Over the weekend I finished watching the 2019 HBO miniseries Chernobyl. Here are a few reflections:

  • Lies lead to death.
  • Our lives must be built upon truth.
  • If we do not face reality, it will eventually come crashing in on us.
  • Human beings are corrupt and corruptible.
  • When the world becomes broken, restoration will require sacrifice.
  • Communist ideology made Chernobyl possible, and even likely.
  • If jobs are awarded and retained on criteria other than competence, ability, and merit, catastrophe will eventually follow.
  • When the state is an idol whose reputation must be protected no matter the cost, the people with the least amount of power will suffer.
  • Scientists are fallible like the rest of us, but we need good minds, trust in institutions, and dependable sources of authority.
  • Nuclear energy may be the wave of the future, but goodness gracious, if you screw it up…

The five part series is the story of a disaster, but it is much more than that. It is an interesting look at science (you’ll learn how nuclear energy works and how the Chernobyl plant operated), Russian identity and culture, the Soviet state, the loss of innocence, the mindset of an oppressive government regime, the importance of written testimony, and the responsibility of one generation to steward the world and hand it off to the next generation.

The Chernobyl disaster was the result of an inability to face the truth, a desire to cut costs and corners by bureaucrats who did not adequately grasp the destructive potentialities of nuclear energy, and human ego. While certain characters are more culpable than others in creating the conditions that led to the disaster, it cannot only be pinned on select individuals. The ideology, and the nation state, was culpable. In the epilogue to the series, the Chernobyl disaster is credited with causing the collapse of the Soviet Union. I can believe it. It demonstrated that those in power were incompetent, and that their lies could no longer be believed or accepted.