When you’re a kid, the end of the world is just plain fun.
Kids today read books about world-ending cataclysms, they watch movies and follow their favourite heroes on television (if their parents let them).
For the more educationally inclined youngsters, there are plenty of documentaries outlining a variety of mechanisms by which humanity could become toast – in many cases, literally.
And they role-play apocalypse scenarios, whether amongst themselves or via computer.
My generation played out all sorts of good-guy-bad-guy silliness, with themes covering everything from cops and robbers (with the robbers often the “good” guys) to pirates (a la Errol Flynn and his like from movies that were already old back then, and in which we all wanted to be the pirates), to war, to western gun-slinging mayhem of all sorts.
The way we ran around and made up our own games may seem to have been very creative and healthy, but in fact, whatever the basic premise, and whoever we were pretending to portray, the games were all really the same, now and then. They’ve always reflected the popular culture washed into our brains by current entertainment fads.
The only difference is that, back in the “good old days,” the kids eventually grew up (some of them, anyways) and came to a realization that life portrayed in the movies isn’t real.
The cowboys weren’t always the good guys and the pirates weren’t always basically good-hearted swash-bucklers who stole from rich old men with beautiful daughters who wanted nothing more in life than to marry a courageous pirate.
Indeed, presented in that light, the conjurings of our imaginations weren’t any healthier than zombie apocalypses and comet strikes and alien attacks.
One of the chief failings of the childish imagination back in the day was an inability to comprehend the true impact of shooting the bad guy dead with a single shot.
If you were quick of wit, when your buddy yelled, “Bang! I gotcha!” you’d drop your “gun” (anything from a stick for a rifle to a shiny chrome six-shooter loaded with a fresh roll of caps), grab your arm and shout, “Ouch! You got me in the arm!” Then you’d take up your gun in your other hand, “wounded” arm limp at your side, and recommence firing.
Nobody died until it was nearly time to go home for supper anyway. Or you didn’t want your little brother hanging around and you knew he’d wander off if all he was allowed to do was play dead for a couple of hours.
Today, the chief misunderstanding kids have about post-apocalypse worlds is that nearly everybody dies – or gets turned into a zombie – before the game even begins.
If 99.999 per cent of life on the planet is wiped out by a comet plunging into the Atlantic Ocean, or by simultaneous super-volcano eruptions in Yellowstone Park, Siberia, and India, or by a solar flare, or by a mutated military virus, or by technology run wild, or by… whatever fantastical imaginings Hollywood scientists offer us next, the likelihood, let’s face it, is that you and I won’t be around to discuss the comparative efficacy of various survival tactics.
Same goes for global warming.
And Donald Trump.