I was drying my hair one day oblivious to the noise outside. Typically the noise outside was not actually noise like here in London, the occasional airplane flying overhead, the odd car engine, some kids walking by, you could sometimes even hear a push bike passing. Attuned to small town noises, you could imagine my shock when I switch off my hair dryer to the sound of an air-raid siren.
Duck and cover was my first thought. I had seen those public information videos once before in the Imperial War Museum. You know the ones, the ones that are so out dated, the ones where you and your family are advised to live under the dining room table for a few months until the whole nuclear thing 'blows' over. Such preperatory videos and procedures generally make me feel pretty excited towards the prospect of danger. I then tend to be quite dissappointed when nothing even vaguely exciting happens. I remember one winter, as a kid, my mum tucked me up in bed extra tight with some fluffy soft toys and told me that tonight was going to be the coldest on record for fifty years and we had to stay super warm.
I closed my eyes in excitement only to open them the next day in complete disappointment. I didn't feel one bit cold. Not at all (good parenting in retrospect). When I got my fire training at the Odeon a few years back, I took the whole thing very seriously and got very excited about the responsability I would have in a fire situation. I was only there five months and the fire alarms went into first stage, once (there were three stages in total). At first stage you get to push a button in the auditoriums so that the noise doesn't distract the customers ('guests') from their film, and the staff ('cast') get themselves prepared for some evacuating. Nothing happened, the alarms remained in first stage for about twenty minutes. It was a bit like being stuck at a traffic light that is red for so long that the car battery dies as it switches to amber. No one got evacuated. I was bitterly disappointed.
The siren is still buzzing (imagine).
As if people were ever so brain washed to believe that a few splinters will stop your world from ending. I look momentarily in complete perplextion at the small gap under the dressing table. Then inhale. This cannot be it. Nuclear war is a complete paradox of defense. Everyone knows that now. Having nuclear weapons is exactly the same as not having nuclear weapons as nobody actually has the balls to fire.
Complete annihilation. Nash equilibrium. Absolute paranoia. Psychological warfare. To quote wikipedia (we all do it) "tense but stable peace". And by now, 2010, we are all much more at ease with this tense but stable peace. We all know that no one is crazy enough to press that button labeled "complete and utter bloody destruction of everything but cockroaches". So why am I still able to hear an air-raid siren? It can't be. I would have heard something on tv, or an ad would have popped up on facebook or gmail proclaiming "nuclear attack imminent" - such is the information rich society we live in. Surely in this day and age we would not have to rely on something so archaic, something that I just about recognise as an air-raid siren. I slowly and thoughtfully place down my hair dryer. Look to myself in the mirror before me. Ok, so what if this is nuclear war?
The quickest war that will ever be fought. What if this is the end? The end of humanity. What a way to go. Hey, I won't do it. I will not duck under the dressing table. I will leave this world head held high. Yes the end of humanity. Finally, a vaccine. Immunisation for the planet against this human disease that has infected it's surface. It will take time but this planet will restore itself. It was here millions of years before us and it WILL remain millions of years beyond our extinction. The siren has stopped. This is it, finality, the end, see ya. I close my eyes, tilt my head backwards, hold my arms wide, ready to embrace the apocylpse. I remain like that for about five minutes before I my left eye opens, my wrist twists, and I am able to peek at the time displayed on my watch. Shit, best leave I'm going to be late for work.
I never discovered what that siren was for.
When your a kid, the greatest feeling in the world is fear. I guess that why public information adverts are so great. These are a bit before my time...
Why? I suppose it's just easier to control a terrified nation than it is to look after a chill nation.