(Originally written 19/10/2012.)
There was a common acceptance when I was at school that
“There’s not much point getting O Levels or A Levels. We’ll be dead before we start work anyway”.
This was because we were growing up in the Cold War, after the Cuban Missile Crisis / October Crisis / Caribbean Crisis / Kарибский кризис had occurred, when it was clear the USA really would consider use of a first-strike with nuclear weapons, and knowing there were Mutually Assured Destruction policies in place on both sides. That is, one small error or political crisis would result in the destruction of missile sites in the UK, and the death of most everyone in Europe and certainly us children before we’d had a chance to grow up.
This made it hard to find the motivation to plan for the future, as there was little point. There were many of us who had poor grades as a consequence of this, including some who gave up althogether.
And we all knew how we were going to spend our last 7 minutes when the sirens went off. We certainly talked about it often enough.
Growing up in such a climate cannot be healthy. Off the top of my head, our cultural exposure included:
1979 – the Protect and Survive films like Casualties
1983 – 99 Red Balloons – Lena
1983 – WarGames
1984 – Two Tribes – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (“War! What is it good for?” *)
1984 – Threads
1985 – The War Game
1986 – When the Wind Blows
All manner of cheerfulness: www.atomica.co.uk/culture.
Perhaps it is no surprise that my generation, born in the 1960s, have such a strong “think of the children” and “children must be allowed freedom” and “children must be protected from fear” mindset.
My mother, who lived through the second World War, said the Cold War was a huge improvement over the hot sort.
* Record sales, apparently.