.
They want to change the facts as they please, without thinking about the consequences of their actions.
Unfortunately, a “spark” is more than enough to lose control and start a huge fire of disastrous magnitude.
Jean Paul Sartre said that…
“We are doomed to freedom and we are judged by our actions for which we bear sole responsibility.“
Only one simple act can change the world and affect whole generations.
It can either destroy or build. And, most importantly, prevent.
But come to think of it, all those who have can change the world and contribute to historical events, what are they?
People, like all of us. Simple, common mortals.
Like Vasily Arkhipov, to whom the song by Converge, “Arkhipov Calm“, refers to.
A Russian Navy officer accredited to deterring a Soviet nuclear attack.
During the Cuban missile crisis, in a tense atmosphere, one man made the right decision.
A decision that prevented a nuclear war, a total disaster!
Many people do not know his name, nor the significance of his actions.
But history always sheds light on the “unknown”…
The Cuban Revolution
The Cuban Revolution (Revolución Cubana) was the armed struggle to defeat the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
On July 26, 1953, the revolution began. A group of people under Fidel Castro fails to occupy the camp of Moncada.
On New Year’s Day in 1959, the goal was achieved with the battle of Santa Clara and the rebels managed to get Batista to escape.
Immediately thereafter, the US began operations to overturn Castro, who became President of the country.
The most well-known operation was the attempt to cross the Gulf of Pigs in April 1961, which resulted in a painful fiasco for the Americans.
After that, the US Secret Service have devised the “Operation Mongoose” invasion plan.
The Cuban Revolution organized its defenses and asked the Soviet Union for help.
13 days of crisis
On October 15, 1962, the US president, John F. Kennedy, got the information.
Soviets had deployed in Cuba 42 ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
Fidel Castro had allowed their deployment, in fear of American intervention on the island.
The next 13 days would bring moments of distress and fear to all mankind.
On October 22, Kennedy makes a statement.
He would proceed to the “seizure of aggressive weapons and related material that Soviet vessels would attempt to ship to Cuba“.
With Cuba at the focus, the two superpowers were constantly shaking their tensions with intense messages to each other.
The following days there have been discussions on debates and endless negotiations.
On October 25, the President of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, accepts the proposal of the UN Secretary General, Mr. Thad, for a two-week truce.
Kennedy rejects the proposal. The conflict was avoided at the last minute on October 28th.
Khrushchev agreed to stop work on installing missiles and to withdraw all personnel who were already on the island.
In return, Kennedy pledged that the US would never invade Cuba.
While also secretly promising to remove the nuclear missiles that had been deployed in Turkey in the past.
The crisis peaked on October 27th.
An American U2 spy plane was shot down in the Cuban airspace, while another was intercepted over Russia.
However, they were unaware of a more precarious situation that was going on below the surface in the Caribbean.
Arkhipov’s unknown story
On the same day, the Soviet submarine B-59 was near the Cuban coast.
Their orders were to halt in the Caribbean due to the American blockade around Cuba.
At the risk of being spotted by the Americans, the submarine dove deep, and as a result, all communication with the surface was cut off.
However, a group of US Navy destroyers along with the aircraft carrier USS Randolph located the submarine.
In order to force the submarine to surface for identification, the American destroyers used depth charges.
The captain of the B-59, Valentin Savitsky had no way of knowing that the depth charges used were non-lethal intended as warning shots for the submarine.
As a result, the panicked crew of the submarine did not know whether the war had already broken out.
But what the Americans did not realize was that the submarine was armed with a nuclear torpedo.
One they’d been instructed to use without waiting for approval if the submarine was under fire.
Amidst panic and exhaustion, Savitsky ordered the crew to start the launch sequence of the missile against the US fleet.
A nuclear head is as strong as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
However, in order to launch, Savitsky needed the approval of both of the submarine’s other two officers.
One of them, Ivan Maslennikov approved the strike. But Vasily Arkhipov, said no!
Keeping a level head in the middle of the confrontation, he kept his stance.
He convinced Savitsky that the Americans did not attack the submarine.
Instead, they used the depth charges to force them to surface. And he was right.
The submarine surfaced and since it was clear that war had not actually started, they sailed back to Russia.
If Arkhipov had not been there to prevent the launch, the world today would have been very different.
It is almost certain that the launch of the nuclear missile against the US fleet would have led to a nuclear war.
Jacob Bannon, singer, and frontman of Converge, once mentioned how that situation influenced him in order to create this song.
About how Arkhipov’s story showed him, how a man with a clear and calm character can change the world.
Specifically, he said: “There’s been lots of instances in my life where I’ve felt like I was being tested by whatever situation I was in.
It could be something as simple as losing your cool in public over something, and there’s a resilience that you have to find.
A, dare I say, maturity that you have to hold onto to navigate those waters.
When I was a kid, if something affected me I would have a much more reactionary response. I wasn’t a particularly violent guy, but you would have that explosion.”
Verse of the song’s lyrics is about this reaction:
“Turbulence shakes the teeth from the chaos that you speak
With every barb that you threw, I saw you list to the side”
However, tension is never helpful in any circumstance, especially in such heated situations.
Keeping their calmness is one of the most important features that a person has to conquer about themselves.
The mind can “blur” and any actions or decisions taken under duress, almost always, end up with bad consequences.
For ourselves, but most of all for those around us.
And many times without us knowing it… At least not immediately!
As Bannon also mentioned:
“I’ve been working really hard over the last decade or more to be super self-aware of what that kind of energy does to the world and to the people around you.”
Essentially, as it is heard on the lyrics of the song…
“And I won’t sink with you, I have so much more to do
Promises, the lost cause, but the bones will heal in time
You see the patience is a test, it separates boys from men
And my Arkhipov calm will serve me in time”
Acting in the heat of anger can drag you to the “bottom”.
You end up losing control and this will inevitably have devastating consequences.
Mahatma Gandhi said that “losing your patience means losing the battle.”
All is summed up in the last 2 verses of the song…
“It’s the fires that we quell that save us from our hells
It’s the wars that we don’t fight that keeps love alive”
Because a “war”, (even our inner one) always has its losses…