In my comfortable childhood, how I longed for nuclear war(1). My friends and I, we were prepared. We didn’t have a bomb shelter, but we would make one in “The Darkies” (2) at fairly short notice. We didn’t have supplies, but we knew where to get them, at the very last minute. I convinced my mother to buy me “The Nuclear Survival Handbook” for Christmas. I was set. Far from the main action, we would not do too badly in Australia (I hadn’t read “On The Beach” at that stage).
What was the attraction? I do not think that we were drawn to a life of hardship – die Hitler Jugend would not have found many willing recruits where I lived. (In primary school there had been a boy who wore lederhosen. His name was Peter the German kid. We could tell by his pants. Apparently he could not be beaten in a fight, and so I was distraught when I heard that my little brother was in the wash sheds having a fight with him. Turned out his invincibility was overrated. Turned out too that he was Czech, and his family were some kind of refugees from behind the Iron Curtain. Don’t press me on the details.) A bit of it was the same attraction of gnosticism and cults – we know what is going to happen, and only we will be able to deal with it, with our insider knowledge. Most of it was movies. Adventure! No authority! We would be in charge of the crumbling ruins. We even knew what to do if Russia invaded. You just had to kill one soldier, then you had his gun, and could use that to kill a bunch of other soldiers, until they were all beaten and you had all the guns. Hey, they won’t shoot us first, we’re just kids.
This was all stuffed by nuclear winter. Instead of fighting psychic mutants and talking apes and riding on a horse with bikini clad Nova, at best we’d be wearing rags and pushing a shopping cart through the Rockies and avoiding sand-shoed cannibal armies. Not fun at all. I went to university and attended Hiroshima Day marches and stopped nuclear war.(3)