How is the threat of nuclear war manifested in the personalities of people most at risk? I am always looking for differences between southern hemisphere people (who don’t see themselves as direct targets) and northern hemisphere people who surely must possess a different mindset. They all seem the same to me. Why is that?
I don’t think there is much of a “nuclear target” mindset so much these days, since the Cold War’s over. In the 1980s it was a different story, though. I grew up in the 1980s, and I remember being shown Threads at school (a very nasty TV drama about ordinary people in Sheffield before, during and after the nuclear holocaust). I can also remember talking to my parents about what would happen, and they were obviously more nervous about it than they are now. My dad’s advice was that in the event of a nuclear war, he’d like us all to be right under the very first bomb, and I never felt like disagreeing with that.
In the 1980’s, nuclear war was not only a topic of common general discussion, it was a deep down fear that many of us lived with and thought about all the time.
That ended with the collapse in East Europe. Completely.
No one I know, myself included, even thinks about this anymore. If someone brings up in casual conversation the prospect of “being nuked”, most people just laugh - it seems unthinkable now. Certainly not impossible, but the threat seems remote and unrealistic - like worrying about being hit by lightning.
Overall - it has almost 100% disappeared from American culture as a shared fear, IMO.
I believe someone once said that the odds of nuclear war occurring are so high the fact that it hasn’t should be considered to be almost mystical. And the world is still full of weapons (and apocalypse enthusiasts) post cold war. How is a cold war situation defined? How quickly can one develop?
Threads was the most awful thing I had ever seen. I think it’s still available as a video rental though I could be wrong.
What has always seemed unfair to me is the way people who want to prepare for nuclear attacks (by building fallout shelters in their backyards etc) are always considered to be nutters. MattK’s father’s philosophy, though, has a lot going for it.
In the 1960s, the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung said that his patients all had dreams of catastrophe and disaster.
There was apprehension in the air.
I think it was based on the reality of the nuclear threat at that time.
Now, I would assume that such an apprehensive atmosphere has
As a kid and young adult, I lived right near a major target – Cape Kennedy. We grew up knowing that if the Commies popped us, and we survived, we’d have to be self sufficient. So all of us kids got into the habit of keeping a months supply of food in the house, carried a hand pump to fit onto the well head (we had individual wells back then), and, because of the frequent hurricanes, always carried lots of candles, batteries, oil and gas lamps, camping stoves and never let our car or trucks get below half a tank of gas. We also own guns for defense or hunting and all of us know how to fish, purify water, grow vegetables and how to gather some wild foods.
That was before generators were easily available, military or survival foods common, water came in gallon jugs of plastic and propane grills were all over the place.
I still have all of the stuff, and replace it as it is used up or rotate the stock. I still garden, carry seeds and like to fish, though I don’t hunt.
I have been increasingly apprehensive and fearful of nuclear war since India and Pakistan started blowing up bombs a couple of years ago.
I think the danger now is even greater than at any time since the Eighties. Maybe even greater than the Eighties. I’m sure the Physicians for Social Responsibility has moved their nuclear clock a few ticks closer to midnight since the Indian subcontinent started blowing up.
In the Eighties I only thought it was very likely that there would be a nuclear exchange, since the capacity for annihilation seemed to belong to the Big Two superpowers.
But now that one of those Big Two has degenerated into chaos and nukes are for sale on the black market, I am virtually 100% certain that there will be a nuclear exchange, somewhere in the world, in my lifetime.
I mean, the horse is already out of the barn! What can we do?
Add to that the possibility that some American President may decide, someday soon, that the unilateral use of nuclear weapons in some situation is justified. Did anyone see the movie “Deterrence” last year?
I think the USA is definitely more bomb-happy and less remorseful about using force than in previous decades. If the movie “Thirteen Days” is correct, there were people in the Kennedy Administration who didn’t want to bomb Cuba solely based on the moral principle that sneak attacks are wrong.
Today, our leaders would have no qualms whatsoever. The “morality” of war has degenerated to the point that we can and do frequently bomb civilians. If we think we can get away with it, we do it. Some American leader may apply the same logic to nuclear bombs, someday soon.
Cowardice may also have something to do with it. Our leaders believe that it is better to drop bombs from 10,000 feet up, risking massive civilian casualties, than to risk even one American life. The bombing of Yugoslavia – with depleted-uranium weapons – is a good example.
Overall, the trends of the last few years do not bode well. We are definitely in danger!
We might be more bomb-happy these days, but bombing from altitude is normally a tactical decision – certain aircraft and certain weapons are more effective at certain heights. And depleted uranium weapons aren’t “nuclear” as such, they have side-effects that are only now becoming widely known (well, publically, at least).
I respectfully disagree. I think political leaders are more inclined to avoid any unnecessary casualty, be it us or the enemy. The one bad thing about Desert Storm is that everything being shown on the TV was “surgical” strikes against buildings and equipment. You never did see a CBU pop open its canisters and shower AP bomblets on a massed formation of Iraqi troops, did you? That engagement spoiled the public into thinking that conflicts could be fought with no casualties. And IIRC, I think “massive civilian casualties” is an overstatement. Define “massive” . . .
And on the contrary to the last point, I think it is a little safer. Our biggest problem right now is not the knucklehead commie with the nuke, but the one lone bomber who bought a crude thermonuke that can fit in a briefcase. Tim McVeigh brought us to our knees in the Antiterrorism world. We’re just now shifting gears and looking at other avenues of defense. . .
Civil Engineer and Antiterrorist rep.
When I study my own psychology I realise that my response to future unhappiness and uncertainty is to act hedonistically. I’m like that now because of unemployment. In a strange way hedonism starts to seem more moral rather than immoral. It seems like a duty to God to have as much enjoyment out of life as possible before the whole thing comes crashing down.
There is a book called The Hare and the Tortoise by David Barash with a chapter about nuclear war in which he talks about how we “employ pre-nuclear mental processes to a nuclearised world”. We are just in permanent denial. But he also talks about how kids grow up with a lot of suppressed anxiety and about how the nuclear threat can have a corrosive influence on children’s development. Is hedonism possibly a part of that? Is my response to life the same as someone who has to think about nuclear war a lot?
'Round these parts, it seems like with an increase in the immediate threat of nuclear war, rather than an increase in hedonism there was more of an increase of jingoism and pack mentality. The “sexual revolution” here took place at the end of the '60’s and into the '70’s, and I usually pinpoint the times of greatest nuclear anxiety in this country as having been the '50’s into the early '60’s, and the '80’s during Reagan’s presidency. I haven’t really read up on the subject, so I could be wrong here.
Anyway, my point: it’s been my experience and understanding that in the U.S., our fear-madness comes not in the form of wild hedonism, but in attempting to hunt down and kill all of Thoreau’s “different drummers,” lest people make us uncomfortable by marching to their beat.
I was stationed in Holy Loch Scotland during the 70s aboard a ballistic missile sub. The area had always been a target but as there were usually not many subs there it wasn’t a high priority to the Soviets. (As far as we knew.) Anyway, due to some scheduling and mechanical problems, there were no less than 5 missile boats there at one time. Rumor had it that Holy Loch had just become the Soviets numero uno nuclear target. There probably wasn’t any truth in it, (how would anyone know?) but the local population believed it. As far as the psychology goes, they were seriously pissed off.
It always seemed reasonable to me, after all, the base didn’t even belong to the UK and they were expecting to get nuked over it.
I live only a few miles from the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois.
Yeah, the big stuff is over but then again until a few years ago I never really relised that this was a problem, and by then it was over.
But hey, the best thing is that I get to see all kinds of men in uniform all over the place.
What if the drummers asked “Why do bombs have to hurt?” Would they be playing Satanic alternative? If nuclear weapons promised 72 hours of the most extreme ectasy imaginable before death how would that change things?
Thank you for introducing me to the Macho Business Donkey Wrestler.