Thursday, January 20, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-First Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

The Doomsday Clock is not something that is often referenced in the present day by anyone but End Times cranks, thank Christ, and has become one of those things (like, say, Orange Alerts) that means absolutely nothing to anybody anymore. It was created back in the 1950s by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to act as a metaphorical indicator of how close the world was to an all-out nuclear war.

After the initial bout of intense fear in 1953 around Russia and the US both testing nukes caused the clock to be set at 2 minutes to midnight, the clock setting varied widely in later years from its peak in 1991 (at 17 minutes to midnight, or 11:43pm, the longest the human race has been given in the nuclear era) to its most recent resetting in January 2010 when we were given 6 minutes, metaphorically, to live.

It became a big deal in the 1980s because they reset the clock at 3 minutes to midnight in 1984, a direct result of further escalation of the arms race between the US and Russia and the closest to midnight (i.e. Total Fucking Armageddon) the clock had been set since 1953 when the Americans and the Soviets tested thermonuclear devices within the same year and we were at the aforementioned 2 minute countdown.

So we grew up virtual minutes from nuclear holocaust throughout the 1980s, which, as you might assume, could leave you a little tense or at least at the point of considering hot radioactive death as an actual possibility in your lifetime. We got a good song out of it (“Two Minutes to Midnight” by Iron Maiden) and the name of the City of Towaphna record store, but in retrospect I honestly don’t feel like the trade-off was worth it.

Interestingly, even though the Doomsday Clock still exists (metaphorically speaking) it is never discussed seriously anymore except by, I’m assuming, the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Aside from producing “Duck and Cover” in the 1950s and “The Day After” in the 1980s, the Doomsday Clock has never produced anything but pointless fear the entire span of its existence. Does anyone ever get up and check it in the morning along with their e-mail? Does anyone think that Ronald Reagan or Mikhail Gorbachev looked at that 3 minute countdown in the mid-80s and said to themselves, “Whoa, Nelly! 3 minutes? 10 minutes, sure, but 3? That’s a hot Prince single and no more!” Does anyone think it ever did anything but scare the living teenage shit out of us when we’d hear that thick and portentous click on the evening news?

More importantly, when the country faced down what felt like a real doomsday in September 2001 the clock was still set at 7 minutes, which meant that using their terms of measurement things were supposedly safer during 9/11 than in the mid-1980s when we were going to Kenton North, when we were learning what each other’s bodies were for, when we could see Death sneaking around the corner of Mansfield Avenue and Industry Row in Snakeland. Could that really be possible in any sense or are Fear and Death things that are simply not measurable by men, let alone time?

1 comment:

tipota said...

very thoughtful and serious jason, this deepens the whole dimension. while i had to smile
at 'hot Prince single', i immediately thought of 'party like its 1999'.

the gravity of the closing line, quite a question. this gave me lots to think about, and has an unforgettable quality