New Humanist | What does Utopia tell us about our attitudes to disaster?

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I grew up expecting to live until the end of the world. Born one week before the Greenham Common protests began, some of my earliest memories are the throb of nuclear terror. I read When the Wind Blows (Raymond Briggs’s 1982 post-fallout picture book) at the library and fretted about a slow, greenish, bloat-fleshed demise in the dismal confines of a fallout shelter, every cell of the body poisoned as life futilely exceeds hope. I asked my mum what would happen if the bomb dropped. “We wouldn’t need to worry about that,” said my mum. “We live near the RAF base so we’d probably be dead before we knew about it.” I asked my mum if God was a man or a woman. “A man,” said my mum, with surprising certainty for someone who showed little sign of believing in a god of any sex. “A woman wouldn’t have made such a mess of things.”

Read the full essay at New Humanist