I was intrigued by the series from the opening scene. This based-on-reality series is captivating from the start and is smart, well presented, educational, and captivating. You see a different side of the disaster, especially in the final episode where Vilary Legasov uses colored placards to explain how a nuclear reactor is supposed to work, and what went critically wrong with Reactor #4. It’s amazing; the cards are in Russian and you can’t read a word of it, and yet his explanation is precise and haunting. Sci-fi fans will love how this series explains the events in scientific terms that give us credit to understand what they’re talking about. Heck, even my parrot, Bubbles, was captivated by Vilary Legasov. I was amused that she was watching this courtroom scene with the same captivation as I did!
There is something else about this series, though, that lends to it’s magnetic power. It’s how you see the Communist government perpetuate a web of propaganda and lies to cover up a critical failure of the nuclear reactors in the former Soviet Union that they had been hiding for decades. Many believe that Chernobyl was the beginning of the fall of Communism. This situation certainly does expose their flaws, but I think this series makes it clear that there’s an inherent flaw in any self-protective system. When the truth conflicts with the system, then there’s a tendency to minimize it to protect the system. Of course the truth prevails, but that doesn’t stop people from developing more lies when the truth turns into a monster that’s too big to cover up (I’m thinking about how those rooftop robotics failed because they lied about the radiation levels). The propaganda and lies costs lives that we’ll never accurately count or know, which is a shame for so many people who could have been saved but weren’t because of State pride.
Certainly, this incident (and the mini-series) exposes the flaws of Communism, but this is an inherent tendency of any self-protective system, and all systems are self-protective. That’s as true of a school yard clique as it is of a government system. They’re all established to protect the “greater good.” Unfortunately, truth can be unflattering to these established systems sometime, and that’s when the protective mechanisms kick into high gear. Just think about your own life, and I’m sure you can think of times when you’ve seen it in action. Like the time the network crashed and didn’t come back up all day without reason or warning (and you later find out the system was hacked). Or when somebody in a high position is gone one day, and you’re told that there are changes in leadership (and then you read a news story that the person who disappeared was caught in a public controversy). Or the fire alarm goes off when nothing’s wrong for an “extensive drill” (and a neighbor in the area tells you that there was a major drug bust at the same time). Or your neighbor’s teenage kid goes to “boarding school” or to “visit family out of town” and you find out they had a baby, or were in juvenile hall. Be realistic, folks. You see it on a small scale in your life, so you know it happens at a large scale. And there are threats and great lengths taken to the minority who believe it’s best to speak the truth, like the scientists in Chernobyl.
Isn’t it interesting that it was the scientists who stood up for the truth? It seems that scientists, like artists, place more value on truth than these systems do because they aren’t afraid of the truth. They see truth for what it is: the indiscriminate reality that rules reality (and how many of us always like reality? Not many!). Lies may protect systems for a time, but the scientists knew that truth would eventually come to light. They also knew that more lives would be saved if it were told sooner rather than later. Too bad they were silenced for far too long – as is often the case in these self-protective systems.
I’m certainly not advocating for anarchy. These systems do have a purpose, and an important function. I just believe that the biggest thing I learned from this mini-series is what a big threat the truth can be to those systems sometimes. I also believe that if you ever find yourself scared of the truth, then you need to ask yourself why you’re scared, because you are scared. Is what you’re trying to protect worth hurting innocent people over? Nobody likes to pay the price for somebody elses’ mistakes. That’s how conspiracy theories form.
Chernobyl is well worth a watch. There is some disturbing imagery in it, of course, but it’s well made, well done, and well worth the hype. I believe this is one of the best articles I’ve seen about it – click the blue text to check it out if you’re interested.
That’s all today. Take care, and have a great week.