On Things Happening

Seriously, when was the last time we had a news cycle like this? Or a year that started off as interestingly?

  • Tunisia
  • Egypt
  • Bahrain
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Libya
  • Earthquake/Tsunami
  • Partial meltdowns
  • Volcano
  • Libyan intervention

And March isn’t even over yet. What’s next? Is this all just one big lead-in to the end of the world in 2012?

Also, see The Awl‘ s chart of topics going back to 2010.

“There is nothing to be gained by trying to get away”

Between the weather and a complete lack of good news in the world, I’ve been in not so much a foul mood lately as a dark mood; I’ve found myself exploring all manner of eschatology and other ridiculousness related to the apocalypse (great resource: Exit Mundi). And rereading my own article hasn’t helped anything. I know this is old news to most, but I was reminded of the BBC’s nuclear war transcript the other day and thought it deserved some reprinting.

If Britain had been attacked with nuclear weapons during the Cold War (I believe the years 1974-79 were when this particular transcript would have been used), then BBC presenters would have read the following chilling passages to the nation:

This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger….

Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for 14 days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep…

Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the “all clear” on the sirens.

The actual BBC link above has a clip of Harry Shearer reading the transcript while doing a pretty serviceable impression of Cronkite. But I’d love to hear it from an actual Briton. Is there anything more despair-inducing than “nothing to be gained by trying to get away”?

Fin

I have a new piece out at Fortnight today. This one, in keeping with the dire overtones of the last, is all about our fascination with the apocalypse and mass destruction. Featuring awesome artwork by Matt McCann! Brief sample:

We’re pretty fucked, and we know it.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the grim economic and political situation in which our generation has found itself. If the present is indeed a culmination of the trends of the last two decades, then it would seem to be no mere coincidence that our era has witnessed a phenomenal rise across all forms of media in the formerly obscure subgenres of nihilism, post-apocalypticism and dystopian fiction. And even less surprising is how avidly our generation has consumed the stuff.

We were born into upheaval and collapse. We were raised during the height of the Cold War, and were toddlers when the Soviet Union disintegrated and Germany reunited. For those of us raised in the United States, then came the boom years of the Clinton era. Even to our less-than-fully-conscious minds, things seemed to be going pretty well. At least one, if not both our parents (or all four) had a job. We were safe from scary things like that Gorbyshave man, and this fantastic new thing called AOL was making our lives really interesting.

But as they say, “the night is darkest before dawn”—and, perhaps by the same token, the day is brightest at sunset. The unbelievable trauma that the destruction of the World Trade Center and the E-Ring of the Pentagon wrought on my nation was unparalleled in living memory. For our generation, it defined the beginning of our maturity, including attention to politics and global affairs…

Read the rest at Fortnight.