So recently I heard someone say they had just discovered the ‘doomsday clock’–you know the one put out by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. It measures how close we are to the total destruction of ourselves, midnight being when all of civilization is destroyed. It now has gone from five minutes to midnight, to three minutes to midnight because the scientists on the board have decided to add climate change into their equations. The person was shocked. Totally shocked that it was so close to midnight.
The funny thing is that I was talking to another person who remembers the same thing I do, that the clock used to be at *one minute* to midnight when we were teenagers. What I find worth noting in all this is that my generation never talks about *knowing* we are all going to die, we just seemed to take it for granted. Very intelligent people I know would refuse to plan any future at all. Curtis LeMay, the former American military leader once appealed to the US Congress to allow him to launch a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union, ‘because total destruction is going to happen anyway and the US might as well win the war!’ Imagine someone saying that today.
The fact of our imminent death was everywhere you turned, in all the media, in our books and songs, and now its never mentioned not at all. Why is that I wonder?
On the positive side, we should be proud to be the ones who were committed enough as a people *not* to destroy the entire planet in the blink of an eye, and to be that committed for more nearly seventy years. It speaks well of us and of Western Civilization as a whole.
On the negative side, I can’t help but wonder what the knowledge has done to us as a society, as a people. Has it made us fretful as a culture? Cruel and callous? How would we even know?
Perhaps there needs to be a new type of speculative fiction that addresses these issues. Instead of ‘holocaust dystopia’ we could maybe call it ‘we are doin’ fine’ or something like that.
If you are laughing at this idea, or have an objection that no one today would read it, perhaps that’s a sign of what the nuclear age has truly cost us.