Thursday, December 13, 2007

Child of the Cold War, Me

I laugh because I just realized that every time there is a bit of dead air on BBC Radio 3, the first thought is, "Oh, hey. I wonder if someone has nuked London."

That early childhood training will never never leave you.

BTW: anyone old enough to remember them,

you know those "Emergency Response Test" things they used to have on TV? You know, "This is a test. This is only a test. If there was a real emergency, you would be given instructions..."

Then that long beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

then, "This has been a test of the emergency response system..."

you may now return to your regularly scheduled Saturday morning cartoons.

Was I the only one to wonder, "If the emergency came when no one had the TV on, is there some master switch somewhere that would turn them all on so we would know something was happening? How would we know what to do if we didn't happen to have the TV on at the moment the Emergency Response System came on."

It was not until years later that I realized the whole thing was a scam. The "emergency" was nuclear war, and with or without your TV telling you to put a paper bag over your head, there wasn't going to be a lot of point anyway.

I'd be interested to see a study done on people who were raised with the 15 Minute Spectre. You know the one where we were all told that any given 15 minute period could easily be our last. I have often wondered if it resulted in the "slacker" phenomenon where people my age, raised by hippies, simply made no plans for their lives because we all thought there wasn't any point.

I've probably written about this before.

5 comments:

Alex said...

You write: I'd be interested to see a study done on people who were raised with the 15 Minute Spectre. You know the one where we were all told that any given 15 minute period could easily be our last..............

As Allan Bloom observes: Part of the mythology of the 1960s is the conjecture that the "superior moral concern" of disaffected students was stimulated by "fear of the bomb". It's been claimed that no previous generation of (impressionable) young people had grown up with the threat of universal destruction hanging over it. And this provoked and justified the earnest "revaluation" which supposedly was the point of all those sit-ins, faculty occupations, and miscellaneous campus tumults.

Alex.

Zach said...

Yep, me too. "This is a test ...", little radhazard signs with arrows pointing to the fallout shelters, etc. I never actually experienced the "duck and cover" drill, but I don't think I missed it by many years.

It really only hit me in the last months - I'm trying to teach a class wit da youts (13-15 year olds), and I realized: they don't remember the Cold War. Not only did they not remember it, it was ancient and not very well known history. It was most odd. I suddenly felt like a time traveler.


peace,

HJMW said...

No Alex, that was our parents.

What we saw was our stupid dropped out tuned out turned on parents "protesting" and doing all manner of idiotic things, and we said, "What the hell is the point of all that crap? They're going to drop the bomb on us if they feel like it and tying up symbolic Trident papier mache dragons with red florist tape to the front doors of the Parliament buildings accomplishes nothing but making you look stupid to the world and your children."

And we rebelled against the rebellion with the only thing we had left: advanced nihilism.

I was there in the 80s. and remember the Cure quite well.

HJMW said...

* Trident papier mache dragons with red florist tape to the front doors of the Parliament buildings

*actual account of an actual "children's protest" staged at the hippie "free school" I attended where I failed to learn the times tables because there were no classrooms or teachers. Just "family time" and "moderators" and a lot of vicious bullies who knew no one would trample on their rights to make everyone's lives miserable. No math if you didn't feel like it (and brother, did I not feel like it!) but loads of compulsory protesting.

Iohannes Carolus Caro said...

"I failed to learn the times tables because there were no classrooms or teachers"

Don't feel too cheated; whatever it is that went wrong with the 20th century, it is something greater than the breakdown of those institutions which produced western culture.

Case in point: the public education system and its curriculum in Italy is still the one set up by Mussolini whenever it is he dreamed up of restoring the Roman Empire. My two roomates finished "Liceo Classico", which is to say that they went through 10 YEARS of Latin and FIVE years of ancient Greek. Not to mention all the Italian classics. Impressed? Neither one of them can read any Latin beyond finding some similarities with Italian; don't bother asking about the Greek. And what's more, according to them, they are the norm not the exception.

So what really happened? I doubt anybody has the complete answer. In case you are interested in the topic of the failure of education in the 20th century, I invite all of you to read a very well written essay by a fascinating and very intelligent woman: The Lost Tools of Learning, by Dorothy Sayers.
Among other places, it can be found here:
http://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html