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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
22 Jul 2023

NextImg:Anthony Furey: 'Oppenheimer' and the Era of Getting Things Done


This isn’t a film review. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see “Oppenheimer.” Although I look forward to it, both because I’m a fan of its director Christopher Nolan and because of the importance of the topic.

The blockbuster movie is a biopic of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who is considered the creator of the atomic bomb due to his role in leading the Manhattan Project in the 1940s.

This is the sort of movie that invariably provokes all sorts of public discussion about both history and today. The best works of genre—whether they be history, science fiction, or a Western—are often thinly veiled allegories for our current place and time.

One thing that the film will hopefully get people thinking about is how, back then, governments actually got things done.

The creation of the atomic bomb, and its first-ever use at the end of World War II, was no small undertaking. It was not just a feat of physics but of logistical planning. The Manhattan Project involved over 130,000 people and took place at almost 100 different sites across three countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada).

That in itself is something. But the timeline is also remarkable. The bulk of the work was accomplished between 1942 and 1945. Three years. And this wasn’t an assembly line processing of repeating something that had been before. The Manhattan Project pioneered something that its creators weren’t even sure could be done. Yet they did it.

The contrast with how things happen today is troubling. All across Canada there are smaller infrastructure projects underway, the likes of which have been completed a thousand times over, which somehow can’t be completed in three years.

In Toronto, one of the biggest such boondoggles is the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Construction on the project began 12 years ago and, due to over 200 deficiencies in the project, it still has no credible timeline for completion. The ongoing construction has caused severe economic harm to the city, and the benefits have yet to be seen.

One of the frustrating things though is that the response to this project’s delays is largely one of defeatism. The public, and many politicians, are upset with this fiasco but they also seem to accept that this is just how things happen these days. It’s a sad indication of how little faith we now have in our ability to execute on major projects.

We should and must demand better, yet somehow we now feel that such requests are futile and will go unfulfilled.

Every few months a story goes viral about the Chinese regime pulling off an engineering feat in a remarkably short period of time. A few years ago a bridge in Beijing was installed in 36 hours. China is far from being the gold standard on infrastructure, given how there are examples of infrastructure projects over there that have collapsed and led to the deaths of many civilians. But it’s not unreasonable for Western countries to at least expect their governments to meet somewhere in the middle on these timelines.

The last public event that spurred a similar discussion was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in 2019.

President John F. Kennedy announced in 1962 that the United States would put a man on the moon by 1970. It had never been done before. That goal was accomplished ahead of schedule, with the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

Kennedy’s speech announcing the project is now considered a classic of inspirational rhetoric: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

If only our leaders brought the same gusto to our current, much more modest, objectives.

It’s an indictment of our current processes that many decades ago massive undertakings could be accomplished more efficiently at a time when technology was much less developed.

It’s time we learned how to get things done again.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.