Re: end of the world stories...
17 Jul 2012 07:00 #6799
Touching back on the "really believing it" point: did we believe we had a really high chance of being killed at any moment in a nuclear apocalypse? Yes. We had some food stockpiled. When we went hiking in the woods my Dad would explain how a cave could be shored up with fallen logs and earth to make a shelter.
We didn't believe it so strongly that we went and LIVED in the cave. But it was a familiar subject. My dad had been through several near-death experiences (war, accidents) and I don't think he felt like the world was very safe in general. So this subject resonated with his general anxiety and was a place where he could act it out safely, because IT WAS TRUE (the Russians had nukes, we had nukes, there was a ticking national "nuclear war about to happen" clock, etc.).
But I suspect if he had had a different life story or I had had a different dad, we might not have done more than ponder it intellectually. Most of my friends certainly talked about it, in that intellectual/ponder kind of way. But few had such a serious engagement with it - no one else I knew had nitrogen packed food stored in the garage. As if that were really going to make a difference.
If we had been religious, it's quite possible I would have been taught that all of the political things going on were key signs of the impending Apocalypse, and that would have been the same story, in a way, framed in a different metaphor.
So when, 30 years later, people fret about the end of the world, stockpile food, plan for the end of oil or rising sea levels swamping their town by moving to a rural area, or are simply fascinated by the endless pondering of the (TRUE) possibilities, I am reminded of having been through this before. As if each generation re-engages with the same stories, just substituting different main characters and adjusting the plot a bit. The depth to which a person engages with the story seems to have a lot to do with their personality and attitudes about the world in general, and not much to do with the story itself.