Thursday, 18 February 2010

Apocalypse Angst

Have you seen that film 'The Road' yet? Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, it follows a man and his son as they journey through the bleakest possible imagining of a future earth. It's relentlessly grey and desperately despairing. My boyfriend thought it a great film, I just couldn't cope with the grimness; 'why would anyone want to live like that?' I thought, and the whole way through I was tensely willing for the relief of death for the two main characters.

Anyway, there's a scene in it where they find some food in a bunker and they can finally feast. They're eating tinned prunes by lamplight and it must be glorious after such deprivation that they have had. But they know it's going to run out and there'll be nothing again.

I was eating tuna and salad last night and for some reason I was suddenly struck by the feeling that that tuna was like the man and the boy's tinned prunes. That it came from a cupboard which would soon be bare, and whilst I sat there happily eating the stocks would be falling and falling and soon there would be none, with whatever horrors come with that.

It hasn't helped that I've been reading Straw Dogs by John Gray, which is a really interesting and thought-provoking book, but also very bleak. It argues fiercely against any ideas of progress, of the human race bettering itself, finding a way to live within its means, because, it says, the species is not a 'thing', it is just the name for all us individuals en masse. And if you look at individual humans they are not made to be like that, to work out the way to a better future for everyone and to follow it.

It likened us to an infection that the earth has. It pointed out that population growth can be a survival strategy (e.g. for Kurds and Palestinians). Claimed that we were animals and nothing more.

And I think because I've brought about the future birth of another human being, all this was weighing on me more heavily than normal. 'What kind of world am I letting you in for?', I thought, to that little thing inside me, happily ignorant in its amniotic bath.

And then I listened to programmes on how children see awful things on the internet, and watch TV in beds so much they get diseases from sleep deprivation. And how young children use mobile phones, and the crashing newness of the world this one will know as How Things Are shocked me too. I wanted to move to the country and pretend it was the 19th century. Whittle reeds or something; cut off the outside world. And wait for the apocalypse.

I am feeling slightly better today. Less hopeless and pessimistic. I reflected on how almost everyone at every stage in history probably felt this fear of the future and a clinging desire for the supposedly simpler past. I guess it just means I'm getting old. I stood in line at the supermarket and pretended it was 2050 and I was wistfully dreaming of when I stood in line at supermarkets and everything was simple.

Sure, there are very real problems linked to overpopulation and our plundering of our resources. And new technology can be difficult to negotiate. But, I'll cope with the latter when I come to it, and as for the former, I'm convincing myself again that it's better to be delusionally optimistic and feel like I am doing something by recycling my tins or buying less clothes or whatever, than to be nihilistic and panicky about it and think it all hopeless.

So, vent over - next, back to baking...

(PS - it helps that I read this review of Straw Dogs which lets me see how biased and absurdly negative it is


  1. I would suggest that some of the bleak thoughts are fueled by those things called pregnancy hormones that make you slightly crazy, over think things, cry at puppies on TV - and the Wire Season 4 if you are me. Crying for the drug kids who live with foster parents who have no love (but I'm soooo addicted!)
    I hope you see something positve to brighten your day today.

  2. so interesting to read this thoughtful post. i didn't see the movie but i did read the book The Road. I also read another similar apocolyptic book this week by Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood, that just makes you think, what about this life is worth living. Except those are post apocolyptic worlds and we're not quite there yet :-) We still have beauty and hope! My boyfriend sometimes reminds me that the greenest thing of all would be to not have any children....which is true but i like to think that if we raise our kids with the good values that have made us the people we are, that they will bring more goodness into the world, which the world needs!

    i totally feel the "kids today" thing too, that they have too much technology in their lives, not enough simple living. i think there are a lot of blogs out there like that you might like that hearken back to simpler values.

  3. K - Yes, I'm sure there are some hormones involved. But I think about these kinds of things on and off a lot and although it can be miserable I still want to think about them because I want to keep learning and refining my views and working out things I think I should do.

    I don't think it's crazy at all to cry at the Wire! - my goodness there's some despair in there. I cry at all sorts, and always have done but in a strange way I quite enjoy it. I like to know that I feel.

    J - "Except those are post apocolyptic worlds and we're not quite there yet :-) We still have beauty and hope!" - I know, it's true - and that did make me smile so thank you!

    I checked out zenfamilyhabits and it looks really interesting so thanks for that link too.

  4. I think you misunderstood me a bit - I think it is great to ponder things especially things that will affect you and your kids lives. I just meant the pregnancy hormones embellish the darker thoughts more so than when not pregnant!
    I also loved the zenfamilyhabits site.

  5. K - Yes, I see. I think I'm probably a bit sensitive about suggestions of hormones influencing my behaviour/thoughts. I don't know why, it just bugs me!