Bomb Spotting

22 Mar

When everything is bad, it must be good to know the worst.
Theodor Adorno

You know that feeling you get when you see something truly horrible, yet it is so compelling that you can’t take your eyes off it? That’s what I get with The Bomb.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not expecting nuclear annihilation in my lifetime. Although I do find it hard to believe that it won’t eventually kick off, at least while we organise everything on the principle of competition. We can’t carry on like this forever without incurring various disasters. It’s the same with nuclear energy: it is inconceivable that anyone can possibly guarantee the safe storage of nuclear waste containing radioactive isotopes with a half-life of thousands of years? It’s purely down to short term thinking, ignorant of any notion of the threads that bind humanity together and enable us to see a future beyond naked self-interest.

On the subject of threads, i’ve been scaring myself silly watching films like Threads, The War Game (which the BBC made and then refused to show on television until twenty years later because it was so bleak), A Guide to Armageddon and U.S. Threads-goes-Disney production The Day After.

It is a bit unfair of me to compare the latter to Disney, even though it contains dialogue that goes something like “they gave me this pink ribbon as a comfort but I have no hair left to put it in”. There’s an apocryphal tale that harmless simpleton and leader of the free world Ronald Reagan changed his foreign policy towards the Soviet Bloc after seeing The Day After. Which sounds like complete crap to me. As I understand it, proponents of nuclear deterrence would claim that the horrors of nuclear war do not make their theory appear in the least bit reprehensible, since having nuclear weapons supposedly guarantees our safety from nuclear weapons. Why then would Reagan be moved by a dramatisation of nuclear holocaust? It isn’t like American presidents go around dropping the Bomb. . . . uh, wait, I may have made a mistake there.

There can’t be many other films as grim as Threads. It makes The Day After look like an episode of Friends. If you haven’t seen it, then I would describe it to you like this: imagine the kitchen-sink-drama you may have seen in the past. Nothing much happens. Maybe someone leaves home, or gets pregnant, or gets into trouble with the police. Whatever the issue, it only amounts to the characters dipping a toe into the unfamiliar to see what the water’s like. Nobody escapes the circumstances they’re dealt. Well, that’s how this film starts off. No-one escapes the circumstances they are dealt in Threads either, but the twist is that those circumstances sweep away all familiarity. As if to push the point home, there is a scene that takes place at the kitchen sink, only it’s half buried under brick dust and fall-out, with a radiation-sick man retching into it. The other disturbing thing is the inconsequential way that death is treated. There is a significant sub-plot following the local council’s efforts to wrest some influence over events from their bunker. We don’t see them for a bit, then we find out, almost by accident, that that’s because they’re all dead.

Meanwhile, in an echo of the Cold War, macho kleptocrat Vladimir Putin has had enough of the West’s hypocritical foreign policy (so have I, but you don’t see me going around invading other countries).

Also in the news, Scotland may vote for independence from the United Kingdom in a few months, which is fine and dandy except that Faslane naval base, the home of Britain’s nuclear weapons, will have to be moved nearer to where I live. Add to that the fact that Scotland is sensible enough to barely ever elect Conservative representatives to Parliament, and it will mean that it will be harder for those of us in the remainder of the U.K. to get rid of Tory governments. The Conservative party, as the most right wing of the major political parties, is of course also the keenest on having British nuclear weapons.

This has been a dour post, but the most discouraging (and to me, sinister) thing would be not to talk about it at all, right?

And on a positive note, I am moving back to the old house this Tuesday, where the echium in the front garden is nudging its way upwards of 7′ high and only just getting into its stride.

Plus, Kate Bush is doing some gigs! Miracles do happen!


One Response to “Bomb Spotting”

  1. Becca March 22, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    I should have been scared of the cold war but I never was–even though I’m sure there’s still an ICBM somewhere in Russia with ‘Los Angeles’ on its button, it doesn’t worry me in the least. If it ever happens, I kind of hope I’m at ground zero so I don’t have to deal with the aftermath. I’m glad you’ll be back with your garden soon! Here in LA it’s spring garden planting season, but first I have to finish packing things into the moving pod.

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