Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Doomsday Clock

"I do not know with what weapons World War 3 will be fought, but World War 4 will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein

If you're an obsessive-compulsive like me marked by the cold-war childhood trauma of nuclear paranoia, then this is the last thing you want to read in the paper - the headline today in the Independent:

The Doomsday Clock: Nuclear threat to world 'rising'
For 60 years, it has depicted how close the world is to nuclear disaster. Today, scientists will move its hands forward to show we are facing the gravest threat in at least 20 years

Fantastic. 20 years, that means about 1984. 1984 is the year I officially shat myself because of the Bomb.

At age 8, I only considered the option of running for my life, should the Bomb drop over Berlin, for a few minutes. I decided pretty quickly that if it came to the worst, I would want to be in the epicentre. Be vaporised in a split second. You won't feel a thing. You'll be gone before you know what hit you.

There is no way in hell I would let my kids see any footage of nuclear devastation, or let them read books about it. If the school did, I would raise fucking hell there. I'm not talking about 16-year-olds. I'm talking about the 8-9-year-olds we were when the schools would use anything for propaganda. I grew up with the tale of Sadako Sasaki who thought she could beat her radiation sickness by folding a thousand paper cranes. There is nothing sweet about this. It was terrifying. I'm talking about the siren codes mounted on the wall in the gym, teaching us to differentiate between siren patterns indicating severe storms, fires, regular bomb raids or just a good old nuclear attack. Every time they tested the sirens, I froze. I had fucking nightmares all the time.

Then there was good old Tchernobyl, not to forget, just to rub in that we didn't just have to worry about The Bomb, but about the Nuclear Power Station as well... it wasn't until after 1990 that we found out about the desolate state most of those stations in the Eastern Bloc, including East Germany's, were in - meltdowns waiting to happen.
The Tchernobyl accident was a weird thing. They didn't really speak much of it... obviously they mentioned it, but then made not as much of a hype of it as the West did. I just remember that just after it happened, I went home from school with a mate, and was suddenly hit by a few raindrops. And my mate just panicked and shouted at me to run home, because it was radioactive rain from The Cloud. Obviously a bit blown out of proportion, but we were kids, and I did run, already envisioning myself with my hair and teeth falling out, my gums bleeding and lesions dotting my skin.

Information management was amazing back in the days. East Germany, if they mentioned much of it at all, told us we were perfectly safe. West German news, however, warned the public from buying any too radiation-absorbing vegetables such as lettuce and mushrooms. It always astonished me as a kid how even a radioactive cloud could be political: be completely harmless while drifting from Russia via Poland across East Germany, only to unload its poisonous load over the fucking enemy of the state.

Funny enough, recently I got totally back into my nuclear paranoia, in a retro kind of way.
I bought loads of books on top of the ones I had already read: "The Last Children of Schevenborn", "The Cloud", "Malevil", Black Rain", "When the wind blows".
Now there is "Children of the Dust" and "Einstein's Monsters" as well.
Then lucky me also found "The War Game" on ebay, which is a 1965 BBC mockumentary about the effects of nuclear war on Britain. It's so dated it's actually funny, but at the same time frightening as fuck, considering how clueless the public back then was about it. ("Strontium? Is that gunpowder?") Even more frightening because it seems like a sinister joke if you have any clue about how bad it would actually be. "The Day after"? Kindergarten entertainment. "Threads"? Yeah, getting a bit closer. But still a million miles from the stark reality. "Once there were five proven nuclear powers. Now there are nine."

dunno why I am doing this to myself. It's probably the equivalent to picking a scab. I guess I felt safe looking at it now where there was no imminent threat like back in 84. And now this headline pops up in the paper. Just my luck.
Now I just wanna take the whole bunch and lock it up somewhere, and part of me wishes I had never seen it. It's images so horrible they won't leave your mind.
About two years ago, I even found "The nuclear attack survival handbook" in a charity shop for about 10p... I just bought it for the comedy value (if "Duck and cover" means anything to you guys...). I bet the person who gave it up is kicking himself now. Even more so, considering that I wouldn't really need it: surviving a nuclear war is about the last thing I'd opt for. I mean, what's the point!
Give me a good clean hurricane any time. At least after that there is hope for rebuilding, for a future. Nuclear war just leaves the planet fucked for good. There is no future. There will be no healthy babies. There will be cancer running rampant like colds in January. People will be left psychologically destroyed, reduced to animals. There will be no ozone layer. Everything you eat is poisonous. There will be no more natural beauty, just scorched earth and horribly mangled and burnt corpses. No one fuckin wins, so I just don't get why anyone would use these kinds of weapons. Political purpose like back in the 80s, while it was irrational, at least fought for this side of life, meaning you could show footage and make people realise how devastating the effects would be, how pointless a nuclear war would be. (Yeah, I know, considering that it nearly happened, that's actually a really stupid thing to say.)
But give me a half-crazed religious terrorist who doesn't give jackshit about what happens to this world, what would deter him from using them? Sorry, I know I am stereotyping and all that shit, but I'm just scared.

Well, the good news is that being suicidal to begin with will make it a lot easier to snuff myself. Call it optimistic pessimism.

Fuckin hell. Probably the most masochistic post ever. I hoped writing this would be cathartic, but instead I just freaked myself out.
I'm gonna go now and watch Beauty and the Beast.

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